Vintage Pulp Nov 20 2014
SAMMY NEUTRON: BOY GENIUS
Police Gazette conveniently forgets who invented what and when.


Police Gazette editors hit the panic button with this November 1961 cover claiming the Soviets have a death ray bomb. For a mere twenty-five cents readers were able to acquire new nightmare material by reading about this superweapon, which in the story is called an n-bomb. They’re of course referring to a neutron bomb, which by releasing deadly unshielded neutrons would minimize destruction and contamination of property but maximize human death. Not quite rays, so much as a wave emitted by a massive air burst, but still, the new element it brought to the nuclear party was wantonly scattered neutrons, so, okay—rays it is. It must have been a real stunner for Gazette’s millions of readers to learn of this horrific weapon, but unless the Russian scientist who brainstormed it into existence was named Sam Cohen we have to call bullshit on this tall tale, for it was Samuel T. Cohen—an American physicist—who conceived and developed the neutron bomb.

Cohen was an ex-Manhattan Project scientist who spent his career in nukes. He promoted his bomb relentlessly, defending it as “the most sane and moral weapon ever devised,” because “when the war is over, the world is still intact.” See, this is what can happen when you live in a military bubble—Cohen defined morality not by the neutron bomb’s extra-lethal effects on actual living and feeling humans, but by the survival of (reusable) material assets. At its most compact it could blast an area scarcely a mile across, however only a blind man could fail tosee that tactical neutron weapons were simply the thin edge of a wedge opening a tightly sealed nuclear door.
 
Of course, once the Soviets caught wind of this abomination they developed their own neutron bomb, prompting the U.S. to accelerate its program (see: arms race), until Ronald Reagan ordered 700 finished warheads to be deployed in Europe. It was only mass protest by Europeans—those ungrateful victims of two previous devastating continental wars—that thwarted Reagan’s plans. They realized that neutron weapons made nuclear war more likely, not less likely. If this wasn’t clear enough at the time, it became crystalline when China announced in 1999 that it had built its own neutron bomb. As you have probably deduced by now, the entire point of the Gazette’s death ray story is to urge President John F. Kennedy to get off his ass and develop an American n-bomb to counter the Soviet one. You almost have to wonder if the text was fed to Gazette editors from Sam Cohen’s office.
 
Moving on, Gazette wouldn’t be Gazette without at least a little Hitler, so in addition to the death ray feature it offers up photos of Adolf relaxing with Eva Braun at a retreat in the Bavarian Alps. In contrast to the

many stories about Hitler living in bitter, defeated isolation in South America, here readers see happy Hitler, socializing during the 1930s with friends and compatriots. Next up, Gazette gives readers their fix of celebrity content with Rita Hayworth, who had been married five times and whose problem the editors are only too happy to diagnose—in their esteemed opinion she’s just too wild to be tamed. And lastly, Gazette presses panic button number two by tying the nascent civil rights movement to communist agitation from overseas. This is a tabloid tale that was told often in the 1960s because, well, we don’t know—because who besides the puppets of foreign governments would ever deign to demand equal rights? Anyway, we have a few scans below, and an entire stack of early 1970s Gazettes we hope to get to soonish.


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Intl. Notebook Oct 26 2014
DESERT DE BACA
Sounds a lot like debacle to us.

The De Baca nuclear test was part of Operation Hardtack II, a series of thirty-seven Nevada Test Ground blasts squeezed into seven weeks in order to beat a looming deadline—the beginning of a U.S./U.S.S.R. nuclear moratorium. The test ban failed when the Soviets began testing again three years later, a political crisis precipitating that failure, specifically a showdown concerning the status of East Berlin. The test ban would have failed anyway, though, as all test bans have failed, and all future test bans will fail, because nuclear weapons are seen by weak nations as the ultimate defense against invasion by stronger nations. And of course, they’re right. Since only the year 2000, nuclear-armed nations have invaded non-nuclear nations nine times. Conversely, since the dawn of the nuclear era in 1945, a period comprising nearly seventy military encroachments, no nuclear nation has had its mainland invaded. The De Baca test occurred today in 1958.

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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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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
November 25
1947—Hollywood Blacklist Instituted
The day after ten Hollywood writers and directors are cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to give testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the group, known as the "Hollywood Ten," are blacklisted by Hollywood movie studios.
November 24
1963—Ruby Shoots Oswald
Nightclub owner and mafia associate Jack Ruby fatally shoots alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of Dallas police department headquarters. The shooting is broadcast live on television and silences the only person known for certain to have had some connection to the Kennedy killing.
1971—D.B. Cooper Escapes from Airplane
In the U.S., during a thunderstorm over Washington state, a hijacker calling himself Dan Cooper, aka D. B. Cooper, parachutes from a Northwest Orient Airlines flight with $200,000 in ransom money. Neither he nor the money are ever found.
November 23
1936—First Edition of Life Published
Henry Luce launches Life, a weekly magazine with an emphasis on photo-journalism. Life dominates the U.S. market for more than forty years, publishing scores of iconic photographs that remain some of the most recognizable ever shot, and peaking at one point with a circulation of more than 13.5 million copies a week.
1963—Doctor Who Debuts on BBC
The BBC broadcasts the first episode of Doctor Who, starring William Hartnell as a mysterious alien who time travels in his spaceship, the TARDIS. With his companions, he explores time and space while facing a variety of foes and righting wrongs. The show would become the longest-running science fiction series ever broadcast.

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