In the fall of 1971, I got my first taste of what the Cold War was really about. I was in the second grade at Coram Elementary School. As an alarm sounded, my teacher, Mrs. Cohen, led us out of the classroom into the school’s brick-lined central hallway, and told us to kneel with our heads down in the “duck and cover” position.
“Why are we doing this?” I asked her.
She replied, “It’s what we do if there’s a bomb.”
I pictured Boris Badenov lobbing a bomb toward our school, and wondered what kneeling in a hallway would do to protect us from that. I figured it had something to do with the windows. I would have dreams about that for some time after—a dark figure lobbing cartoon bombs at my school.
As a former military officer from the Reagan and Bush eras, I’m Ars Technica’s unofficial Cold Warrior in Residence. The recent release of the latest Fallout game coming on the heels of some truly frightening documents from the National Security Archive seemed designed to bring back some vivid memories from both my military service and from growing up under the nuclear deterrent umbrella—when civil defense evacuation maps…