Monday, March 31, 2014

The Big Bang -- March 31, 1954

The King explosion on November 15, 1954 (
Two events from March 31, 1954 – 60 years ago today – that can be properly be placed in the “Wow, things sure have changed and I am beginning to understand why my 60-something parents are so screwed up” department.

On this date back in 1954 the United States Civil Defense Chief (yes, there actually was such a position) Val Peterson announced that the government would show a censored film that would display the 1952 hydrogen bomb blast in the Marshall Islands, code named Operation Ivy. 

The first detonation, Mike, was the first full-scale test of a multi-megaton thermonuclear weapon, or hydrogen bomb.  In the second test, King, the largest nuclear weapon using only nuclear fission was fired.  That big boy gave off 500 kilotons of havoc, which was 25 times more powerful than the weapons used against Japan at the end of World War II. []  

Chief Peterson said that the footage of the blast would be shown to the American people not “’to scare them nor encourage hopelessness’ but to furnish basic facts they must have ‘about such new and terrible weapons.’”  [Chicago Tribune, April 1, 1954]  If you would like to walk back in time and get freaked out, 1950's style, here's the video . . .

Back in Chicago on the same day General Robert M. Woodward, the state civil defense director, said that a “semi-evacuation” of at least part of the city should be carried out to test the readiness of the evacuation plan “because of the terrific power of the hydrogen bomb, which makes bomb shelters futile.

The plan in 1954 apparently boiled down to this . . . “movement of buses, cabs, trucks and cars in steady streams out of the city to the north, south and west.  All vehicles would be loaded as they move along evacuation arteries, with passengers walking in the same direction.”  Sounds like folks living out there in Oak Park were screwed.

General Woodward observed, “Difficulties arising from a mere snowstorm indicate the tremendous problems of a panicky flight from the city.  Such a wartime evacuation is likely to be complicated by Communist agents using chemical and germ weapons and possibly carrying ‘suitcase’ A-bombs.”

See that little four-year-old covering his head under his little pre-school desk?  That was me . . . too scared to even say “That was I.”  Those suitcase bombs – man, oh man, they really were sphincter ticklers.

So much nicer today – a nice, gentle end of mankind over a series of centuries of global warming.  No need to crawl under the desks for that.  Eventually, the desks will be underwater, anyway.

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