The threat of atomic warfare hung over the post-World War II era like a dark cloud. In September 1949 President Harry Truman announced that the Soviet Union had successfully exploded an atomic bomba threat to American military superiority. Truman soon announced that the United States would develop an even more powerful hydrogen bomb. The Soviets followed suit, as did Britain, France, and China. The nuclear arms race had begun, and for the first time it appeared that civilization might be destroyed.
Herb Block's "Mr. Atom" personification of "the bomb" in many cartoons has reminded readers of the threat of nuclear annihilation. Here, a new international "atomic clock" developed by using atomic waves to provide a world standard of measurement gives its own reminder, as the great powers fail to reach agreement on the control of atomic energy.
"It's the same thing without mechanical problems"
Through the Marshall Plan, the U.S. poured money into rebuilding Western Europe after the ravages of war. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin refused to allow the Eastern European nations to join the Marshall Plan and announced in its place a Council for Economic Mutual Assistance. The Soviet Union had no intention of underwriting the costs of recovery, and the plan existed primarily as a propaganda device.
"We've been using more of a roundish one"
President Harry Truman relieved General Douglas MacArthur of his Far Eastern command for publicly undercutting the president's Korean War policies, and the general returned to Washington, where he and Defense Secretary George Marshall provided conflicting testimonies to congressional committees. MacArthur continued to propose more aggressive tactics against communist China. Marshall argued that MacArthur's tactics would draw the United States into a third world war.
Albert Einstein lived here
Herb Block pays tribute to scientist Albert Einstein, possibly the greatest man of the twentieth century. With the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism, Einstein left Germany in 1932 to move to America where he took part in the Institute for Advanced Studies of Princeton. He became a U.S. citizen in 1940. Einstein's theories, especially the Special Theory of Relativity, expanded the scope of thinking, revolutionized scientific ideas, and provided the basis for the development and use of nuclear energy. On the basis of urgent appeals and information from fellow scientists in Europe who knew that the Nazis were working on the development of nuclear fission, Einstein wrote a letter to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that resulted in the U.S. project to build "the bomb." The cartoon appeared on news of Einstein's death on April 18, 1955.
"However, we've been pretty successful in keeping American newspapermen out of China"
The Suez Crisis of 1954 raised the specter of increased Soviet interest in the oil-rich Middle East. On January 5, 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower asked Congress for authority to provide economic and military assistance to contain communism in the Middle East. Some months earlier, Eisenhower's State Department, under John Foster Dulles, banned travel by United States citizens into Communist China despite China's offer of visas to American newsmen. Walter Lippmann wrote: "by what right, and on what principle, does he claim to have the power to decide how much information it is desirable' for the American people to have?"
"However, we've been pretty successful in keeping American newspapermen out of China," January 6, 1957. Ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing on layered paper. Published in the Washington Post (41) LC-USZ62-126903
"How about one more try?"
In spring 1962, President John F. Kennedy, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, and Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union were wrestling with a formula for a nuclear test ban agreement. Kennedy told a press conference that if an accord were not reached soon, "the genie [might be] out of the bottle." On May 29, the Washington Post reported that thirty-four senators led by Senator Hubert Humphrey and Senator Thomas J. Dodd, had proposed a ban on atmospheric and underwater testing. A limited Test Ban Treaty was finally ratified in September 1963, the first limitation on the production of nuclear weapons.
"All are gone, the old familiar fasces"
By 1962, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and many other military dictators of the first part of the twentieth century had died or been driven from power. Still grasping the reins was their ally, General Francisco Franco whose Fascist government ruled Spain. In the title, Herb Block modifies a Charles Lamb line, replacing "faces" with "fasces," the word for an ax tied into a bundle of rods that was the ancient Roman symbol for authority and later the source for the term "fascism."
Communist China exploded its first atomic bomb in October 1964, and the State Department warned in February 1965 that the Chinese, under Mao Zedong, were preparing another nuclear test. Although the Soviet Union insisted that the Chinese tests did not pose a threat, Herb Block's menacing, blossoming caricature of leader Mao Zedong suggests that China's emergence as an unbridled nuclear power was, and continues to be, a world-wide concern.