1959 ... last 2 men and Inger Stevens!

... memorable film about three-survivors of WW3 trying to set-up housekeeping in an eerily deserted NYC. Pretty radical for 1959 with Harry Belafonte as the hero and romantic-lead.

1954 ... when in doubt!

... seems like spraying the air with high explosive canon-shells might actually be a little more efficient? But desperate measures were to be expected after the dismal results of the first large-scale air-defense exercises mentioned in the article. Most fighters couldn't even find the 'enemy' bombers; let alone get close enough to shoot them down! Besides, as we have mentioned in whispered tones, what red-blooded American boy, given the final need and millions of lives at stake- wouldn't ram someone trying to drop a nuke on a US city?

(of course illustrator Frank Tinsley and Popular Mechanics were the same folks campaigning for submarine tanks and the rebirth of the US Cavalry flying one man ultra-light helicopters! - bless 'em!)

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1961 ... Atlas ICBM production

... even though it was USSR Premier Nikita Khrushchev who bragged of producing atomic missiles 'like sausages'; it looks like this USA plant was cranking them out like hot-dogs! 

1949 ... stop that missile!

... even the relatively slow (3,500 mph) German V-2 rocket presented an impossible challenge to British anti-aircraft guns (LINK: see AAA). I guess we were hoping for a better chance with improved Radar and 'computers'? Later Anti-Missile Missile's relied on small nuclear warheads. ( I would hope that any future need to use what existing ABM systems we have includes the "screw it put an atomic warhead on this" option.)

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... Avro 'Vulcan' strategic bomber - UK

1952 ... "Operation Ivy" - long version

... for all of us hard-cores; here's the long version of the film briefing about the world's first H-bomb test. Love the narrator guy with his pipe that won't stay lit. Can't help but think that most of the last-minute interview's, and even the final countdown scene at the ship's rail, are earlier set-ups. Can't really imagine the film crew barging in to ask stupid questions just minutes before they light the fuse on the first H-bomb!

1956 ... "Bassoon-Prime"

... test device fired in Operation Redwing shot 'Tewa' (South Pacific) was a big step in developing practical (weaponized) Hydrogen bombs. This test resulted in a yield of 5 megatons and eventually led to the devlopement of the b-41. The b-41 was the highest yield warhead ever deployed by the US at 25 megatons. 500 were made. The last ones were retired in 1976. It was an aircraft weapon only: carried by B-52's.

The 'pipes' coming out of the casing on the left were part of the instrument system to 'see' into the heart of the fusion reaction in the first milli-seconds of detonation. We can tell this is a photo from the tests at the Pacific Ocean testing area because everybody has their shirt off. In such tropical climates, with near 100 per cent humidity, wearing a shirt that is always soaking wet from perspiration quickly produces a rash.

1955 (?) ... Navy Flyer's Creed

... hey - I thought it was Naval Aviator!

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1952 ... "Invasion USA"

... nothing like the cinematic rape and pillage of America to bring out that sleepless Cold-War paranoia! Early WW3 movies had a lower technology level and therefore more room and time for bad acting and plenty of stock footage. LINK

... and here's the MST3K version if you prefer your pot-boiler with a justifiably silly commentary.

1956 ... "Forbidden Area"

... 1956 live television drama and the debut of acclaimed "Playhouse 90" by CBS. 'Forbidden Area" is a cold-war thriller written by Rod Serling and directed by John Frankenheimer. Charlton Heston plays an Air Force Colonel assigned to a Pentagon think-tank who discovers an elaborate Soviet plot for a surprise attack against the US.
The cast also includes Vincent Price, Tab Hunter and Diana Lynn.

... of course Chuck foils the plot at the last minute, the sneak attack is destroyed and the formerly skeptical top brass push the President for a full-retaliatory attack. But because we are the good-guys the Commander and Chief stays the hand of SAC and settles for a 'regime-change' and a Candygram.

... Christmas morning arrives and Chuck and his babe face a hopeful future. THE END.

... ooo - the NY Times didn't like it!

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!