CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

CBC Archives has a new look: Please go to cbc.ca/archives to access the new site.

The page you are looking at will not be updated.

From Einstein to the A-bomb: early milestones in the Cold War

The Story

The air raid sirens hum loudly, shelters are erected, and the general public is busy learning the art of "duck and cover." The development of intercontinental ballistic missiles in the 1950s brings the threat of war closer than ever to the North American home front. This CBC Television report examines the power of nuclear weapons and one couple's view on the prospect of capitulating to the 'godless Russians.'

Medium: Television
Program: Close-Up
Broadcast Date: Aug. 8, 1961
Guest(s): Ralph E. Lapp, Carol Sweet, Jim Sweet
Host: J. Frank Willis
Duration: 7:27

Did You know?

• The atomic bomb named "Little Boy" was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan on Aug. 6, 1945. By the end of 1945, 140,000 related deaths had been tallied. Over the next five years the number jumped to 200,000 related deaths. The plutonium bomb "Fat Man" was exploded over Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. An estimated 70,000 people died that year; 140,000 total over five years.

• A second "Fat Man" bomb was to be dropped over the island of Tinian off the coast of Japan in mid-August. Its delivery was halted following Japanese Emperor Hirohito's declaration of surrender on Aug. 15, 1945.

• In October 1948, Canada's first peacetime civil defence co-ordinator was appointed to supervise planning at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. Evacuation and survival planning were included in this portfolio. Under Prime Minister Diefenbaker, the civil defence operation was expanded and renamed the Emergency Measures Organization in June 1957.

• "You saw what happened at the United Nations -- the histrionic bluster of Chairman Khrushchev, his smiles and his sneers even to the accompaniment of pounding shoes. This and the riddle of the Soviet relationship with Communist China in recent months as well as the language of Peking, bellicose and threatening, assail us with fears and potential dangers." -- Prime Minister Diefenbaker's address on the nation's business, June 30, 1960.

• The nuclear threat almost became tragic reality in Canada on Nov. 10, 1950. In the late afternoon, the US Air Force accidentally detonated an atomic bomb over the south shore of the St. Lawrence River near Quebec City. Luckily, the bomb didn't cause extensive damage because the plutonium-uranium core was absent. The Pentagon explained the incident away by claiming some small bombs were exploded in the river. Forty years later the truth was revealed.


Cold War Culture: The Nuclear Fear of the 1950s and 1960s more