The U.S. Office of Civilian Defense was established in May 1941 as the Second World War intensified and the likelihood of direct U.S. involvement in the war increased. It was responsible for the overall coordination of preparations for war-related emergencies, though the preparations themselves were organized and executed by agencies at the state and local level. As part of these efforts, civilian volunteers were recruited to fulfill a number of roles, including that of Air Raid Warden. The Air Raid Warden's primary purpose was to coordinate the protection of civilians and serve as a first responder in the event of an airborne attack. The duties of an Air Raid Warden included the enforcement of blackout rules during an attack; directing civilians in the street to shelters; reporting fallen bombs and fires to the appropriate authorities and responders; detecting and reporting the presence of weaponized gases; providing primary first aid care; and setting an example of calmness under all conditions.
An Air Raid Warden's post was usually organized to serve a population of 500 people, with four Wardens assigned to each post, providing 24-hour service. Though not given police powers, Air Raid Wardens often functioned as an arm of local police forces and were given police assistance. In New York City, Air Raid Wardens reported directly to the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Throughout the duration of the Second World War, roughly 6 million volunteers served in civilian protection roles mobilized by the Office of Civilian Defense before its official disbandment in June 1945.
Murray Barkan lived at 41 Eastern Parkway in the Propsect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. During the Second World War, from 1941 to 1944, Barkan served as an Air Raid Warden in Zone 1 of Brooklyn's 80th police precinct, which covered the area bounded by Eastern Parkway, Vanderbilt Avenue, Fulton Street, and Franklin Avenue.
From the guide to the Murray S. Barkan papers, 1941-1944, (Brooklyn Historical Society)