10 Insane Things The USA Did During The Cold War

10 Insane Things The USA Did During The Cold War 10 99 Spy Balloons Giant hot air balloons used to spy on the Soviets? That’s what the U

S military and the CIA had in mind when they came up with the idea in the 1950s Spying on each other was fundamental for both the US and the Soviets during the war They had to constantly come up with unexpected ideas to keep surprising and outmatching the enemy So, the U

S resorted to using balloons They should have been nearly invisible to radar and even if they were spotted, at their cruising height of 16,800m – 55,000 feet – they would apparently be out of the reach of Russian fighters Still, Project Genetrix as it was called encountered more than one obstacle on its path Some of the balloons did get through the borders indeed Out of the500 released, 40 yielded usable photographs, ending with over 1

4m square miles – almost 8% of the country – of Soviet territory photographedThe mission wasn't exactly a success, and so eventually, President Eisenhower decided to abandon the project for more reliable pursuits 9 Project Iceworm Launched in 1958 by the US Army, the top-secret Project Iceworm was probably one of the most audacious experiments of the Cold War

Why was it dubbed “Iceworm”? According to the Army documents and drawings of the time, the plan was to hide hundreds of ballistic missiles under Greenland’s ice caps Concealed beneath the Arctic snow, the sites would be the perfect hiding place for missiles to use in a potential nuclear strike on the Soviet mainland The project almost came to life when a prototype ice base, Camp Century, was constructed – under the guise of a scientific research facility – to test out the army designs The base consisted of underground tunnels carved out of the ice sheet and reinforced with steel It also had living quarters for more than 200 people and possessed its own laboratories, hospital and theatre

To support such a huge and powerful structure they needed a nuclear reactor That wasn’t so good for Mother Nature and the icy temperatures of Greenland Shifts in the ice caps caused many of the tunnels that would hold weapons to become warped and structurally unsound So, in 1966, the Army closed Camp Century 8

Drugged Bears And in between air balloons and Iceworm tunnels, in the 1950s, the US Army also found the time to drug bears Why? Basically, they needed to test the B-58 Hustler, a new aircraft designed to be a strategic winning weapon in case of necessity The plane was the pride of the US

Air Force during the Cold War The fighter was the first bomber capable of hitting Mach 2 – twice the speed of sound – flights Its design would enable it to drop nuclear weapons into the Soviet Union The only problem? The bomber's ejection capsule seemed to have some design flaws So, after engineers developed stronger ejection capsules, it came the time of testing it

First on the ground, using people recruited from unemployment lines, then in the air But, risking people's lives, when you can use bears? American black bears have in fact the approximate size of an adult human male, so the Air Force decided to drug the bears with sedatives and then strap them into the ejection capsules to be tested 7 Missile In The Rail Car When aircraft and space missions fail you, it’s time to go back to the basics and focus on the good old transports, like trains – sorta In the late 1980s, one of the U

S Army’s highest concerns was that, in case of an attack by the Soviets, the country’s missile silos would be easy targets as they were stationary The Air Force therefore came up with the… interesting idea of the Peacekeeper Rail Garrison Despite the misleading name, the Peacekeeper was a mobile nuclear arsenal consisting of 50 MX missiles kept in specially designed train cars The trains were stored in reinforced buildings around the country, to be moved across 120,000 miles of commercial railroad track, in case of attack, to strategically frustrate the Soviets Each of the trains carried two rail cars that housed nuclear missiles

By opening the car’s roof and raising a special launch pad, they could fire their weapons on the go – Bon Voyage President Ronald Reagan approved plans for the Peacekeeper Rail Garrison in 1986 amid criticisms that it was unnecessary and overly pricey The project, approved by President Reagan in 1986, was dropped only five years later when the Cold War ended 6

Shoelace Codes If you’re a lover of spy movies you know how codes are indispensable during certain operations But what makes a code a good enemy-proof weapon? You will probably find the answer on the official CIA Manual Of Trickery And Deception – Gosh, I sound like telesales, but how cool is it that there’s an actual spy manual? The manuscript was written in 1953 by magician John Mulholland Back in the 1970s, the CIA ordered the copies to be destroyed However, one survived and reached the 2000s

The material was uncovered by espionage historian Keith Melton, and Bob Wallace, a former CIA director, and finally declassified for the whole world So, now we know some of the codes used by CIA agents during the Cold War involved shoelace, an excellent covert communication method According to Mulholland's manual, and as also reported in the book, The Cold War Spy Pocket Manual, shoelaces are inserted in shoes in three standard ways, and any deviation in these ways becomes useful for signalling None of these alternate ways will attract attention, yet each is obvious to one looking for such a signal 5

Animal Spies We should all know at this point that using unexpected means was the key to win the war on both parts, but resorting to “animal spies” goes beyond any imagination Let’s start with Acoustic Kitty, a CAT-astrophic CIA project launched in the 1960s, that became known only in 2001, when reported by Victor Marchetti, an executive assistant to the director of the CIA at that time The aim of the project was, of course, to spy on the Soviets This time using microphones implanted in cats' ear canal, small radio transmitters at the base of the animals' skull and a thin wire into their fur Phase two involved releasing the modified kittens into the Soviet Embassy in Washington

However, when it came time for the inaugural mission, the cat selected by the agents failed all the expectations Once released from a van, at 10 feet from the embassy, the poor animal was struck by a passing taxi and killed A decade later, they tried again with pigeons equipped with tiny cameras The aim was to train the birds to fly over any enemy target and to return with photo images snapped at much closer range than planes or satellites 4

Psychic Programs Animals played a useful role, all in all However, there’s no secret weapon more valuable than the human mind In fact, both the US and the Soviets believed that psychics could have been of great help for espionage purposes The Soviets were the first to notice their potential, already in 1920, when they started a psychic program that continued throughout the Cold War

Noting the Soviets were so seriously dedicated to the program, the US didn’t want to miss any good opportunity So, in the 1970s, the CIA started their own psychic program, investigating concepts like Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis, and even a kind of Spidey Sense Unfortunately, the project cost more than it actually gave in return With nearly $20 million lost in it, the program was shot down in 1995

As a separate project, the US Army also had a psychic program, which they started in 1973 However, its life was even more brief than the CIA’s program and it stopped in 1985 It probably didn’t help either that the National Academy of Sciences had less than favourable things to say about it when they assessed it, in that same year

3 The Hollywood Ten At the beginning of the Cold War, Hollywood studios banned every professional of the sector who was allegedly believed to be – or had been – affiliated with the Communist Party This resulted in a proper Hollywood Blacklist of media workers ineligible for employment, according to the standards of the studios, that lasted until the 1960s Among the notable names considered a threat by the FBI at the time, there were Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Lena Horne and Dorothy Parker You may have heard about Dalton Trumbo – Does Bryan Cranston's 2015 Academy Award nomination for the movie Trumbo ring a bell? Trumbo, together with 9 other people, became known as the Hollywood Ten, the first 10 members of the film industry who, in 1947, publicly denounced the tactics employed by the House Un-American Activities Committee, an investigative committee of the U

S House of Representatives Like many in the industry, these prominent screenwriters and directors, such as Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr, John Howard Lawson, received jail sentences Still, they found the courage of accusing their accusers

2 Drug Experiments Okay, this may sound like the genesis of Captain America but, it turns out that, during the Cold War, The US army did attempt some experiments on people Decades later, thanks to the testimonies of some of the staff who took part in the experiments, – exhaustively collected in a 2012 report of The New Yorker – it was discovered the Army used experimental drugs, such as LSD, on unaware soldiers The top-secret research program on psychoactive drugs and other chemical agents, took place at Edgewood Arsenal, an army facility in Maryland, at the beginning of the 1950s

The objective of the project was to identify non-lethal incapacitating agents for use in combat and interrogations Which sounds interesting and can even make sense, if it wasn’t for the fact that the program, according Tony Manheim – one of the victims – kept patients in the dark It looks like Sim gave to more than 5,000 soldiers many sorts of drug – from marijuana and PCP to mescaline, LSD and a delirium-inducing chemical called BZ – often leaving them with psychological trauma and lingering health problems 1 Blow Up The Moon Obviously, no one blew up the Moon

However, the idea was seriously taken into consideration by the US government for a while Named Project A119 and developed by the US Air Force in 1958, the program was aiming to learn more about astronomy and astrogeology, in order to possibly detonate a nuclear bomb on the surface of the moon Why? Well, there’s a perfectly simple reasonable explanation

By blowing up the moon the US would have proved to the Soviets – and the rest of the world – of their great capabilities Oh, and let’s not forget that the Soviets had just launched their first satellite into space, while the American launch attempt ended in a fiasco – which, by the way, aren’t great premises if you’re planning to bomb the Moon Anyway, the project was eventually shelved because the government was concerned the public opinion wouldn’t exactly approve of the disintegration of the satellite – you think? – Oh yeah, there was also a general concern about the unknown fallout of the lunar nuclear explosion might have caused the solar system, but no biggie

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