Stern, Eric

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After World War II, America’s economy was on the rise due to its growing middle class and low unemployment rate. Scientists in America were also the first ones to successfully create the nuclear bomb. In 1949, the Soviet Union shocked the world through its nuclear weapon testing. It was soon discovered, however, that Soviet spies had stolen the formula from the Manhattan Project scientists. Since the Americans and Soviets had successfully managed to create weapons of mass destruction, both countries were hurrying to churn out as many nuclear bombs as possible. Amid this period of production, Americans, who were still experiencing an economic boom, became increasingly concerned about a Soviet attack. In addition to the nuclear threat, the United States’ capitalistic economic language contrasted from the Soviet Union’s communistic structure, only creating more tension between the countries. As a result, America waged in war against the Soviet Union. Even though both parties never  fought against the other, constant paranoia of a nuclear attack plagued the American people. To prepare American’s for a nuclear explosion, children in schools underwent “duck and cover” and air raid drills. Families who lived outside cities created bomb shelters in their backyards and also stocked them with canned foods. Even the Emergency Broadcast System interrupted television broadcasts and instructed citizens where to go if the Soviets attacked.

The anxiety among Americans created drastic social change among the population. Prior to the Cold War, society was booming; after the Soviets created a nuclear bomb, a shift occurred in the American people’s ideology. Now Americans were fearful of an imminent Soviet attack. This terror caused Americans to unite in an attempt to protect themselves from the Soviets. Different forms of media such as movies, newspapers, and music also depicted the American’s view toward the Soviets. Cinema had always been used as a means of telling stories, but the Cold War caused directors to produce films that impacted public opinion as they often depicted the Soviet Union as the enemy. For instance, Red Nightmare (1962) tracks a man who fails to fulfill his “all-American” duties, and as a result, wakes up one morning to a Communist-infested America (the image above is the film’s poster). On another note, President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1956 to create a 41,000 mile “National System of Interstate and Defense Highways” that would ensure citizens a quick evacuation route from cities in the event of a Soviet attack. Throughout the Cold War, the American people experienced immense cultural change, which ultimately caused them to progress nationally and become the world’s sole superpower.