Survival Seed & the China Connection April 30 2017

A Tribute to Cresson Kearny

I met Cresson several times back in the 1980’s. He was in his seventies then but he still had a certain toughness beneath his modest demeanor. During those cold war years I had arranged a civil defense speaking engagement for him in Washington, D.C.

It was only later that I discovered the extent of his legendary career – as a courier to the Czechoslovakian underground smuggling anti-Nazis from the grasp of the Third Reich in the run-up to World War II and as a demolition Officer in the OSS (the precursor to what later became the CIA) in southern China ahead of the Japanese invasion.

In his most famous work, Nuclear War Survival Skills, Cresson wrote of an episode in China concerning survival seeds.


For thousands of years storing seeds has been an essential part of the survival preparations made by millions of prudent people fearing attack. Seeds are hopes for future food and the defeat of famine, that lethal follower of disastrous wars.

Among the most impressive sounds I ever heard were faint, distant rattles of small stones, heard on a quiet, black, freezing night in 1944. An air raid was expected before dawn. I was standing on one of the bare hills outside Kunming, China, trying to pinpoint the sources of lights that Japanese agents had used just before previous air raids to guide attacking bombers to blacked-out Kunming. Puzzled by sounds of cautious digging starting at about 2:00 AM, I asked my interpreter if he knew what was going on. He told me that farmers walked most of the night to make sure that no one was following them, and were burying sealed jars of seeds in secret places, far enough from homes so that probably no one would hear them digging. My interpreter did not need to tell me that if the advancing Japanese troops succeeded in taking Kunming they would ruthlessly strip the surrounding countryside of all food they could find. Then those prudent farmers would have seeds and hope in a starving land.

If you doubt that enough of our current "oversupply" of stored whole grains, soybeans, milk powder, etc. would reach you after a nuclear attack, you should store seeds known to grow well in your area.

When getting your supply of survival seeds, remember:

  • Grains and beans are the best plant sources of energy and protein.
  • Even if you have enough vitamins for several months, you may not be able to buy more until long after a nuclear war.
  • The deadly curses of scurvy, vitamin A deficiencies, and pellagra can be prevented by eating the plants, seeds, and spouted seeds described earlier in this chapter.
  • Plants grown from hybrid seeds give larger yields, but do not produce as productive seeds as do plants grown from good non-hybrid seeds.
  • Seeds of proven productivity in your locality may be more valuable than money after a major nuclear attack.
  • You should get and store mostly non-hybrid seeds, after learning from experienced local gardeners which are best.


There is nothing else I can write to improve on his observations so I will leave you with a message from his daughter.

In his 2003 New York Times obituary his daughter Stephanie commented, “Throughout his life he believed in being prepared for trouble.”

Best regards,

New Ordnance
Mountains of Montana
April, 2017