Thursday, October 29, 2015


Virtually everyone who grew up in the 1950s remembers the drill:

Well, the other drill too.

It went something like this: Communists are atheistic horrible subhuman evil tyrants who want to turn you and your family into sheep. You're likely to hear that today, depending on which blog you read.

That was the voice of the Cold War, a time that Dwight D. Eisenhower feared would spawn the growth of the "military-industrial complex" ... whereupon a perpetual state of war was only minutes away.

Eisenhower, who had seen war, understood war and governed in the face of it, feared that the United States would literally spend itself out of existence if the Cold War continued.

Up the river in Fairfield, we didn't understand much of that. We just watched Herbert Philbrick lead three lives on his popular television show about the FBI agent who infiltrated the Communists and revealed their nefarious plans.

Cold indeed was the war.

The endless preoccupation with all things "communist" seemed to finally die sometime in the 1990s but has been resurrected through the aid of hate media. In the 1950s, the fear was real enough because we were constantly being reminded that the Soviets had actually promised to "bury us."

In what seems a macabre comic-tragedy that lasted far too long, the campy narratives of the time were anything but amusing. "Tail-gunner Joe" McCarthy had ranted on about communism to the point that anything might have been possible. It's said that some people joined the Communist Party just to spite the Wisconsin senator.

The end of the Korean war spiked the punch and gave the Cold War its impetus.

What happened after that was difficult to measure.

Sputnik weighed about 70 pounds.
In 1957, the Soviets defied our common logic and sent aloft a satellite called Sputnik, which sent useless but impressive radio signals back to Earth. Nobody ever really knew what the signals meant, but it scared the holy Hell out of the Americans and Eisenhower's fears began to come true before his very eyes.

Congress and every academic "expert" this side of the Atlantic was convinced that the radio signals were designed to brainwash us, shut down our communications and fire ray-gun beams at our schools and businesses. Worse, the rocket that had propelled the craft into space would soon be equipped with a nuclear warhead.

After that ... pffffffffffffffff ... we were history.

The U.S. military budget ballooned to endless proportions, and ... we spent the next three decades deciding whether to go to war with Russia or just make sure everyone else did.

Sputnik, an impressive feat in its own right, did lead to a space race that eventually did yield positive results, but the ongoing arms race was nothing short of tragic. U.S. and Russian atomic tests were common, polluting the atmosphere with radiation, costing billions of dollars that Eisenhower wanted to spend building highways, schools and hospitals.

Ike had seen war.

That other drill?

We called it "duck and cover."

Civil Defense units formed in virtually every town in America. People built bomb shelters and prayed that something horrible would happen to an entire continent of people who didn't speak our language and couldn't find Chicago on a map.

Fear of Armageddon was very real.

Sputnik just went round and round, beeping and scaring us into spending even more money to protect ourselves what what appeared inevitable.

Everybody was lying.

And the "military-industrial complex" was quite all right with that.


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