I've written dozens of posts on this blog about atomic bomb history and where the bomb has shown up in popular culture. This installment is on the bomb in very popular culture
Miss Atomic Bomb is an icon of some sort for the relationship of the bomb with society, or, perhaps the bomb and Vegas, which is where this picture was taken. I guess there are reasons to put pretty women in front of computers (in the 1950's/60's), cigarettes and automobiles--why not with The Bomb?
The caption to this story from Life magazine (1946) reads: "U.S. Navy Vice Admiral William H. P. Blandy, his wife, and Rear Admiral Frank J. Lowry cut a cake made in the shape of a mushroom cloud at a reception for Operation Crossroads, November 6, 1946." Actually Blandy was an early (August 1945 or thereabouts) forward thinker about how to deal with the U.S. owning the bomb and international control. I have little doubt that he probably thought that the cake was a bad idea, but, well, he did what he needed to do.
There were all sorts of comic book adventures dealing withe the atomic bomb, right from the very beginnig (as it seems the earliest of them appears a month after the Hiroshima bombing). These are just a few examples with the a-bomb on the comic's cover(s):
Bizarro--I don't know the story of this image in Picture Parade, only having the cover graphic--perhaps that's enough, perhaps we don't need anything more, perhaps the backstory would spoil a perfectly bizarre image with something perfectly benign. Or perhaps not.
Bizarre but for different reasons--a pocket-sized ball bearing patience game. Tokyo is included as a target for this game but in actuality was not considered atomic-bomb-worthy, mainly because it was decimated, blanketed with a firebombing that destroyed a host of the city just weeks before the first blast. (On March 9-10, 1945, 339 B-29’s dropped 2000 tons (4 million pounds, about 496,000 bombs) of the incendiary M-69 on Tokyo. Two initial passes were made on the city, marking a large, burning “X” in the city. Each plane had the capacity to cover a drop area of 350 feet by 2000 feet, which means a much greater area was affected. The citizens of Tokyo met their ends with buckets of water and brooms in defense. Hours later fifteen square miles of the city were destroyed. In the months prior to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 66 cities were bombed with M-69, killing about a million people, and wounding more.) Fresh cities were needed for the atomic weapons so that there effectiveness could be judged against a palette of a normal. intact city, and not one that had been previously attacked.
And still more bizarre, when you combine all of the aspects of the race to the bomb with the race to god and the people who would believe such a thing. This advertisement belonged to a mail order religico empire builder, Frank B. Robinson, (1886-1948), who claimed himself to be a prophet of god, had conversations with the Creator, and in general used whatever was of interest in the newspapers to drive interest in his ministry by mail. It looked like his creation--Psychiana--wasn't much more than a feel-good, self affirming, positive-thinking enterprise driven by a man with a personality big enough to be on speaking terms with the god, who in the ad below somehow was selling "the atomic power of the spirit of god in us" because we are composed of atoms.
And of course on the other end of this:
This is an example of a host of end-of-the-world, post apocalypse movies (and books, and short stories, and so on) made to scare and entertain. Judging from the trailer the more-modern television series Jericho owes a lot to Ray Milland.
Mel Morris published God's Atomic Bomb in 1945, which means he must've worked a little feverishly to pump up his bible prophesy and history to include the new atomic weapon to replace whatever else he had been using as a prophecy for end of times. (As it turns out, "God's Atomic Bomb" was more tempest and disaster in the bible, and not (whew!) the bomb itself. Though as we've learned from scientologists and the sort-of creative mind of Ron Hubbard, a civilization came to the earth thousands of years ago and pummeled it with "atomic bombs" and other nastiness, polluting humans for milennia to come. But that's another story--suffice to say that Morris found many dozens of examples of "God's Atomic Bomb" being used in the deep biblical past, and that the use of the real atomic bomb in 1945 was pre-ordained, and not without its figurative historical counterparts. I'm not sure why any of this was necessary outside of proving to some small minority that these preachers could at least be contemporary and topical.
The following is not the worst idea regarding the survival of nuclear holocaust, though it is an extremely bad one. (Atomurbia, which makes the entire country a suburb to itself and therefore nothing, and which I write about below, is perhaps the worst idea that I have seen on combating the Soviet menace.) But this one, which appeared in Life magazine in 1950, does come close, setting up post-attack suburbs (for "refugees") and which takes some pre-attack city planning into some account. There is a lot of planning for people in cars to make their way out of the city, which reminds me of the evacuation maps of Washington D.C. (which were still being handed out in the early 1980's), which sends people on their way east and west depending upon the last digit of their car's license plate being an odd or even number.
One reaction to impending Doomsday was to construct concentric outer highways around metropolitan areas, “life belts around cities (which) would provide a place for bombed-out refugees to go”. In the birds eye view provided here, we see the plan in action, the main parts of which are an 8-lane “express” highway belt 10 miles away “from the built up edges of the city” , and a 6-track railway belt five miles further out, these accompanied by various feeder arms stretching straight-away from downtown. In between the two outer rings would be land that would be kept free of development, so that farms and tent cities could be constructed after the attack. There would also be major collections of hospital and fuel depots in the greenbelt area. Infrastructure would already be in place (gas and electricity, supplied with power from who-knows-where). Shopping centers and a giant “motor pool:” would also already be in place, waiting for the Doomsday clock to strike midnight.
This idea of city planning was one of many offering the prospect of safety from nuclear attack by spacing out the population of the United States so that the Soviet Union wouldn't have enough nuclear warheads to take everyone out. It called for the redistribution and resettlement of virtually everyone in the country, and is one of the most spectacularly bad ideas that I have come across in this field. (I wrote about it earlier in this blog, here.)
This issue of Life offered the possibility of hope that 97% of the American population could survive a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. It was a hard sell of a bad idea of insane optimism.
Sylvian Kindall's Total Atomic Defense (published by a very severely right-wing publisher in 1952) is one of a series of books made for a deceived American population, offering the general reader both fear and hope, often from the same, exact source. But Kindall has a somewhat diffident approach, offering his belief that the country and its population can largely survive an all-out nuclear war--intact. Chapter 10 tells the remarkable story of how to make the captial city of America atom-bomb proof, mostly by digging it into the side of a mountain.
Again, this is just the barest touch of the top of a huge pile of such stuff--and I've not even mentioned duck-and-cover films.