The Cold War was an extremely scary time for many American citizens. There was constantly a fear of getting an atomic bomb dropped on the United States every day. Kids had to grow up in this time period as well. It was a scary time for many kids as all day they heard about the prospect of an atomic bomb being dropped on them. The Cold War and the possibility of an atomic bomb being dropped had a profound impact on children during this time.
Kids would watch videos during school about the atomic bomb and what to do if the bomb is dropped. Many kids were forced to wear military dog tags so their bodies could be identified just like a soldier would. TV programs would be interrupted by emergency broadcasting systems where they would show videos on how to survive the dropping of an atomic bomb. Kids got all their information from pamphlets, films which were created by government officials (Jacobs 7 ). Many kids began wondering if there would be a future for them, or if they would be the last kids no earth. All of this combined created a me first mentality, and the me generation where kids thought that they better do it now because they might not get another chance to do it (Bogle 9 ). This was the first generation to be raised under the real possibility of the world being blown up, it was a scary time to be a child during the 1950s (Baby 14).
School was becoming a time and place to fear rather than a place to enjoy and to learn. Many teachers began to question the school’s approach to nuclear preparedness as grade schoolers were becoming extremely fearful and were constantly looking out windows for soviet planes and bombs (Roberts 12). The teachers thought the government was using a psychic numbing tactic and that it was not working. Schools were constantly doing drills where kids would hide under desks and evacuate the school in the least amount of time possibly. These drills were instead of tornado and fire drills (Cold War 1). The government would show Bert the turtle in Duck and Cover videos that teach kids what to do if an atomic bomb were to explode (Duck and Cover video).
Duck and Cover
The Duck and Cover films taught kids what to do if they were without an adult and the Soviets drop a bomb. Kids were supposed to duck to avoid things flying through the air and cover to keep from getting hurt or burned. Kids were supposed to hide under their desks (Duck and Cover 6). The purpose of the film was to teach and prepare kids for a nuclear explosion.Films they watched were also supposed to support American pride and teach kids that Soviets were in the wrong and Americans were in the right. This is what the kids went through on a daily basis during the school weeks. Teachers would yell at any moment to duck and the kids would have to crawl under their desks. States began issuing dog tags for all students, New York was the first state to do it and it cost them 159,000 dollars. It was unspoken that the dog tags would help identify the students after a nuclear explosion ( Greenberg 6).
Family life was very different for children as well. Parents began to spoil their kids because the fear for a short life and they wanted to take their minds off the Atomic Bomb and the Soviets. Which again reinforced the idea of the me generation and kids being spoiled and not having to work for anything in life ( Bogle 5). Bomb shelters were becoming extremely important in the day to day life of the American life. Parents and teachers were constantly trying to get kids used to the idea of being in a bomb shelter. Kids had seen the effects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan and were constantly living with the fear of that happening to them, as well as constantly being reminded of that possibility by the drills and broadcasting systems that they were exposed to ( Schweble 2). Girls were being taught how to furnish bomb shelters rather than homes and kids were drawing pictures of bomb shelters rather than of houses. Their artwork was going inside of the bomb shelters, kids lives during this time revolved around the Cold War and the idea of a nuclear explosion.
The cold war was a traumatic time to have a child hood. There was no escape for children during this time from the looming possibility of the Soviets dropping an atomic bomb on them. They were constantly being reminded of this idea in school and at home. Whether it be drills at school or watching preparedness videos, kids were constantly being reminded of their future. For some kids it felt like the sword of Damocles was hanging over them by a rope and it could be cut at anytime ( Ron 3). Kids were not growing up in a healthy way because of this “sword” that was hanging over them, they were constantly watching for the bomb or flash and there was no hope for a better future. It created an unhealthy environment at school and at home was no better, there was no escape for children and because of this they were becoming the me generation and were becoming traumatized. Once the Berlin wall came down and the Cold war was coming to an end many kids remember feeling a huge relief wash over them as they could finally stop having to constantly worry about an atomic bomb. Growing up in the 1950s was like having a giant sword over top of you at all times and there was nothing the kids could do about it.
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"Cold War had impact on Children of the 1950s and 60s." Jacksonville.com, 3 May
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Duck and Cover. 1951.
"Duck and Cover." Wessets. Accessed 5 Sept. 2016.
Greenberg, David. "Fallout Can Be Fun." Slate. Accessed 31 Aug. 2016.
Jacobs, Robert. Atomic Kids: Duck and Cover and Atomic Alert Teach American
Children How to Survive Atomic Attack. E-book.
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Schwebel, Milton. "How Will the Children Fare." clarku.edu.
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