Created by Castle Films during WWII for the U.S. Government AIR RAID WARNING shows the duties and responsibilities of the Civil Defense Air Raid Wardens. These individuals were trained in first aid, fire fighting, and gas and chemical warfare as well as plane spotting. During the blackout in the USA, wardens enforced regulations to keep lights out and blinds drawn at all times.
The American wardens traced their origins to Britain. During the early stages of World War II, the Air Ministry had forecast that Britain would suffer night air bombing attacks causing large numbers of civilian casualties and mass destruction. It was widely agreed that navigation and targeting would be more difficult if man-made lights on the ground could be extinguished.
Blackout regulations were imposed in the UK on 1 September 1939, before the declaration of war. These required that all windows and doors should be covered at night with suitable material such as heavy curtains, cardboard or paint, to prevent the escape of any glimmer of light that might aid enemy aircraft. The Government ensured that the necessary materials were available. External lights such as street lights were switched off, or dimmed and shielded to deflect light downward. Essential lights such as traffic lights and vehicle headlights were fitted with slotted covers to deflect their beams downwards to the ground.
Blackouts proved one of the more unpleasant aspects of the war, disrupting many civilian activities and causing widespread grumbling and lower morale. The blackout was enforced by civilian ARP wardens who would ensure that no buildings allowed the slightest chink or glow of light. Offenders were liable to stringent legal penalties.
Blackout restrictions greatly increased the dangers of night driving and fatalities increased as a consequence. As a result, some aspects were relaxed and speed limits were lowered. The anticipated increase in crime rates did not occur.
The United States was not exposed to air attack, but along the Atlantic coast, the lack of a coastal blackout served to silhouette Allied shipping and thus expose them to German submarine attack. Coastal communities resisted the imposition of a blackout for amenity reasons, citing potential damage to tourism. The result was a disastrous loss of shipping, dubbed by German submariners as the "Second Happy Time". Blackouts were held in mainland cities, and along the coastal areas long after any enemy threat existed; the primary purpose was psychological motivation of the civilian population which saw blackouts as a patriotic duty