Chilling Cold War-Era Billboard Slogans, Drafted For Use After An Attack on the US

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Oct. 24 2013 1:30 PM

Chilling Cold War-Era Billboard Slogans, Drafted For Use After An Attack on the US

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

Deputy Administrator Lewis E. Berry, of the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization, drafted this 1960 list of billboard slogans for possible use before and after an attack on the United States. (The list was unearthed in the National Archives by the proprietors of the CONELRAD Cold War history blog.)

Berry argued that it’d be logistically unlikely that billboards could be put up during an attack, but thought that they would be useful during the time before and after the crisis. In the letter he attached to the list, Berry added a practical recommendation: “It would be wise also to have on hand supplies of letters and numerals so that a message required for a particular local situation could be put up quickly without first having to be printed.”

Advertisement

Some of the “after” slogans Berry proposes could populate the highways of a post-apocalyptic fantasy world:

“A Time for PATRIOTISM—not panic.”

“Your COOPERATION means less CONTROL, quicker RECOVERY. Do your part!”

“OBEY GOVERNMENT ORDERS—They’re for your own good.”

During the Cold War, civil defense and national security messages appeared across many media platforms. As Berry notes in his letter, radio, television, and print media had been “generous” in donating time for civil defense messaging; why, Berry asks, couldn’t billboard advertising firms do the same—“at least for otherwise unsold space.”

While the post-attack slogans would obviously be inappropriate for everyday life, some of the pre-attack slogans blandly urged alertness (“If Attack Comes…What would you do? KNOW YOUR COMMUNITY PLAN. Call your local civil defense today”) and might serve as permanent fixtures. CONELRAD’s researchers, however, found no evidence that Berry’s particular suggestions ever saw the light of day.

Billboards1Final

National Archives, via CONELRAD.

Billboards2Final

National Archives, via CONELRAD.

Billboards3Final

National Archives, via CONELRAD.

Billboards4Final

National Archives, via CONELRAD.

TODAY IN SLATE

The Juice

Ford’s Big Gamble

It’s completely transforming America’s best-selling vehicle.

Should the United States Grant Asylum to Victims of Domestic Violence?

The Apple Watch Will Make Everyone Around You Just a Little Worse Off

This Was the First Object Ever Designed

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 

Moneybox

How the Apple Watch Will Annoy Us

A glowing screen attached to someone else’s wrist is shinier than all but the blingiest jewels.

Music

A Little Bit Softer Now, a Little Bit Softer Now …

The sad, gradual decline of the fade-out in popular music.

Is Everyone Going to Declare Independence if Scotland Does It? 

I Tried to Write an Honest Profile of One of Bollywood’s Biggest Stars. It Didn’t Go Well.

Trending News Channel
Sept. 12 2014 11:26 AM Identical Twins Aren’t Really Identical
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 14 2014 2:37 PM When Abuse Is Not Abuse Don’t expect Adrian Peterson to go to prison. In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM Olive Garden Has Been Committing a Culinary Crime Against Humanity
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 13 2014 8:38 AM “You’re More Than Just a Number” Goucher College goes transcript-free in admissions.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 12 2014 4:05 PM Life as an NFL Wife: “He's the Star. Keep Him Happy.”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 12 2014 5:55 PM “Do You Know What Porn Is?” Conversations with Dahlia Lithwick’s 11-year-old son.
  Arts
Music
Sept. 14 2014 11:44 PM A Little Bit Softer Now, a Little Bit Softer Now … The sad, gradual decline of the fade-out in popular music.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 12 2014 3:53 PM We Need to Pass Legislation on Artificial Intelligence Early and Often
  Health & Science
New Scientist
Sept. 14 2014 8:38 AM Scientific Misconduct Should Be a Crime It’s as bad as fraud or theft, only potentially more dangerous.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 12 2014 4:36 PM “There’s No Tolerance for That” Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh say they don’t abide domestic abuse. So why do the Seahawks and 49ers have a combined six players accused of violence against women?