It was full speed ahead in the Cold War.
This spectacular photo shows the test of a nuclear torpedo detonated today in 1955 by the Soviet Union at Novaya Zemlya, an archipelago above the Arctic Circle. The weapon sent a massive debris cloud erupting into the atmosphere, which you can see in a video here. It was one of seven tests the Soviets conducted that year, and they and the United States were just getting heated up in their insane nuclear race.
Ban the bomb! The other side's bomb, we mean.
Soviet painter Nikolai Litvinov was a prolific producer of political art during the Cold War. Above you see one of his efforts—an anti-nuclear poster from printers Sovetsky Khudozhnik with text that reads: “May There Be Peace!” This is from 1959, but we've seen some purported to be from 1961, so if that's the case these were probably made throughout the early Cold War. Blaming the other side for the nuclear arms race was of course the same strategy employed by the U.S. We're going to get back to Litvinov shortly. In the meantime, you can see more Soviet propaganda here, some U.S. propaganda here, and a mixture from several countries here.
Soviet propaganda takes aim at the U.S.
Conflict and propaganda go hand in hand. During the Cold War the U.S. and Russia both produced political art bashing the other side, and some of that art has reached collector status today. We have an example above and below—a Soviet pamphlet featuring ink drawings by famed illustrator Alexander Moiseevich Zhytomyr attacking various aspects of the U.S., including capital punishment, mass incarceration, and nukes. Though the pamphlet was printed in 1964, most of the content is from earlier, generally the late 1940s. Basically, it's all pretty much self-explanatory, and timely too, considering many Americans are now highly critical of the same elements of their own country that the Soviets attack here. Whatever your politics happen to be, these pieces are all objectively quite nice. Have a look below.
It's really impossible to measure the Worth of this film.
What more do you need to know about a movie than the fact that cheeseball actor Ken Clark plays a main character named Dick Worth and he spends ninety minutes trying to get his dick's worth of action? The Fuller Report is a half baked espionage caper set in Sweden, involving Clark's smug race car driver who gets swept up in a frantic search for the eponymous report. What's in these papers? References to a Soviet defector, who it turns out is a kidnap and blackmail target. But the villains have more complex plans for her—they intend to turn her into an assassin. And of course the racing comes into play too, but not as much as you'd think based on the Japanese promo poster above.
Jointly made by the Italian company Fida Cinematografica and French based Les Productions Jacques Roitfeld, this is high budget schlock with Americans in three of the four main roles, and the fourth slot occupied by Serbian star Beba Lončar, who plays the defector. Lončar is a real beauty, but Ken Clark wins the production value award hands down—dude is seriously ripped. There's a steam bath scene involving Lončar, but we think it was actually put in the film so Clark could get his chest all oiled up.
Overall, we recommend you break out either a twelve-pack or the weed pipe for this flick—it's rife with awful acting, clunky staging, and loaded lines of dialogue any cleverhead could riff on all night. Our favorite? Clark and Lončar are in bed enjoying post-coital bliss and Lončar gushes, “I love you so much.” Clark's response: “Me too.” Invite your funny friends, sit back and enjoy Lončar's beautiful face, Clark's steely torso (without the fur he's wearing below), and the great soundtrack by Armando Trovajoli. The movie opened in Italy as Rapporto Fuller, base Stoccolma in early 1968, and sped into Japan today in 1970.
Mandy Rice-Davies dies of cancer.
Mandy Rice-Davies, one of the central figures in the John Profumo Affair of 1963, died of cancer early this morning. Most accounts of the scandal describe Rice-Davies as a prostitute, and indeed Stephen Ward, one of the principals in the fiasco, was imprisoned for living off the earnings of Rice-Davies and other women—another way of saying he pimped. But Rice-Davies spent a good portion of her final years denying she was a call girl, saying she didn’t want her grandchildren to remember her that way.
Whatever her means of support during the Profumo Affair, what is certainly true is that she was young and beautiful and somehow found herself at the nexus where rich, entitled men and beautiful women always seem to meet. The Profumo Affair's world of secret parties, middle-aged male egos, and a lurking Soviet spy came into being during the most paranoid years of the Cold War, and John Profumo’s role in it cost him his position as Secretary of State for War in the British government.
After the scandal Rice-Davies sang in a cabaret in Germany, lived in Spain, moved to Israel where she opened nightclubs and restaurants in Tel Aviv, released music and books, appeared on television and in film, including the The Seven Magnificent Gladiators and Absolute Beginners, and was involved in the development of a Stephen Ward-based Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. She accomplished plenty. But as long as she is remembered it will be for Profumo, Christine Keeler, the parties and scandalous revelations, and the near-collapse of the British government in 1963. If you’re interested in reading more, we talked about Rice-Davies in a bit more detail here and here.
On the first day of Christmas the Gazette gave to me—a Hitler.
Just in time to ruin everyone’s Christmas shopping, this National Police Gazette from December 1960 splashed Adolf Hitler’s face on its cover along with an inset of Swedish actress May Britt (who could hardly have appreciated the inclusion). George McGrath’s story minces no words, opening with this: Indisputable evidence that Adolf Hitler is alive and living in the Argentine has has been uncovered by the Police Gazette. Although this new information is in the hands of government intelligence chiefs, the United States and its allies are not lifting a finger to catch the runaway Nazi dictator.
By now you’re familiar with the basics: Hitler sent his possessions ahead to Mar del Plata, Argentina eighteen months before World War II’s end, later escaped Europe by u-boat, and set up shop with some of his top brass to begin plotting a return to the global stage. This particular version of the story managed to cleverly sneak in a shot at the Soviet Union, claiming Nikita Khrushchev didn’t want Hitler found. Considering the many millions of soldiers and civilians the Russians lost defeating the guy, that makes zero sense, but hey, this Gazette was published during the Cold War—Russia had to be blamed for everything.
This makes the twenty-second Hitler Gazette cover we’ve posted of twenty-nine we’ve found so far. Each story adds a little bit more to the labryrinthine tale of his daring dash to South America, but this is the first story we’ve seen claim that his capture would divide the Allied nations. Why? Because some would want him executed (obviously), while others would want him forgotten (not so obviously). The only rationale given for the latter position is that Hitler’s capture would open old war wounds. That’s pretty hard to swallow, but also beside the point. The point was magazine sales and the editors undoubtedly achieved that. We’ll have more from the Gazette later.
One out of two isn’t bad, when it comes to Cyrillic.
The cover of the above Soviet-issue James Hadley Chase/Victor Canning double novel isn’t particularly wonderful, but the interior illustrations are rather nice. We don’t read Cyrillic, but we painstakingly plugged the cover squiggles into a translator and came up with I’ll Bury My Dead for Chase and something like “communicating on foot” for Canning, a title which resembles those of none of his actual works. So there you go. We were actually pretty confident when we started the process. We once figured out the St. Petersburg subway system during rush hour, so we figured book titles would be a snap. No such luck. These translations appeared in 1991.
Update: The answer comes from John, who wrote in saying: пешка translates as "pawn", so a reasonable guess might be Queen's Pawn, Canning's 1969 book. The other word проходная translates as "communicating", so that is harder to work out a connection.
Police Gazette conveniently forgets who invented what and when.
Police Gazette editors hit the panic button with this November 1961 cover claiming the Soviets have a death ray bomb. For a mere twenty-five cents readers were able to acquire new nightmare material by reading about this superweapon, which in the story is called an n-bomb. They’re of course referring to a neutron bomb, which by releasing deadly unshielded neutrons would minimize destruction and contamination of property but maximize human death. Not quite rays, so much as a wave emitted by a massive air burst, but still, the new element it brought to the nuclear party was wantonly scattered neutrons, so, okay—rays it is. It must have been a real stunner for Gazette’s millions of readers to learn of this horrific weapon, but unless the Russian scientist who brainstormed it into existence was named Sam Cohen we have to call bullshit on this tall tale, for it was Samuel T. Cohen—an American physicist—who conceived and developed the neutron bomb.
Cohen was an ex-Manhattan Project scientist who spent his career in nukes. He promoted his bomb relentlessly, defending it as “the most sane and moral weapon ever devised,” because “when the war is over, the world is still intact.” See, this is what can happen when you live in a military bubble—Cohen defined morality not by the neutron bomb’s extra-lethal effects on actual living and feeling humans, but by the survival of (reusable) material assets. At its most compact it could blast an area scarcely a mile across, however only a blind man could fail tosee that tactical neutron weapons were simply the thin edge of a wedge opening a tightly sealed nuclear door.
Of course, once the Soviets caught wind of this abomination they developed their own neutron bomb, prompting the U.S. to accelerate its program (see: arms race), until Ronald Reagan ordered 700 finished warheads to be deployed in Europe. It was only mass protest by Europeans—those ungrateful victims of two previous devastating continental wars—that thwarted Reagan’s plans. They realized that neutron weapons made nuclear war more likely, not less likely. If this wasn’t clear enough at the time, it became crystalline when China announced in 1999 that it had built its own neutron bomb. As you have probably deduced by now, the entire point of the Gazette’s death ray story is to urge President John F. Kennedy to get off his ass and develop an American n-bomb to counter the Soviet one. You almost have to wonder if the text was fed to Gazette editors from Sam Cohen’s office.
Moving on, Gazette wouldn’t be Gazette without at least a little Hitler, so in addition to the death ray feature it offers up photos of Adolf relaxing with Eva Braun at a retreat in the Bavarian Alps. In contrast to the
many stories about Hitler living in bitter, defeated isolation in South America, here readers see happy Hitler, socializing during the 1930s with friends and compatriots. Next up, Gazette gives readers their fix of celebrity content with Rita Hayworth, who had been married five times and whose problem the editors are only too happy to diagnose—in their esteemed opinion she’s just too wild to be tamed. And lastly, Gazette presses panic button number two by tying the nascent civil rights movement to communist agitation from overseas. This is a tabloid tale that was told often in the 1960s because, well, we don’t know why exactly—presumably because who besides the puppets of foreign governments would ever deign to demand equal rights? Anyway, we have a few scans below, and an entire stack of early 1970s Gazettes we hope to get to soonish.
Sounds a lot like debacle to us.
The De Baca nuclear test was part of Operation Hardtack II, a series of thirty-seven Nevada Test Ground blasts squeezed into seven weeks in order to beat a looming deadline—the beginning of a U.S./U.S.S.R. nuclear moratorium. The test ban failed when the Soviets began testing again three years later, a political crisis precipitating that failure, specifically a showdown concerning the status of East Berlin.
The test ban would have failed anyway, though, as all test bans have failed, and all future test bans will fail, because nuclear weapons are seen by weak nations as the ultimate defense against invasion by stronger nations. And of course, they’re right. Since only the year 2000, nuclear-armed nations have invaded non-nuclear nations nine times. Conversely, since the dawn of the nuclear era in 1945, a period comprising nearly seventy military encroachments, no nuclear nation has had its mainland invaded.
That's the entire uncomplicated why of nuclear weapons. There may be periods of relative inactivity, but as time goes by more nations will build them. Nuclear disaster has no choice but to follow one day. There are two scenarios for survival—either all the nuclear nations agree to reduce and eventually dismantle their nukes, or one nuclear armed nation comes to dominate all the others. Guess what? The second scenario isn't going to happen. Not ever. The De Baca test occurred today in 1958.
Our civilization has avoided nuclear destruction so far, but has it been by design or chance?
This debris cloud was generated yesterday in 1952 by the nuclear blast codenamed Dog, which was part of Operation Tumbler-Snapper, a series of tests that occurred at the Nevada Test Site that year. The people you see in the image are just a few of the 2,100 marines who observed the explosion. Last month Chatham House released a sobering nuclear study showing that there have been thirteen incidents since 1962 that qualify as “near use” of nuclear weapons. In two of those—the famed Oleg Penkovsky incident and the less famous but more serious Stanislaw Petrov incident—nuclear holocaust may have been averted only because individuals disobeyed orders. Chatham House also details many instances of “sloppy practice.” Two examples: President Jimmy Carter once left the U.S. nuclear launch codes in a suit that was taken to the dry cleaners, and in 1981 when Ronald Reagan was shot, his bloody pants containing the launch codes ended up in the hands of FBI agents who had no authorization to possess them. There are instances of sloppy practice from as recently as 2013. If you’re in the mood for some sobering reading, the report is here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1933—Capone Sentenced to Prison
Chicago organized crime boss Al Capone is convicted of income tax evasion after all other attempts to tie him to an assortment of crimes, from the mass murder of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre to widespread violations of the Volstead Act, fail. He is sentenced to eleven years in federal prison and, cut off from the outside world while on Alcatraz Island, his power is finally broken.
1964—China Detonates Nuke
At the Lop Nur test site located between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts, the People's Republic of China detonates its first nuclear weapon, codenamed 596 after the month of June 1959, which is when the program was initiated.
1996—Handgun Ban in the UK
In response to a mass shooting in Dunblane, Scotland that kills 16 children, the British Conservative government announces a law to ban all handguns, with the exception .22 caliber target pistols. When Labor takes power several months later, they extend the ban to all handguns.
Pierre Laval, who was the premier of Vichy, France, which had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, is shot by a firing squad for treason. In subsequent years it emerges that Laval may have considered himself a patriot whose goal was to publicly submit to the Germans while doing everything possible behind the scenes to thwart them. In at least one respect he may have succeeded: fifty percent of French Jews survived the war, whereas in other territories about ninety percent perished.
1966—Black Panthers Form
In the U.S., in Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale form the Black Panther political party. The Panthers are active in American politics throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but eventually legal troubles combined with a schism over the direction of the party lead to its dissolution.
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