Bert the Turtle Ducks and Covers

Today’s school children are familiar with fire drills, earthquake drills, tornado drills, and even tsunami drills. Filing out-doors to athletic fields or hiding under desks from imaginary natural disaster debris is expected, scheduled, and routine. Parents and grandparents of these students, however, likely remember duck-and-cover drills.

During the Cold War, nuclear war with the Soviet Union seemed constantly on the horizon. Adults around the United States built fallout shelters and stocked their basements with canned food, water, and safety supplies. Children learned to "duck and cover" whenever they heard the alarm, sliding under their desks, lunch tables, or whatever was sturdy nearby, and covering their heads and necks.

In order to prepare Americans for a potential nuclear attack, the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA) was established in 1951. The FCDA commissioned an educational film to teach school children about the perils of a nuclear attack. The resulting short, Duck and Cover, was first screened in January 1952, and featured Bert the Turtle. At the first sound of an alarm or the tell-tale flash of light from a nuclear bomb, Bert would jump into his shell to protect himself. The film toured around the country with the Alert America civil defense exhibit convoy, teaching Americans about atomic bomb preparedness. Duck and Cover was later distributed to schools around the US.