The Cold War was in a way the most terrifying time in American history. For the first time we had been out smarted by another super power. The Cold War had many different things scare our nation at different times but I will only explain a few of them. The events like: Russia having atomic weapons and the super bomb race, sputnik, which brought on the space race, and finally the red scare all were key points. Although there were more these are some more important ones.
American scientists had already invented the atomic weapon, which was used to bomb Japan. Russian scientists in 1945, three years earlier than expected, had successfully detonated an atomic weapon. Although we did not find out right away when the news hit it was absolute chaos. The fact that we were on bad terms with Russia and now they had weapons of mass destruction scared most everyone.
A few years had passed and now it was just a nuclear arms race to see who could build more weapons and bigger weapons. Scientists in the US were now thinking of ways to make even bigger and better bombs. On March 1, 1954 The US detonated the “bravo” test. This new found Hydrogen bomb was greatly underestimated. The Los Alamos Scientists miscalculated a fusion reaction. This new bomb, at 5 million tons of TNT or 15 megatons, was 1,000 times more powerful than that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima (PBS Online).
The blast of this Hydrogen bomb went so high that it was seen for hundreds of miles. The fireball just kept rising and rising minutes later a sort of gray ash type substance began to fall. This nuclear fallout was moving and it got some Japanese fisherman and some people of The Marshall Islands. The US paid millions of dollars to sufferers and their families.
Not too far in the future Russians would have figured out the same type of bomb. This just drove us to even greater lengths. Now we were meddling with thermonuclear weapons. The “George” test was something about compressing a bunch of stuff and it makes the radiation more potent or something. With the “George” test we made a few changes and made an even bigger thermonuclear weapon.
The “Mike” Test was done on a Marshall Island a little ways from Bikini Atoll, the “home base” island. When they detonated the bomb they thought it was not a success. After the test they discovered that they had vaporized an island. This bomb was rather large too the smallest were 4 feet in diameter this shell was 20 feet long.
The numbers of bombs was incredible for the time. “In 1950 the US had 298 atomic bombs and by 1955 the number rose to 2,422 nuclear weapons and by 1962, The year of the Cuban Missile Crisis it was 27,100,” (Issacs). General Curtis LeMay said that the military had to be armed and ready at all times they had to be able to hit the soviet union with 750 nuclear weapons within a few hours. “According to “Atomic Audit,” since 1940 the United States has spent at least $5,481,083,000,000 — that’s nearly $5.5 trillion — in constant 1996 dollars on its nuclear weapons and weapons-related programs. The figure does not include an estimated $320 billion for future and some present costs for the storage and disposal of nuclear wastes and weapons,” (CNN Online).
The Soviet Union had the upper hand slightly in technology but Sputnik proved they defiantly had the upper hand. Sputnik was the first ever, artificial satellite to be put into orbit. Sputnik was no bigger than a basketball and took only 98 minutes to orbit.
This worried Americans just as much as the nuclear weapons. The Soviets had made it into space before us. We hadn’t even had plans or anything near it started. Not only with them putting Sputnik into orbit but they now had long range capabilities. Now the Soviets had the power to have something over us that could take pictures, this meant that they could spy on us with out us knowing.
With the birth of sputnik came the birth of espionage and ICBMs, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. The competition between the Soviet Union and the US fueled both parties and without this we wouldn’t have put a man on the moon or have computers. Sputnik was just a bigger piece of an even bigger era (CNN Online).
Now that the Soviet Union was beating us in about everything the questions began to arise. Many people were charged for espionage and other crimes. Joseph McCarthy was a senator that openly accused many citizens for being reds, slang term for communists.
McCarthy was a man on a rampage he was scared that communists in America would take over and dominate our country. His actions, in my opinion, were borderline paranoia. He mainly accused people of the military and higher government offices. McCarthyism was a campaign to rid the us of all communists and most of the time when someone was accused it was false or was just a rumor. McCarthy had a list of hundreds of names that were supposed to be communists in our government. Picking out a communist is like trying to identify a person who is lying you really can’t do it.
One major accusation of espionage was Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. They were just ordinary people and Ethel’s brother was David Greenglass. Greenglass owned a machine shop that Julius worked at. In 1944-1945 Greenglass was asked to be a machinist for the atomic bomb in New Mexico. In 1950 Greenglass was arrested for supplying the Soviets with information to build their first atomic weapon. When he was accused he told them that Julius had recruited him to collect the information. In 1951 the Rosenbergs pleaded innocent to this accusation and were found guilty and sentenced to death by the electric chair. They were the first American civilians ever executed for wartime spying (Reeves 481).
The Cold War had many events to it that were frightening and unethical. IF it wasn’t for The Cold War and the competition for space we may not have computers or maybe if the soviets had won we would have had a man on mars by now. The Cold War also spent lots of money but what for really? Just to build more nuclear weapons. It makes you wonder was The Cold War worth all the fuss and trouble it caused?