Intl. Notebook May 2 2014
TUMBLING OUT OF CONTROL
Our civilization has avoided nuclear destruction so far, but has it been by design or chance?


This debris cloud was generated yesterday in 1952 by the nuclear blast codenamed Dog, which was part of Operation Tumbler-Snapper, a series of tests that occurred at the Nevada Test Site that year. The people you see in the image are just a few of the 2,100 marines who observed the explosion. Last month Chatham House released a sobering nuclear study showing that there have been thirteen incidents since 1962 that qualify as “near use” of nuclear weapons. In two of those—the famed Oleg Penkovsky incident and the less famous but more serious Stanislaw Petrov incident—nuclear holocaust may have been averted only because individuals disobeyed orders. Chatham House also details many instances of “sloppy practice.” Two examples: President Jimmy Carter once left the U.S. nuclear launch codes in a suit that was taken to the dry cleaners, and in 1981 when Ronald Reagan was shot, his bloody pants containing the launch codes ended up in the hands of FBI agents who had no authorization to possess them. There are instances of sloppy practice from as recently as 2013. If you’re in the mood for some sobering reading, the report is here. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 12 2014
SUICIDAL TENDENCIES
When it comes to suicide there’s nothing like the real thing.


It’s been a few months, so we’re bringing Hitler back on The National Police Gazette. This example from March 1951 is the twenty-first Hitler cover we’ve located, all of them from the 1950s and 1960s, which means he starred for the Gazette at least yearly for two decades. But of course, that’s just an average based on the issues we’ve found so far. We know for certain there were others, and ultimately we’ll probably determine that he was featured closer to twice a year. As you can see yourself, this time Gazette is concerned with Hitler’s fake suicide, which journo Harvey Wilson says was propaganda put out by the Soviets to cover for their failure to capture him as Berlin burned.

Leaving aside the question of who’s really doing the propagandizing here, it’s a clever little pivot by the Gazette, which went from merely claiming Hitler had escaped to blaming the escape on Moscow, resulting in a nifty mash-up of two of post-War America’s biggest boogeymen—Hitler and Khrushchev. Later the Gazette would claim Hitler or his henchmen were tight with other enemies of the American power elite, including Abdel Nasser and Juan Peron. One year after the above issue came out, Gazette turned around and in its May 1952 issue, at right, blamed Hitler’s escape on the Allies. And let's not forget the infamous Hitler-in-Antarctica story, truly one of the all-time creative highlights of mid-century tabloid journalism. Well, wherever Hitler fled, the Gazette’ll straighten it out for us in due time. We just have to keep digging up issues. Meanwhile, a couple of scans below, and more from the Gazette to come.


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Intl. Notebook Oct 10 2012
NUCLEAR FRONTIER
If this is the new Earth we’ll just stick with the old one.

Today in 1957 in the Soviet Union, this photo was shot of an underwater nuclear detonation at the Novaya Zemlya Test Site, located on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Novaya Zemlya means “new earth” in Russian, but might as well mean “nuclear earth,” considering 224 tests were conducted on the islands amounting to 265 megatons of TNT. To put that in perspective, all the explosives used during World War II, including the two nuclear bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, amounted to only two megatons.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 22 2012
CIRCUS ARTISTRY
Nothing says fun like murderous clowns.

Ever notice how often pulps and noirs are centered on circuses and carnivals? We noticed it too, which is why we put together a collection of circus posters from the U.S.A., Belgium, Holland, Britain, the Soviet Union, et.al., circa 1930s to 1960s. Which circus would we see? The dynamite tossing clowns just below are enticing, but Big Otto the blood-sweating hippopotamus is by far the star attraction of this group. Otto and more below, and check out a collection of magic posters here

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Intl. Notebook Jan 15 2012
LAKE EERIE
Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink.

The explosion and mushroom cloud you see here were generated by the Soviet nuclear blast Chagan, which took place at the Semipalatinsk Test Site today in 1965. You notice we didn’t describe this as a “test” like we have with the other explosions we’ve posted. That’s because it wasn’t. The explosion was designed to create an artificial lake. It worked, but the lake is of course still radioactive today. You have to laugh. Where could the Soviets have gotten such a crazy idea? Well, they got it from the Americans, who three years earlier had investigated the use of nuclear explosions for earth moving purposes with their Sedan test. What were the results? That experiment dumped more radioactive fallout on U.S. residents than any other nuclear test ever conducted. Below, two shots of lovely Lake Chagan. 

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Vintage Pulp Nov 25 2011
THE REAL DEAL
From Moscow to Washington, D.C., The National Police Gazette dishes and deals.

This later period National Police Gazette published this month in 1972 is packed with scandal and intrigue, with stories on Vegas dealers, Washington, D.C. politics, Soviet assassins, and Hollywood activism. The activism story focuses on Jane Fonda and her shunning of Tinseltown trappings to devote herself to various causes. The most cringe-worthy line is when editors express curiosity at her advocating for “redskins.” Readers are reminded that even though Fonda was lately wearing her hair short and dressing in jeans and t-shirts, she was once a babe, and for proof they include a photo of her in costume as Barbarella. The story itself serves as an indication of one thing the women’s lib movement was fighting—the male perception that women could be only one of three things: beautiful ornaments, loyal partners, or royal pains. Fonda’s intellect was inconvenient for fans and studio execs alike, but her status forced people to listen to what she said. The Washington story is a bit more convoluted. Editors claim that the Kennedy clan forced 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern to axe his original vice presidential running mate Tom Eagleton in favor of Sargent Shriver, who happened to be a Kennedy in-law. The story carries no quotes, attributions, or corroborating sources of any sort. It’s written as a narrative and is disdainful in tone. In a sense, it’s similar to the responsibility-free journalism seen on American cable television today. But was the story true? Very possibly. The Kennedys had substantial influence in the Democratic Party at the time. Did their choice matter? No. McGovern lost anyway. Scans below. 

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Intl. Notebook Jul 11 2011
PROPAGANDA WARS
Sometimes the truth is hard to find.

What you’re looking at above are six issues of the Japanese World War II-era propaganda magazine Shashin Shuho, aka Pictorial Weekly, published by Japan’s Naikaku Johobu, or Information Department of the Cabinet. The interiors are a mix of military and lifestyle stories, which is to say, in addition to glorifications of the armed forces, you might encounter pieces as diverse as a profile on a swim team or a photo essay of a fishing trawler hauling in a catch. Whatever the specific subject matter, all the content projects the image of an industrious nation on the upswing. When Shashin Shuho launched in February 1937, Japan was headed for war. By July of that year (with economic help from Germany, the Soviet Union and the U.S.) it would be fighting China. When that conflict folded into World War II (and sides were swapped so that the U.S. was now an enemy of Japan) Shashin Shuho continued to publish. As the war turned against Japan the patriotic tone of the magazine remained consistent, and it only closed its doors in July 1945, when it was clear to the entire population that the Allies would win. The U.S. hit the Japanese mainland with two atomic bombs a month later. We can easily identify Shashin Shuho as propaganda, but of course, we’re outside observers with more than half a century of hindsight on our side. What’s perhaps a bit more difficult—but is a worthwhile exercise for those inclined—is to spot propaganda being pushed at you, in your own culture, today. We have more Shashin Shuho, which we’ll share down the line. 

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Vintage Pulp May 26 2011
CLOUD ON THE HORIZON
From out of a clear blue sky.

Above is an unusual war-themed cover of The National Police Gazette from May 1953. In addition to stoking up a little Soviet fear with an A-bomb photo illustration, editors play the Hitler card, telling us at upper right that Der Führer is still alive. They made this claim scores of times after the end of World War II, and it never seemed to get old (we documented that phenomenon here). And since the U.S. was embroiled in a proxy war against China in Korea when this issue appeared, that conflict gets a mention too, in the banner at the bottom of the cover. All in all it's three enemies for the price of one—and a small insight into the nuclear fears that shaped the post-war generation. Do you ever wonder what fears shape us that they'll study in the future? We could take a guess, but then we might get real scared, so let's not think about it.

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Intl. Notebook May 15 2011
SMOKE BREAK
Cigarette, cigarette, burning up time.

Below is a collection of vintage cigarette advertising posters from Russia, circa 1900 to 1950, with art by various wonderful unknowns. If you want to see more Russian and Soviet posters of virtually endless variety, click over to the website eng.plakaty.ru 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 3 2010
THE WENNERSTROM AFFAIR
The guy who kicked the hornet’s nest.


On the cover of this National Police Gazette from December 1965 is a once-infamous Swedish spy named Stig Wennerström. Wennerström was an Air Force colonel who passed Swedish, U.S., and NATO secrets to the Soviets. He’s labeled a red by the Gazette, but that’s a stretch—he served the U.S.S.R. for fifteen years, true, but before that he may have spied for Nazi Germany, who as fascists were as near the opposite end of the political spectrum as it was possible to be. The obvious motivation, then, must have been money, but no, Wennerström didn’t spy for profit any more than he did for political ideology. He came from a moneyed Swedish family and as a colonel was well paid. Nor did fear of blackmail seem to drive him, as there was nothing seriously embarrassing in his past. The answers wouldn’t come until after he was caught.

The Swedish state police—SAPO—had directed Wennerström’s maid to snoop around his home. She eventually found incriminating film negatives that resulted in his arrest, and he was convicted of four counts of treason and sentenced to twenty years in prison. During those years he finally answered some questions about his motivation. He claimed thatat some point during his time in the military he came to believe that peace could only be maintained through balance, and the secrets he passed helped maintain that balance. The answer was unsatisfactory to most observers, but that was the only one Wennerström would ever furnish.

Stig Wennerström served ten years of his sentence and secured parole at age 77. Twenty years later in 2004 while living in a seniors' home, the 97-year-old ex-spy was interviewed by the magazine Aret Runt. It was clear this would probably be his last interview, and he was asked if he had any regrets. His answer: “If I could live my life over again, I am stupid enough to let it be exactly the way it has been so far.” He died two years later at age 99, the questions surrounding his spying mostly unanswered, the crimes he committed mostly fading into history, and the secrets he passed entirely obsolete.  

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 01
1902—French Go to Moon
Georges Méliès' Le voyage dans la lune, aka A Trip to the Moon, is released in France. It is the first science-fiction film ever made.
1939—Germany Starts World War II
Nazi Germany, along with the Soviet Union and Slovakia, attack Poland, beginning the chain reaction that leads to war across Europe.
1972—Fischer Beats Spassky
In Reykjavík, Iceland, American Bobby Fischer beats Russian Boris Spassky and becomes the world chess champion. The match had been portrayed as a Cold War battle, and thus was a major propaganda victory for the United States.
August 31
1948—Mitchum and Leeds Snared in Drug Raid
Actor Robert Mitchum and actress Lila Leeds are arrested in a Hollywood drug raid and convicted of criminal conspiracy to possess marijuana. Mitchum serves 43 days in jail, but in 1951 the conviction is overturned when it is exposed as a set-up. The entire episode has zero effect on his popularity. Leeds, conversely, becomes a heroin addict while behind bars and is never able to rekindle her career.
1997—Princess Diana Killed in Accident
Princess Diana dies after a car crash in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris, along with Egyptian jet-setter Dodi Al-Fayed, and driver Henri Paul, who loses control of the car while attempting to elude paparazzi. Despite lengthy resuscitation attempts, including internal cardiac massage, Diana dies at 4 a.m. local time. Her funeral six days later is watched by an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide.
August 30
1918—Lenin Shot
Russian political revolutionary Fanny Kaplan shoots Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, wounding him in the shoulder and jaw. Lenin survives, she doesn't—she's executed three days later.
1963—Washington-Moscow Hotline Established
A hotline between U.S. and Soviet leaders, known as the Washington-Moscow hotline or Red Telephone, goes into operation. It linked the White House to the Kremlin at the height of the Cold War, and presumably still does today.
2006—Glenn Ford Dies
Canadian actor Glenn Ford, who starred in some of the best films ever made, including Gilda, The Big Heat, and the original 3:10 to Yuma, dies in his home in Beverly Hills, USA. He was still in love with Rita Hayworth, his one-time co-star who had died years earlier. Reputedly, his last words were, "You don't keep Rita Hayworth waiting."

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