If an A-Bomb Falls

From Ethan Persoff's "Comics With Problems, this 8-page bomb scare tract: If an A-Bomb Falls. Good to know that a housewife who keeps her husband's home tidy and free of stray trash is also protecting her family from certain nuclear death.

This week marks the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. For the first time in 65 years, the United States sent an envoy to the commemoration ceremony which took place today in Japan.

More bomb comics from Persoff's collection: The Atomic Revolution, and The H-Bomb and You.


  1. When paper gets set on fire, it drifts into the air and causes fire wherever it lands; they were probably extrapolating the results of the fire raids on Japan to the effects of an atomic bomb, which isn’t too far off.

    That’s why you would want to police up stray trash, to prevent it from spreading the fire. In the event of a full-scale atomic saturation, it won’t do much good, but the effects from a single nuke going off might be minimized.

    -Darren MacLennan

  2. Why doesn’t the comic just show the obvious and completely practical method of climbing into a lead-lined fridge during the blast? It worked for Indy…

  3. Yes, I understand that paper catches fire. The absurdity here is that the scope of the blast described even in this comic would render smaller precautions like picking up pieces of stray trash around the yard largely irrelevant. Oh, and the “housewife” thing.

    1. –The absurdity here is that the scope of the blast described even in this comic would render smaller precautions like picking up pieces of stray trash around the yard largely irrelevant.–

      Depends on how far away you are from it. Close range, of course, everything’s burned to a cinder, but the outer rings of the blast radius…


      -Darren macLennan

    2. Next up, the overlooked merits of “duck and cover” explained by WW3-surviving cockroaches. ;-)

  4. I sense this comic was not peer-reviewed. Also, Persoff’s link with the TPComix is straight out of Lee’s ending montage in Bamboozled.

  5. I was kind of hoping that the instructions in the bottom right panel would be about using a garbage can lid as a shield against apron damage during a nuclear blast.

  6. Every housewife should keep her feminine parts fresh with Lysol and bake cupcakes in your favorite flavour daily, as defense against an A-Bomb.

  7. I love what I see as two assumptions (well ok there are a lot in this comic!), but one, that all communities have sirens, and two, that although we all have them we don’t know what they mean, so we need these “education” comics to tell us.

    When I lived in MI there was a tornado siren (Ann Arbor), and since I’m not from the midwest I didn’t know what it was or that it was tested every… er… first Tuesday in tornado season (or something like that).

    Here in Brooklyn there is a siren I hear from time to time, but I have no idea what it means. OMG maybe I missed a nuclear blast!

    1. Depends what part of Bucktown you live in, but most likely you are hearing a Shabbos siren, which the Hasidic communities sound on Friday night, to let everyone in the ‘hood no that they should be in Sabbath mode. When I lived on the border of Kensington/Midwood I got used to hearing it every Friday night.

      Now I live out in Ft. Hamilton, near the base on the South Shore, and there are a few different warning sirens out here, as well as the sirens/fog horns etc. from the ships passing under the bridge into the harbor.

  8. Somewhere between the zone where you’d be vaporized instantly, and and where you’d find out about it by reading about in in the paper the next day, there’s a distance where amelerative steps would help. Back when we were talking about less than 100 weapons there was a fair amount of people who would have been living that distance from the blasts.

  9. I’m imagining the Kubrickian suspense, six minutes after the start of the “white signal.”

    “Ward, we heard the first two siren blasts. And it’s been two minutes. Shouldn’t we be hearing the third?”

    “Dammit, June, my ears are ringing too much as it is.”

    “Couldn’t they just, you know, use the PA speakers for a spoken ‘All Clear’? Like they did last year? You remember: ‘Return to your homes, Rodan is dead.'”

    “Don’t ever question the Civil Defense Authority’s wisdom in front of the Beav, dear. We’ll raise no beatniks in this house.”

  10. It’s such a shame that the US has only now sent an envoy to the Hiroshima memorial event. It’s the one place in the world I wish everyone could go.

    I visited Hiroshima essentially on a lark, it’s an easy day trip from Kyoto and a passable one from Tokyo. It ended up being one of the best days of all the years I spent in Japan. Sure the food was great, the people wonderful and the scenery is gorgeous, but the feature is of course Ground Zero.

    While a somber place, it’s full of children, school groups throughout Japan taking trips to visit, and the hundreds of thousands of colorful origami cranes folded and sent by children are collected around the memorial park.

    Probably the thing that hit me strongest was the grove of trees, still alive, but all bearing visible burns and damage from the bombing. It was a real and tangible evidence of something that happened well before my life.

    I expected, and an American visiting the site to be washed away in guilt and signs pointing out “See what you did here?!?!” but that would be gaudy and completely unnecessary. The place speaks for its self. It says “Let’s all of us, wherever we come from and go to, let us keep this from happening again.” I left there with a strong and enduring desire to make the world a noticeably better place.

    1. I hope you will take this comment as it is intended, and not as a criticism of you. I also certainly do not condone the act of dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

      However, please don’t think that there was not a war on at the time of the attack, nor that Japan had waged particularly effective and cruel military campaigns in Asia over a number of years before the bomb. By this time, events such as the annexation of Korea, the Nanking Massacre, the invasion of Manchuria, and the prosecution of the Pacific war had all shown the Allies that Japan was not in any way a passive nation. In their terms, the bomb was therefore justified. If you were alive at that time, I dare say you may well have agreed.

      Again: I do not condone the Allies’ action. But what I take exception to is an over-simplification of history that does not recognise contemporary events (or indeed the politics of the present day).

      “Let’s all of us, wherever we come from and go to, let us keep this from happening again.”

      That statement clearly includes the Japanese as much as it does anyone else. Remembering that point is the first step in ensuring that history does not repeat itself.

      1. Not to speak for Zadaz, but he didn’t say a thing about the war. He was talking about his experience at the memorial.

        As for the bombs being justified, sure, why not. Honestly I don’t give a shit. But being justified doesn’t make it RIGHT, and doesn’t make what happened NOT a tragedy.

        That’s the funny thing about war, no matter which side you’re on, no matter what you’re fighting for, you’re still an asshole. Sometimes you have to be an asshole, but necessity doesn’t make actions right, it just makes them necessary.

        So during the war the Japanese acted like assholes, and in retaliation the U.S. acted like assholes and here we are both looking back on our asshole pasts

        What gripped me most about the linked article was the quotes from Hiroshima locals and survivors. They took the exact opposite approach that you did Glingongo. They didn’t try to rationalize their past or place blame or puff up with self righteous divisive posturing . They simply said, “This is our past, let’s learn from it.”

      2. The above post was my kind, heal-the-world post. This one is not.

        “That statement clearly includes the Japanese as much as it does anyone else. Remembering that point is the first step in ensuring that history does not repeat itself. ”

        Y. Fckng. Twt. Did you read that article? In case you didn’t, there are quotes from locals in Hiroshima, From Fucking Survivors, People whose homes, lives, parents, brother, sisters, grand parents and on and on and on were god dam incinerated by our country (I’m assuming you’re
        American, forgive me if I’m wrong. People who have every reason to hate you and me and everyone else for what was done to them, however necessary our actions may have been. They seem to accept their responsibility for what happened, they recognize that they weren’t innocent victims, and they hope that no one else has to go through what they have been through. The experience has apparently made them humble and wise.

        And here you come with your knee jerk, defensive, divisive bull shit. FUCK YOU. Of course it implicates the Japanese that’s why it say “Let us all” not, “Let you all” or “Let them all”. Take a hint from the people whose lives our country destroyed, grow some humility, first you’ll have to grow a spine though.

        1. “People who have every reason to hate you and me and everyone else for what was done to them…”

          Wow, shades of a Jewish high school teacher of mine who fervently believed “No German should ever be allowed to have a good or happy life because of the Holocaust.”

          So, you’re cool with never-ending hatred and demonization of folks who had nothing to do with the events in question? Do you support 9/11 victims hating every Muslim?

          1. Man these words your trying to shove in my mouth just don’t seem to fit at all.

            Said they have every reason, not that hating us would be right, or correct in any way. Also pointed out that they don’t, also implied I respect and admire them for that. It’s a blessed thing when I’m am shown people who, in spite of everything, have stained a level of peace in this world I’m not sure I myself could muster. It allows to reflect upon myself, and grow as they have.

  11. I worked as an Air Force advisor on comics like this. It’s easy to look back and see how silly the stupid authorities were, but you may are missing something.

    We knew there was little hope of anyone surviving a nearby detonation, but as someone pointed out, 20-30 miles away, these tips might keep our house from catching fire, or at least keep fires from spreading. At a distance, these tips could in fact increase survival and limit injury. And indeed, at the time, the majority of the US population did NOT live in close proximity to likely targets. As the bigger and bigger bombs came, the practicality of this sort of thing vanished.

    But the job of those comics was no more than 5% to help people survive, it was to give people the idea they had some control could do something to protect themselves, to avert despair and panic and let people live their lives. Would it have been nicer to have said “If the balloon goes up, you all die horribly, have a nice day”? I think it was better to give people even a false sense of control than none.

    Remember that the people who were charged with this sort of propaganda had no control over the policies that lead to MAD…we were just guys in uniform facing the end of the world everyday.

    That said, I read the whole thing…and laughed.

  12. There’s an old documentary, ‘Atomic Cafe’, that is clips of civil defense films and atomic bomb tests and so on. It’s fascinating and you can see that they were pretty sure we were doomed. One clip shows a doctor telling GIs about atomic blast damage and radiation and says that if you’re close enough to get hurt from the alpha and beta radiation, the blast and heat would have killed you already; he then gives this sickly smile that scares the hell out of you.


    1. Yes! One of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. Radio Bikini is also outstanding. It’s about the events surrounding the early nuclear tests at the Bikini Atoll.

    2. I think one of the best moments in Atomic Cafe was the scene in which a reporter was interviewing a GI who had been sent to observe an A-bomb test:

      Reporter: And what’s that badge on your chest?

      GI: There’s a piece of film in there. When they develop the film, they can see how much radiation there was.

      Reporter: Oh, so that’s how they can tell whether you’ve received a lethal dose?

      GI: Yes sir.

  13. Reading about the nuclear bombings Hiroshima and Nagasaki is one thing – going there and seeing the results of a nuclear attack on an inhabited city is quite another.

    People will forever debate whether the dropping of these weapons was justified – whether such an act was necessary to ‘win’ the war or else perhaps to demonstrate to our new friends in the USSR that not only did we have this technology, but yes, we’re not afraid to use it on women and children either.

    The history of those cities is the living lesson for us and our children – that we as a species have a responsibility to never abuse the great powers we now wield.

    We can’t allow any more Hiroshimas or Nagasakis. I don’t know how anyone can visit these places and still see any moral justification for the use of such terrible weapons.

    Also, it was nice that for once the US FINALLY sent an envoy. IIRC, the ever tactful G-Dub declined every year he was in office.

  14. Japan was in talks to surrender when we dropped the bombs. The purpose of which was to demonstrate that we had a scary new weapon.

    1. You appear to be somewhat misinformed. Heck, even after BOTH bombs were dropped, and the government started talking surrender in earnest, there was STILL an attempted military coup to continue the war. I mean, seriously, TWO ATOM BOMBS, and the military still tries to overthrow the government (and comes close) to continue fighting to the last man, woman, or child (as they did on Iwo Jima, Okinawa, etc)? The only way you could feel the bombs were ‘not necessary’ was if you were okay with a hundred times the caualties, dealt in a much more grisly fashion. (Or are you not familiar with the military’s casualty estimates – US and Japanese – for an invasion of the home islands? If we’d have had to fight through Japan like we did Germany, Iwo Jima, etc…grisly in a way you CANNOT imagine)

  15. It’s interesting that the public perception of A-bomb survivability mirrors the political situation of the time.

    During the Cuban missile crisis there was loads of Duck & Cover type propaganda to suggest that you could survive a nuclear war.

    Later on, the propaganda moved to support tha MAD doctrine. One nuclear blast and we’re all doomed. No one survives and we laugh at what fools we were for building blast shelters and the like.

    The truth is that for a ‘typical’ nuke, the vast majority of potential victims will be in a survivable zone. There’s a TED talk about it I think. Basically, when the blast goes off, you’ve got about 5-10 minutes to get out of the fallout zone, which will be something like 20 miles downwind of the blast. Not looking at the blast is also pretty important. If you’re outside the fallout zone, you’ll survive by going inside and shutting the windows. Fires will be a major threat for a lot of people, so the advice in the comic isn’t completely insane. However, duck and cover is pretty pointless. If you’re in the shockwave you’re pretty much screwed if you duck behind a wall, but hiding in the basement would save quite a few lives.

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