So that was just peachy. What could possibly go wrong?
Actually, when I put it like that, I'm genuinely astonished that I'm able to write this in a flat with lighting and electricity and not, for example, living in a small hole in the ground or fighting giant cockroaches with a sharpened stick.
But since a kind of sanity has prevailed, I'm happily able to regale you with tales from one of the weirder periods of modern history - the Cold War - paying special attention to Cuba, a lush and beautiful island situated almost equidistantly between Jamaica, the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands, and home to Fidel Castro, America's favourite back door bogeyman.
But hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves. On August 29th 1949, with Joseph Stalin still in power, the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb at the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan; six months later President Harry Truman ordered a program to build the hydrogen bomb, a program opposed on both technical and moral grounds by various scientists, including Oppenheimer, and on November 1st 1952 the Ewinetok Atoll was vaporised, creating a crater a mile wide.
The hydrogen bomb is produced by nuclear fusion - the collision of neutrons with the nucleus of an unstable hydrogen isotope, usually deuterium or tritium, under high temperatures. The H-bomb contains an atomic bomb, which triggers the more powerful fusion reaction. A reasonable sized thermonuclear weapon has a blast area of one hundred and fifty square miles, with heat effects and radioactive fallout spreading outwards to cover more than eight hundred square miles.
And, as you'll remember, there are approximately twenty thousand of the bastards currently desecrating the surface of the planet. Woohoo.
In 1952 of course, there were considerably less, but with Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles announcement of a "massive retaliation" policy in 1954, and the development of an continent-spanning deployment system (the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, or ICBM), the U.S. Government were making it nice and clear that they were addressing the situation with gusto.
Meanwhile, in the Soviet Union, the death of Stalin hadn't dampened the resolve to join in the fun one iota. Nikita Krushchev was now head of the Communist party, and keen as mustard to show the decadent western imperialists what Socialist ideology had to offer. In 1961 the Tsar Bomba (King of the Bombs) was detonated, four thousand feet over Novaya Zemlya Island in the Arctic Sea. It was estimated at fifty-seven megatonnes, a destructive force more powerful than all the explosives used in World War II, and is still the largest nuclear device ever used.
Throughout the fifties, the US and USSR had been quietly funding anti and pro-communist regimes respectively but now, with the military field levelled, they were moving toward a reckoning. And so to Cuba.
The island of Cuba lies just fifty miles off the coast of Florida. It had, until 1959, been considered by the
Americans to be a jolly nice place for a spot of legal gambling, and its right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista
was quite happy to fill his pockets with yankee dollars, particularly since the US military were equipping his
troops. Sadly, Batista wasn't a generous man, and while his own pockets bulged noticeably, those of his
countryman remained quite thin, and in 1959 a young Fidel Castro and his band of merry rebels overthrew
the government, executed the ruling class and privatised all American firms in Cuba.
This was frowned on in Washington. Frowned on quite hard, by all accounts. The US imposed a total trade
embargo on the island, which at the time relied heavily on its sugar exports, and would have bankrupted the
country but for the timely intervention of kindly Mother Russia.
Cuba's allegiance with the Soviets was strengthened in 1961, when a group of CIA-funded Cuban exiles tried to land at the Bay of Pigs with the intention of ousting Castro's ruling party. The operation was a complete pig's bollock, but left Fidel with no illusions about where America stood in relation to his leadership.
And so, as we finally enter 1962, the preparations are completed for the biggest, stupidest, most totally fucked up game of chicken in human history, the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In September 1962 the CIA reported a build up of Russian military bases in Cuba.
On October 16th, aerial surveillance photographs of the island revealed a missile base, armed with intermediate range missiles capable of carrying a nuclear payload. Reports reaching President Kennedy the following day estimated sixteen to thirty-two missiles with a range of two thousand miles, capable of killing approximately eighty million Americans if detonated.
Meanwhile, over 20 Russian ships were heading for Cuba, carrying nuclear weapons in onboard crates, in open view of American spy planes, and the United States navy were quickly despatched to set up a blockade.
On October 22nd, the US military alert was upgraded to Defence Condition, or DEFCON 3, and Cuba's entire military force was mobilised.
In the political background to all this military posturing, messages were flying forth between Kruschev, demanding the removal of US nuclear missiles from Turkey and a promise not to invade Cuba, and Kennedy, demanding the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba, and promising that he darn well would invade Cuba, on October 29th, unless his demands were met.
On October 24th, the Russian ships stopped on the border of the navy blockade.
On October 25th, US military alert moved up to DEFCON 2.
TO BE CONTINUED!
Damn, I love a cliffhanger.
A RETURN TO NUCLEAR PARANOIA -
So 1945 happened, and the Second World War ended. And surely now, in the wake
of this, the bloodiest and most brutal war of all human history, a war that engulfed every
nation of the world, that wrecked millions of lives and homes, now it must be time to
enter a new era of peaceful political stability and co-operation
Well of course not. Now it's time for the United States of America and the Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics to turn their attention back to each other. Oh yes, no great love fest here. Prior to Hitler's catastrophic explosion onto the global consciousness, two vast nations had been squaring up across the Bering Sea, and the mutual mistrust continued throughout the war. In 1945, America's General Patton proposed, obviously unsuccessfully, that the Allied army should unite with the remaining German forces and fight the oncoming Soviet Red Army.
Now, with the mono-balled lunatic out of the way, nothing much had changed. Except... well, except the Soviets had a vast standing border army, and the Americans had a bomb that could flatten a city.