Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 7 No. 1 | Spring 1985

people who have to use the cards: they will go postage-free. It is important to fill out cards for the dead, the postal manual explains, so that letters for those persons can be returned to the sender from the PCC (marked “deceased per notice d a t e d ”) or, if they lack return addresses, be filed with the Dead Mail. The postattack responsibilities of every federal agency are carefully spelled out in Executive Order 11490. The Department of the Treasury, for example, is charged with establishing “tax and debt policies.” The Postal Service is mandated to forward mail. And the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the Public Health Service, is charged with planning for “sanitary aspects of disposal of the dead.” This was a responsibility that the government once took very seriously. A 1956 manual on “Mortuary Services in Civil Defense” explains, “Disposal of bodies as nearly as possible in accordance with normal customs and religious rites will be a major contribution to morale, but such methods may be impossible. Embalming, use of caskets, lying in state, and individual religious ceremonies may have to be omitted.” It advises that even formal identification of the dead may have to be foregone. “Ten thousand unidentified bodies would require over 5.5 acres of space...for adequate display. A person would walk 5 miles between the rows of bodies before all were seen and for each 25,000 identifiable bodies probably 10,000 would be unrecognizable because of disfigurement by injury or fire.” Even preliminary identification of each body from its personal effects would be difficult. “Ten identification teams (30 men) working steadily should be able to handle an average of about 100 bodies an hour or 800 bodies per 8-hour shift.... If the season, climate and weather are advantageous, the local civil defense mortuary services will not have more than a week at most before postmortem changes will make processing of bodies extremely unpleasant.” Therefore, “A method of rapid, mechanical grave digging and filling will be needed.... If conditions permit, mechanically dug continuous trenches offer the best solution to the Several physicians’groups opposed to the nuclear arms race have argued that it is hopeless to plan for any meaningful medical care after a nuclear attack, but the planners are not discouraged. “We have a zillion allergy doctors out there,” says one official. “Their work could be redirected.” burial problem. If the machines available are capable only of digging narrow trenches, bodies can be placed head to foot instead of side to side.” Unlike the Treasury and Postal Service, the Department of Health and Human Services has not kept its mortuary literature up to date, possibly because there is nothing else to be said on the subject. “If we’re involved in a small war,” Public Health Service Emergency Coordinator Harold Gracey said in 1981, “we’d just go with an extension of the present system. If we had one hundred million dead, it would be more of a dump-truck operation. “When I got this job,” he added, “my predecessor told me, 'They'll try to shove off planning for sanitary disposal of the dead on 'you. Tell 'em we’ll just dig trenches with bulldozers. We’ll bury them, but afterwards we won’t be able to say exactly what happened to Aunt Susie.’" Displaced persons will have the advantage of being first in line for postattack housing managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. (Second in line will be workers in essential industries, and third will be those who work in the management of postattack housing.) Rents will be set at levels corresponding to those for similar housing in the neighborhood, but no one will be evicted for not paying rent if “in the judgment of the Housing Manager or Managing Agent, the failure to pay is due to causes beyond the control of the occupant.” Displaced persons may be put up in requisitioned tents, hastily constructed barracks or even privately owned homes “whose owners have disappeared or are unable to function," but if the owners of such homes show up again, the new tenants will have to move out within thirty days. Radioactivity is not expected to be too much of a problem by the postattack planners at the Department of Agriculture, at least not if the attack happens to come at the right time of year. “If you get the attack in June,” says Harold Gay of the Agriculture Stabilization and Conservation Service, “you’ll have a hell of a loss of yield of the corn crop, because radioactivity attacks the living organism of the young plant. But if you get the attack in August, if it’s safe enough to get out in the fields and run your picker, the [radioactive] dust'll fly right off the plants.... “Just because you have fallout on a crop doesn’t mean it’s not safe to eat. Fallout is dust. It can be removed by normal washing, peeling and so on. If it’s mixed in with the actual food product, then you would store it. Radioactivity decays. Milk, for example, is very susceptible to radioactivity. You can’t hold milk until the radioactivity decays, but you can process it into cheese and store the cheese.” Postattack planners do recognize that not all nuclear war survivors will have the patience to wait for radioactive Velveeta to become edible. “You’re going to get a run on goods,” acknowledges one FEMA official. “You're going to get some very irrational behavior in the marketplace.” And so you're also going to get rationing. “Food dealers will be allowed to stock only enough meat, for example, to provide each of their surviving customers with three pounds a week. If there’s bone in the meat, the customer can have four pounds. If there’s no meat, the customer can substitute thirty-six eggs or eight-and- one-quarter pounds of potatoes. If there are no eggs or potatoes, the customer can have three pounds of dry peas or six pounds of canned pork and beans. 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