August 6, 1945, one of the most important days in the history of the world. The day The United States of America used the first atomic bomb on The Empire of Japan in the closing ceremonies of World War II. This single day defined the world for the next 50 years. The dropping of the bomb marked the end of one war, and the beginning of the deadliest race in the history of man – the nuclear arms race. It’s lead to the downfall of more nations, and the division of more people then almost any event in history.
This day marked the beginning of the modern era, because after that bomb went off, everything changed. And in a few short years even the dropping of that bomb was overshadowed 1000 times over by the first successful fusion bomb, Ivy Mike. And then a few short years after that, these weapons of global destruction were attached to massive world spanning rockets, capable of hitting any place on earth, from any other place.
I’m not gonna retell the abridged version of The Cold War, that’s what 7th grade Social Studies is for. But I am going to tell you about something that you don’t learn in 7th Grade, or in Social Studies, or Chemistry, or Physics, or school in general. No, what I’m about to share with you is something that the history teachers think is unimportant for the average person to know. When, when you drill down to the very basics of it, is really the entire essence of what The Cold War was all about – beating the those damned Communists.
To start off this history lesson, I present you with a video. So get comfortable in your desks as I turn off the lights and treat you to almost 2 minutes of me not talking:
In the 1954, a strange new thing was discovered. The Van Allen Belt you probably have been told it protects the planet from deadly cosmic radiation. You were told correctly. However, did you know that it mere minutes* after it was discovered, they thought to themselves “Let’s see what happens if we blow it up with a nuke.”
The US government proceeded to spend millions of dollars over the next 4 years to do that very thing. And they didn’t have the luxury of cheap super computers to model this out, they actually fired a missile 250 miles straight up and detonated it’s 1.4 megaton payload.
I like to envision the scientists proposing this to the military with the same old tried and true method “If we don’t do it those commie bastards will” And in 1950/60s era America, that was all the more reason to do something. But I can’t help but imagine that after the meeting was over and the scientists walked out of the secret room in the basement of the Pentagon, giddy as schoolboys, going “I wonder what they’ll let us blow up next week?”
In the 1960s (the height of the cold war and very much in my comfort zone of 1950s era America), the most important thing in the United States Military was to beat the Communists. It didn’t matter how, we just had to do it. The original idea was to see if they could use the Van Allen Belt to transfer energy from a nuclear blast to a designated point on earth, and destroy it. Kinda like an ICBM, except, without the giant missile part. It would be a focused beam of death from the heavens. Every commanders dream, so of course the military said yes you must figure out how to do this before those Communists do.
The official name was called Starfish Prime, and honestly, that’s an amazing name. Unfortunately, nothing really happened. Or, more specifically, nothing useful for the military happened. Tons of useful data was gained from this, and thousands of civilians got a great light show out of it.
One thing it did do was prove the effectiveness of an EMP, as hundreds of street lamps were knocked out in Hawaii, almost 900 miles away from the blast. And, as you can see in the picture, the explosion was pretty spectacular as seen from Hawaii.
In the 1950s millions were spent to do something, and get a real result, in 2010 billions are spent to come up with an idea for how to fix a problem that’s not the governments fault.
As I’ve said before, we must go back to the ideology of the 1950s is we are to prosper as a nation again. It was that thinking of “We can do anything” that led us to develop missiles that can reach any point on earth in an hour, easily travel 3x faster then the speed of sound (when conventional science said it was impossible to go 1x faster then sound), and finally to put a man on the moon. This kind of thinking, this kind of doing is what made America great, and what will make her great again.
*some time, that same day