Journal-News, Monday, Jan. 4, 1993
Hamilton's industrial exodus followed air force precautionary mock raids
By Jim Blount
Subliminal damage was inflicted on Hamilton when it was the target of at least two bombings during the Cold War, the first coming in 1952 as Americans were fighting and dying in Korea.
An Oct. 28, 1952, newspaper report said a mock bombing would come "sometime during the next week" when the U. S. Air Force attack would "attempt to prove to the citizens of Hamilton that enemy planes could drop their atomic bombs on this city."
The assault -- testing defenses against possible raids by Soviet planes -- would include a B-29 squadron flying at least 30,000 feet above the city. B-29 instruments "will show that Hamilton has been destroyed as the planes leave this southern Ohio industrial city, " an article explained.
In October 1952 the United States was involved in the Korean War, which had started June 25, 1950. More than 54,000 Americans would die there, fighting as part of a United Nations force. More than 5,000 Butler Countians served in Korea and 42 died.
Peace negotiations, which began in July 1951, wouldn't produce an armistice until July 27, 1953. The truce talks had been suspended Oct. 8, 1952, nearly three weeks before the simulated attack on Hamilton.
A Journal-News report by Bill McDulin said planes plan "to attempt to break through the net of radar stations and Ground Observer Corps air warning stations that protect this area. "
Local members of the Ground Observation Corps were "on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week," at an observation tower at the Hamilton Airport, "scanning the sky for unidentified aircraft," which would be reported to the Columbus filter center of the U. S. Air Force.
Could this mock attack -- and a smiliar one in 1956 -- have contributed to the industrial exodus from Hamilton in the late 1950s and early 1960s?
In both simulations, bombs were dropped on Hamilton, then a city of about 60,000 people with nearly 20,000 employed in local factories, most of which had contributed to the U. S. wars from the Spanish-American encounter in 1898 through Korea.
Unofficial Cold War policy encouraged moving U. S. industry out of manufacturing centers like Hamilton, noted Kenneth T. Jackson in his 1385 book, Crabgrass Frontier, The Suburbanization of the United States.
"In 1951 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists devoted an entire issue to 'Defense through Decentralization.' Their argument was simple," said Jackson. "To avoid national destruction in a nuclear attack, the United States should disperse existing large cities into smaller settlements. The ideal model was a depopulated urban core surrounded by satellite cities and low-density suburbs," recalled Jackson.
Also part of the Cold War national defense plan was the interstate highway program, a system which bypassed Hamilton, despite federal promises to build the highway into every city of at least 50,000 population. (Hamilton had 57,951 people in the 1850 census and 72,354 in the 1960 count. )
The interstate system was recommended by a committee appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenwhower, who had won the White House in November 1952, within a week of the simulated bombing on Hamilton.
Elsenhower's reasons for signing the measure in 1956, Jackson wrote, were: (1) highways were unsafe; (2) cars were often snarled in traffic jams; (3) poor roads caused high transportation costs for business; and (4) modern highways were needed because "in case of atomic attack on our key cities, the road net must permit quick evacuation of target areas."
Jackson said building "the interstate system helped continue the downward spiral of public transportation and virtually guaranteed that future urban growth would perpetuate a centerless sprawl."
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Journal-News, Monday, Jan. 11,1993
Fear of nuclear attack haunted county residents and nation in 1956
(Editor's note: Columnist Jim Blount is describing the results of a mock nuclear attack in 1956 staged over Hamilton. The event was strictly a drill with no casualties or destruction.)
By Jim Blount
The military staged a mock nuclear attack over Hamilton during the summer of 1956. Based on the country's preparedness and the power of the nuclear device nearly 29,000 people were killed and 16,000 injured with 15,000 of 18,000 buildings in the industrial community destroyed.
The mock Cold War attack -- named "Operation Alert 1956" -- was described by the Associated Press as "the biggest civil defense exercise ever held in the United States."
It was called a "war drill to rehearse what might happen in a nuclear attack on 76 American cities." The drill started at 10 a.m. Friday, July 20, 1956, with mock submarine-launched surprise attacks in Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
Hamilton was one of five Ohio cities on the target list. The others were Dayton, Canton, Youngstown and Steubenville.
Seven minutes after the attacks President D. Eisenhower and others discussed the situation in a National Security Council meeting in Washington, D. C. Within an hour, the government was operating from a secret location more than 100 miles from Washington.
During the drill more than 70 U. S. cities and 25 Canadian targets had been hit.
The hypothetical nuclear attack on Hamilton was at 1:45 p.m. The bomb exploded over the intersection of High Street and Monument Avenue in downtown Hamilton.
"An imaginary enemy plane dropped a hypothetical atomic bomb on Hamilton resulting in 24,000 dead and 21,000 injured," according to a news report. About 5,000 were expected to die of their injuries within a week, bringing the local death toll to 29,000.
The 45,000 casualties in Hamilton were just part of the human loss. Fallout from the 100-kilotron bombs which hit Hamilton and Dayton also killed and sickened 37,000 others in at least six counties (Butler, Warren, Montgomery, Greene, Clark and Madison).
Each bomb was said to be the equivalent of 100,000 tons of TNT and described as "five times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima near the end of World War II."
Advance reports, assuming ground zero would be Second and High streets, said total destruction would result about nine-tenths of a mile in each direction: north to Rhea Avenue and North B Street, south to Central Avenue and Knightsbridge Drive, east to High Street and Erie Hwy., and west to Main Street and Millville Avenue.
Death and destruction would spread outside the circle because, the newspaper said, "radioactive fallout is so deadly that the fallout pattern could extend over an area 40 miles wide and 200 miles long. If the wind is blowing in a northeasterly direction, the people in Middletown will start to die from the radioactive materials dropping on their city three hours after the bomb is dropped on Hamilton."
The mock attack was termed a "successful training exercise," according to Larry Hoyser, director of the Butler County Civil Defense Corps.
It had started at 10:09 a.m. when the Ohio Highway Patrol notified Hamilton officials that an attack was imminent. Hamilton police relayed the warning to the civil defense agency, triggering hypothetical evacuations and other reactions.
Some members of the staff of the Hamilton office of the Ohio Employment Bureau established temporary headquarters on the campus of Miami University in Oxford.
A civil defense control center went into action at Fairfield High School, operating until 10 p.m. that night.
A Journal-News editorial said "it may not be an honor or distinction for Hamilton" to be a target, "but it should be a reminder that this community and hundreds of others. . . have taken Civil Defense far too lightly. In spite of all the appeals made over periods of years, only about 100 persons have responded to take part in the Civil Defense operation of the Butler County Civil Defense Corps."
The editorial said "who is there to say that, with the world situation as it is, a true-to-life, deadly emergency cannot occur?"
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Journal-News, Monday, Jan. 18,1993
1978, the winter that made local history
By Jim Blount
Gov. James A. Rhodes called it "the worst blizzard in the history of Ohio." The four-term governor was known to exaggerate, but this time the weather records would support his claim.
Rhodes, in declaring a state of emergency in Ohio, was describing the storm of Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 25-26, 1978, which claimed 51 lives in the state and cost more than $100 million.
It was the capstone of a cold and snowy January with an average temperature of 18 degrees, a low of minus 8 degrees Jan. 4, and more than 30 inches of snow during the month.
There were approximately 14 inches of snow on the ground Wednesday, Jan. 25, when Hamilton City Manager Jack Kirsch reported to city council that the city had spent $66,000 for snow removal during previous two weeks — including materials and overtime.
At 9 p.m. the weather service issued a blizzard warning for Ohio, described as a winter storm with winds of at least 35 miles an hour, a temperature of 20 degrees or lower and blowing snow.
Despite that weather alert 15 years ago, no one in Butler County expected what happened in the next few hours. There had been heavier snowfalls, lower temperatures and more damaging winds here before, but the combination which struck that evening and through into Thursday morning would be classified as a "severe blizzard" -- not just a "blizzard."
Overnight Jan. 25-26 about seven inches of snow fell on top of the 14 inches on the ground. Wind averaged 28 miles an hour with gusts up to 75 miles an hour, producing snow drifts of 12 to 15 feet in some places.
The low Thursday morning in Hamilton was 5 degrees and the wind chill was minus 39 degrees. The Journal-News weather observer said he was unable to record the snow depth because "it was blowing so much there was no way to measure it."
The 40-degree temperature drop preceding the storm turned melting snow and slush into ice, leaving "Butler County streets and roads like ice skating rinks," said the Journal-News.
Schools, most businesses and some industries closed for at least the remainder of the week. Cancellations and postponements were general. The blizzard caused power outages, some in isolated-areas extending for several days. It prompted local law enforcement agencies to urge residents to stay home and travel only because of emergencies.
Only emergency calls were answered by police and deputies, who assumed the added duty of delivering drug prescriptions to the homebound.
There was no mail delivery in city residential and rural areas for two to three days, and buses stopped running in Hamilton for the first time in about 30 years.
Coach Darrell Hedric's Miami University basketball team -- on its way home to Oxford following a 79-70 victory at Toledo -- was forced off 1-75 and spent the night in the Vandalia Municipal Building. Most of the team slept in jail cells. One lucky player, Randy Ayers, slept in the municipal judge's chair. He is now the Ohio State University basketball coach.
The weather cleared Friday, Jan. 27, but storm-related problems continued for several days. Snow plowing was hampered by cars abandoned in drifts. County officials reported five plows stuck on Chapel Road in Morgan Township.
"We're not talking about comfort now, we're talking about survival," said Irene Lewis, director of Butler County Civil Defense, a reference to problems in getting medicine, food and other essentials to the snowbound sick, disabled and elderly.
It was almost a week before most of the area returned to normalcy, but the winter of 1977-78 continued to bring more than the usual serving of cold and snow.
Snow remained on the ground here from January through early March as snowfall for the winter totaled 47.3 inches, almost twice the area's annual average of about 24 inches.
But that wasn't the only "bad winter" of the 1970's. There will be more on that topic in this column next week.
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Journal-News, Monday, Jan. 25,1993
Frigid temperatures dominated 1977 news
By Jim Blount
The winter of 1977-78 was the last of three straight frigid winters in this region, highlighted by the severe blizzard which paralyzed the area overnight Jan. 25-26, 1978. Except for the storm, the 1977-78 season would barely compare to the previous winter, 1976-77, which set records for cold and snow here and elsewhere, prompting Newsweek to observe that "it seemed as if a new ice age had arrived."
A total of 53.9 inches of snow was recorded in the Cincinnati area in the 1976-77 winter, the highest total ever. (It would be followed by 47.3 inches in 1977-78, the second highest total.) January 1977 is regarded as the coldest and snowiest in Southwestern Ohio.
It included the coldest low ever recorded in Cincinnati, a minus 25 degrees Jan. 18, and the second lowest, minus 24 the previous day, Jan. 17, 1977. Records also were set for two other days: minus 21— Jan. 16 and minus 11— Jan. 29. The highest temperature during January 1977 was 35 degrees.
The average temperature that month was 12 degrees, considerably below the monthly norm of 31 degrees in the Cincinnati region. (A year later, January 1978, the monthly average would be 18 degrees.)
A foot of snow was on the ground here by Jan. 10, 1977, and during the month snow totaled 30.3, a record which would stand for a year At that time, the Cincinnati area norm for January was six inches.
Wind also was a major problem during January 1977 storms. In rural areas, as soon as state and county crews plowed roads, snow was blown back on the pavement. Local officials reported road salt was ineffective because of the low temperatures and the depth of the snow.
"Never before in this century had the nation been so much at the mercy of its weather," said Time magazine in its Feb. 14, 1977, edition. "Man, animal and machine in many parts of the country were immobilized under a heavy blanket of snow and ice."
Time also noted that "a dire shortage of natural gas — long predicted and long ignored — forced the closing of hundreds of schools and businesses and drove tens of thousands of people out of their unheated homes." The shortage of natural gas wasn't a new problem in the winter of 1976-77. Since 1968, the U. S. had been using more natural gas than it produced.
Conservation education had started here two years earlier, and in late 1976 utility companies had announced curtailment of supplies to consumers. Cincinnati Gas & Electric ordered 20 percent cuts for some businesses, industries and schools.
The City of Hamilton, through its municipal utilities department, had started a "Cool It" campaign during the winter of 1974-75. Part of that effort suggested that residential thermometers be set no higher than 68 degrees.
Thanks to the conservation program, a slowdown in local industries and an unusually warm winter, Hamilton households realized a 17 percent reduction while business, industrial and institutional gas users saved 21 percent.
Overall, Hamilton reduced its consumption by 19 percent that winter, or a total of 574.9 million cubic feet of gas. During the winter of 1974-75, the city also had stopped issuing permits for new gas customers, and the Hamilton "Cool It" campaign was renewed annually through the late 1970's.
Meanwhile, representatives of utility companies, the state and schools began discussing possible revisions in school calendars to save gas. A longer winter break in December and January and the moving of spring break into February were among the proposals considered.
By the early 1980s — after deregulation of the natural gas industry and the development of new wells in the U. S. — the natural gas crisis had ended. By 1982, a surplus was reported.
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