The US threw its heart and soul into the Manhattan Project in order to develop a weapon to stop World War II. It did, but left unimaginable horror behind. Then came the arms race with the Soviet Union, in which both sides developed ever more powerful nuclear weapons. As we became more afraid of nuclear bombs, the US government went to great lengths to maintain public support for nuclear research. That included a 1965 comic outlining the possible peaceful uses of such weapons.
This particular pro-nuke comic was written by scientist and educator Athelstan Spilhaus and was published in the July 4, 1965 edition of newspapers around the country as part of the long-running Our New Age series. Titled, “Atomic Ditch Digging,” this edition of the strip explained that humanity had harnessed the atom, and now it would be used for countless useful purposes in peacetime. Peacetime is a relative word, of course, since the U.S. was dramatically escalating its presence in Vietnam during the summer of 1965 and expanding the military draft at home.
Nevertheless, the comic explained that nuclear explosions were far cheaper than traditional explosives and could be used for building roads, railways, and “huge canals.” The illustration, done by Gene Fawcette, even included a shovel with a nuclear symbol, further pressing the idea that this was a perfect use of atomic energy for large infrastructure projects.
(Image credit: Brett Ryan Bonowicz)