Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cities, Airplanes & Civil Defense

In 1941, New Orleans architect Nathaniel C. Curtis, Sr. (1881-1953) addressed the topic of urban planning & civil defense:

"The city planner is now confronted with a situation unforeseen through the centuries. The fighting airplane has come upon the scene. By night or day, in clear air or fog, it can search out or be directed over focal concentrations of population, over places where man works and where he stores his goods, and on these dump its cargoes of death and destruction. The more concentrated the objectives become the better the chances of making a hit and the more wholesale the destruction. Moreover, in a time of war most of the factories of a warring nation are turned over to the production of war equipment and munitions, and it becomes a part of the military defense system to safeguard these against disruption or demolition, while bomb-proof shelters must be provided for all the workers in the plant.

Modern warfare requires the regimentation of large numbers of the population. All the people are ultimately concerned, civilian as well as military, and no one's safety is guaranteed.

Of all the means for carrying on offensive warfare that human ingenuity has devised, the airplane is by far the most potent, and it is no exaggeration to say that without airplanes there could hardly be a reason for any radical changes in city planning such as will be put into effect. There is no effective way so far developed to defend cities or other objectives of a widespread nature against airplanes and their destructive charges except by the employment of more airplanes. The only other way to neutralize or minimize the power of the airplane is to scatter and make less the value of its objectives."

Curtis was particularly concerned with New Orleans' vulnerability, should its pumping stations be destroyed and its air-raid shelters inundated with water:

"Would the Charity Hospital continue to function? It would as long as doctors and nurses could hold out and the essential services could be maintained. A building like the Charity Hospital cannot be destroyed except under repeated bombings. A few upper floors would be demolished--all glass windows would be shattered, but otherwise the interior would remain intact."

Read more of his address in The Tulanian (April 1941): pp. 11-12, 14. Available from Tulane University Archives.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Subterranean Steel

We recently came across an article related to the U.S. Minuteman Ballistic Missile System Program. Engineers William J. Hartdegen and John A. Quigley published their configurations for 150 subterranean missile facilities located near the Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. The pod-like launch and control facilities were comprised of several layers of #18 rebars (top) that were designed to withstand "the high, dynamically applied pressure resulting from a nuclear attack." Dynamic strength capability tests conducted at the University of Illinois suggested that all splices of reinforcing bars of #11 and larger size required butt-welding. The pods were additionally lined with 1/4-inch steel plate in order to provide electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and radio frequency interference (RFI) shielding. A typical launch facility with a 90-foot launch tube and its adjacent capsule-shaped equipment storage space is depicted in the lower image.

Travelers to North Dakota can now visit the Ronald Reagan Minuteman State Historic Site, and journey down an elevator shaft to enter the last* post-disarmament launch control center. Learn more here.

To read more about the construction & view more images, see: Hartdegen & Quigley. "Welding Solves Problems in Multibillion-Dollar Minuteman Program." Chap. in Modern Welded Structures, Vol. III (Cleveland, OH: The James F. Lincoln Arc Welding Foundation, 1970), pp. I-16 to I-20. Available in the Southeastern Architectural Archive.

*Post-Script: As part of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, most of these siloes have been imploded. Read more here.