Will War Drive Civilization Underground? (1942)
The December 13, 1942 Montana Standard (Butte, MT) ran an interesting piece by Gardner Dane about the world of 1975, devastated by war, forcing people to move underground in order to survive. The original article appeared in Every Week magazine. Excerpts, as well as the article in its entirety, appear below.
Dane sets the stage with a vision of total ruin, a world obliterated by war:
It's 1975! All hell has burst loose in World War Three! The nations of this earth have lined up again on two sides. The slaughter, devastating fury, and material damage make the wars of past history seem like children's games with toy tin soldiers!
In an hour, gargantuan cities are blasted into nothingness. Desolated heaps of rubble and smoking, stinking debris mark the spot where a flock of towering skyscrapers lifted pointed peaks into the heavens.
Does this mark the end of a city's existence? Does it mean the Grand Climax of civilization? The ultimate Armageddon? The wiping out of a nation as one would crush a hornet's nest?
Not at all! For already the keen, dispassionate, incisive minds of scientists are fashioning the world in which many now living will be forced to exist when the next cataclysmic and catastrophic spasm of mankind occurs.
Dane then goes on to put things into the context of 1942 (World War II):
Historians, a thousand years hence, will write that after the victory of the Allied Nations near the middle of the twentieth century, there was an attempt to build a war-free world; but after a few years commercial rivalries sprang up again. Then the military leaders of the democracies, with the acquiescence of disillusioned millions, began preparing for the next cataclysmatic spasm of humanity.
He explains what the wars of 1975 or the year 2000 would look like:
There will be monstrous airplane carriers of the skies. Gargantuan dirigibles, capable of carrying a hundred fighting and bombing planes, will roam over the continents and oceans of the world. The only effective defense will be more airplanes! Yes, there will be anti-aircraft guns of power and velocity that will make today's fire power seem like toy pistols. But half a century hence giant bombers will carry cannon as powerful as today's anti-aircraft guns!
The power of the atom is eerily predicted:
What will happen in the twenty-first century we cannot tell. A century hence, man may have learned to use the unlimited and terrible power of the atom. He may be able to trap the rays of the sun and miraculously render obsolete the electric generator, the gasoline engine and the Diesel motor. Rocket ships may displace the motored airplanes as effectively and quickly as the automobile displaced the horse in the early part of the twentieth century.
Dane then explains the preparation nations will take for war:
First, when the black clouds of another war begin to gather on the horizon, nations will lay by great stores of food! Not food as we commonly think of it today, but millions upon millions of tons of dehydrated meats, fruits and vegetables!
These millions of tons will be stored underground at strategic and accessible points. Scientists would probably tell us today that the problem of food for an underground civilization will be the easiest problem to solve - if we get at it soon enough. The second problem will be shelter. This will be a gargantuan feat.
Deep underground, vast chambers will have to be excavated. Families can keep together in cubicles designed for the purpose. Single men will sleep in tiers in bunks 15 or 20 high; single women will sleep in similar accommodations.
All feeding will be done in central kitchens, rigidly controlled as to quality and quantity. Sanitary problems will be handled by specialists. All the accoutrements necessary for living will be moved underground. There will be hospitals and stores. Factories that produce clothes, medicines and other needs.
Naturally, in an ultimate emergency such as this, everything and every last detail will be controlled by the government. The abhorred and abhorrent dictatorships of the present time will be as nothing when nations fight for their lives in the next war.
The author (naturally) concludes on a pessimistic note:
Prophecy is always dangerous!
But if the past history and total experience of the human race has any value as a criterion of the future, within a half century there will be another war.
Each war, we like to say, grows more horrible! But each war brings its defenses against the diabolical, horrible offensive weapons devised by the race of man.
It seems certain that when the dogs of war are unleashed again on some future, unhappy date, civilization will have to move underground for the duration.