Any of us who are old enough to remember black-and-white television, rotary-dial telephones and milk delivered to our doorsteps will remember when the United States was engaged in an arms race with the Soviet Union.
The Cold War threatened to turn hot at almost any provocation. So, to prevent that event from happening, the Americans and the Soviets sought to build bigger nuclear bombs than the other guy. “Secrets of the Dead: The World’s Biggest Bomb” airs at 9 p.m. Wednesday on KACV-TV and it is going to walk us back through those terrifying days.
U.S.-Soviet relations were built primarily on a strategy called “MAD,” the appropriately named acronym that stood for “mutually assured destruction.” We had weapons that could wipe out the Soviets; and, as far as we knew, the Soviets had a hefty arsenal of nukes as well. The Soviet Union made no bones about threatening to use those weapons on us if they felt adequately threatened.
I don’t recall U.S. presidents — Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon, for instance — ever threatening to drop The Bomb on the Soviets. But the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis brought the world dangerously close to that event, when U.S. spy planes uncovered evidence of long-range missile installations in Cuba, less than 100 miles off the Florida coast. President Kennedy went on national TV and told the world that an attack launched from Cuba against any nation in our hemisphere would be deemed an attack on the United States and would compel him to launch a “full retaliatory response.” The Soviets backed down … and the world was able to breathe again.
But the search for the bigger bomb also produced “duck and cover” drills in schools across the United States. I remember the times our teachers would instruct us to duck under our desks in the event of an attack — as if the desks would protect us from nuclear incineration.
The Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. The threat of nuclear annihilation is still with us. But “Secrets of the Dead: The World’s Biggest Bomb” reminds us of a time when we had a clearly defined enemy and how we used nuclear deterrance as a strategy to keep the peace.