UM Mansfield Library Exhibits ‘Fact and Fiction of the Nuclear Age’

June 15, 2016

“Duck and Cover,” perhaps the best known public safety announcement, featured Bert the turtle and was aired to generations of U.S. schoolchildren in the early 1950s.

MISSOULA – After the United States dropped devastating bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945, killing an estimated 100,000 people, messages of hope and destruction reverberated throughout American media.

The Federal Civil Defense Administration released public awareness campaigns designed to prevent panic. Such materials, along with lectures featuring Montana connections to war, are on exhibit at the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library at the University of Montana through July. The exhibition and lectures are free and open to the public.

The exhibition, “Duck and Cover! Fact and Fiction of the Nuclear Age,” showcases supplies from fallout shelters and information on the history, health and effects of the Atomic Age. “Duck and Cover,” perhaps the best known public safety announcement, featured Bert the turtle and was aired to generations of U.S. schoolchildren in the early 1950s.

The multipaneled exhibition uses historical, scientific, governmental and cultural resources regarding this policy and its influence on local, national and international spheres.

UM sociology Professor Robert Balch will deliver the lecture “When the War Didn’t Happen: Prophecy Failure in Missoula” from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, June 16, in the Mansfield Library. He will discuss how Missoula chiropractor Leland Jensen made international news in 1980 when he predicted that the Apocalypse, in the form of global nuclear war, would commence on April 29 at precisely 5:55 p.m.

The presentation will describe how Jensen and his followers prepared for the catastrophe, how they responded when the prophecy failed and how this episode compares to other cases of prophecy failure.

Teapot MET detonated on a 400-foot tower over Frenchman Flat on April 15, 1955, with a yield of 22 KT. (Photo courtesy of National Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Site Office)

Then local historian Jon Axline will present “Sky Watchers: The Ground Observer Corps in Montana” from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, June 30, in the Mansfield Library. Axline will discuss how the U.S. Air Force relied on civilian volunteers to guard the country from a Soviet sneak attack during most of the 1950s.

The Ground Observer Corps enlisted thousands of Montanans who volunteered their time scanning the skies for enemy aircraft. The sky watchers came from all walks of life and hailed from nearly every community in the state. They stood watch from towers, balconies, front porches and even telephone booths – and did so in nearly every kind of weather. By late 1958, improvements in radar technology rendered the Ground Observer Corps obsolete and they quickly faded into the background of history. Axline’s talk will describe the origins of the corps, their place in Montana history and their significance to the Cold War.

The exhibition is open during the Mansfield Library’s regular hours, which can be found online at For more details visit


Contact: Susanne Caro, government documents librarian, UM Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, 406-243-4548,