The Cold War/Nuclear Arms Race

The first atom bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on the 6th August, 1945. The power of the bomb had truly shocked the world. Try guessing how much Stalin was shivering at the thought of their new enemy having the most powerful weapon ever made in the history of the world, and the potential for them to destroy their cities in the touch of a button. Stalin put enormous pressure on his scientists to produce one quickly - and in 1949, they did. This had set it off. Everyone knew an arms race between the USA and the USSR was in the making.

"Ivy Mike", the first detonation of a termonuclear, or "Hydrogen" bomb.

The Americans responded with the first ever hydrogen bomb, which was 100 times more destructive than a nuclear bomb and tested it on the Pacific Island of Eniwetok. Scary! But the Soviets caught up and in just ten months they had managed to successfully test their own hydrogen bomb. This had done it. The then American President, General D. Eisenhower decided it was time to build up a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons. This happened to be good for the economic expenditure, as nuclear weapons were actually cheaper than conventional ones. To quote from a politician, technically they "gave more bang for buck".

In 1957, the Soviet Union developed the first Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). They were basically rockets designed to carry and transport nuclear weapons (on a nuclear warhead) to a target, by leaving the Earth's atmosphere and then falling down at high speed towards the destination. They eliminated the conventional method of delivering nuclear bombs by having to riskily fly a bomber plane to a particular destination and then dropping the nuclear payload. The ICBMs could also be delivered to their targets much faster than a bomber plane; it only took about half an hour.