A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7500 images, 3.9 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 4,000+ total posts
I've written perhaps 100 posts for the History of Fission and Nuclear Weapons series on this blog, and in that I've collected a number of (pre-1960) images showing a nuclear explosion over specific, recognizable U.S. cities. Some of these came as a result of Cold War propaganda, others were used to show the effects of the bomb on a familiar profile. I've not put them together in one post before, so I thought to do it now. (The very first image of any sort of nuclear weapon published in the popular press showing its effects on a U.S. city appears in PM newspaper, 7 August 1945--as I've said before, I have no idea how these folks put together such a comprehensive issue in the day+ after the Hiroshima bombing, but they did).
Here are the U.S. cities I've collected so far--the majority of them are New York City, mainly because it has the most recognizable features making it easier for a broad spectrum of readers to understand the destructive force of the bomb(s).
Manhattan, Collier's Magazine, 1948
Not a mushroom cloud, but the only thing I have for San Francisco:
Movie still from "One World or None", 1946. https://youtu.be/u6ORe_tHYXU
Jello is a powdered gelatin formed of collagen, a cocktail of peptides and proteins from pig skin and cow bones, and "ready to eat".
It is also basically what glue is.
It is the "glue" part of this thing that brings us together here, to tell a story of atomic bomb secrets given to the Soviets and the U.S. traitors who made it happen.
The story of Harry Gold, David Greenglass, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg has been told countless times, and in some of them the hook for the story was this box of Jello. The Jello box was cut in half, and used as an innocuous way for Gold and Greenglass--who each possessed one half of the box--to match up, signifying that each man was communicating with his proper counterpart. Why they thought it was innocuous to be walking around with Jello box parts in their wallets is not known, but they used it successfully, and under this cover of establishing their identities, they carried on their work.
As I said, it is an old story. Back in the mid 1980's when I thought I wanted to be a journalist one of the stories I dredged up was this one, and I tracked down the Rosenberg kids and interviewed them, and the janitor who cleaned up after the Rosenberg's deaths in their execution in Ossining, and even to the Rabbi who was probably the last person to see them alive. The story for them gets pretty weepy, and convoluted, but not so much anymore after you read the Venona transcripts regarding them. And that pretty much tells the story, I think.
Anyway, their stories are best told by others elsewhere.
All I wanted to do here was make the passing note that the girl on the Jello box has some resemblance to the girls populating the artwork of Henry Darger, the bleak, fabulous, impossibly-driven Outsider with what was probably a complicated and terribly unsavory fascination with young girls.
I don't know if this is the exact type of Jello used by the conspirators, though this is what was entered into evidence at the trials of these people, a "replica" of what was believed to be the box, but it is good enough:
[Source: National Archives, here: http://blogs.archives.gov/prologue/?p=4655]
Here's is an example of the (clothed) Darger Vivian girls. I know, I know, he is perhaps one of the great three/four great icons of Outsider art in the 20th century, but all I take away from him is a sense of very very complex creepiness:
See an earlier post of mine on Henry Darger and the Campbell Soup Playhouse Schoolroom for Kids, here: http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2012/09/henry-darger-and-campbell-soups-kids-playitme-schoolroom-1955.html
The October 1945 issue of Popular Mechanics carried a story "Atomic Bomb for War / Atomic Bomb for Peace" as a reminder to its readers that the vast destructive power of the atomic bomb was just one example of what nuclear power might be--and that there could be incredible and wide-reaching benefits of the process for peaceful uses. This work came about eight weeks after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and seems to be only the second post-use story on the weapon in this magazine. The article does mention a prescient piece ("The Miracle of U-235") published in January 1941 in Popular Mechanics by physicist R.M. Langer1 (CalTech) which extolled the future possibilities of the energy/power potential of nuclear energy, which is really what the present article is all about. Except of course for the 5,000 a-bomb total destruction of Japan analogy, which is an odd thing.
Half of the article's illustration is dedicated to military applications of atomic energy, and the other to the peaceful; and in the upper-middle of the military side we are told that if necessary that every city in Japan could be completely destroyed with "5,000 atomic bombs". The truth of the matter is that a great percentage of the major (and minor-major and major-minor) cities had already been pretty much decommissioned. (Just weeks before the bomb came the massive firebombing of Tokyo--334 of General Curtis LeMay B-29's were loaded to utmost capacity with the newly-conceived M-69s bomb, an incendiary so vicious that the fires it produced were all but inextinguishable. The B29's bombed Tokyo for hours, killing 100,000+ people and making over a million homeless.) And so I'm not sure what the message was, here, except to establish that the complete destruction of a city with weapons dropped from planes was now a possibility. It was probably right at about this point that this idea became a real possibility--and so to for its extension, that given enough of these weapons, that the entire world could be bombed out of existence.
1. Langer wrote an earlier piece in 1940 for Colliers which was a more sugary version of the Popular Mechanics Article. In this one he hypothesized that uranium would basically fuel life--it would be a fuel source so cheap to produce that it wouldn't make economic sense to charge for it (?). It was the seed of peace that would lead to Utopia and eliminate wars. This was Langer's popular side--he did in fact work and publish through the 1930's on the fission issue; his vision of the future though were a little overly-optimistic.
Here's an interesting formerly Top Secret document from the Lee Groves collection of the George C. Marshall Foundation:
The document is dated two days after the Trinity test of 16 July--I presently do not know why this is so.
"The sketch is of a test cylinder procured and installed at a time when we were uncertain as to the explosive power of the bomb. If, at the time of the test, we anticipated that the force might be relatively small or even that there might be no nuclear explosion, we were going to place the bomb in the cylinder so that it would be possible to recover the plutonium."--Marshall Foundation, below.
The cylinder/container for the bomb was called "Jumbo", and was 25'x10' and 214 tons--a big thing. It was decided at some near point that "Jumbo" would not be necessary as it became evident to many that the bomb would indeed "work". "Jumbo" and the tower were constructed and ready but abandoned for their intended purpose--it was left to stand, about 800 yards from the point of explosion; afterwards, "Jumbo" remained intact but its steel tower was completely destroyed.
Source: the George C. Marshall Foundation: http://marshallfoundation.org/library/documents/steel-test-cylinder-tower-july-18-1945/#sthash.ccG8PSRb.dpuf
I've written on this blog earlier on the creation of Atomurbia--the dissemination of U.S. industry and population centers more-or-less evenly, and remotely, throughout the country to decrease targeting liability, "employing distance as defense". There were different flavors of this plan, from the gargantuan to less-so, but no matter how this is idea is presented, on virtually any level, it was. of course, a Big Plan. It was so very big that it was even hard to talk about--the thing seemed just too big, and impossible, for discussion beyond generalities.
I found some language in a Congressional hearing on civil defense for 1960 that addresses and undresses the issue of "dispersal". In "Part II--Post Attack Planning" of these hearings1 there is a discussion of "dispersion", and what it is and is supposed to do, but there is ultimately a monumental shrug about this Enormous Situation, and a recognition that "there is no active program of dispersion" (pg 102). This in the face, evidently, of at least part of the dispersal plan being the Federal Government's "responsibility of carrying out out the national policy of dispersal in locating new or major expansions of essential facilities in accordance with defense mobilization order I-19".
I've wondered how such a plan would come into being--I mean the impossible move everyone everywhere plan--but did not know about this I-19 plan that actually made the dispersal of new national-interest industries a governmental responsibility.
The hopelessness of implementation of such a nightmare is spelled out pretty well in this bit, on the same page 102: "The objective of industrial dispersal can only be achieved when industrial and economic factors contribute to this purpose". A statement like this is so large and bland and intractable that it really says nothing, except that if the effort and the money was there, then the dispersal plan could possibly be achieved.
The report continues, "It indicates a desirable goal but there is no program here".
Leo A. Hoegh (former governor of Iowa and speaking to the CD issues as the first director of the Office of Civilian and Defense Mobilization) makes the case that there is dispersal going on, but as a natural element of industries looking to "get out of the marketplace", and brings up the growth of new industry in Iowa as an example, which was really pretty ingenuous, and he is held accountable to that thinking by Congressman Chet Hollifield (Ca.) who basically says, "Oh, come on...."
Mr. Hoegh responds: "The thing is, we are interested in dispersal and we are urging it".
Mr. Holifield: "There has been no dispersal", he said, there has just been growth. "None of your industrial centers...have decreased".
Mr. Hoegh: "We are still desirous to have dispersal".
According to the borrower's card in the pocket at the rear of the book, it was never borrowed. That doesn't mean that it wasn't read--just that it wasn't overnight reading.
[For those keeping track of such things the "L.S. Taylor" on the front cover of this hearing was Lauriston S. Taylor, (1902-2004), pioneer in radiation measurement, radiation protection, and health physics.)
1. Hearings before a Subcommittee on the Committeee on Government Operations, House of Representatives, Civil Defense (Parts I-III); March 28-31, 1960, 573pp.
JF Ptak Science Books Post 2515 [Part of the Atomic and Nuclear Weapons Series]
Somewhere between transporting the Fat Man bomb to the loading lift and raising it up into the bomb bay of Major Charles Sweeny's B-29 Superfortress Bockscar, it acquired a stencil-painted acronym: JANCFU, right on its nose.
It was black on a bomb painted mostly yellow, a zinc-chromate yellow. The yellow similar to the cover of Dr. Seuss' One Fish, Two Fish...; the color yellow symbolizing courage/nobility in Japan, Wisdom in Islam, and a deity-color in Hinduism; the color so fond of many great writers like London and Doyle, and Harte and Stevenson that they employed in in titles of the books. The favorite color of Van Gogh1, and perhaps not-so-favorite of Shakespeare (appearing in references to bile and melancholy and falling leaves), it is usually a positive color--except that it also can signify cowardice, ego, caution, and illness (malaria, jaundice). It is also the color of the Star of David worn by Jewish people living under Nazi-occupied/controlled places/
Fat Man was yellow. But it was yellow because like a fire truck it was the easiest and quickest thing for the eye to register, and what needed to be registered with Fat Man was its trajectory on its way down to detonate 1640 feet above Nagasaki.
JANCFU, painted or airbrushed on the nose of the bomb at the last moment, or so it seems, stood for "Joint Army Navy Civilian Fuck Up".
It was hardly that. It was like another yellow--Yellowstone--but of a different sort of indescribable awesomeness, this more like an impending enormity, too large to be known.
[Source: Business Insider, For the video, see here: http://www.businessinsider.com/nagasaki-raw-video-2014-2 The article is worth the read, but if you just want the video, scroll to the end.]
1. The Van Gogh museum's "Van Gogh Letters" is a must-visit if you are interested in his correspondence. http://vangoghletters.org/vg/ Actually the word "green" pops up about 15% more often than "yellow" as the most often mentioned color in the correspondence, though I think that the scholars say that his favorite color hands-down was yellow.
John Coster-Mullen's Atom Bombs: The Top Secret Inside Story of Little Boy and Fat Man must be the most complete description of the bombs ever published. And it was accomplished by the relentless study of the "nuclear archaeologist" Mr. Coster-Mullen, a truck driver by trade who had no formal education in physics or metals or engineering. He produced not only this remarkable work, but also created a life-size nearly perfect replica of Fat Man. I'm pulling up this reference because in there Coster-Mullen states that it was Project Alberta engineer Harlow Russ who painted the JANCFU on the bomb. There was other stuff written on the bomb, but nothing quite so surprising, or shocking, than this. Perhaps the small tattoo underneath the acronym is almost as shocking, but not really--the Fat Man bomb profile with the letters "FM" ("Fat Man") in the interior of the design has its moment of shock/recognition, as though any identifier was needed for the thing. (It is like the surgeon circling the correct kidney he needs to remove, drawing on their patient--just in case there was any confusion, this stencil assured everyone that this was indeed what it was.) See this great article in The New Yorker about Coster-Mullen, here.
JF Ptak Science Books (An earlier post from 2010, revised) [Atomic and Nuclear Weapons Series]
This post is one in a continuing series on the history of holes–the appearance of this particular hole meant the difference of life and death for hundreds of thousands of people, and it killed almost as many people as it didn’t kill.
The hole was in a cloud. It was a corollary cloud to missing clouds from a few days earlier.
On 6 August, 1945, the primary target of the first atomic bomb to be dropped on Japan was Hiroshima1–had there been unfavorable weather conditions, had the target been obscured by clouds or haze, a second target would be engaged–that was the Kokura Arsenal on the north shore of Kyushu. But conditions were bomb-favorable on that day, and Hiroshima was the city that was killed. Little Boy, the U-235 bomb dropped by Paul Tibbets from the Enola Gay exploded 1,900 feet above Hiroshima. The bomb detonated and–with blast and shock wave and the ensuing damage and conflagration–70,000-80.000 people were killed (and at least double that number within five years).
It was a day before the news of the bombing was verified for Tokyo, and another day before the Big Six leaders of the Japanese army and government decided that they couldn’t decide in what to do with the Potsdam declarations and order of surrender. It was a raging debate among those leaders, and it was a failure.
The second bomb, the plutonium Fat Man, was to be dropped by Major Charles Sweeney from Frederick Bock’s B-29 Superfortress Bockscar on the next target, which was decided to be the Kokura Arsenal. And so Fat Man was taken over Kokura on 9 August, but by the time Major Sweeney (who had piloted the Great Artiste behind the Enola Gay on the Hiroshima bombing) had arrived the previously comfortable atmospheric conditions had turned cloudy, overcast, the target obscured. Sweeney made three runs over the target, but it stayed hidden from the bombardier, and so the people of Kokura were spared. Major Sweeney tuned to his secondary target, Nagasaki. With fuel running out, the clouds were also running thick over Nagasaki, until the last moment, when a hole opened in the canopy and the bomb was released through it, exploding with the impact of 22,000 tons of TNT at about 1640 feet above the city, killing 70,000 people (by the end of the year, 140,000 by 1950).
The hills around Nagasaki confined the blast and protected those on the other side of them. Kokura had no such terrain, which means that had the bomb been dropped there, even more people would have been killed outright and many more so over time.
The hole theory though is not necessarily complete--there may not have been a hole. Nobelist (physics) Luis Alvarez, who made major contributions to the firing mechanism for the weapon and a genius-in-general, and who flew as part of an Aerial Observation Team to assess the yield of the bombs, thought that perhaps there was a hole in the clouds and perhaps there wasn't--"ostensibly" there was a hole, he wrote. Perhaps the bombardier saw the target, and perhaps not. In his Adventures of a Physicist (1989), Alvarez writes about the misery and the snaufedness of the mission, the clouds over Kokura and the multiple runs, the very low fuel which allowed only for one run on the Nagasaki secondary, and the growing accuracy of the flak from below. On page 145 he states that pilot Sweeny had decided against orders to attempt a radar-guided bombing of the 80% cloud-covered target--until suddenly the famous hole appeared, and bombardier Kermit Behan found the target and released the weapon. Alvarez records that the bomb detonated about 2 miles off-target, which he said would have been a "reasonable error" for a radar-controlled drop, which would fit nicely with the his claim that Behan was Air Forces's "best bombardier". Alvarez said that he took the report of the hole "with a grain of salt"2. (See extract below.)
In any event, some sort of hole opened for Nagasaki, and closed for Kokura.
It is interesting to note that "the luck of Kokura" or "Kokura luck" is a translated Japanese euphemism for the unknown avoidance of disaster, of escaping a tremendous fate without knowing it. (This appears often on the internet though I am using as a source The History and Science of the Manhattan Project, by Bruce Cameron Reed, Springer, 2014, pg 400.)
New York Times correspondent William L. Laurence flew in the Great Artiste, following Bockscar that delivered the bomb 1640 feet over Nagasaki. His report on Nagasaki appeared a month later in the newspaper, and the full text is available via the Atomic Archive blog here.
1. The targets discussed by the Targeting Committee (“Minutes of the second meeting of the Target Committee, Los Alamos, May 10-11, 1945") on 10 and 11 May 1945 included the following: (1) Kyoto (the former capital with one million people, a center of religious and intellectual life in Japan This target is an urban industrial area with a population of 1,000,000. It is the former capital of Japan and many people and industries are now being moved there as other areas are being destroyed. From the psychological point of view there is the advantage that “Kyoto is an intellectual center for Japan and the people there are more apt to appreciate the significance of such a weapon as the gadget”; (2) Hiroshima (listed as an Army depot though “due to rivers it is not a good incendiary target”; (3) Yokohama (one of the largest remaining untouched industrial centers in Japan); (4) Kokura Arsenal (one of the largest in Japan and situated by urban industrial sprawl); (5) Nigata (port on Honshu) and (6)the Emperor’s palace (which was discussed as a possible target but dismissed almost immediately).[Yawata was also considered (as an industrial center) (during the preliminary meeting of the targeting committee on 2 May 1945) (along with Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.] . The members of the targeting committee (source for this material is Gene Dannen at Dannen.com, transcribing targeting material of the U.S. National Archives, Record Group 77, Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, Manhattan Engineer District, TS Manhattan Project File '42-'46, folder 5D Selection of Targets, 2 Notes on Target Committee Meetings) included (on 10 May): "General Thomas Farrell, Dr. Charles C. Lauritsen, Colonel L.E. Seeman, Dr. Norman Ramsey, Captain Parsons, Dr. Robert L. Dennison, Major John A. Derry, Dr. John von Neumann, Dr. Stearns, Dr. Robert R. Wilson, Dr. Richard C. Tolman, Dr. William G. Penney, Dr. Robert Oppenheimer." In attendance for the 11 May discussion was Dr.Hans Bethe and Dr. Brode, plus: Colonel Seeman, Dr. Stearns, Captain William S. Parsons, Dr. John von Neumann, Major Derr, Dr. Robert L. Dennison, Dr. Richard C. Tolman, Dr. Penney, Dr. Oppenheimer , Dr. Ramsey and Dr. Wilson."
2. Alvarez on the hole:
[Source, Luis Alvarez, Adventures of a Physicist, 1989, p 146.]
In the not-modest stream of thin paperback nuclear holocaust survival literature in the 1950's and 1960's appears this effort: LIVE, Three Plans for Survival in a Nuclear Attack. It was published by the Stanford Research Institute in 1960, and was part of nuclear health physics pioneer Lauriston Taylor's donation to the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement, where I bought it some time ago when they were thinning out their stuff. It is an unusual publication to me for its illustrations, some of which are odd, and a few of which are positively semi-surreal when view out of context.
The pamphlet overall is fairly helpful, assuming that you had as much time to get yourself together in an impending attack, and that is a major assumption. But I'm sharing this tonight for some of those images--and the cover, which is an unusual design in itself, not the least of which is the heavily-borrowed part from LIFE Magazine.
So the first of the few that I'll post here (above) is a detail from this illustrated graph, a march of teh intellect and survival from being in a dark hole to a rather stiff return to normal existence:
Here's another sobering bit, showing a progression of NOT-recovering to normal existence:
And of course the hole:
Which is a detail from:
And the cover, which has some blotchy Ralph Steadman-y elements:
And so, there are some of the major themes. I found the work unsettling in general for using mostly dark silhouettes for the people, that profile having been sort of established to represent dead folks. Ah, well.
About eight months after the atomic bomb was detonated over Hiroshima the Jesuit Rev. John A.Siemes contributed his well-known first-hand account of the devastation that he found there hours after the event. Siemes also published his story in the Irish Monthly, volume 74 (#873, pp 93-104) in 1946. This 10-page account in this version evidently is not very widely kept in libraries worldwide, as WorldCat locates only two copies (one at "New York State Library" and another at the Peace Collection of Swarthmore). There are full-text versions of it online, though there are differences in the telling of the story--Yale University has this as a full-text version posted at their Avalon Project here: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/mp25.asp It is well worth a read.
The original publication is available for purchase via the blog's bookstore, here.
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In the 100+ or so posts in the Atomic/Nuclear Weapons history thread there are a number that address somewhat Outsider-y notions and imaginary insights into the weapons. There are some that prophesy the advent of the bomb, and some that initiate the creator in its creation. The pamphlet below (published in DeRidder, Louisiana, in 1947, a town of 4,000) is one such example--the atomic bomb so far as I can tell exists only allegorically, as in the greed bomb, that would destroy us all. Still, it has a mushroom cloud on the cover, and so it qualifies as an atomic-bomb-in-popular-culture item.
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One thing is for certain--the design of this Civil Defense ("trained helpfulness") pamphlet issued by Bell Telephone of Pennsylvania was very determined, and obvious, and provocative, and it may have been the best thing about this publication. It is not clear to me how much of the plans for reacting to a nuclear attack ("an atomic Pearl Harbor") were implemented or implementable when this work was printed (ca. 1950?), but the plans were certainly orderly--and so they seem in the maps of action.
Here's one interpretation of an action plan for Armageddon in a large city--it is a bare-bones, comforting plan,even though it looks like half of the map is missing (though it isn't); it is really just a suggestion about the course of action after an attack:
All it shows, really, is that something is going to happen.
Here's another vision of action, this taking place in a small Pennsylvania town "100 miles away" from bombed centers:
There are no plans for the population to go anywhere, though there are plenty of plans for convoys going to the bombed areas. Also there's plenty of expectation, what with a hospital, temporary hospital, mass care center, and a golf course dedicated to mass care for evacuees--there would be plenty of people being removed to the town (as hospitals "prepare(d) extra beds").
There wasn't much in this pamphlet about what to actually do in the event of an (ultra) emergency, though you were told that people would respond to calls--telephone calls. As a matter of fact the phone features largely in this pamphlet:
Maybe it was all about selling telephones--as in would you be ready to receive The Big Call if it was made?
Earlier in this blog in 2010 there appeared a post called "Atomurbia: Responding to Atomic Threat by Moving Everyone Everywhere, 1946"--it turned out to be very popular, being about the dispersal of the U.S. population centers to thwart nuclear attacks. (I'll repeat: it was about the plan to redistribute the population and industry and appropriate infrastructure of the United States of America.)
It was of course (as Somerset Maugham would say in "The Three Fat Women of Antibes") an Enormous Situation, involving (basically) moving everyone everywhere. The term was "dispersion", and the planners of such plans meant it--and I've come across it again--unexpectedly--in another issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists for September 1951.
You may recall that this is the journal that keeps a doomsday clock ticking off the minutes on its front cover showing the advance or retreat from the Midnight of Armageddon. On this issue the clock is at three minutes to midnight, though I think that the greatest distance from the zero hour was ten minutes to the hour--so for decades the clock has been very close to striking the doomed hour without much relief.
In this issue of the Bulletin nearly every article is dedicated to the idea of dispersion (at that point under the auspices of the National Security Resources Board) and the creation of a federal program to directly oversee dispersion (the National Defense Dispersal Administration (NDDA)). And people are talking about moving around cities and people and industry as though it wasn't that big a deal, though I must admit I haven't seen any cost or time estimates in this source. Moving the populations centers of the U.S. to a more "garden city" idea involves so much effort and expense it seems almost impossible to contemplate actually paying for all of it. (And we haven't begun to talk about how people and essential personal are actually 'enticed" to leave their surroundings, nor is there any talk about the property rights of the owners of all of that land that is to be built on.)
As much as Frank L. Wright's "Broadacre City" seems to be a lead balloon so far as actual implementation goes for size and scope, this type of "dispersion" idea would be of gargantuan, orders-of-magnitude bigger/costlier than what Wright was talking about. At least in this department Wright was thinking in terms of a utopia; the dispersion business was more like a dis-utopian-dystopia, or something, no matter how these authors attempted to green-up and de-slum their proposal.
I am mostly making this post for the image at the top of this post(from page 268 of the Bulletin), which fits nicely with those others posted in the earlier Bulletin article (reproduced in the link above).
So, grazing my way through a random issue of America's magazine, LIFE, for August 28, 1950, I was struck by the profound amount of unhappy welcome-to-your-stinking-future-you-poor-stinking-sod articles contained in its heavy and mostly colorful pages, all packed into a quarter-inch thick package.
The issue starts out with a waxy portrait of MacArthur, followed by two big pages of freckly boys modelling Peter Pan Peanut Butter and Ice Cream Dixies, then a big splashy two-page ad for soles for your shoes, then contrasting color combos in a Glidden paints ad, a Swank tie-clip-ruler-mechanical-pencil, Vaseline cream hair tonic, then bits for DeSoto and Chrysler, and Ford. Ads done, there's a two-pager on an old lost film starring Babe Ruth, and a big/weird coverage of people flocking to a far-removed farmlet because the woman living there claimed to see the Virgin Mary.
Then comes the rain: it starts with a story on an unexpected best seller for civil defense ("Atomic Handbook a best seller"), followed by:
A hand-drawn illustrated page on how to protect yourself from nuclear extermination if the bomb catches you unawares on the way to work;
the effects of an underwater detonation in the harbor of a large unnamed (ahem, New York) city illustrated by a very forceful two-page drawing;
a story on the opinions of New Yorkers on the building of a skyscraper when there is such an imminent possibility of an attack by the Soviets (who had developed their own Fat Man type atomic weapon in the autumn of 1949 and which was announced as confirmed by Truman in early 1950, so the threat as it was was new)
then comes a story of bombing patterns in Korea
then a short account of a vicious Korean battle at No Name Ridge
These tales are then interrupted by a full page ad for Old God cigarettes, with a pack of them floating on a lily pad in a pond.
The salvo is opened again with:
a long story on Viet Nam, and the French involvement, and the components of the Foreign Legion fighting there, and how much they need the help of the U.S. to stop this fight for the control of Asia by The Communists, and that it may be a "matter of days" in which we needed to act
then a big spread (which will get a blog post of its own) on ramping-up the U.S. air force components for the continuation of the new war in Korea.
That is where the bad news almost stops, mostly, the rest of the magazine filled out by fluff and stuff, with a lot of ads. Some of the ads are very puzzling, and some are just disturbing, like the big stretching crotch-shots for jockey underwear for men, and a bra ad featuring a model with Indian headdress saying "How how how", and a terrifically unsavory racist ad for Dumont televisions featuring a cartoon-clownish minstrel figure for no good reason whatsoever. Reeling in the back of the mag are a bunch of big red ad for bacon and pork and Big Red Meat, PBR, mustard, razor blades, a few movies, and lots of people smoking cigarettes.
But just when you thought you made it out of the issue pops up two final stories--a boring thing on "War and Politics", and a picture essay "Iowa Town Dies a Slow Death".
The back cover features a flat cover ad for unfiltered Camel ciggies, decorated with Nanette Fabray in a cabbage leaf dress, which loudly states "Not one single case of throat irritation due to smoking Camels". Giving the devil its due they also state that that (quoted?) nugget was for a 30-day trial. Certainly after x-years millions wouldn't have this complaint because they wouldn't have any throats anymore, being dead from cigarette-induced cancers and all, so the statement was shown to be not necessarily untrue.
August 28, 1950.
All that reading done, you were supposed to keep your eyes on the skies but not let it interfere with your eyes on the prize, which was spending money, and to have you hopefully go out to get some peanut butter that you could put on your new tv, while you and your honey watched it in your new sparkling white underwear, slathered in vaseline hair creme, drinking a PBR, smoking several brands of cigarettes, and thinking about the Parkay margarine-slathered big meat products in the refrigerator. Just make sure to wash your house after the series of Joe-1 Soviet nukes annihilate the rest of your city.
There was a lot of scary stuff in this issue, which certainly helped to put the "if"into "life" in the high summer of 1950--then again, as a summer of fear, there was a lot of it to go around, and with some good reason.
See here for a good article on the Life article on this town, "Bradgate, the Town that Wouldn't Die", at iagenweb.com (Iowa Genealogy)
Here's another maim-and-blame piece of provocative semi-future/tomorrow speculation from Mechanix Illustrated (of all places) in February, 1950, hosted by the wonderful Modern Mechanix website (where the entire War-of-the-Worlds-like article is included). So February 1950 was pretty early in the development of the brand-new atomic Cold War. The Soviets had been experimenting since 1946 (thanks in large part to "intelligence received" from agents working in the U.S.) and in August 1949 successfully detonated their first atomic weapon. This came several years before most experts thought possible, with the weapon (called RDS-1, or "First Lightning", or in the West, "Joe 1"), which was a Fat Man/implosion device, generating a yield of 22kt. The news of the test took a few months to filter out to the rest of the world--as the U.S. had previously initiated a bomb/detection plan employing the B-29 Superfortress--with President Truman making an announcement regarding the test on September 23, 1949. The Soviet had hoped to keep their experimentation "quiet" so that they could have a few more years of catch-up while developing a hydrogen bomb, but that didn't work out for the evidently surprised Russians.
In any event this image fits nicely with the other 15 or so depicting a mostly pre-1960 NYC in ruins. (Check the GOogle search box at left for NYC destroyed/attacked.)
The illustration below was for the story, "Red Alert. What if an H-Bomb Hit L.A?"which appeared in the Los Angeles Times 12 March 1961, and made no doubt for some very sobering contemporary wake-up-and-die reading. If you were living anywhere in the country at the time and had never seen a representation of your city in ruins, and you encountered such a story and images before coffee, you might remember that missing cup for the rest of your life. The dramatization and mapping was done by Harlan Kilby, and it portrayed the destruction of the city and millions of people in the event of detonation of a 10 megaton nuclear weapon--it gave the reader a vague notion of what city-eating looked like, the bomb 'flattening" everything in a 3-mile radius of its central zone and killing everything in 28 square miles.
(A little earlier, in 1960, there appeared a work by Harrison Brown and James Real called Community of Fear, which was a sci-fi kill-'em-up that used a kill zone with a 25-mile radius. For more on this film see Kenneth D. Rose One Nation Underground: The Fallout Shelter in American Culture, page 61.]
[Image via the Library of Congress]
Anyway, waking up to this in 1961 must have been an eye-opener.