Dr. Strangelove and its Depiction of Cold War Fears

Above is a clip from Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb [7]

During the 1950’s the concern over nuclear weapons increased and again became a common theme in popular culture. [1] In 1954 the United State’s bomb test series sent radioactive ash over seven thousand square miles of the Pacific. An emergency evacuation was issued for the nearby islanders and Japanese fishermen who were 80 miles away became sick. If the incident in the Pacific wasn’t scary enough, in 1955 radioactive fall-out fell on top of Chicago.[2] After the test series, doctors and scientists started to caution the public of health risks associated with fall-out, including leukemia, bone cancer, and long term genetic damage.[3] Soon the importance of civil defense, such as radio alerts and wailing sirens, played into the nuclear anxieties being experienced at the time. Civil defense was at an all time high in 1961 when President Kennedy began to clash with the Russians over the conflict in Berlin. President Kennedy went on television, without much preparation, and warned the American public of the danger of nuclear war, and called for a colossal fallout-shelter program.[4] Soon black and yellow “Fallout Shelter” signs were placed upon public buildings and schools all across America.[5] Not many homeowners actually built fall out shelters but those who did received a great deal of publicity from the media. In classrooms, Bert the Turtle taught kids to “Duck and Cover” under their desks.[6]

[1] Boyer, Paul. By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age. New York: Pantheon Books, 1985.

[2]Boyer, 352.

[3]Boyer, 353.

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] YouTube, “Major Kong Rides the Bomb,” YouTube Website, Embedded Media File, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcW_Ygs6hm0, (accessed 9 November, 2008).

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