1968 (2001) ... nukes in space!

... only those of us who are super-sci-fi-geeks will recognize this as the first image of a satellite in orbit from 2001: A Space Odyssey ( viewed a moment after the Man-Ape hurls the bone into the air). But only super-duper sci-fi geeks will know that this is supposed to be an orbital nuclear weapons system. Odd- since the movie was released in 1968 and the 'Outer space Treaty' banning nuclear weapons in space was signed the year before[?] Arthur Clarke makes specific mention of nukes in space in his novel which was the follow on to the screenplay. Maybe the symbolism of the first weapon (the bone) wielded by the Man-Ape cinematically transforming into an ultimate technological doomsday device was too juicy to ignore?

... more on nuclear weapons in space in the weeks to come. Note: you will be required to bring your space-suits to class.

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1960 ... dots and dashes!

... boy- the US Navy sure was happy to get into the nuclear game with their fleet of atomic powered ballistic missile submarines! The last word in Mutually Assured Destruction  these big 'boomers' could hide unseen and invulnerable for months beneath the salty brine of the world's oceans. Only one problem- how to send a radio signal to the submarines to launch their missiles and  obliterate the enemies cities? Normal radio waves do not penetrate very far into water.

The obvious answer was to build the world's biggest and most powerful radio antenna! Then use Extremely-Long-Frequency radio waves to zong out simple messages to the fleet anywhere in the world! Messages like "hi, we're fine" or "holy shit- Launch!" In fact it was such a great idea that they built several such stations like these seen here in the State of Maine and the Western tip of Australia. 

note: much hoop-la has been made of the Soviet 'dead-hand' doomsday system; well, one would assume that if the US 'boomers' could not receive any sort of signal from home than a similar launch protocol would be initiated.

here are the map coordinates for Cutler Station, Maine- so you can see it on Google Earth:
44°38'54.70" N  67°16'26.08" W

1958 ... THOR!

... just the right size for your HO scale train set! Don't let a train-table missile gap develop! Maintain your nuclear deterrence with this proven Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM). LINK

note: W-49 1.4 megaton thermonuclear warhead may not be available in California.

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1952 ... toe to toe Nuclear Combat!

... love how in order to keep the World War III combat going, these comics throw in every imaginable type of atomic munition. But, contrary to legend, there never was such a thing as an atomic hand-grenade - sorry! 

1958 ... SM-65 Atlas ICBM

... okay boys and girls; now what does I-C-B-M stand for? That's right: Intercontinental Ballistic Missile! 'Intercontinental' because it has a range of over 3,000 miles and goes from the safety and convenience of mainland America, all the way across the top of the world to bonk those nasty Russians on the head! 'Ballistic' because, like an artillery shell, it only needs to be 'boosted' into following a long arcing flight path like when you throw a great big rock at your sister! And it's a 'Missile' - well, because that sounds scary! And it is scary because it has a thermonuclear warhead that is a hundred times more powerful than the bomb that flattened Hiroshima!  (LINK)

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1983 ... keep moving Comrade!

... more of the grim Civil Defense art from the Soviet Union during the Regan Era. It occurred to me, as I worked on the restoration of this image, that all Civil Defense art is grim!

Civil Defense was an interesting and very complex card in the poker game of the Cold War. What does a robust program to protect your citizens and infrastructure communicate to your adversary? What level and actions of Civil Defense was the equivalence of 'deterrence' or of a 'threat'?  So if Ivan appeared to take the whole Civil Defense thing very seriously, and devoted a lot of the national wealth and energy to it, was that communicating that the Soviets were ready and willing to fight a nuclear war? Did it say that they were planning on a first strike policy. They were planning and getting ready to start dropping bombs on the USA? Or did it show that they were simply more practical and disciplined? What about the fact that they had not long before endured and triumphed over the Nazis while millions were killed and huge areas of the nation were destroyed? did that make 'them' more likely, or less, to see a nuclear conflict as winnable? These were the sort of questions that kept the 'think-tank' men up at night!

It certainly was clear that certain observed events by one side or the other were to be interpreted as a very possible prelude to War. The illustration above is a prime example. If you start evacuating urban areas, which is a logistical nightmare and a severe disruption of the normal functioning of a nation, would this not be an ominous sign that your side expected inter-continental atomic war? Conversely; if even during the Cuban Missile Crisis the President stays in Washington and the normal day to day business of the nation continues, does it not show that you are hoping for Peace?

( Trying to make your people invulnerable, can be very destabilizing to the 'balance of terror'. A big part of deterrence was Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) and holding your opponents population hostage. If you have a proposal that goes "naw-na-naw ... you can't hurt us!" than your enemy would be moved to strike before you changed the rules of the game! )  ... see LINK


1949 ... B-36 cannons!

... a rare view of the retracting 20mm cannon turrets on the B-36 Peacemaker. There were six retracting turrets in 3 groups and 2 each in a nose mount and a tail position. The ability (or lack of) the B-36 to defend itself against fighters was the topic of hot, and unresolved, debate. It was learned that during practice gunnery tests the concussion of the firing tended to break stuff (navigation equipment, hydraulic controls). Not a good thing for such a complex aircraft as the Peacemaker. Eventually most of the guns were removed in favor of  higher and higher cruising altitudes; where it was hoped the early soviet jet-fighters could not reach the mighty beast.

1949 ... Convair model - 37


... imagined as a gee-whiz variant of the humongous Convair B-36 strategic bomber this double-decked behemoth was the dream of a commercial variant. One cargo version was built for the Air force as the XC-99. Too big, too slow and too much of a gas-guzzler.

1960 ... B-58 crew compartments!


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1960 ... ready for hatching!

... a great investment!

... the more we dig- the more underground Cold-War bunkers we find! Here's one for sale! Opened in 1969 this facility belonged to the Federal Reserve. Amongst other jobs it was a stash of several billion dollars of non-radioactive cash. The eerie isolation of the place appeals to me, but the lack of a jacuzzi is a real low-point!

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... Greenbriar Bunker!

... here's some homey details of the Congressional relocation site under the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia. (top) If you were an arriving Senator who'd gotten a snoot full of that pesky fallout; you would be invited to take a trot through the decontamination showers. (bottom) Stockpiled food. The bunker had a cafeteria and dining room and it looks like the survival menu was quite a bit better than CD biscuits! Hey, the caterer is still around! (LINK)

... B-36 maintenance: Greenland!

... ground crew scrape ice off the wing of a B-36 strategic bomber at Thule AFB in Greenland. Keeping bombers closer to Russia in Greenland was a constant logistics nightmare. It was done on a rotational basis. The gigantic B-36's were too big for any hangars and had to be kept out in the open; subjected to the incredibly harsh Arctic environment.

1962 ... end of the Cuban Missile Crisis!

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1968 ... where to go and what to do!

... moo, oink!

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1958 ... on guard!

... it's curtains!

... fortunately 'Magicman' is in the nick-of-time to throw a monkey wrench into the high-hopes of those Bolshevik Bastards! Now, if someone would just tell him that Vietnam is not going to be a mom and apple pie 'walk-in-the park'! Yee-gads!

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1954 ... Warning Star!

... long before satellites constantly peered down or even before the massive radar constructions of the Arctic DEW line; watching for a sneak-attack from the USSR was a fairly ad-hoc affair. These are Lockheed EC-121 "Warning Stars" (close cousin to the 'Constellation' airliner) which would prowl beyond the continental US; scanning with powerful radars to detect incoming bomber forces. These airplanes, along with ground based radar, ships, submarines and even blimps comprised the early warning network in the early days of the Cold War.

1952 ... F-9 'Cougar'

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