This Day in History

June 15, 1955: Protest of Nuclear Attack Drills

Time Periods: Cold War: 1945 - 1960
Themes: Environment, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements

On June 15, 1955, when the Civil Defense Administration attempted to hold a drill simulating a nuclear attack, 27 activists in New York refused to take cover. They handed out pamphlets reading:

We will not obey this order to pretend, to evacuate, to hide. In view of the certain knowledge the administration of this country has that there is no defense in atomic warfare, we know this drill to be a military act in a cold war to instill fear, to prepare the collective mind for war. We refuse to cooperate.

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Dorothy Day (far right, sitting on bench), Deane Mowrer (to her right), Ammon Hennacy (fourth from left), and others seated on a park bench at Washington Square Park, New York City, on July 20, 1956, in protest of the mandatory “Operation Alert” civil defense drill. Police subsequently arrested them. By Robert Lax. Source: Marquette Digital Archives.

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Click to read the entire leaflet.

The activists, including Catholic Worker Dorothy Day were arrested, and started a wave of protests against Operation Alert that culminated in the end of the drills in 1962.

Read more at “Civil Defense Drill Protests: Dorothy Day and Friends Sit In for Peace” from the Marquette University Archives.

Read the Civil Defense Protest leaflet at the Marquette University Archives.