Any serious look into the backstory and lore of the Fallout Universe has to at least include a dive into the real world post-WW2 political climate of the United States, the USSR, and China, as well as the science fiction and the whole “World of Tomorrow” aesthetic that was popular in the 1950s. On this week’s episode, we’re going to mainly focus on the politics of the era, because it basically helps set up the Fallout universe and frames pretty much the entire franchise.
In school, we all learned about World War 2; all the atrocities committed by Hitler, the raid on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, and the subsequent dropping of two US nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Something that we really don’t get much into is what was going on with China at the time.
China, for a majority of its history, was ruled by dynasties, which were pretty similar to the European monarchies in that power was passed between members of the same family, the last of was the Qing dynasty. In 1895, China was defeated by Japan in the First Sino-Japanese War, which led many to become disillusioned with their government. Some of the intellectuals in China tried to reform the government in what came to be known as the Hundred Days’ Reform. These reforms were designed to totally modernize the country, but most would ultimately fail, with six of the reformers being executed for being too radical in the changes they wanted to make.
China eventually modernized their military, taking ideas from Japan, but that would lead to the formation of the New Army, as well as the rise of Warlords, further eroding the Qing government.
By 1911, stirs of a new revolution began in earnest. There were basically two main groups who were part of bringing about this revolution: the Literary Society and the Progressive Association. Originally, the date for the uprising was set for October 6th in the Wuhan area. But lack of preparedness led to a postponement. While supervising bomb building in Hankou (Han Ku ow), which was controlled by Russia at the time, one went off unexpectedly and injured Sun Wu, leader of the Progressive Association, enough that he had to be taken to the hospital. Unfortunately for him, he was recognized and the Qing authorities were called. Also, pamphlets for the Revolution were in the storehouse that exploded and were flung across the city proclaiming Sun Wu was taking over. Fearing their own capture was imminent, other revolutionaries in the New Army began to make panicky, confused moves, and successfully took over a Qing garrison in their province. Afterwards, they marched through the rest of the province, which garnered support from other provinces to follow their lead. In all 18 provinces ended up overthrowing the Qing, effectively putting an end to over 2000 years of Dynastic rule in China.
It took another 37 years for a stable government to take shape in China, mainly due to civil war, which lasted for more than 20 years, Japanese invaders taking over about half the country, and the resulting Second Sino-Japanese War. Out of the ashes of war emerged the Communist Party, led by Mao Zadong, who established the People’s Republic of China in 1949. He then set about going insane and it was freaking nuts.
The USSR was founded in 1918 by Vladimir Lenin and his cabal after the Tsar (Emperor) of Russia, made some real bad choices during WWI as did the first government to replace him, The Russian Republic. However after taking over the anti-Communist forces, not all Tsar loyalists, banded together and tried to re-take over the government. These are known as the Whites, fighting the Communists or the Reds. Such was the Russian Civil War lasting from 1917 to 1923 which killed hundreds of thousands and was generally a bad thing. However, despite military intervention by such heavyweights as the US, France and Great Britain the last White forces laid down their arms and surrendered in 1923 and Lenin’s Communist state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was formed. And almost immediately it ran into problems.
Lenin, pushing on his 53rd year in 1924 had a series of strokes that left him paralyzed and unable to speak. Seeing the writing on the wall Lenin dictated his Will and outlined how he specifically hated Stalin. Lenin called him a madman and threw his support behind Trotsky for taking over after he died. However, somehow Stalin got a hold of Lenin’s Will before it could be read to the Soviet Politburo (Commie Congress basically) and fudged the wording. When it was finally read after Lenin died Stalin was given a glowing recommendation for leadership and was practically drowned in praise. Whether the Politburo believed him or not is another matter but by the end of it Stalin was head of the USSR. To consolidate this newfound power Stalin was locked in a battle of wills with Trotsky, former head of the Red Army. After many vocal beatdowns by both sides Trotsky fled to Mexico fearing imprisonment, torture and or execution. Trotsky would die in 1941 after coming down with a sudden case of ice pick to the brain and face. Stalin would then further cement his power in a series of purges in the early 1930’s giving the USSR a serious case of brain drain in the military and administrative circles.
This would become most apparent during the so called Winter War between the USSR and Finland in 1940. The USSR, with an army numbering a million men, would be unable to defeat the 340,000 man Finnish Army for over three months. It was a horrendous bruise to Soviet morale and prestige and showed both the World and Stalin just how much damage he had done. That did not stop Stalin and Hitler however from signing the Molotov-von Ribbentrop Pact dividing up Eastern Europe between them in 1939. Germany got Western Poland and the Russians got the East including the Baltic. Then Stalin watched nervously as Hitler bent Western and Northern Europe and almost North Africa over a table. Then, in a completely unexpected move that nobody saw coming (sarcasm), Hitler invaded the USSR in the largest land invasion in human history. Op Barbarossa has been covered elsewhere so I won’t get into it. Short version. The Russians were beaten hard until winning an upset victory in Stalingrad then they steamrolled Eastern Europe until Hitler killed himself and the war ended.
As the War ended Stalin set up numerous puppet, Communist governments in Eastern Europe to give him some breathing room when the inevitable war between the USSR and the forces of Capitalism comes to be. The dividing line between the two sides, East and West, was called the Iron Curtain, and this was the Cold War. Stalin then set about curbing the US’s power while not getting into a war by starting a series of proxy wars. The only one in our time frame was the Korean War between North Korea, supported by the USSR and Commie China, and South Korea supported by the US and Japan. It was long, bloody and ended in a stalemate. Then, in 1949 the USSR detonated its first nuke over Siberia and the Nuclear Arms race began, not ending until the 90’s and the collapse of the USSR. Fun fact, many former Russian nukes are lost. Let that settle in.
The US in the early 50’s was a nation confused as to what came next. After winning two world wars in quick succession the American Army, which was smaller than the Swiss Army by some accounts after WW1, suddenly was both one of the largest armies in the world; and spread across the planet like spices on KFC chicken. A nation that just thirty years previous could care less about European squabbles suddenly found itself protecting the Free World. Its new enemy was once its greatest ally, the Soviet Union.
With the Russians occupying Eastern Europe and Communism seemingly on the march everywhere the so called ‘Domino Theory’ became a buzzword around DC. If one nation fell to Communism, say South Korea, then Japan was next. After Japan then the Philippines, then Indonesia, then Australia and on and on and on until finally the US goes to. So in the pursuit of freedom the CIA went to work. Elections were tampered with in Italy, Central and South American governments unfriendly to the US were overthrown (usually brutal dictators were put in their place. Pinochet in Chile is a great example) and American freedoms at home were infringed upon. The American Communist Party was cracked down upon hard. Its leaders were arrested or went underground. Members were blacklisted from any jobs in the federal government and after being outed, from any social interaction at all. Then a Senator from Wisconsin came forward with a list.
Joseph McCarthy was a greedy man out for power and seized on the red terror sweeping the nation. So, in 1950 McCarthy claimed to have a list of names of known Communist infiltrators in the government. The public lapped it up and thousands were fired. Nevermind that the list was constantly changing in length and the names were suspiciously usually enemies of McCarthy, there was communism to fight. The McCarthy terror even spread to Hollywood where names like Walt Disney, John Wayne and Ronald Reagan helped blacklist opponents as Communists. The US also fought a stalemate grind of a war in Korea against Communist North Korean aggression, one that we are still technically fighting today. President Truman also had his own problems with the Soviets testing their first A-Bomb in 1949, three years before the most liberal of estimates by the DoD. No wonder things were so tense.
Bobby’s Survival Tip of The Week
Have a bug out bag and pack light. Check out our recommendations for your bug out bag.