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CONELRAD: Atomic Secrets | Mia Farrow, The Original Duck And Cover Kid
To Conelrad with every good wish from Mia Farrow (of the Duck & Cover school). Picture credits: Maj. Gen. Walter M. Robertson, California State Civil Defense Chief and from left Patrick Farrow, 9; Prudence Farrow, 3; Maureen O'Sullivan, Stephanie Farrow, 2; Maria de Lourdes, 7 (aka Mia; next to Bert the Turtle); Michael, 12 and John, 5. Click to enlarge detail

Mia Farrow has played a role in so many culturally significant events over the years that it seems almost impossible to accept the fact that one person could have managed so much spirited hobnobbing in a single lifetime (Forrest Gump eat your heart out). But while most people know of Ms. Farrow by virtue of her famous show business family (her mother Maureen O'Sullivan portrayed "Jane" in many of the Tarzan movies and her father, John Farrow, was the Academy Award-nominated film director) or her starring role in ROSEMARY'S BABY or her sojourn in India with the Beatles or her marriages to Frank Sinatra and Andre Previn or, more recently, her unfortunate relationship with a certain filmmaker who will remain nameless, few if any recall that there is another historically important icon that the actress is inextricably linked with: Bert the Turtle, the animated star of the first civil defense film produced for children, DUCK AND COVER [1951].

Yes, it is true, 7-year-old Maria de Lourdes (as Mia was known at the time),
LA Examiner 1952 - click to enlarge
participated, along with her siblings, in an astoundingly well covered Cold War media stunt that was a certifiable stroke of PR genius on the part of Archer Productions, the company that produced DUCK AND COVER for the U.S. government.

On February 5th, 1952 a huge cadre of print and television reporters witnessed Maureen O'Sullivan ring a bell that commenced the Farrow family atomic attack test drill at their Beverly Hills residence (father John must have been working late at the studio that night because he is nowhere to be seen). After the drill was completed, the Farrow children posed next to a giant cardboard cut-out of Bert the Turtle. The photograph ran in nearly every major newspaper the following day under such headlines as "Alerted—Not Alarmed." One photo caption read "Bert the Turtle says 'Duck for Cover' and was designed to educate atomic age children."

Needless to say it took the intrepid CONELRAD Atomic Secrets Research TeamOh my! DANGER. Bert DUCKS AND COVERS. He's smart, but he has his shelter on his back... YOU MUST LEARN TO FIND SHELTER to excavate this long forgotten national memory and we were, understandably, anxious to remind Ms. Farrow of her contribution to yet another chapter in pop culture history.

In responding to CONELRAD's request for comment, the actress stated with wonder: "Wow, is all I can say... I do remember very well the Duck and Cover campaign. It was madness. It was madness. Of course it would have been futile had there really been any kind of real attack. It's pretty much what the duct tape was for us in the east more recently."1 In a subsequent e-mail to CONELRAD, Ms. Farrow added: "I do recall seeing that film (DUCK AND COVER). And I well remember the school drills with all of us getting down under our desk tops,
Bert and entourage in India
and all the wondering and feelings of insecurity."2

Ms. Farrow's acknowledgement and recollection of her Duck and Cover period must surely now cement her image as the ultimate baby boomer. After all, who else on the planet can claim they hung out with the Beatles and Bert the Turtle?

CONELRAD wishes to thank Ms. Mia Farrow for her generous responses to our research queries.

1. 7/28/03 telephone call
2. 7/29/03 e-mail

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