Cold War (Part 2)

The Cold War part two of two, with guest Allan Newell, includes: the nuclear arms race; Project: Ice Worm, LSD & the CIA; bungled Fidel Castro assassination attempts. Plus news and pop culture including Dr Strangelove, Manchurian Candidate, Thirteen Days, Our Man in Havana, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING! THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING! and Red Dawn.

Music: “The Sacred War” by the Russian Red Army Choir



12 Responses

  1. Another great episode but a few minor nitpicks: Ivy Mike was the first US thermonuclear bomb and was detonated in 1952; Castle Bravo was in 1954 and detonated at about 3 times the predicted yield. The Japanese fishing boat was the Lucky Dragon 5 and is on display in a museum in Japan.

    No one was injured during the Tsar Bomba test. The thermal effects would have inflicted 3rd degree burns at 100 km and would have burned houses at 270 km but no people and no houses were that close.

  2. Great episode, as per usual, but one thing stuck out – the Red Dawn sequel (and actually it’s not a sequel it’s a ‘remake’). While I don’t know the current status of the project, I do know that part of it was being filmed less than 2 miles from where I was living temporarily in September of 2009 (I believe it was ’09). Part of the movie was filmed near me in Pontiac, Michigan and other parts of it were filmed in Detroit Michigan (pretty easy to make Detroit looked like it’s sustained the effects of war!).

    And while the original had Russians & Cubans as the enemy, this time it was originally the Chinese, but as we didn’t want to tick off the Chinese I believe it was changed to North Korea as the invading force.

  3. As far as good Cold War era dramas, the movie Fail-Safe is one of my favorites. The original with Peter Fonda (and the guy from I Dream of Jeannie), and not the made for TV re-make with George Clooney.

    1. Great movie! (Henry, btw, not Peter.) It has to be the best work of fiction about the Cold War and, in hindsight, absolutely frightening for those of us who grew up during the Cold War and heard about some of the malfunctions in space defense systems that had one side or the other within minutes of launching an all-out attack. Speaking of which, there are plenty of examples of close calls other than the Cuban Missile Crisis, like these:

      Are you saving those for a later episode or just not know about it?

  4. It’s weird, considering how sharply some movies in the ’60s nailed the mix of dread and insanity that characterized the Cold War, how long it took for the same thing to be obvious in comics. Watchmen obviously took the environment and ran with it, but I also love what Frank Miller was able to get out of the back and forth before he totally lost his shit. Elektra: Assassin is particularly brilliant… almost incoherent in places, with the CIA funding bizarre killings and cybernetic reconstructions of top agents to hunt down psychic spies and ninjas and… if you’ve never read it, it will make your head spin. (The Dark Knight was pretty fantastic, too, but everyone knows that.)

    Oh, and I really enjoyed the Clooney version of Fail-Safe. (The world needs more live TV drama.) And last week’s use of the Airwolf theme… top stuff.

  5. You touched on board games briefly with the Fortress America name drop but arguably the best board game about the Cold War is Twilight Struggle published by GMT games. It’s so good you don’t even have to give it a qualifier though, its just a really good game.

  6. Joe mentioned talking about how Chilliwack was a target for Russian nukes. Living in Abbotsford, we were also told we were a potential target as well due to our airport. I recall us talking about Abbotsford possibly being nuked in grade school with our teacher. I feel like a teacher talking about that now with grade school students would get fired.

    1. Who *wasn’t* told in primary school that their hometown wasn’t a potential target? Asking friends at university I got the impression that *everybody* was told this by their teachers. I suppose it is a way of making your boring old hometown special.

  7. Nice Ep!!!
    need an emotionally draining expierence look up the anime grave of the freflies on this theme.

    actually what found scray nuts is the nuclear testing youtube, bing boop bing boob.

    I’d hate to be a conspiracy agitator on such a down to earth site, but is there any sort of studies on any sort of links to cancer rates, and over a 1000 nuclear tests!!!

    And why don’t we have a super powers because of this!!!

    1. Here’s some data. Since cancer rates are affected by many variables and the portion contributed by ionizing radiation are not fully known the best anybody can come up with is a probabilistic approach:

      This links to the US National Cancer Institute study of radioiodine released at the Nevada Test Site and its various pathways into the human body, including milk from cows that ate contaminated feed:
      If you were born after 1971 then you were never exposed to nuclear-testing-generated radioiodine.

      Note: I could not find any study that addressed our lack of superpowers.

  8. I’m going to have to disagree with your Red Dawn discussion, sort of a little. I’m fairly liberal, and I hate the politics that inform the movie (see bottom of this post), but I think it is actually decently made in some ways. You’re absolutely right, it was purposeful propaganda. It was specifically an allegory for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which is obvious on the face of it, but the filmmakers have also talked about it. Think about the typical critique (a bunch of teenagers fighting the Soviet Army?), and then rephrase as “A bunch of Afghan teenagers fighting the Soviet Army,” or frankly any occupying army. Yeah, sort of difficult to imagine Lea Thompson as a mujahideen, but that is the intention. And you guys make fun of the deer blood drinking scene. Never mind that I know I’ve met people that would do that (especially at that age), I guarantee people did it after the movie, as inspiration.

    That said, think about how much crying there is in the film. There is a ton of combat in the film, but outside of those scenes, it is basically the characters fighting amongst themselves, missing the life they used to lead, or crying over dead friends and family. It’s not a smart film, and I wouldn’t call it a good film. But substantial sections of it are well made, to serve a world-view radically different than what any of you guys share. Compare it with other films that were also made to appeal to that worldview, like the Missing in Action series, or the Rambo films, never mind more obscure movies. By contrast, Red Dawn is a study in nuance and is far more grounded in reality. It is not a very nuanced film, and while the filmmakers went out of their way on technical stuff (like the Hind, or the ZSU-23, or other Soviet hardware), it is obviously not a realistic film. But like I said, it’s the respectable face (yeah really) of the kind of stuff you’d see at gun shows (where you will see stuff like far right conspiracy or worse literature, and so on. One I went to, they had weird knives with enamel-painted scenes of Confederate generals. I suggested to the guy selling them “Maybe they’d have won if they had those.” He wasn’t terribly amused).

    But really, you guys have no idea how deep the far right rabbit hole goes (the Tea Party comment just brushes the surface). If you can find it, I’d strongly recommend reading the book Warrior Dreams by James Gibson, for his discussion of the idea of “The New War.” His half-journalistic/half-ethnographic stuff on paintball as war simulation, on the Soldier of Fortune subculture, on gun shows, and so on, is good. But his New War idea is a revelation for all those 80s action movies I know you guys grew up with. And his book got a hit of popularity because it was one of the few treatments of the militia movement prior to the Oklahoma City bombing.

  9. Two other fun facts about Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove…” are that it was James Earl Jones’ first ever screen appearance (as one of the crewmen in the B-52) and also that Ronald Reagan supposedly asked to see the War Room (“you know, the one they depicted in that movie”) when he first became president. I’m not sure how reliable the Reagan story is, even though I’ve heard it recounted in a couple different documentaries. It feels to me like it could be apocryphal, or at least somewhat embellished by the original source.