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The City of Portland, Oregon

Archives & Records Management

Office of the City Auditor

phone: 503-865-4100


1800 SW 6th Ave, Suite 550, Portland, OR 97201

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Civil Defense in Portland 1936-1963


1954 Civil Defense Sign PostingBetween the first and second world wars, Portland responded to the potential threat of air strikes by developing a Civil Defense program. Volunteer firefighters were trained and citizens were taught a variety of survival methods from seeking shelter to sealing windows against gas attacks. In the post World War II era, the threat of nuclear warfare pushed the development of a Civil Defense infrastructure. Portland built a state of the art Civil Defense command center built underground at Kelly Butte in 1957 that was featured in a CBS documentary. Citizens were also engaged through evacuation exercises including the massive “Operation Green Light” which emptied roughly 1,000 downtown blocks and evacuated over 100,000 people in less than an hour.

1960 Civil Defense exhibitTo learn more about the Portland’s Civil Defense efforts and see some of the photos, documents and plans, check out our online exhibit or drop by to see the exhibit located in our front case. If you are interested in doing more research or curious about a certain aspect, check out Efiles or stop by during Open Research Hours to dig deeper into the history of Portland’s Civil Defense.


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