In the decades after World War II, mutual distrust between the United States and the Soviet Union led to international tension and the chilling threat of nuclear warfare in an era commonly called the “Cold War.” As early as 1946, six out of every ten Americans believed that the Soviet Union was more interested in world dominance than world peace. Despite a series of ongoing disarmament talks, cartoonists—like other Americans—did not find solace in either Joseph Stalin’s or Nikita Khrushchev’s terms for peace in the 1950s and 1960s. Few American editorial cartoonists favored the Soviet government during the Cold War, but they had divergent responses to the fear of nuclear warfare.
HERBLOCK, Washington Post
Tired of the Soviet propaganda offering peace at a steep penalty, Herblock uses an exhausted and leashed dove as a metaphor for the lack of real negotiation. In 1951, during Big Four talks in Paris, in which diplomats attempted to reunify Germany, Stalin’s envoy Andrei Gromyko called for peace but successfully resisted surrendering Soviet-held territory. The Soviets initiated the conference, but the West argued the Soviets’ true goal was to prevent Germany from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
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HERBLOCK, Washington Post
Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev fostered change in the Soviet Union, introducing his new policy of “peaceful coexistence” with the West. Nevertheless, the Berlin Crisis of 1961, which took place after 20 percent of the East German population had fled to the West, pushed him to the point that his official statements became contradictory. Herblock uses the metaphor of a flight path to portray the circuitous nature of Soviet propaganda as the Berlin Wall sealed the border crossing.
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DON HESSE, St. Louis Globe-Democrat
In 1953, Georgi Malenkov succeeded Joseph Stalin as premier of the Soviet Union and launched the “peace offensive” with the statement that there is “no litigious or unresolved question which could not be settled by peaceful means on the basis of the mutual agreement of the countries concerned.” Don Hesse, cartoonist for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat between 1951 and 1984, believed that the “peace offensive” was merely propaganda that undermined Western defense.
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JOHN FISCHETTI, Newspaper Enterprise Association
Fearing they had inferior nuclear capacity, the Soviets launched the “peace offensive” in 1953, engaging in a propaganda campaign against the use of nuclear weapons. Cartoonist John Fischetti believed that the Soviets deceptively offered peace talks as a gesture to distract the West from their real intention, to overwhelm the “free world” with their military might. Fischetti worked for several newspapers during his thirty-nine-year career as an editorial cartoonist, including the Newspaper Enterprise Association between 1948 and 1962.
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L. D. WARREN, Cincinnati Enquirer
Using a rather menacing caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, cartoonist L. D. Warren accuses Soviet premier Khrushchev of lying during the 1958 Geneva Summit aimed at reducing nuclear weapons. While calling for a peace summit, Khrushchev openly warned Europeans of the dangers to which their governments exposed them by failing to negotiate with him. At the same time, Khrushchev claimed, “I am proud to be regarded as a propagandist against war, for disarmament,” which increased international mistrust of him. L. D. Warren spent the last twenty-six years of his fifty-year cartooning career with the Cincinnati Enquirer.
L. D. Warren (1906–1992). Alice Remains in Wonderland, 1958. Published in the Cincinnati Enquirer, February 25, 1958. Crayon, ink, opaque white, and blue pencil drawing. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (015.00.00)
LC-DIG-ppmsca-07900 © Estate of L.D. Warren
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HERBLOCK, Washington Post
As the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission discussed the prevention of nuclear weapon manufacturing around the world and further uses of such bombs in war, Washington Post cartoonist Herblock drew his menacing character Mr. Atom to emphasize the fragility of life. Herblock wrote, “He wasn’t planned as a continuing character, but after his first appearance he kept muscling into the pictures as a warning that he wasn’t going to be permanently on our side alone and that if he weren’t controlled he would cut loose on the whole world.”
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HERBLOCK, Washington Post
Nuclear weapons and the fear of annihilation framed Cold War diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. As Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev prepared to test a 50-megaton bomb, Americans pressured the United Nations to propose banning the detonation, fearing the impact such an explosion would have on the world. Herblock placed the threat in the hands of the Soviet premier, as the hairy Mr. Atom smiles approvingly over the Khrushchev’s shoulder.
Herblock (1909–2001). “You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet,” 1961. Published in the Washington Post, October 20, 1961. Graphite, India ink, and opaque white drawing. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (012.01.00)
LC-DIG-hlb-05461 © Herb Block Foundation
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WILLARD COMBES, Cleveland Press
After the detonation of the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, at the end of World War II, world leaders and scientists alike discussed their further military use. Although the United States was the only world power to have used nuclear weapons in 1945, it did not take long for the Soviet Union, England, France, and China to manufacture them. Willard Combes, who drew for the Cleveland Press for twenty-eight years, warned of the dangers but, unlike other cartoonists, chose to use a classic cartoonish bomb.
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GIB CROCKETT, Washington Star
Quoting Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, who threatened, “The 50-and 100-megaton bombs will always hang over their heads like the sword of Damocles,” cartoonist Gib Crockett of the Washington Star, imagined the very real peril under which citizens lived during the Cold War. The Soviets detonated “Big Ivan,” also called the “Tsar Bomba,” on October 30, 1961. While it had no practical use as a military weapon, it worked well as a diplomatic one.
Gib Crockett (1912–2000). “If Damocles Survived I Guess I Can Too!” 1961. Published in the Washington Star, December 10, 1961. India ink, crayon, and opaque white drawing. Gift of Gibson Crockett, 1973. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (014.01.00)
LC-DIG-acd-2a07756 © Estate of Gib Crockett
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EDMUND VALTMAN, Hartford Times
Days before the United States resumed atmospheric nuclear testing under Operation Dominic in 1962, Hartford Times cartoonist Edmund Valtman expressed the opinion that Soviet intransigence had pushed the United States to its limit. The test ban negotiations fell apart when the Soviets rejected an American inspection clause, arguing it violated their borders. Valtman, who had lived under Soviet rule in his native Estonia, drew cartoons for the Hartford Times between 1951 and 1975. In this cartoon, he clearly blamed the Soviets for escalating nuclear weapons testing.
Edmund Valtman (1914–2005). ‘He’s Driving Me Nuts—I’m on the Verge of Blowing My Top,’ 1962. Published in the Hartford Times, April 21, 1962. India ink and opaque white drawing. Art Wood Collection of Cartoon & Caricature, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (015.01.00)
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