1960 ... hot-rod of the skies!

1980 ... a design for every taste!

The couple above are discussing why they did not spend the money on a shelter they could stand-up in!
... highlights from four different shelter plan booklets from Reagan era FEMA

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1948 ... atom proof your city!

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... the well prepared mannequin!

... gee- the good ol' days of the Cold War. They just don't put up window displays like this anymore!

1951 ... more duck and cover!

... Nuke your hometown!

... the NUKEMAP by Alex Wellerstein is a nifty little 'app' where by you can detonate different sized atomic devices over just about any place on Earth. It's all pretend of course
but also a sobering education in the true destructive powers of nuclear weapons.

... here's a ten megaton H-bomb airburst over the my nearest 'target city' of Akron, Ohio. When I was a kid I lived within the inner ring- now I live in the outer yellow ring - hurrah!

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1956 ... 800 ft below New York City!

... the game-plan of deterrence during the Cold War was always complex. One of the most complex and controversial areas of this on-going chess game was that of Civil Defense. The protection of civilian lives and the survival of a nations economic and industrial infrastructure. The extent to which a nation can live on and raise itself from the ruins of a full-scale nuclear conflict was seen by many strategists as vital to the believability of the concept of deterrence. Many wondered if the threat of unleashing worldwide holocaust, and the certain destruction of one's own homeland, in response to an Russian invasion of Europe or even the one city of Berlin was plausible. Did the USSR really believe that a US President would start a nuclear war over certain 'lines drawn in the sand'?

In the late 1950's there were studies undertaken regarding what would be involved for a truly robust Civil Defense strategy designed to save the lives of the most American citizens. If nuclear war did not mean death of most Americans would our atomic forces be a much more realistic and believable deterrent to Soviet aggression?

The blog Atomic Skies offers an in depth look at a fascinating study by some of the leading 'think-tank' on the possibility of shielding the entire population of Manhattan from multiple strikes of high yield Hydrogen Bombs. (link to the entire article here)

You really should read the entire article to get a sense for the detail and science-fiction like concepts. 


1961 ... meanwhile- deep under the sea!

... this photo from the missile room of a US submarine seems to underscore the description of all wars; cold or hot. "Months of boredom- punctuated by moments of sheer terror!"

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... the neighbors!

... here's a LINK to a new neighbor in the end-of-the world neighborhood- Mark the Mathematician!

1952 ... is your defense 'total' ?

1946 ... wacky!

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... da' Bear!

1960 ... Mt. Weather needs ministers!

... who knows?

... ooo it's a mystery plane! Sometimes Boris and Natasha smuggle back decadent, capitalist- swine plans so secret... no one knows what they are!!!

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... with our compliments!

... ICBM "fields"

... two flavors of maps showing the basic layout of a "field" of US ICBMs (Minuteman). Each manned Launch Control Center controls 10 missiles in individual hardened underground silo launchers spread miles apart from each other. Before the end of the Cold War there were 1,000 Minuteman missiles spread out across the Great Plains of the Midwest. Today there are less than half that number.

... how to launch a Nuclear Missile!

"Cooperative Launch" switch

Emergency War Orders
Executing a launch command was quite an involved process consisting of several steps. A launch of Minuteman Missiles could only take place with the execution of an Emergency War Order (EWO). The following is a detailed description of how such a command was executed:
1. The crew would hear the warble tone from the Primary Alerting System speakers. Each crew member would reach for his emergency action checklist binder. This binder contained laminated checklists upon which the message would be copied as well as instructions to be followed.
2. The broadcaster would then start the message which was a series of phonetic letters and numbers. The first six characters made up the preamble and would be repeated three times. The preamble told the crew which edition and page number of a non sealed authenticator to use. Once at the right page the crew would know what message checklist to use.
3. An execution message would contain the following elements of data:
a. Enable Code. These were six characters that the deputy would dial into the thumbwheel switches on the right hand side of his console. He would then throw the enable switch which would send that command to all missiles. This allowed each missile to accept a launch command if it was executed.
b. Preparatory Launch Command Alpha (PLC-A). The PLC-A was a two digit number that the deputy also dialed into another set of thumbwheel switches. Each PLC-A determined which missiles the Joint Chiefs of Staff wanted to be launched and which would be held back.
c. Authentication Values. At this point both crew members opened their locks on the red lock box. Each would remove his launch key and a sealed authenticater (they were called "cookies") They would crack the authenticators open revealing values that had to match those in the message. If the values did not match the crew had to ask for a rebroadcast of the message from the Wing Command Post. Under no circumstance would one turn keys if the discrepancy could not be resolved.
d. Execution Reference Time (ERT). If the message was properly authenticated the crew would use the ERT to compute the proper time to turn keys.
Note: It is important to keep in mind that a missile crew could complete the above steps in less then five minutes.
Special thanks to retired Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Cabrera for his detailed assistance.

source: National Park Service 

1945 ... a real mind-blower!

... I knew that the actual core of fissionable material in an A-Bomb was relatively small- say the size of a baseball- but I've never seen an accurate 3-D type illustration. Now I have. Keep in mind that a six foot man would be about the height of that rear fin assembly. 
(pictured Mark III A-bomb)

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1964 ... more dreams of VTOL!

1950 ... coming to a city near you!

... it's 1950 and we don't have the Hydrogen Bomb yet- but we will soon! Everyone's talking about it and fretting about it. Heck, we won't just have regular H-bombs a thousand times bigger than the puny atomic bomb- we'll have Super H-Bombs! Poor Chicago, everyone's always picking on Chicago.

1964 ... "Failsafe"

... amongst my never ending list of praises for this film is the stark, yet rich, lighting!

1955 ... "Day the World Ended"

 ... here's a slightly more aesthetic version of a poster for the Roger Corman post-apocalyptic soap-opera featured previously (LINK)

... the editors of this blog wish to emphasize that no such exciting scene actually occurs in the film.

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1956 - 1968 ... Soviet- jet flying boat "Mallow"

... although the US gave up on large flying boats in the 1950's the Soviets continued their development. This was in no small part due to the USSR's naval doctrines of surprise attacks against US Carrier task forces. Flying boats can operate independently of large bases and can sneak around, hiding at small islands and coves. (LINK)

1966 ... "boomers"

... amazing that by 1966 the US Navy was into it's 5th generation of Ballistic Missile submarines! (LINK)

1964 ... "The Hidden Crew" USAF

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1952-1957 ... early British Nukes

... too make the long story short. Britain got locked out of the US atomic-weapons program because of too many spies. So they had to go it alone after WW2 and their participation in 'The Manhattan Project.'

... here we see a fission-implosion device that was used as part of a hydrogen-boosted weapon delivering a whopping 720 kiloton yield in 1957. At the time the Brits rather overstated it as an H-Bomb. Those aren't wheels for Monty Python to deliver it to the gates of the Kremlin; but framework to hold it in place within the bomb shaped casing. While the US gave their various weapons boring numerical designations this product of British engineering was known as the "Orange Herald" ... quite!

... Boris and Natasha would love this photo; as it gives an uncomfortable amount of detail of the firing mechanism for the high-explosive 'lenses' needed to cause implosion of the plutonium core.

... I was embarrassed that it took me so long to realize that the plutonium sphere which is the target of implosion for a fission device is actually hollow and not solid. Simply speaking you take just the right amount of super unstable plutonium, manufacture it into a hollow ball, then instantaneously squish it into a very compact solid ball with a perfectly balanced even synchronized explosion. 

... in this cut-away we see that the 'safety' on the device was a whole mess of ball-bearings. In the event of an 'accidental' detonation of the high-explosive 'lenses' (they are called 'lenses' because they focus the explosion) the ball bearings prevent the hollow ball of plutonium from collapsing. Early US devices were armed by inserting a part of the mechanism after the delivery aircraft was in flight and on it's way to the target. Later designs used a mechanical means to prevent t he mechanism from working properly.

... ah yes; this wonder weapon was christened "Violet-Club" 

... 1952: the "Blue Danube" , Britain's first atomic-bomb. Only about half the yield (10 kilotons) of the Hiroshima "Fat-Man" weapon. 

1960 ... "Missile And Mission"

 ... a short film hosted by NBC corespondent Chet Huntley about the LGM-30 "Minuteman" ICBM. Produced by the Thiokol Corp. that made the solid rocket propellant.

1961 ... "Focus On SAC"

"Restraint? Why are you so concerned with saving their lives? The whole idea is to kill the bastards. At the end of the war if there are two Americans and one Russian left alive, we win!" General Thomas Power - Commander Strategic Air Command 1957-1964  LINK

1971 ... "The Andromeda Strain"

... "The Andromeda Strain" is a great movie that still holds up as a sci-fi techno thriller 43 years after it's release. Directed by Robert Wise ('The Day the Earth Stood Still') this classic is the original story of averting a doomsday from an alien virus. The camera work and sound-track are first rate. Most of the action takes place in a deeply buried bio-lab bunker. The climax comes when the bug gets loose, triggering an automatic nuclear self-destruct protocol. Realizing that instead of destroying the contagion the fission blast will only nourish it (yeh, well sci-fi) there is a nail biting race to disarm the self-destruct. Only one of the visiting VIP scientists has the key to halt the countdown. The explanation reads like a Strategic Air Command reliability study:

"Hall and Leavitt enter a conference room where Stone and Burton are already present. Stone explains that at the lowest level of the lab is a nuclear device. This is just in case that all five levels of the facility become contaminated. Stone has made it ready for detonation with his key, and his key cannot be removed. When detonation is ordered, there is a five-minute period during which it can be called off but only if Hall uses his key. No one else can do so. Hall is given this crucial role, Stone explains, because of the Odd Man Theory. He hands Hall the missing page from the Scoop file that explains the theory. Research showed that single men made more reliable and correct decisions than married men. Therefore the final decision on whether to detonate the atomic weapon rests with Hall, who is single."

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1970's ... "Comrade Ivan"

... a valiant attempt to produce a 'hip' and 'really with-it' info pamphlet for US troops facing down the Soviet juggernaut in Europe. Seems the first Lieutenant they had for the cover just wasn't 'groovy' enough so they got a blond Ken Doll type for the rest of the briefing inside. There is a total of 28 pages; so we'll be visiting and learning more from our 'bro' Ivan over the next couple of months.  

... from what I hear from friends who were stationed in Germany in the 1970's this great piece of literature would have fit right in with the Jimi Hendrix and the black light posters. 

"Hey dude- roll another one and read us that Ivan booklet again- I love how you do that Russian accent thing!" 

1955 ... "Day the World Ended"

... sort of a Grand-daddy to the Survivalist movement, "Day the World Ended" is every bit as bad as the poster. Directed by infamous schlock-miester Roger Corman (who probably got a kid from high school art class to make the poster). A cross section of b-movie sterotypes survive the H-bombing of Los-Angeles stagger into the specially protected estate of a Scientist who foresaw and planned for - you guessed it - the day the world ended! None of it makes much sense but it scared the be-Jesus out of me when I was eight!