Cold War Dopers - how scared were you?

I was a barely sentient flesh-blob during the last bit of the Cold War, so I have little concept of the fear of nuclear doomsday as depicted in things like the popular scare-a-thons The Day After and Threads. When you were growing up with the USSR still intact, how much of a concern were mnogo nukes raining down from the sky?

The fear-rating on the poll ranges to 10 (maximum terror) to 1 (didn’t give a toss).

I don’t remember feeling worried or scared about it, but I remember feeling like it was inevitable.

I turned 12 in 1985. I, personally, was terrified, and voted “9.”


We had atomic bomb drills in elementary school.

The closest air raid siren was across street from where we lived.

I gave it a 9.

I voted 8. It didn’t seem incredibly imminent, but I grew up in the DC area in the 60s and we went through several periods of high anxiety. I did let out a sigh of relief when the Soviet Union fell, and war didn’t break out. I think the chance of global thermonuclear war is greatly reduced now.

Born under Eisenhower, grew up in West Texas. Not the least bit scared. I voted 1.

Born 1967. Had to watch ‘The Day After’ in high school and do a report. Never seemed to be too scared about it except for maybe the KAL shoot down. That seemed pretty tense.

Worried enough to stockpile survival materials.

Born in 1973. Gave it an 8. I’m not sure I was “Scared”, I just grew up under the idea that it was as likely to happen as not.

I remember being in grade school and us kids amusing ourselves by creating lists of reasons why Chicago would be a first strike location and we’d all among the first to die once the missiles went flying. No “The Day After” scenarios for us! It was oddly comforting to know that we wouldn’t have to live through much… some sirens and chaos and then it’d be over.

Thinking back, I guess I and everyone else should have been somewhat concerned. In the same general area (a few hundred miles), we had I think what was called the Pantex plant in Amarillo that assembled nukes. And even Reese AFB in Lubbock, a pilot-training center. But I never knew anyone who seemed concerned at all. Our big fear was tornadoes. We never had nuke drills, but tornado drills were common and for good reason. I never knew anyone who stockpiled supplies or even had a fallout shelter. Despite rednecks railing against Commies, the Cold War seemed distant and abstract even to them. That’s what happens when you’re in the middle of nowhere.

Many of my friends were even of the opinion that a nuclear strike couldn’t help but improve the neighborhood.

I remember a lot of people being worried, but I wasn’t worried at all. For one, I liked the Cold War. The world made sense and it was simple and predictable. A bipolar world is a fairly stable system. Compare it to what happened with multipolar systems as seen in Europe from the 1000s-1945, and it’s downright placid. About the worst you ever got were relatively low-level proxy wars and yeah, Vietnam and Afghanistan were low level proxy wars in comparison to what a full war between the USA and USSR and their allies would have been. For that matter even a war between a “major” USSR ally and a major American ally in which, somehow, the rest of their respective sides did not become involved would have been bigger than the actual conflicts we saw during the Cold War.

Nuclear weapons usage by the Soviets didn’t scare me.

Now we have countries like India and Pakistan with nuclear weapons, and realistic scenarios where they might decide to use them against one another. Then how does China respond? How do we respond to China’s response? How does Russia respond to our response to China?

The system isn’t nearly as stable now, and then on top of all of that the huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons created during the Cold War create a lot of potential for devices to get smuggled out to non-State entities that have none of the MAD concerns that a State actor has.

I actually wish the Cold War was still going on compared to the current state of geopolitics.

Born in 1937, so I was in HS by the time there was a threat. Even during the Cuban missile crisis, I did not worry (in retrospect, I probably should have). I thought the drills were foolish and still do. But I guess I was fatalistic. Worrying wasn’t going to do me a bit of good, so I just ignored it. Que sera, sera.

Can a non-American play?

I voted 1. I was born in '73 and was aware of the Cold War during the '80s especially with the Mujahideen shooting down Soviet gunships with Stinger missiles. And that’s how I thought the Cold War would play out: proxy wars all over the globe with no mushroom clouds involved.

I’m with Martin Hyde. Today’s geopolitical climate is much more scarier.

I went with “7” – yes, it was a big worry, BUT it’s still a worry now, albeit a generally underappreciated one, and so my answer couldn’t be too much above “5”, since the OP labeled that as “about the same degree of worry as now”.

So, it seems to me that, perhaps, the OP is part of the general attitude today that it’s not something to worry about much anymore – otherwise, he/she wouldn’t have included the time-period-comparison description for level “5”, but rather would have left it as something like “medium-worried”.

I was born in 1949, so the Cold War was in my face from the time I became
aware of the outside world until I was 40.

I was only slightly worried about nuclear war, and voted “2” in the poll.

Contrary to the notions of the numerous hysterics at large, I considered the
leaderships of the hostile camps to be sufficiently deterred by Mutual Assured Destruction,
and I considered them capable of exercising enough care to keep a nuclear
exchange from from happening by accident.

I was right.

I am much more worried about modern terrorism obtaining nuclear WMD
and using them, because they are not as certainly deterrable as say Khruschev
and Mao were-- the dimentia we now face is so extreme that it may deem millions,
10s of millions, or even 100s of millions of dead on their side worth it to
pull off a nuclear 9/11. My fear is so strong that I literally dream of witnessing
nuclear mushroom clouds in the near distance.

I want to be wrong about that more than anything which has ever entered my mind.

Well, the threat of nuclear warfare hasn’t gone away but there’s no drills or PSOs on them. I want to know how the view of them these days, the only view I’ve known firsthand, compares with the Cold War.

Very interesting! Well, several of the responses so far speak to a deep disconnect between the “risk” as portrayed in popular culture (greater then, lesser now) and the “risk” as perceived by at least some supposedly well-informed folks as represented by the SDMB (risk is at least equal now, quite possibly even greater than before).

Very interesting. A real problem, I’d say. Perhaps the powers that be are doing all they can to solve this very difficult issue, but I’m pretty sure that the blasé attitude of today’s general public can only add to the risk, in the long run.

I grew up in the late 50s, early 60s. We had bomb drills in school, I lived close to a large Navy base, and then the Cuban missile crisis. I would hear a plane go by when I was outside playing, and look up wounding if it was American or Russian.

In all fairness, I was a scared-type kid anyway, but the drills and news didn’t help.

during the Cuban Missile Crisis things seemed real tense. all the tv newscasters were real somber, like their family and all their friends had just died. it was before government bluster became an art and there was real fear of a nuclear war. there wasn’t a place to have a war with conventional troops like Korea, it was a face to face USA to USSR with nukes.

This is just what I was going to say.