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Atomic Bombing of Syracuse (1950) as imagined by the Syracuse Herald-American's illustrator Heyman

It was not uncommon during the early Cold War for newspapers to use fictional "atomic" scare tactics to both sell their product and promote the efficacy of civil defense. The papers would present dramatized "what if" scenarios in which "their" city was attacked by enemy bombers. Some papers would print entire mock editions for this purpose. Based on some of these special features it would seem that the Kremlin was somewhat indiscriminate in assigning their targets (Buffalo, Cleveland and Syracuse were but a few of the cities that got "hit" in the 1950's).

The SYRACUSE HERALD-AMERICAN (Sunday, November 12, 1950 edition) earns points for originality because in their fictional bombing story the editors added a little personality to what were usually almost template-driven pieces. Sure Soviet bomber "Sergei Uritsky" is about as one-dimensional as Boris Badenov but at least the readers got to hear from the enemy for once. In fact, "Sergei" is so gleeful in recounting his dastardly deed that one almost feels sorry that he flew all the way from Russia just to wind up in an American gulag.

Here now is Sergei's story...


Syracuse Herald-American subheadline 11/12/1950: Mythical Foe Tells How City Was BombedTHOSE OF YOU who are still alive and read about this will remember that at 11 P.M. a giant four-engine bomber flying at an extremely high level was heard but not seen. You will also have heard of the failure of your military interceptor planes to knock down the bomber that rushed in at 400 miles an hour over the Polar route until after we had unloaded.

THERE IS nothing for me to lose at this moment by revealing that the atom bomb which destroyed most of Syracuse and vicinity was of a very special type and its delivery crew were well picked from among our young, more fanatical, suicide group of flyers who had been secretly prepared for the mission over a period of many months.

No doubt, as you read this, you will recall that your State Department reported a year or so ago that seismographs throughout the the world recorded a tremendous explosion in a distant part of the world.

That was the first time that the world had any knowledge that your country and mine had begun a free-for-all race for atomic supremacy. That explosion was our first controlled atomic comb experiment, but not the first firing of our experimental atom bomb.

WE LEARNED from that test that our scientists had progressed further with their experiments than we had dared hoped. As a matter of fact, some of them expressed fear that we were tampering with forces so dangerous and tremendous that the world might be blown apart.

In a little air field not far from Sverdlovsk in my country, we took off at 1 P.M. of a relatively clear day and headed north by west towards the United States. As I recall, we were all quite cheerful and enthusiastic, naturally, over this, our first large scale bid for world domination.

I HAD been chosen for this difficult assignment because of my 23 years experience in my country's air force and because of my military record in World War II against the Germans. I had been in the United States many times of course, so that I knew your heavy industrial areas like the back of my hand. It was never suspected that I was a member of a Communist party and even some of my closest friends felt that I was a native citizen of the United States for I had always acted as an outspoken critic of Communism in the Communist party.

MY SUBORDINATES had been selected with care. Aboard the plane were several of our atomic engineers as observers.

We found little difficulty in approaching northern Canada and the area adjacent to the northeastern United States and on the night of _______ we cruised blithely along with our deadly cargo. As we approached the target, an unreal hush settled over the intercom system. We had been in the air approximately 11 hours and it seemed most strange to be at last in striking distance of our goal. Much depended upon the next few minutes.

The staccato bark of the bombardier to the pilot broke the spell. In a matter of seconds "bomb away" sounded over the intercom.

I LOOKED at my watch—it was exactly 11:01. Your people in Syracuse had just settled down for their sleep with the exception of your night plant workers. Mass murder occurred 5 seconds later.

There was a tremendous detonation. What had been a thriving industrial city, now was a horror stricken, unreal world. The usual results followed the atom bomb burst, with the ball of fire expanding rapidly from its mushroom base to a weaving , surging, flaming mass arising steadily to a great height in the sky.

THOSE WHO lived outside the blast area know the rest. You know how completely we have proved our atomic weapons are effective. In one well planned and well executed flight, we obliterated the majority of your industrial plants in Syracuse and took a terrible toll of your populace.

I am proud of my part in this accomplishment, and my only regret is that I am now confined in one of your American detention camps, for my plane had the misfortune to run into a squadron of your jet fighters.

I AM TOLD that your populace did not suffer heavier casualties than you did only because your Civil Defense forces were trained against such a catastrophe and by their valiant effort saved many who otherwise would have died. As I sit here in prison, I am awaiting release on the day your country accepts the fact that my country will not be defeated.

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