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Spies, Aliens, and Monsters: Fears of the Cold War

Scene still from Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Select information from the provided sources to summarize some of the anxieties and concerns Americans had during the early Cold War, giving examples of how these fears influenced popular culture and daily life.

Clarifying Questions

  • What was the Cold War? Which nations were involved in it?


  • Cold War: Period of open hostility between the Soviet Union and the United States following World War II to 1991, characterized by a power struggle between Soviet communist and U.S. capitalist ideologies.
  • Communism: An economic system in which the government controls the means of production. Public ownership and control allow the government to determine all aspects of production, including how much to produce and for whom.
  • Duck and cover: Countermeasures designed to protect a person from harm in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear explosion. During the drill, one is encouraged to duck under an object and cover as much skin as possible. Duck and cover drills were widely practiced by schools in the 1950s during the height of Cold War fears of nuclear attack.
  • Radiation: Emission of energy containing nuclear radioactivity, dangerous when emitted at high levels from nuclear explosions.

Background Information

Following the end of World War II in 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union, who were previously allies against Nazi Germany, turned against each other in an ideological battle between capitalism and communism. This conflict between the two superpowers, which lasted from the late 1940s to 1991, was referred to as the Cold War. The threat of the spread of communism not only influenced U.S. military operations, but also day-to-day life in the United States. Fears that communist "sympathizers" and spies were infiltrating U.S. institutions and government gripped the public. In addition, anxiety grew among a public that was under the constant risk of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union and faced heavy losses sustained in conflicts overseas like the Vietnam War. These fears and anxieties of the Cold War were explored in the popular culture of the period.


MLA Citation

"Spies, Aliens, and Monsters: Fears of the Cold War." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2020, historyhub.abc-clio.com/Support/Display/2240717?cid=272. Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

Entry ID: 2240717

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