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
She's poetry in motion, a terrible sight to see.
Above is a shot of the nuclear detonation code-named Chama, which was part of Operation Dominic, a series of tests conducted in the South Pacific on remote Johnston Atoll, aka Kalama Atoll, with this blast occurring today in 1962. Have you been paying attention to what's going on with nuclear weapons and nuclear confrontation today? The Cold War never ended, and the recent tensions between the U.S. and Russia, centered around a looming proxy war in Syria, has brought the possibility of nuclear conflict closer than it has been at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. That isn't our analysis—that's the analysis of some of the foremost political historians and diplomacy experts in the world. Some Tuesday cheer for you.
It doesn't look like much now but wait until it spreads its wings.
This image shows the first instant of the French nuclear test Pégase, which took place at Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia today in 1970. Pégase is of course French for Pegasus, but this particular aerial phenomenon isn't something you ride through the sky to perform acts of heroism. The protrusions at the bottom of the plasma ball are wires used to stabilize the testing tower vaporizing, a phenomenon you can see in better detail here and here. You can also see a typical testing tower with wires intact here.
Sigh. I feel like an utter fool. This will completely kill my career. I just know it.
Linda Lawson, who danced at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas as one of the famed Copa Girls, poses with a mushroom cloud on her head in her temporary dual capacity as Miss-Cue, a title bestowed by military personnel participating in the nuclear test Operation Cue at the nearby Nevada Test Site in 1955. High winds had caused the the test to be delayed several times, causing clever soldiers to change the name to Operation Miscue. From there it was just a small leap to actually giving the title to a lucky Vegas showgirl.
The above photo was made at the pool at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas during the summer of 1955, and the one at right was made at the same location earlier in the year, with Lawson in a different suit. Hard to know if publicity from getting all mushroom-cloudy helped raise her profile, but in any case she began appearing on television in 1958, and by 1961 had launched a movie career.
So from inauspicious beginnings wearing an oversized tuft of cotton on her head she carved out a résumé of steady work that lasted forty-seven years, which just goes to show that true talent often has a way of overshadowing career sins. All's well that ends well—but we bet she's still mad at her agent. Today Lawson is eighty years old and retired.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1912—Pravda Is Founded
The newspaper Pravda, or Truth, known as the voice of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, begins publication in Saint Petersburg. It is one of the country's leading newspapers until 1991, when it is closed down by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin. A number of other Pravdas appear afterward, including an internet site and a tabloid.
1983—Hitler's Diaries Found
The German magazine Der Stern claims that Adolf Hitler's diaries had been found in wreckage in East Germany. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks for the sixty small books, plus a volume about Rudolf Hess's flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945. But the diaries are subsequently revealed to be fakes written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. Both he and Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann go to trial in 1985 and are each sentenced to 42 months in prison.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday
records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
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