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Just Another Evening Austin It was just another evening. At the press table the House state affairs committee was hearing a bill to license people who put insecticides on crops for pay. Speaker Byron Tunnell ambled about the floor. Reporters sat in members’ soft leather swivel chairs alongside the press table, making notes or musing. As the evening droned on, politicians primed reporters off-stage on the hi-jinks of the session . . . a committee meeting upstairs, in a room off the gallery, broke up, and reporters from it sauntered along the gallery toward their typewriters, their heads seeming very near the ceiling of the cavernous chamber. The lights went out and a slide flashed on a screen that had appeared at the head of the press table. “Special Briefing for the state Affairs Committee of the Texas House of Representatives, John Allen, chairman,” the slide announced. In all its usual authority, the voice from the pentagon was heard then in the Texas capitol. Rep. Hugh Parmer, Fort Worth, has proposed that all Texas school boards be required to hold public elections on whether they should provide their schools with fallout shelters. The state affairs committee, having subcommitteed the insecticides bill, delayed licensing public sanitarians, and bruised past an angry Rep. V. E. his horse-racing legislation, came to Parmer’s bill about 9 :30 this next to last night in February, 1963. Parmer’s argument was straightforward. Shelters deter nuclear attack, because “if you can’t hurt someone there’s not much point in hitting him.” If Russians attacked the U.S. all-out, blast and heat would kill 40 million Americans at once, but “There is really no economical means of protecting people from the blast and heat effects. It just costs too much money.” Without shelters another 40 million would die from fallout, but “every one” of the second 40 million could be saved with an “inexpensive” fallout shelter prograin. If the Russians attack only military targets, Parmer said, “There will be five million casualtiesthat’s allfive million, from the effects of the blast. But, there will be an additional 75 million casualties from fallout.” The 75 million could be saved, too, he contended. The fact must be reported, despite its wild implausibility, that the members of the committee, who minutes before had sat rapt while ex-Rep. Zeke Zbranek of Liberty had delivered a witty assault on the insecticide bill and the “high-fangled bureau” it would create, did not seem to be listening carefully to Parmer. They were shifting about and frequently whispering among themselves. Parmer, who is thought of in the House as a liberal, might not have got their real attention at all but for the foremost of his “formidable witnesses,” Jack E. Wilson, director of technical operations for the office of civil defense, region ment of defense, and the man who gave the briefing. Wilson went so fast, however, perhaps so that he would not bore the committee, one had to look and listen lively to record what he said about 170 million dead as the slides flipped quickly on and off the screen. USING the latest electronic machines, Wilson said, the department of defense conducts continuing studies of fatality probabilities in the event of nuclear war, and although these studies are highly classified, he had a few unclassified slides on the subject this night. They were based on a national population of 200 million. In a nuclear attack on strictly military targets, Wilson said, direct fatalities from the explosions are projected, in the current figures, at 20 million. \(This is four times the figure Parmer used, “five million that’s larger number would escape” the direct effects,””110 million people, without fallout shelters, would die from radiation.” Ergo, he reasoned, fallout shelters “would save 110 million lives in the United States.” Such an attack would leave “70 million people unaffected one way or another” by whether they had shelters, Wilson said, rapidly flipping his slides. One gathered this meant that the other 70 million Americans would not be killed. His slides did not give any figures for injuries. Suppose we had an enemy attack against our population, as well as industrial and military targets. “Naturally,” Wilson said, showing another chart, “the explosion’s fatalities are going to rise appreciably, to 110 million in this case.” Another 60 million could survive with fallout shelters who would perish without them. This totaled 170 million who would die without shelters. Since the country