The Atomic Bomb and Containment

Atomic Bomb and Containment QuoteWhether the Allied victory in World War II could have been achieved without the atomic bomb has been argued over by historians and political scientists for more than sixty years.  With the unparalleled death and devastation wrought by U.S. nuclear power in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, however, the “bomb” and who would control it dominated socio-cultural and political discourse throughout the twentieth century. As Stalin worked to expand his “Soviet sphere of influence” in Eastern Europe, the Soviet leader polemically stated that “A-bomb blackmail is American policy.”

In 1946, an American diplomat based in Moscow, George Kennan, wrote his notable “Long Telegram” to President Truman.  Kennan detailed that U.S.-Soviet policy must be one of “long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies;” this policy of containment would shape U.S. foreign policy for the remainder of the century.  The Soviet Union developed atomic capabilities in 1949 – the same year in which the communists won China’s civil war – which served to heighten tensions.  Newsreels, network broadcasting and federally produced non-theatrical films worked to communicate how Americans should understand and prepare for a potential war with the communists.  In Texas, local news helped showcase how cities were participating in the national preparedness campaigns while home movies illustrated how Texans defended U.S. interests in military bases around the world.

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