This memory of my parents' and grandparents' recollections of the 1962 CMC runs on groceries caused me to go to Time magazine's archives.

There is obviously a distinction between fear of imminent nuclear war and today's Japan situation. But in Tokyo today, there is an actual crisis underway and valid concern of radiation creeping into their food and water supply.

If that happened here in DC, there'd be a stampede of minivans and SUVs zooming (or crawling in gridlock) to Costco, Wal-Mart, Sams and every supermarket, mini-mart and corner grocery within 100 miles of the Beltway, at least.

Note the contemporaneous report below that there was hand-to-hand combat in a Los Angeles grocery over the last can of pork and beans. This excerpt is from the cover article of the November 2, 1962 edition of Time.,9171,874578,00.html

Kennedy explained that the quarantine would cut off offensive weapons from Cuba without stopping "the necessities of life." He warned that "any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere" would be regarded by the U.S. as an attack by the Soviet Union and would bring full-scale nuclear reprisal against Russia.

Shotguns & Beans. There were some Nervous Nelly reactions in the U.S. The stock market, hardly a symbol of U.S. backbone, dropped sharply next day. In Tampa, sporting-goods stores reported a run on shotguns and rifles. In Dallas, a store reported brisk sales" Of an emergency ration pack of biscuits, malted-milk tablets, chocolate, pemmican and canned water. In Los Angeles, a Civil Defense warning that retail stores would be closed for five days in the event of war or a national emergency sent housewives stampeding into the supermarkets. In one, hand-to-hand combat broke out over the last can of pork and beans.

Said North Hollywood Grocer Sam Goldstad: "They're nuts. One lady's working four shopping carts at once. Another lady bought twelve packages of detergents. What's she going to do, wash up after the bomb?"

The human behavior -- individual and group -- exhibited in crises is fascinating to behold. I believe the Japan situation is unprecedented, with two natural horrors (earthquakes, tsunamis) and a manmade horror (radiation) playing out simultaneously.

I don't recall that this precise situation has happened anywhere in the world, ever.