JF Ptak Science Books Post #117
This issue of the Atomic Times was issued Monday through Friday by the U.S. Army on a mimeographed, single-sheet page, and published at the tip, or bottom, of a very skinny piece of nearly-circular land far out in the Pacific Ocean at Einwetok Atoll, 5 April 1954. The Marines fought a battle and beat the Japanese Army for possession of the atoll in 1944, and the U.S. government stayed. In 1954 most of it was controlled by the U.S. Army, and the place was being used as a nuclear bomb testing zone for a decade, experiencing 43 tests from 1948 to 1958. The most famous of these test shots was “Mike”, part of Operation Ivy, which was the first detonation of a hydrogen bomb, in 1952. There would be subsequent tests there that, by themselves, represented in a single instance all of the chemical fury unleashed in all Allied bombing in Europe for the entire course of World War Two.
“The Atomic Times” was a sheet of the daily grind at this remote, if not bustling, outpost of nuclear prolificacy. “Supper Tonight” was announced in the upper right corner (roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, buttered corn, relish tray, ice cream”), plus “tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch”; there was a fair amount of reporting on local softball, boxing, swimming and basketball, pus some major league baseball scores. On the front side was the news, with what may well be the loneliest announcement of the coming of America’s involvement in Vietnam. This was the second entry in the news, “Indo-Chinese War”: “French troops have been parachuted into the Indo-Chinese fortress of Dien Bien Phu to join weary defenders in their battle with the Communists. French officials now have a high hope pf a French victory, and they say the Communists cannot possibly continue their assault unless they receive thousands of reinforcements”
And so it ended, and so it began.
The siege of Dien Bien Phu started just a week later or so, on the 13th of March, and lasted 57 days, ‘till May 7th, 1954. The commanding general of the Viet Minh forces, Vo Nguy Giap, achieved an enormous victory over the French—the first time a guerrilla force readjusted itself into a conventional force to defeat a Western army. It was the end of the line for the French, and it just so happened to be the beginning of American involvement
Just a week after this notice appeared, Dwight Eisenhower made his domino speech:
“Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the "falling domino" principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences.conference…”