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Share to PinterestYou'll Never Believe People Lived Like This With These Pictures From the Cold War

You'll Never Believe People Lived Like This With These Pictures From the Cold War

By Sean Martin
Share to PinterestYou'll Never Believe People Lived Like This With These Pictures From the Cold War

The Cold War was a pivotal time for the United States. Like much of the world, the US was recovering from WWII. This recovery lead to a significant economic and cultural boom, with sights of prosperity more apparent than ever. TV's in households were becoming common, cars were being bought, and people were starting to live their lives again after such a devastating period. Despite this return to normalcy, the years after WWII were anything but normal. In the midst of the Cold War, life was certainly different from the world we know today. Check out these rare photos to see just how insane life was during Cold War America!


US and Soviet Union Battle to Win Space Race

The Soviet Union and the United States were not only facing an arms race but a space race as well. The USSR first launched Sputnik, the first artificial Earth satellite, in 1957. This fuelled further tensions with the United States as they feared they were falling behind from a technology standpoint. There was just no getting along for these nations back during the Cold War!

Share to PinterestLOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 31: A couple attend a Halloween party dressed as Sputnik and a soviet officer on October 31, 1957 in Los Angeles, California.
Earl Leaf / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images


West Berlin Feared a Second Blockade

The Berlin crisis saw the USSR demand all armed forces to withdraw from West Berlin, including Western Allies. This resulted in cutting off all land access between West Germany and West Berlin, only allowing citizens to receive supplies via air. This crisis marked a peak in tension between the United States and USSR, with citizens in West Berlin bearing the brunt of the ideological battle.

Share to PinterestThe people of West Berlin prepare for the possibility of a second Berlin Blockade by the Soviet Union, by stockpiling food during the Berlin Crisis, August 1961. Here 3,000 tons of butter from Germany and Canada are kept in cold storage.
FPG / Getty Images


Brandenburg Gate Becomes a Cold War Landmark

When leaving West Berlin, you would cross Brandenburg Gate and be encountered with signs noting your exit. The Brandenburg gate became a famous landmark for the division between East and West Berlin. Lots of propaganda events were staged there, and it somehow survived the test of time. Today, the Brandenburg Gate is now a popular tourist attraction that stands for peace and unity.

ClassicStock / Getty Images


Insane Effects of a Hydrogen Bomb are Catastrophic

The Media sure wasn't worried about scaring the public when they released a double-page spread on the effects a hydrogen bomb would have on London, England. The graphic shows how far the bomb would reach, which would essentially annihilate the whole of London and its neighboring countries. Thank goodness we never saw this happen!

Share to PinterestA double page spread from a Picture Post magazine article by Derek Wragge Morley, entitled 'Can Man Survive The Hydrogen Bomb?', February 1950. The illustration shows the probable effects of a hydrogen bomb, should one be dropped on London. Original publication: Picture Post - 4981 - Can Man Survive The Hydrogen Bomb - pub. 18th February 1950.
Picture Post / IPC Magazines / Hulton Archive / Getty Images


Fallout Shelters Common In Family Basements During Cold War Times

When you think of a family basement, you may picture a games table, maybe a large TV, or even an extra bedroom. Can you picture a shelter stashed in the corner for your family to enter in the event of a nuclear attack? Steel and Concrete shelters were common in family basements during the Cold War, allowing citizens to feel protected in the event that a nuclear attack ever occurred. Pretty scary!

Share to PinterestIllustration of a pre-fabricated steel and concrete family fallout shelter from the Cold War era, early 1960s.
Pictorial Parade / Getty Images


Cuban Missile Crisis Leaves Florida Onlookers Amazed

The Cuban Missile Crisis was another pivotal event during The Cold War. People were able to watch the army position aircraft missiles in Key Water, Florida, to prepare for launch. Nowadays you may see a cargo ship when walking along the beach, not missiles!

Share to PinterestOnlookers gather on George Smathers Beach in Key West, Florida to see the Army's Hawk anti-aircraft missiles positioned there during Cuban Missile Crisis, Key West, Florida, 1962.
Underwood Archives / Getty Images


Spy Photos Capture Missile Base in Cuba During Cold War

The Cuban Missile Crisis saw a crazy 13-day military standoff over the USSR's installation of nuclear missiles. This was a pivotal moment during the Cold War, with residual effects still being felt between Cuba and The United States today. Both sides were desperate to understand the plans of each other so espionage was quite common. In this picture, aerial spy photos show a ballistic missile base in Cuba.

Share to PinterestOctober 1962: Aerial spy photos of a medium range ballistic missile base with labels detailing various parts of the base during the Cuban Missile Crisis, San Cristobal, Cuba.
Hulton Archive / Getty Images


Students Build Tunnel Under Berlin Wall to Escape East Berlin

With East and West Berlin being separated during The Cold War, families were torn apart with no end in sight. People were desperate to escape to the other side, and some even took drastic measures to make this happen. A group of 20 students in East Berlin dug a tunnel under the Berlin Wall in an effort to reach West Berlin. Desperate times call for desperate measures!

Share to PinterestA refugee is winched up to the exit of Tunnel 57, through which 57 East Berlin citizens escaped to the Western sector of the city on 3rd and 4th October 1964. The tunnel was dug from West to East by a group of 20 students led by Joachim Neumann, from a disused bakery building on Bernauer Strasse, under the Berlin Wall, to a building 145 metres away on Strelitzer Strasse in East Berlin.
Fuchs / Three Lions / Hulton Archive / Getty Images


Alaska Acted as Watchtower for Nuclear Bombers During Cold War

When you think of Alaska, chances are you think of snow, snow, and more snow! Turns out, Alaska played host to some radar stations which were created to watch for nuclear bombers and missiles coming from The Soviet Union. It's safe to say The United States was well prepared in the event of an attack!

Share to PinterestDEW line (Defensive Early Warning Line) station near Kaktovik, Alaska, once part of an early warning radar system established by the US military to watch for nuclear bombers and missiles coming in from the Soviet Union.
George Steinmetz / Getty Images


Shelters Created During Cold War In Case of Nuclear Explosion

  Despite many countries now possessing nuclear capabilities, the threat of nuclear attack was quite prominent during The Cold War. In an effort to prepare the country, fallout shelters were created to protect citizens. Fallout shelters were designed to protect humans from radioactive debris as the result of a nuclear explosion. Talk about terrifying!

H. Armstrong Roberts / ClassicStock / Getty Images


Children Regularly Underwent Drills To Prepare for Nuclear Attack

During the Cold War, there was always an anxiety that existed among the population of a nuclear attack happening at any given moment. In an effort to prepare for this, children underwent drills where they would hide under their desks to protect themselves. Can you imagine your kids preparing for this now?

Share to PinterestStudents at a Brooklyn middle school have a 'duck and cover' practice drill in preparation for a nuclear attack; silver print, 1962. From the New York World-Telegram archive.
GraphicaArtis / Getty Images


Certain Airplanes Were Too Tall To Fit Inside Hangars

You've probably seen a picture of an American Convair B.36 "Peacemaker" strategic bomber in a history book or in an old film. These exceptional planes stood at 47 feet tall, making them too tall to fit inside hangars. The airplane tails had to protrude outside of the wall because there wasn't enough room for them! Talk about a large carrier!

Share to PinterestThe tail sections of American Convair B.36 'Peacemaker' strategic bombers protruding from the wall of a building at the Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation's plant in San Diego, California, circa 1950. At 47 feet high, the aircraft tails are too tall to fit the hangars. Inside the building, the B-36B aircraft are being converted to the B-36D variant by the addition of four jet engines to the existing six piston powerplants.
FPG / Hulton Archive / Getty Images


Roads Were Planned to Be Closed In The Event Of An Attack

It's crazy to think of a nuclear attack ever happening in our lifetime, but the threat was very real for those living during the Cold War. Still recovering from two world wars, the United States had to be ready at all times for an attack. There were road signs published on highways noting they would be closed in the event of an attack, allowing only military vehicles to enter. Scary stuff!

Share to PinterestA Delaware Civil Defense sign announcing highway closures in the event of an enemy attack during the early days of the Cold War, Delaware, 1952.
Underwood Archives / Getty Images


Missiles Being Transported In Public Was The Norm

If you've ever been outside a government building, you know the vibe tends to be pretty serious. There are usually armed guards, fences, etc to ensure that the area is protected at all times. But can you imagine seeing missiles being openly transported on your walk home from work? Yep! In Moscow, it wasn't uncommon to see missiles being transported, in an effort to prepare themselves for an attack as well.

Share to PinterestMoscow. November 7, 1957.
Fine Art Images / Heritage Images / Getty Images


American Couple Faced Death Penalty After Being Convicted of Espionage in 1953

In the Cold War era, it was difficult to know who you could trust. With spies operating on behalf of the Soviet Union and The United States, it was risky business getting involved in that sort of trade. When couple Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were found guilty of espionage, people rallied to their support in hopes of preventing their sentence, the death penalty. Unfortunately, the pleas did not help, and the couple was executed on 1st May 1953.

Share to PinterestMay Day demonstrators in Union Square, New York, with a poster calling on US President Dwight D. Eisenhower to show clemency to American couple Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who are facing the death penalty after being convicted of espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union, 1st May 1953. The Rosenbergs were executed in June that year. The poster reads: 'Clemency For The Rosenbergs, President Eisenhower, Washington DC, Lend Your Hand'.
FPG / Archive Photos / Getty Images


Italian Communists Tried to Save Spy Couple In Cold War Times

With the devastating news that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were facing the death penalty for espionage, groups of Italian protestors got together to protest the decision. These groups sympathized with the couple and hoped for their release. This, unfortunately, didn't happen for the spy couple, who faced execution in the end.

Share to PinterestItalian communists campaigning on behalf of the American couple Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who are facing the death penalty after being convicted of carrying out espionage for the Soviet Union, Italy, March 1953. Along with the message 'Torna A Casa Americano' (American Go Home), the protestors have set up a poster of American sailors and a map of Italy. The poster has slots cut into it, so that a viewer looking through them sees a large portrait (right) of the Rosenbergs. The Rosenbergs were nonetheless executed on 19th June.
FPG / Archive Photos / Getty Images


Secret Plan to Build Launch Sites Under Greenland Ice Sheet Abandoned

A lot of work went into preparing the country for an attack, including secret projects. One of those was Camp Century. This was a cover project for Project Iceworm which intended to build nuclear missile launch sites under Greenland's ice sheet. Crazy stuff! The US had to abandon the project after discovering that the surrounding ice wasn't stable enough to support the structures. Pretty tough going!

Share to PinterestMen of the US Army Polar Research and Development Center erecting a 'T5' building in a lateral trench at Camp Century, an Arctic United States military scientific research base in Greenland, June 1959. The base is a network of trenches dug out of the snow and ice and lined with corrugated steel arches. Camp Century was later found to be a 'cover project' for Project Iceworm, a secret plan to install nuclear missile launch sites under the Greenland ice sheet. Both Camp Century and Project Iceworm were abandoned in 1967 when it emerged that the Greenland ice was not stable enough for the structures to be viable in the long term.
US Army / Pictorial Parade / Archive Photos / Getty Images


Bomb Shelters Were The Norm

You may have come across a tornado shelter in your lifetime, but have you ever come across a bomb shelter? Bomb shelters were built to allow people to have somewhere to hide in the case of an attack. It's a good thing they didn't have to be used!

Share to PinterestA black-and-white photo shows a man standing next to a surface (above ground) bomb shelter that is advertising Victor J. Nelson's sales and distribution business, circa 1951.
Jim Heimann Collection / Getty Images


Atomic Bomb Cloud Resembles Mushroom

Hopefully, you've never seen the aftermath of an atomic bomb. While it is incredibly devastating to anything it encounters, it also looks quite beautiful when observed from far, far away - like in a picture. The smoke shoots up vertically before dissipating outwards, forming a mushroom cloud. Deadly but beautiful!

Share to Pinterest1940s 1950s ATOMIC BOMB BLAST MUSHROOM CLOUD
Camerique / ClassicStock / Getty Images


Fallout Shelters Found in Homes

When you browse a backyard nowadays, you may encounter a BBQ, children's toys, and maybe even a swimming pool. Can you picture spotting a shelter to protect you from a nuclear attack? Lots of homes purchased back then had plans for fallout shelters to be placed in their basements and backyards to protect their families in the event of an attack. Not the prettiest thing to look at when going outside!

Share to PinterestFamilies walk down the driveway while touring a model site home with a concrete basement fallout shelter, Texas, 1961.
Shel Hershorn / Getty Images


Fallout Shelters Were Created to Protect American Families From Nuclear Attack

Although they never had to be used, Fallout Shelters were created to protect the American people from harmful radioactivity as the result of a nuclear attack. The shelters were far from cozy, with cement sides and no natural light. Lots of the fallout shelters that were built during the cold war actually turned out to be quite dangerous if they were used for prolonged periods of time given the lack of proper ventilation needed to survive.

Share to PinterestCross-section illustration depicting a family in their underground lead fallout shelter, equipped with a geiger counter, periscope, air filter, etc., early 1960s
Pictorial Parade / Getty Images


Operation Rooms Were Created to Prepare for Attack

With much of the world believing that a nuclear attack was imminent, operation rooms were created where key military decisions were to be made. Maps and charts were created and ready for immediate use - there was no messing around back then!

Share to PinterestOperations Room, York Cold War Bunker, North Yorkshire, circa 2006-circa 2017. Interior view of the Operations Room showing maps and charts ready for use. The bunker was built in 1961 to monitor nuclear explosions and fallout in Yorkshire in the event of a nuclear war. Artist Historic England Staff Photographer. (
English Heritage / Heritage Images / Getty Images


Moscow Skyline Glows During the Cold War

Despite lots of tension existing around the world, there were still some beautiful sites to be seen. One of these was the Moscow skyline lit up at night. The lights from offices, buildings, and skyscrapers light up the streets, making them more a gorgeous sight.

Share to PinterestMOSCOW, SOVIET UNION - NOVEMBER 1983: The Moscow skyline glows at night in November 1983.
Mikki Ansin / Getty Images


Beauty Emerges Out of Division in Divided Berlin

When people visit the Berlin Wall nowadays, the mood is often quiet and somber as people try to picture being separated from their loved ones overnight. While there's a lot of difficult memories, there were also beautiful images that emerged from such a difficult time. Iconic messages existed on the wall now as a symbol of hope and unity.

Share to PinterestSeason's greetings sprayed on the Berlin wall near Brandenburg gate, Germany 1984.
Erich Andres / United Images via Getty Images


Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev Meet For The First Time in 1985

Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and United States President Ronald Reagan dominated the international stage for the later part of the Cold War. They finally were able to meet each other during a summit in Geneva, Switzerland.

Share to PinterestUNDATED: Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev (L) and U.S. President Ronald Reagan stride across the stage towards each other at their first summit meeting November 1985 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Dirck Halstead / Getty Images


Protestors Call for Nuclear Disarmament During Cold War

With the threat of nuclear attack imminent, much of the public was eager to return to a peaceful society. Rallies and demonstrations were held all across the United States with protestors demanding nuclear disarmament, which would freeze nuclear arms. The Arms Race wasn't helping anyone, and instead of destroying lives and relations across the globe.

Share to PinterestDemonstrators hold hands and vocalize as they march towards Central Park during a massive nuclear disarmament rally where 750,000 gathered to demand a freeze on nuclear arms, New York, June 12, 1982.
Lee Frey / Authenticated News International / Getty Images


Berlin Wall Finally Collapses In 1989

There are many iconic moments in time. The end of the Second World War, the first moon landing, and the fall of the Berlin wall. This signified the end of the Cold War and saw people rejoicing in the streets.

Share to PinterestBERLIN, GERMANY- FILE PHOTO- JANUARY 12, 1990: A German wears a surgeon mask as he hammers a hole in the Berlin Wall against the backdrop of the Reichstag building, on January 12, 1990, in Berlin, Germany. The wall that divided the two Germanys was made on August 13, 1961 and lasted 28 years.
Sven Creutzmann / Mambo Photo / Getty Images


Single Light Shines on Section of Berlin Wall

Whether you go for the day or attend a specific event, there's always a reason to celebrate the fall of the Berlin wall. Many people living today will have remembered how monumental this was for the world in an effort to move to a more peaceful society.

Share to PinterestFile Photo: A Lone Light Illuminates A Piece Of The Berlin Wall Being Lifted During The Collapse Of Communism In East Berlin On November 12, 1989. November, 1999 Marks The 10Th Anniversary Of The Fall Of The Berlin Wall. East Germany's Communist Government Erected The Berlin Wall In August 1961. The Wall Fell After Weeks Of Massive Anti-Government Protests On November 9, 1989. The Fall Of The Berlin Wall Is Often Described As The "End Of The Cold War." East German Border Guards Shot 77 People Who Tried To Escape To The West Over The Wall During The Course Of Its Existence.
Stephen Jaffe / Getty Images


Tourists are Shocked To Read Berlin Wall Memories

The Berlin wall is visited by thousands of tourists each year to get a glimpse into life for those in East and West Berlin during The Cold War. In this picture, a quote from Nikita Khrushchev is displayed, which reads "We're closing Berlin off. We're going to roll out barbed wire, and the Western Allies are going to stand there like dumb sheep!" It's hard to think that the fall of the Berlin Wall took place more than 21 years ago. Visiting places that played such an important role during the Cold War reminds us of how difficult the world was and how important peace is among nations.

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Sean Gallup / Getty Images


Cold War Bunker Transformed Into Leisure Complex

Not all creations from the Cold War have been discarded. In Moscow, Russia, one of the most restricted military sites of the USSR during the Cold War has been transformed into a leisure center for those seeking a bit of luxury. What a crazy way to spend an afternoon!

Share to PinterestMOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 11: On of the four tunnels in the bunker of Secured Command Post Taganskiy, once the most restricted military site of the USSR, is pictured on March 11, 2008 in Moscow, Russia. The huge 7,000 square metre bunker, which is 65 metres beneath central Moscow, was built during the Cold War to sustain 5,000 lives in the event of an American nuclear attack. Over time it became useless. In 2006 the bunker was bought by private company Novik-Service and will shortly be converted into a luxurious leisure complex.
Wojtek Laski / Laski Diffusion / Getty Images


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