Robert Abbott was a firm believer in many of the foundational principles of the American side of the Cold War, especially after his 33-month imprisonment in communist POW camps in Korea. Throughout his career as Director of the Monroe County Office of Civil Defense, Abbott gave impassioned speeches and penned numerous tracts warning about the dangers of Soviet expansion. He urged his countrymen to be on alert for signs of communist infiltration, and he devoted his energies to preparing for a potential Soviet invasion or airstrike.
Indeed, Abbott advocated for the citizens of Rochester to join him in erecting personal bomb shelters, and he created city-wide fallout shelters in anticipation of a nuclear attack. He also drafted evacuation plans for Monroe County and orchestrated several “mock raid” drills to test his department’s response time in a simulated crisis.
Abbott’s 1959 annual report on Monroe County’s Office of Civil Defense captures his sense of urgency:
Despite the talk of peace and disarmament our military experts, key officials, and many sound-thinking citizens are worried about the safety and security of this nation.
Their concern is justifiable.
Russia is still dedicated to world dominance.
Russia is leading in the missile race.
The United States is open and vulnerable to a direct attack by nuclear missiles.
What many considered alarmist rhetoric, Robert Abbott saw as clear-eyed realism.