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.
With house prices today, this is looking like a real bargain.
They just don't build them like they used to. Above you see a U.S. Energy Department photo that's been well-circulated around the internet showing the shell of a house that endured the Apple II nuclear test, a 29-kiloton shot fired today in 1955. The building was part of Survival Town, a collection of homes, fallout shelters, power systems, and communications hubs erected in the Nevada desert to gauge the effects of nuclear explosions on civilian structures. The effect, predictably, was catastrophic, but this one lived through it. With a little effort it could become a nice Airbnb.
A thorn in the side of the world.
The above photo shows the detonation of the Cactus nuclear device, which was set off today in 1958 on Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands, South Pacific, as part of Operation Hardtack I. Yes, there were so many nuclear tests during the ’50s and ’60s that quite a few occurred on the same day in different years. Instead of leaving a house behind Cactus left a crater 346 feet in diameter and forty feet deep. Which these days also could probably be made into an Airbnb.
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.
Just the thing for a cross-country trip.
This photo shows the crater made by the Sedan nuclear test, also known as the Storax Sedan test, which happened today in 1962 as part of Operation Storax. The crater is the result of an explosion that displaced twelve million tons of earth, and at 320 feet deep and 1280 feet in diameter is the largest man-made crater in the United States. It's also—bizarrely we think—listed on the National Register of Historic Places, especially weird when you consider that it sent two radioactive plumes wafting northeast from the Nevada explosion site, cross country from state to unsuspecting state, to settle especially heavily upon Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Illinois. Of all the nuclear tests conducted in the United States, Sedan ranked highest in overall activity of radionuclides in fallout, distributing nearly 7% of the total amount of radiation which fell on the U.S. population during all of the nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site. Historic indeed. You see the explosion that caused all that below.
Last star you see in your life.
This photo shows the French nuclear test codenamed Aldébaran, after an orange giant star in the constellation Taurus. If the photo were in color, the light from the explosion would indeed be orange at this stage, but we actually prefer this black and white shot. It was France's first nuclear test, to be followed by 209 more, including 50 in the open atmosphere. Most took place on on Mururoa Atoll, leading to rampant radioactivity which the French government managed to keep secret until just a few years ago. Aldébaran was detonated today in 1966.
This Umbrella doesn't offer much in the way of protection.
This photo shows the detonation of a U.S. nuclear device codenamed Umbrella, set off on Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands as part of the Hardtack test series, and specifically designed to test radiation contamination on ships exposed to underwater nuclear blasts. The eight kiloton explosion threw a column of water 5,000 feet high, along with whatever unlucky fish, dolphins, and whales happened to be in the vicinity. Just more collateral damage in the ongoing arms race, and certainly not the last. The bomb went off today in 1958.
Just wait until she shows her face.
The explosion captured in these two photos is the Nutmeg nuclear test conducted on Eneman Island, part of the Marshall Islands chain, in the South Pacific between Hawaii and the Philippines. The first shows the bomb just after detonation surrounded by what is known as a Wilson Cloud, moisture condensed out of humid air by shock waves. The second photo shows the explosion about fifteen seconds later, with the obscuring moisture burned off. These images were taken from a collection of movies declassified by the U.S. and released by the National Laboratory in March. Everyone seems much more worried about nuclear weapons of late. Well, guess what? It was never a good idea to stop worrying. News outlets always say global warming is the greatest threat to human existence. It isn't. These are. And they will be as long as they exist. The images date from today, 1958
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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