A-Bomb in Akard Street! — 1950

by Paula Bosse

mcgrath-frank_a-bomb-in-akard-street_dmn_021350See Pegaus up there in the cloud of smoke and debris? (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The image above is a depiction of what downtown Dallas might look like in the aftermath of an atomic bomb going off at the corner of Main and Akard (which is weirdly specific). The drawing is by Dallas Morning News staff artist Frank McGrath. This isn’t terribly realistic, but it’s nice that Frank spared Pegasus from annihilation.

This drawing illustrated a Dallas Morning News article about emergency contingency plans of dealing with such an occurrence. The article appeared in February of 1950, just a few months after the announcement that Russia had exploded a nuclear bomb during atomic tests and just a few short weeks after President Truman announced that the United States would increase and intensify research and production of thermonuclear weapons. It was a scary time for the world. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were still fresh in everyone’s minds, and news of the even more frightening hydrogen bomb was everywhere in February, 1950. In fact, when the atomic-bomb-in-Dallas scenario was published in The News, this article about Albert Einstein’s thoughts on the H-bomb appeared on the newspaper’s front page (click for larger image):

bomb_einstein_dmn_021350DMN, Feb. 13, 1950

But back to Big D. The illustration at the top appeared over the following caption:

“This is Dallas after an atomic explosion at Main and Akard as pictured by Dallas News Artist Frank McGrath from reports prepared by 22d Armored Division personnel. The division was given the problem of determining the extent of damage in such a case and planning its own course of action.”

Here’s the article (a transcription is below):


a-bomb-in-akard-street_dmn_021350bDMN, Feb. 13, 1950 (click for larger images)


If A-Bomb Ever Strikes Dallas, Army Has Plan

by Fred Pass
Dallas Morning News, Feb. 13, 1950

An atomic bomb left downtown Dallas in shambles Sunday and the Army was taking over the rest of the city — all on paper, of course.

Just like the atom bomb that was supposed to burst over the corner of Main and Akard, the problem of what Army forces here would do in such a situation burst on officers and men of the 22d Armored Division. The problem came from the mind of Brig. Gen. John B Dunlap, head of Combat Command A.

The mythical bomb burst Sunday at 8:30 a.m. Within a radius of a mile and a half the city lay in chaos and death.

This is the Army’s picture in such a case.

From the ruined area to a zone three miles from the bomb, movement and supplies have been frozen by the Army. Roadblocks have been set up. The city has been divided into four military zones.

Fires are cutting from the bomb area into the rest of the city.

First-aid posts are operating at nearly all public buildings and at drugstores.

Power and gas companies have put their auxiliary units to work throughout the city, and most of the homes outside the heart with a bomb exploded still have lights and heat.

Water pressure is low, since many water mains were broken. Residents have been ordered to use water only for drinking. The pressure is needed to fight fires.

Shortly after the bomb burst, General Dunlap, through the broadcasting station at Grapevine, ordered all persons with uniforms to report to the army post at Love Field.

As they reported, he sent them to strategic traffic points to halt movement into or out of the city and the affected area.

A helicopter equipped with a loud-speaker was commandeered at Love Field and hovered over the city to order the residents to remain where they are.

Route 12 and Belt Line Road around the city have been designated for military traffic only.

Pharmacists within the stricken area have been asked to open their stores and take charge of medical supplies. Pharmacists in outlying areas are requested to issue medical supplies only to soldiers’ Army supply orders.

Doctors and nurses have been asked by radio to report to a first-aid station in the stricken area and start to work.

The covered areas at Fair Park and [the] Sears Roebuck store on Greenville [Ave.] have been set up as hospitals.

All available food supplies and wholesale groceries, gasoline supplies from the Humble substation on Highway 183 and Magnolia substation on Fort Worth Avenue have been commandeered.

Private telephone calls have been cut off at the substations to allow only official calls. A number of the substations were knocked out by the blast, although 90 per cent of the lines are usable.

Rifles used in school ROTC programs were taken over by the Army to maintain order. The Army section in charge of supplies has enlisted civilian organizations such as petroleum groups, retail manufacturing associations and grocery organizations to aid in locating needed supplies.

The story of an atom bomb disaster in Dallas was compiled from reports made Sunday by officers in charge of transportation, supply, logistics and medical sections of the 22d Armored Division, an organized reserve unit.

They were given the problem last Sunday by General Dunlap, and were asked to prepare a working plan of such a disaster.

Following the reports, Dunlap said the problem was “from my own mind,” and not a War Department order.

“We would be far wiser to have a plan for a disaster before it happens,” he said. “The plan you have prepared may not be the best, but any plan that works is a good one.

“This is a problem that might face any city in this country, if we are ever so foolish as to engage in an atomic warfare.

“The citizens of this community should have a plan for relief — whether for tornadoes or atomic bombs — and it should be kept up-to-date.”


There were bomb shelters all over the Dallas area. There was a (surprisingly) large shelter on the grounds of Fair Park. Watch a video tour here.

Read about the tenor of the times in the article “Hydrogen Bomb — 1950,” here.

The title of this post is a direct reference to a great song by one of my favorite bands, The Jam. Listen to “A-Bomb in Wardour Street,” here. This time it’s nuclear apocalypse in London, but change the accent and, sure, it could be Dallas. (I knew I’d work The Jam in here one day!)

I can only imagine Frank McGrath’s reaction when he was given the assignment to draw a post-atomic-bomb-blasted Dallas. He looks like a fun guy. Here’s a photo of him and popular Dallas Morning News columnist Paul Crume — Frank is on the left. (Photo from somewhere deep within the DMN website.)



Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.