Tales of the Bomb: The Cold War

Tales of the Bomb

The New York Yankees team nickname is “The Bronx Bombers.” As a team, they lived and died by the ferocity of their ability to generate base hits, backed up by a front office that translated this talent into the commercialized vicarious image of a World War II B-49 incendiary bomb saturation raid on cities like Dresden or Tokyo.

Another allegory, I will never understand is why the infantile mentality of the sports fan cravenly desires that the more the opposing team is beaten to shit, the better. This primitively tribal mindset must have its origins in the atavistic mentality of a territorial cave dweller; staying up late at night trying to create more lethal cutting edges on the arrowheads for tomorrow’s raid on his next-door neighbor.

The other amazing thing about this primitive human mental predisposition is that it never even remotely takes into consideration the possibility that any sports contest could ever end in a tie. For example, as the British sometimes do at the end of a squarely tied Cricket Match, if two professional golfers then are tied at the end of seventy-two holes at the U.S. Open Championship, why is the possibility never considered that the two men involved could be called “equal champions,” share the purse and call it a day? After all, the PGA ultimately retains possession of the trophy itself, so what’s the point? All the winner gets to take home is the money, some fame, a few exemptions and his name carved on the thing.

Or if a baseball World Series, in which both teams each win three games and the seventh game is tied at the end of the ninth inning why isn’t it deemed a draw so that fans and players alike can go home happy?

However the culture of Western European Civilization, the same culture that brought the world an aggressive territorial imperative, always seems to require a winner and a loser, especially when it decides to play war, then goes on to suck the rest of the world into helping put it to an end. In some ways it is a shame that World War I did not end as a tied stalemate in the trenches of France, so that revenge would not have to be revisited twenty years by the vanquished disenfranchised Germans.

On the contrary, it was a good thing for our own way of life that the allies won the Second World War. Then again we didn’t start it.

It is also probably a good thing that men the likes of Enrico Fermi, Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein paved the way for the development of the atomic bomb, as it undoubtedly shortened that war while potentially saving the lives of perhaps an additional million U.S. soldiers, who would have had to invade Japan on a dreary quest to take it back one little island at a time.

Another blessing for the Allies was the fact that Werner Heisenberg, a German scientist, secretly handed Bohr, a fellow Norwegian physicist, the significant technical secrets for atomic bomb development, while at the same time purposefully stalling his own atomic bomb development efforts in Hitler’s Germany. He did it because being a scientist, he understood the potential benefit of atomic energy yet at the same time dreaded the equally potential devastation it could cause if handed over to a homicidal maniac.

Finally, one of the very best things of all was that after Bohr gave the secret to Fermi, Enrico’s first test nuclear reaction in the basement of a building at the University of Chicago did in fact remain controlled and neither blew the city to shreds nor made it into a nuclear wasteland.

Nice going, Enrico, even though word has it that when the first control rods were slowly pulled out of the reactor, everyone in the room crossed their fingers, played switch and then dropped a small atomic load in their underpants.

Do not get me wrong. I have no sympathy for the Japanese. Anyone who is well versed in their barbaric atrocities in the 1930s and 1940s also knows that they got what they deserved when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were incinerated. Beside that, and because every school child in America knows that you should never start anything that you will unlikely be able to finish, the Japanese should have also given it a bit more careful consideration before they took their well practiced murderous rampage off the Chinese mainland and then hysterically torpedoed the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor. The United States ultimately had the final word on “Bonsai,” which at the end of the conflagration roughly translated into the American vernacular: “Fuck You.”

Japanense flag


The point is that the development of atomic energy and atomic bombs would undoubtedly have come along sooner or later, but it always seems to be the unfortunate case that wars in general accelerate technology, with many of those technologies first being used for the purpose of more efficient ways to kill.

It is only in the aftermath of war that the peacetime applications of these new technologies become applied to make life better and easier for the rest of us. Or as the famous advertising logo goes: “Better living through bloody chemistry.” 

I also take pause to wonder if the fathers of nuclear energy at that time really fathomed the nature and the potential danger of the evil genie they had uncorked from inside the bowels of that tiny otherwise innocuous looking uranium atom, because the real problem for the baby boomer generation came after the fact of America’s atomic secrets being covertly handed over to the Soviet Union by Communist sympathizers. 

Unfortunately, however well intentioned these Communist mole sympathizers may have been in their zeal to support what they thought to be a more idealistic societal system, they had no real clue as to what they had really accomplished by giving the most brutal dictator in history, Joseph Stalin, the key to the sun. They had unintentionally made the United States and the Soviet Union equal champions in a contest that could never have a clear winner while it could only have the very real potential to make both sides into equally annihilated losers. 

When our fathers and grandfathers came back from the bloody theaters of World War II they probably had no clue that their victorious joy would be so short lived; only to be blunted by the newest threat of a raining cloud of nuclear dusted perpetual winter; otherwise known as “The Cold War.” They also undoubtedly had no idea that for the next fifty years their children and grandchildren would come to know this same fear as something ingrained into the sub Rosa psychology of every day life.  

The only thing they knew for sure as these heroes disembarked the troop carriers was that for the second time in a single generation there had been fought yet one more in an endless series of wars to end all wars. Another war to make the world understand that in the final analysis there never is a real winner or a clear loser. 

Dr. Strangelove offered the best advice to the next generation on coping with the niggling fear of sudden nuclear holocaust. “Stop worrying and learn to love it.” After all, it makes completely obsolete the grotesque hand-to-hand combat so arduously endured by the Veterans of all the wars that went before.

It was finally an achievement that could make a global war not only more effective but added to it the pluri-potential bonus of potentially making subsequent wars for the very first time one hundred percent impersonal. 

Just push a button, and then go into a peaceful serene slumber as a hundred major cities in some far off lands become instantly incinerated.



News headline 

International Nuclear War Ends in Tie: Equal losses on both sides. Leaders ponder next moves.


 fat man 

Little Boy and Fat Man: The World’s first atomic bombs

Badda-bing. Badda-boom.

(Mafioso proverb)



Photo © National Archives




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