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					                    The Atomic Age & the Cold War
             Alas, Babylon Historical Background Lectures
                                      THE ATOMIC AGE

Development of Atomic and Nuclear Technology
   Manhattan Project: Resulted from the U.S.’s need to develop atomic weaponry before
     the Germans had a chance.
        o From 1941 to 1945 (in the midst of World War II), the U.S. secretly poured 2
           billion dollars into the creation of the first atomic weapon.
        o July 16, 1945 – The first atomic bomb is detonated near Alamogordo, New

The First Atomic Warfare
   A mere three weeks after the very first atomic bomb is tested, the U.S. launches
     atomic warfare.
   August 6, 1945: The Enola Gay detonates an atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan,
     killing over 80,000 civilians in the explosion.
   August 9, 1945: Nagasaki, Japan is attacked, killed over 100,000 civilians in the
     explosion. Nagasaki was actually the secondary target. Kokura, the original target,
     was obscured by clouds, so the pilots dropped the bomb over Nagasaki instead.
   In other words, within four weeks of the bomb first being tested, nearly 200,000
     people have died from its effects.

                      CAUSES & COMPONENTS OF THE COLD WAR

       --World War II has ended, and America has emerged feeling fantastic. America’s role
in the war was           decisive, and the outcome establishes the U.S. as an
unquestionable global superpower. For the                first time in years, the world is in a
relative state of peace.
       --This peace, however, is short-lived. Despite being wartime allies, the U.S. and the
Soviet Union             return to their usual relationship of mistrust and tension.

U.S.-Soviet Tension
    Differing Worldviews post-World War II:
         o U.S. and many others aim for the “One World” vision, in which the belief in
            military alliances would be abandoned in favor of democratic and diplomatic
            dealings to resolve conflicts.
         o In addition, there would be an international organization that protected each
            nation’s interests and right to self-governance and served as arbiter in
            international disputes.
         o The Soviet Union (and Great Britain), in contrast, aimed for a world in which
            the superpowers would control areas of “strategic interest” to them.
         o In other words, they wanted to remain superpowers and have control over
            areas that would be advantageous to them in their imperial and military
         o In this scenario, the balance of power that existed in Europe prior to the war
            would reemerge.
       o This was more than a mere difference in ideals; it was an ideological struggle
          for the future of the world.
    The Red Scare: The Threat of Communism
       o The Soviet Union was a Communist nation, which the United States viewed as
          a threat.
       o What we know as the Red Scare was actually the second period in the 20th
          century (the first being immediately after the first World War) in which there
          was a strong anti-Communist sentiment in the U.S.
       o There was great fear of Russian/Soviet espionage in the United States. The
          poster children for such espionage were Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were
          convicted on falsified evidence of having sold atomic secrets to the Soviets.
          It was during this time that McCarthyism came to influence America. Through
          the philosophy of McCarthyism, as we now know it, the U.S. established a
          number of anti-Communist committees that aggressively investigated
          Americans who were suspected of being Communists or Communist
          sympathizers. As this would evidence, this was a time of intense fear and
    The Nuclear Arms Race
       o The arms race was, quite literally, a race for superiority in the arena of nuclear
          warfare between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Both struggled to out-do the
          other in order to become the world’s pre-eminent nuclear power.
       o Immediately after World War II, the U.S. held the monopoly on nuclear
       o In a move that shocked America, the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic
          weapon in 1949, a bomb that was nearly identical to one of the bombs the U.S.
          dropped on Japan.
       o In response, the U.S. worked furiously to develop the hydrogen bomb (H-
          Bomb), a far more powerful and destructive weapon, which they detonated for
          the first time in 1952. Much to their surprise, the Soviet Union caught up far
          more quickly this time, detonating their first H-bomb less than a year later.
          The most frightening difference this time was that, while the Soviet Union’s
          atomic bomb was largely a product of knowledge illicitly gained from the U.S.’s
          own nuclear research, their H-bomb was mostly a product of their own
               The Space Race went hand in hand with the Nuclear Arms Race. Both
                 the Soviet Union and the U.S. wanted to demonstrate their technological
                 superiority In this “race,” the Soviets won as they had their first satellite
                 in orbit.

                        EFFECTS & EVENTS OF THE COLD WAR

Fears on the Home Front
   Understandably, a great deal of fear poisoned the American mindset.
   World War III was a constant possibility, and citizens of all ages were educated on
      and prepared for the real possibility of all-out nuclear war.
   Schoolchildren, in fact, were instructed in “Duck and Cover” procedures. Much
      debate still exists as to whether these procedures would have made any real
      difference in the event of a thermonuclear attack, but the general consensus is that
      they would not.
    In fact, the training better served the purpose of alerting the nation that nuclear war
     was a real possibility. It also sent the message to the world that the U.S. was ready
     for war, if necessary.

The Cuban Missile Crisis...... just FYI (Alas, Babylon was published before it
   The Cuban Missile Crisis, by many accounts, was the closest the U.S. came to
     nuclear war.
   In 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew the government of Cuba and set up a totalitarian
     government with close ties to the Soviets.
   John F. Kennedy decided to secretly invade Cuba with Cuban exiles in order to cause
     a revolution against Castro’s government, but the invasion ended in tragedy at the
     attempted landing in the Bay of Pigs, where a large number of the exiles were killed
     or taken captive.
   In October 1962, photos taken by a U.S. spy plane revealed Soviet missile bases
     being built in Russia, well within striking distance of the United States, despite the
     insistence on the part of the Soviet Union that they were doing no such thing. This
     was in response to the U.S. placing nuclear weapons in Turkey, well within striking
     distance of the Soviet Union. Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader at the time, was
     quick to point this fact out.
   At this point, it’s almost down to the simple question of “Who’s going to shoot first?”
   In addition, Kennedy’s administration learned that Soviet ships were en route to
     Cuba carrying nuclear missiles. At this point, he decided to blockade (in effect,
     quarantine) Cuba and prevent the missiles from reaching the bases.
   The blockade brought what the opposing sides desperately needed… time.
     Khrushchev agreed to turn back the Soviet ships if Kennedy agreed not to invade
   It was only later revealed that, had the U.S. launched a full invasion of Cuba, the
     Soviets would have launched a nuclear attack on the U.S.

So this is the world in which the characters of Alas, Babylon live. Many in the U.S. (and in
the world, for that matter) lived life in a constant state of subconscious fear, questioning
when nuclear war would break out. An entire generation grew up poisoned by this fear.

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