Dassel and Nuclear War

On September 26, 1983, the United States was involved in what was called a cold war; a period of difficult relations between the United States, our allies (The Western Bloc) and the Soviet Union and its allies, (the Eastern Bloc). Historically this time span was from March 12, 1947, beginning with the announcement of the Truman Doctrine, to December 26, 1991, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It was a scary time here in the mid-west. We were targeted as possible nuclear bomb fallout areas due to missile silos in neighboring states. I remember clearly watching a news program of then Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev table declaring “We will bury you”

He did not bang his shoe!

(Although I was only 4 and I remember him pounding a shoe. THAT never happened, so I am not sure how I acquired this memory)

Back to that fateful day in September of 1983 false alarms of up to 5 nuclear missiles aimed upon Russia by the United States were reported.

From Wikipedia, “On 26 September 1983, during the Cold War, the nuclear early-warning radar of the Soviet Union reported the launch of one intercontinental ballistic missile with four more missiles behind it, from bases in the United States. These missile attack warnings were suspected to be false alarms by Stanislav Petrov, an officer of the Soviet Air Defense Forces on duty at the command center of the early-warning system. He decided to wait for corroborating evidence—of which none arrived—rather than immediately relaying the warning up the chain-of-command. This decision is seen as having prevented a retaliatory nuclear attack against the United States and its NATO allies, which would likely have resulted in an escalation to a full-scale nuclear war. Investigation of the satellite warning system later determined that the system had indeed malfunctioned.”

Bomb Shelter in Minneapolis 1953

This was our country’s most serious scare since the 1962 Bay of Pigs incident.

Minneapolis, under the assumption that a large city would be a likely target went into high alert mode and quickly completed an in-process system for evacuation of the city residents to rural country safety. A rather naïve plan had been worked on for several years. People would be told to pack as though you headed for a 3-week camping trip and to take along extra socks, a thermos, a crowbar, and credit cards. The plan’s working was based on a 3-day warning of a possible strike, with the assumption that people would need to be gone only 1 to 3 weeks until negotiations averted the war.

Boys Building Bomb Shelter in Minneapolis

And here is where Dassel came into play. Meeker County was set as a site to house up to 31,00 people from Minneapolis, Osseo, and Maple Grove, for up to 3 weeks, with Dassel anticipated to house 2,700 of them. At that time, we had a population of 1,066. Meeker County emergency Service director at the time, Bill Nelson, said, “We may be feeding people turkey for two weeks, but we can do it.”

Dassel had 23 public fallout shelters listed. They included the basement of the Evangelical Covenant Church slated to house 432 people and the basement of the Holm Brothers Hardware slated to house 21 people. The hardware store basement “barely measures 20 ft square and is cluttered with boxes of metal ducts” Star Tribune article, Kevin McCarthy 12-5-83

Bungalow Inn being moved from Darwin to Dassel…not a large cafe

Bill Nelson said of the hardware store basement “they’d almost be on top of each other…. it’s going to stink like Hell. But again, it is survival we are talking about.” Asked if he would want to spend a minimum of a week in the store basement Norman Loven, the hardware store owner said, ” It depends on who you are going in with.”

The Bungalow Inn, a café of the time was designated as one site to provide food for the Dassel based evacuees. According to the Star Tribune article, the owner’s son, did not know of the designation at the time of being told by Mike Kaszuba, the author of the article. Kevin stated that he did not think it could be done. The café normally served about 60 people a day, with five booths.

This all seems like an innocent plan, slightly bereft of common sense based on today’s knowledge of the way our world operates. Dassel residents, this plan is not in effect today, the logistics would be next to impossible.

We have approximately 3 storm shelters in Dassel today; the city hall restrooms, the school, and the trailer park has a shelter for the park residents. These are focused on storms rather than nuclear safety. Times have changed, we are smarter, but are we wiser?

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