The Four Horsemen: the Nuclear Apocalypse of 1962

Chapter VI: Turmoil in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 1963-1972.
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Chapter VI: Turmoil in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 1963-1972.

The entire world suffered from the war. At least 2.000 megatons of explosive force had driven millions of tonnes of dust and soot into the upper atmosphere, blocking sunlight and making the winter of 1962-’63 the coldest since the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora. Summer would come late and would be cool the next few years with a global average temperature drop of 3 ˚C with radioactive snow and rain impacting much of the world, though primarily affecting Eurasia as the prevailing winds in the autumn and winter of 1962-’63 carried the radiation east. The coming winters would be the coldest of the century while summers would come late and stay rather cool, leading to reduced harvests. Outside the United States and Western Europe, the former Soviet Union, the ex-Warsaw Pact states, the Balkans, Turkey and South and East Asia suffered the most in the next few years. The total death toll of WW III amounted to half a billion people, reducing the world population from 3.15 billion to 2.65 billion, setting population levels back a decade in only one week. The nuclear winter would add to that total and more conflicts would follow in its aftermath.

A significant result from the end of the Cold War was that the Vietnam War also ended for several reasons. North Vietnam no longer had Soviet backup and the Americans wanted to pull all of their troops out as they needed every able-bodied man back home to help rebuild their heavily hit country and wanted to stop haemorrhaging money. Kennedy realized, however, that with Chinese help the communist North might still win and tried to solve the issue diplomatically through a carrot and stick approach. Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie offered a neutral venue as other usual locales like Paris and Moscow no longer existed and because his country wasn’t very affected by fallout. During the Addis Ababa Conference between February and May 1963, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and Secretary of State Dean Rusk negotiated directly.

Rusk offered a US withdrawal from South Vietnam if the Chinese cut off support to the North, to which Zhou riposted that the Americans withdrawing from South Vietnam was their own business and that he didn’t see how this obligated China to reciprocate. Rusk subtly hinted a continued war could lead to Hanoi being nuked, and perhaps also targets in China, and he offered formal American diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China. Zhou was taken aback by the US threat, not knowing Kennedy had no intention of following through (he’d threatened to sack Joint Chiefs Chairman Maxwell Taylor for suggesting it). The Chinese delegation agreed to the American proposal. China cut off support to North Vietnam and US ended support to the South, whilst pressuring Ngo Dinh Diem to knock it off with the anti-Buddhist discrimination. The 1963 deal resulted in the division of Vietnam into two countries, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to the north of the 17th parallel and the Republic of Vietnam to the south of it. Both countries had suffered massive failures of rice crops, so were in no mood to fight on. It was a success for the US, but few Americans cared for it at the time.

In the meantime, conflict was developing between India and Pakistan after the latter had observed India’s defeat by China. China had disputed the Himalayan border, resulting in border skirmishes in 1959 during the Tibetan Uprising and India granting the Dalai Lama political asylum. In 1960, India had initiated a Forward Policy to hinder Chinese military patrols and logistics, placing outposts along the border. Outposts were placed north of the McMahon Line as well, the eastern portion of the Line of Actual Control proclaimed by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1959. Chinese military action grew increasingly aggressive after India rejected proposed Chinese diplomatic settlements throughout 1960-1962, with China recommencing previously-banned “forward patrols” in Ladakh from April 30th 1962. China finally abandoned all attempts of peaceful resolution on October 20th 1962, invading the disputed territory, resulting in battles at altitudes over 4.000 metres (14.000 feet).

When China unilaterally declared a ceasefire, it had taken what it wanted. Nehru reluctantly accepted this as he had the Pakistanis to deal with, who had seen this Indian defeat and the famine caused in India by nuclear winter (ignoring their own food supply issues, for the moment, to obtain an edge over India). For Nehru this was perhaps luck: the war with Pakistan united the Indian people behind him despite the famine caused by WW III. Lots of food had to be thrown away and many who bathed in the Ganges had their immune systems compromised due to the contaminated waters. The worst was yet to be felt. Usually the Thar Desert and adjoining areas of northern and central India would heat up in the hot summers, causing a low pressure area that drew in moisture-laden winds that bumped into the Himalayas and unleashed their rains over India. The heat in northern and central India was far lower, resulting in the (Southwest) monsoon coming weeks later and lasting much shorter. The northeast monsoon was much less prominent than usual as well. This was not good for India’s harvests, which was felt by the autumn of ’63 as India had to resort to rationing like many countries across the world had to. Pakistan, of course, was similarly affected.

Months before the effects on the monsoon would become known, Pakistan began to infiltrate forces into Jammu and Kashmir in an attempt to ignite an insurgency against Indian rule in May while the first bad news about the harvest came in. In June 1963, India retaliated with a full scale military attack against Pakistan, resulting in massive engagements with armour, infantry, artillery and air forces. The tank battles were on a scale comparable to those of WW II, but both sides initially made little progress until the Indians doubled down by mobilizing major reserves. They also supported the resistance in East Pakistan by supplying the Bengalis with weapons to organize an armed uprising, fed up with as they were with the increasingly oppressive Pakistani rule.

In July and August, massive Indian numbers overwhelmed the Pakistanis and their frontline threatened to collapse in the hotly disputed Jammu and Kashmir region. Moreover, the Pakistanis were confronted by a second major Indian offensive that began when the Indians suddenly unleashed a massive artillery bombardment, followed by a major tank offensive in central Pakistan aimed toward the Indus River, intending to cut the country in two. The Indian mobilization of reservists and the further addition of new recruits resulted in a 3:1 numerical superiority in favour of India. In late August the Pakistani position in the north, in Jammu and Kashmir, was collapsing while further south Indian forces threatened Multan. Pakistani President Ayub Khan, who’d come to power through a military coup, requested an armistice and Nehru agreed while Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, offered to mediate.

In the Treaty of Teheran Pakistan agreed to cede the areas of Jammu and Kashmir they controlled, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, as well as East Pakistan (i.e. Bengal, which became independent). The blow to Ayub Khan’s prestige elicited a military coup against him that resulted in a civil war as the plotters didn’t succeed in arresting him, which led to resistance by units that stayed loyal to the President. The civil war quickly devolved into an ethnic conflict as the smaller ethnic groups rejected the dominance of the largest group, the Punjabis. Over the course of several years of bloody fighting, the country disintegrated: Balochistan, Sindh, the Pashtuns and the Punjabis each went their own way as separate countries, though the Pashtun dominated areas eventually joined their brothers in Afghanistan; this left a Punjabi dominated rump state. It was a clear victory for India, but that didn’t exempt the country from the effects of nuclear winter: though most of the radioactive fallout landed north of the Himalayas, a late and short monsoon led to much reduced harvests and a massive famine.

Further west, Iran survived the war unscathed. Thanks to US support in the pre-war years, Iran had the largest and best equipped army in the region and had little to fear from its neighbours. Oil remained in high demand after WW III, albeit for completely different reasons of course, which didn’t matter to Iran. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi launched his White Revolution, a secular top down reform that consisted of several elements: land reform, construction of an expanded road, rail, and air network, a number of dam and irrigation projects, the eradication of certain diseases, the encouragement and support of industrial growth, enfranchisement of women, formation of literacy and health corps for rural isolated areas, and institution of profit sharing schemes for workers in industry. Political motives included weakening the landlords, gaining peasant and working class support, and thwarting the increasingly critical middle class.

The reforms certainly provided an educated and prosperous lifestyle whilst Iran appeared as a shining example of post-war stability. The land reforms, however, led to independent farmers and landless labourers without loyalty to the Shah, the middle class’s alienation continued, the working class’s support in return for material benefits was fleeting, and the relationship between the Shah and the clergy and landed elites was becoming antagonistic. A revolution was most probably staved off by the Shah’s illness: in 1970 he was diagnosed with an aggressive type of lung cancer and died in one year. His son Crown Prince Reza became Reza II, but he was only eleven years old. His mother, Empress Dowager Farah, became his Regent. Her deceased husband hadn’t allowed her a political role, so she had little influence and knowledge. She relied on her cabinet and increased cooperation with the Majles, Iran’s parliament. During her regency (1971-1981) a transition from autocracy to democracy was made, earning her the epithet of “godmother of the constitutional monarchy.”

The rest of the Middle East consisted of Arab countries waiting for an opportunity to knock down the Zionists a few pegs. Insult had been added to injury in the eyes of the Arab world by Israeli victories in 1948 and 1956; in 1962 Arab morale was raised by the Soviet strike against Tel Aviv whilst Israel was still reeling. The motive behind the Soviet submarine crew’s target choice remains unknown, but Arab leaders interpreted it as the USSR’s last hurrah against “Jewish capitalism.” In 1963, the Arab world decided to take advantage of Israel’s feebleness post-Tel Aviv: forces from Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq – with supporting units from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Yemen – attacked Israel. This time the Arab powers made serious headway, inflicting decisive defeats on the Israelis that led to fears that the Jewish national home might collapse. America, damaged as it was, intervened and the Arabs halted as they didn’t want to be nuked. The Americans on their part wanted a permanent settlement. This matter had been causing the world headaches, and right now most of the world had other concerns than constantly mediating between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Palestinians would get the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Between the choice of splitting the city in two or making it an international city under UN control, Israel and the Palestine leadership chose the former. In 1965, an Arab-Israeli peace agreement was signed by their respective delegates in St. Louis. Nasser prominently featured in these talks, vindicating Arab nationalism.

Then there were the two “unhit continents.” If one counts Cuba and Panama as part of Central America, then South America wasn’t hit by nuclear weapons at all. Africa hadn’t been hit either. Brazil was the best off as far as harvests and (food) supplies went in the Americas: soybeans, rice, sugarcane, corn, bovine, pork, cacao, coffee, tobacco, cotton, rubber and lumber were available at 75-80% of normal pre-war levels (of course, the world wanted more, but Brazil could export little, making what little it could export very valuable). This made Brazil South America’s leading power.

Across the Atlantic, Zaire seemed to be another post-war success story at first. The Republic of Zaire – a military dictatorship established by a coup d’état that had established Mobutu as President in 1965 – was incredibly well endowed with natural resources, particularly metallic ores. Congo had deposits of cobalt, copper, coltan, diamonds, gold, tantalum, tin and uranium. Cobalt is used in high-strength alloys, ceramics, inks, paints and varnishes; copper is vital to the electronics industry as a conductor, but is also used for alloys and as a building material; industrial diamonds have their uses in cutting and grinding tools among others. America, relatively well off, was willing to pay: if not in dollars, then in goods. Paint was a basic commodity needed in reconstruction, copper was absolutely necessary to repair the torn up electrical grid, and cutting and grinding tools with diamond bits were absolutely needed to clear up gigantic piles of debris. Mobutu’s human right’s violations, political repression, corruption and cult of personality were ignored. In fact, the deals Mobutu made with the US in the sixties and seventies greased the wheels of the economy and the government, ensuring they remained functional despite the fact that gross corruption, theft and mismanagement were the order of the day in Zaire. Besides money, the US also paid with goods and services like tractors, combine harvesters, field sprayers and seed drills, mining equipment and haul trucks, military equipment like M48 Patton tanks and the F-4 Phantom II supersonic jet interceptor and fighter bomber, and agricultural, engineering and military experts.

Mobutu used this to establish himself as a paragon of African nationalism, and as a benevolent, forgiving ruler: he forgave the West for years of colonial exploitation of Africa and helped them in their time of need. The US-Zaire deals allowed Mobutu to arm a military of 300.000, the most powerful in sub-Saharan Africa. In 1967, it also enabled him to launch the Inga Project, a massive construction project to build four dams with a generating capacity of 40.000 MW. After completion in 1989, the dams generated 180.6 TWh, far more than was consumed in Zaire. Much was exported and Zaire gained the moniker “the Saudi Arabia of electricity” as it supplied much of the African continent, earning money that filled Zaire’s state coffers but also lined Mobutu’s pockets. He became a multibillionaire.

Japan had suffered six nuclear strikes, suffering half a million casualties. Many cities, which were also industrial centres, survived. Industrial capacity wasn’t the problem in rebuilding the country, but food production was. Without food imports, Japan could only produce enough food for three quarters of its population at the best of times. To boost that capacity, Japan imitated the Victory Gardens in the US, UK and Western Europe, obligating everyone to put what little land they hand to use to grow food. Even in tiny gardens in cities, people would grow apples or raspberries. Even balconies were cultivated to grow something edible, like berries. Like much of the world, Japan went through the severest economic crisis in its existence. Under these circumstances and with US forces withdrawn, the divine nature of the Emperor became de facto accepted again as he took an active rather than a merely symbolic role. Neighbouring South Korea was in a similar state, but its northern neighbour collapsed due to the dozen US nuclear strikes, forcing South Korea to integrate the north with great difficulty. The Republic of Korea was faced by a low-level communist guerrilla in the north led by Kim Il-Sung’s son Kim Jong-Il until 1995 when an agreement was reached in which the communist leadership got amnesty.

China had suffered 1 million deaths due to five Soviet launches and a single off course American bomber on the wrong side of the Yalu River (Harbin, Urumqi, Shenyang, Changchun and Xi’an had been hit by the Soviets and Dandong by the US), but it would get much worse. Of all the neutral countries in the world, the aftermath of the global thermonuclear war hit it the hardest, most likely because the country had barely recovered from the disastrous Great Leap Forward. This social and economic campaign, that lasted from 1958 to 1962, had been launched by Chairman Mao Zedong to reform the country from an agrarian economy into a communist society through people’s communes. Mao decreed increased efforts to multiply grain yields and bring industry to the countryside. Local officials were fearful of renewed Anti-Rightist Campaigns and competed to fulfil or exceed quotas based on Mao’s exaggerated claims, collecting “surpluses” that in fact did not exist and leaving farmers to starve. Higher officials did not dare to report the economic disaster caused by these policies, and national officials, blaming bad weather for the decline in food output, took little or no action. The Great Leap resulted in an estimated 40 million dead. It was one of the greatest manmade catastrophes of the pre-WW III era.

Large amounts of fallout blew into the country from Siberia and Central Asia, which meant enormous quantities of food had to be thrown out, because in the instances that they were eaten people got mild to severe symptoms of radiation sickness and in some cases died. Lots of livestock had to be put down as well because they got sick, and the meat couldn’t even be consumed due to contamination. What happened next was dictated by communist logic: a communist society was based on the industrial proletariat so they couldn’t be allowed to starve, which brought about Mao’s decision to confiscate whatever uncontaminated food stocks were still available and distribute them to the major cities. That left the smaller cities and the countryside to starve instead, resulting in a massive humanitarian disaster over the course of 1963 in which another 60 million people died, for a total of 100 million. On top of that, refugees flooded into the country from the former Soviet Union, North Korea and Mongolia. People began losing faith in the regime and actually started to resent it, something communist officials in the countryside noticed. The reverence for Mao died down and was sometimes even replaced by downright contempt, with people tearing up his pictures, defacing murals with his face with paint and graffitiing walls with anti-communist slogans. This cauldron of social unrest needed an outlet.

In a small village in central Hunan province, a part of China less affected by fallout than the north and west, a local cult leader began to emerge named Li Zhe, a very charismatic and educated man born in 1910 as the son of a low-level Qing official. He preached a combination of Zen Buddhism and the Tao, literally translated as “the way”: “the One, which is natural, spontaneous, eternal, nameless, and indescribable. It is at once the beginning of all things and the way in which all things pursue their course.” One of its key tenets was “Wu Wei” which translates to “nonaction” and asserts one had to place his will in harmony with the natural universe, instead of opposing it which could have unintended consequences. A second principle called Ziran or “self-such” referred to freeing oneself from selfishness and desire and learning to appreciate simplicity. The entire religion centred on three basic virtues: compassion, moderation and humility. In its cosmological interpretation the universe was in a constant process of recreating itself through the Wu Xing (five elements) and the interaction of yin and yang. Governing this would be a pantheon with the Three Pure Ones at the top. Zen Buddhist elements were included as well, such as self-restraint, meditation practice, insight into the nature of mind and the nature of things, and the personal expression of this insight in daily life, especially for the benefit of others. The charismatic Li interpreted these doctrines in his own favour, indoctrinating his followers with the belief he was a God and convincing them to live a frugal lifestyle so they could bring offerings to their “God”. He preached communal utopianism and convinced his followers to transfer their assets into a “communal treasury”, supervised only by him of course.

In late September 1963, when cadres came to the village to confiscate the harvest to meet unrealistic, unattainable quotas, the peasants fought back under the command of Li Zhe. Using pitchforks, kitchen knives, shovels and a few fifty year old bolt-action rifles dating back to the 1911 Revolution they beat up the communist party officials and killed several. The survivors were executed by beheading on the town square and their weapons were taken (beheading was chosen as it was considered a shameful way to die in Chinese culture, as the body couldn’t be buried intact). Choosing not to await the response from the authorities, Li Zhe led the villagers to the nearby town, seized the police station, publicly executed the police offers, confiscated their weapons and took control of the entire town. They found an entire warehouse full of rice and distributed it to the masses, which switched to their side and increased the fanatical horde that Li now started to call the “Golden Banner.” When he heard of the peasant rebellion in Hunan province, Mao underestimated the situation and expected the local authorities to handle it. They proved to be unable to contain the rebellion, which spread like wildfire through force of arms and through the proselytizing efforts of blindly loyal acolytes. They seized food wherever they could to keep it from leaving their province, which was of course their powerbase.

It came as a shock to Mao when Changsha, the capital of the province he hailed from, fell to Golden Banner militants who now controlled the entire province and its 35 million inhabitants. It had taken them only three months to accomplish this. India supported the Golden Banner with weapons, in part to undo the loss of the 1962 Sino-Indian War. Mao sent in the People’s Liberation Army, which caused the eruption of more peasant rebellions, independent of the Golden Banner, as people feared the soldiers would take what little food they had left. These uprisings would join the Golden Banner one by one and within one year Li Zhe’s rule had spread to the neighbouring provinces of Guizhou, Hubei and Jiangxi as well as parts of Guangxi and Guangdong. The movement continued to expand, agitating against the communist regime with its “un-Chinese, foreign imported atheist materialistic ideology, that never held and never will hold the Mandate of Heaven as it rejects Chinese religion, tradition and spirituality.” A year into this civil war, Li Zhe’s forces controlled most of China south of the Yangtze River and they captured Nanjing, where Li proclaimed the Yi Dynasty with himself as Emperor under the regnal name Shengxing, which translates to holy star, a bold statement indeed. After that they turned their sights north, establishing beachheads on the left bank of the Yangtze River in late 1964.

In the spring of 1965 the uprising in China became a three-way civil war when Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek decided it was time to retake the mainland in the name of the Republic of China. More than 100.000 men landed in Fujian province and were immediately confronted by supporters of the new Emperor, the self-proclaimed and by now widely worshipped Son of Heaven. They compensated for their inferior equipment compared to the KMT with sheer numbers, an excellent organization and a lack of fear resulting from massive indoctrination with the religious teachings of the Shengxing Emperor. Blind faith led to fanaticism and that led to ruthlessness: when communists were caught, they were usually beheaded in the middle of town square for being infidels or apostates and the same fate awaited those who spoke ill of the Emperor. The severed heads were put on spears stuck into the ground to serve as an example at the roads leading into town. Those who failed to follow the religion inspired laws of the new dynasty could receive punishments ranging from flagellation or prison to death by strangulation, beheading or the cruel method of slow slicing for the worst offenders (which happened to an assassin sent by Mao to kill the Emperor). KMT soldiers were treated a little better when captured, being allowed to live if they converted to Emperor Worship. KMT forces would be kicked out of the mainland again within one year.

The pivotal phenomenon that legitimized the Shengxing Emperor’s theocratic absolutist monarchical rule was the turn to the normal climate. Normal weather like before the war and the abolition of the communist people’s communes in the areas controlled by the new Empire of China, with the lands returned to the peasants, led to an abundant harvest not seen since before the Great Leap Forward. In 1965, southern China produced plenty of rice, winter wheat and to a lesser extent sweet potatoes, tropical fruits, various kinds of citrus fruits, sugarcane, coffee and tea. Many people attributed this wonderful harvest to the zeal of his followers, who now reaped the rewards of Heaven. With rice, potatoes, fruit and vegetables available – while beef, poultry, mutton and fish were scarcer and more expensive as a lot of radiation sick livestock had been put down over the past few years – many followed the Emperor’s example: he would eat meat and fish for only three days a week, while settling for bread, salads and soups on the other days.

The momentum in favour of the burgeoning Yi Dynasty became unstoppable. In 1972, the Imperial Chinese Army, as the Golden Banner’s military arm was called from 1964 onward, launched the Shŭ Offensive (Shŭ means rat, referring to the fact that 1972 was the Year of the Rat). In preceding years, acolytes had proselytized despite the danger to their own lives if captured by the communists, undermining Mao’s rule. By the early 70s, the Yi Dynasty’s control extended to the Yellow River. In the 1972 offensive, Imperial forces took control of Beijing and, like so many Emperors before him, Shengxing assumed control of the Forbidden City as his official residence and claimed the Mandate of Heaven. This is commonly seen as the start of the Yi Dynasty’s rule over China. It was official: despite continued communist resistance in Manchuria, the Yi Dynasty was recognized as the government of China, the Empire of China, and took China’s UN seat in the Security Council. Mao committed suicide to avoid a humiliating public execution and many Chinese communists fled abroad. With the country under control, the Son of Heaven began fantasizing about pan-Asian possibilities. The only other great communist power had fallen. After an interregnum of sixty years, imperial dynastic rule had been restored, ending the only interruption of the monarchy in two millennia.
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Why do I have a feeling the Yi Dynasty might make historians ITTL take a more nuanced POV about Yuan Shikai's short-lived Empire of China with TTL's AH.Com arguing Yuan Shikai could have reformed the Chinese Empire had he been healthier?
How does the Yi Dynasty treat Chinese Muslims and Christians? I am guessing that the Yi Dynasty's policies regarding Chinese Muslims and Christians make the PRC's policies regarding the Uighurs look nice considering their fanaticism to the Emperor with Muslim imams and Christian priests being treated as "blasphemers".
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as well as East Pakistan (i.e. Bengal, which was reintegrated into India).
earing Iranian hostility, Balochistan re-joined India, preferring autonomy under New Delhi rather than being ruled by either Pakistan or Iran; Sindh re-joined too; the Pashtun dominated areas joined their Pashtun brothers in Afghanistan; this left a Punjabi dominated rump state, bordered on all sides by India, except for its northern border with China. It was the last part to join in 1970.
None of those regions would want to rejoin India due to religious differences nor would India want Them due to the large Muslim population.
Wonder how the rest of Africa is doing. Most were independent only a few years before half the world ended.

What became of Berlin? Did the NATO and Communist forces continue staring daggers at each other or did some form of united government emerge.
Is Li Zhe a real person or a fictional one? Great job!

Made him up. He's fictional.

The "Golden Banners" remind me of the Twilight of the Red Tsar, did the author know about that?

I got the whole idea of banner armies from here to replace Iran as this world's theocratic-democratic mix, but I looked it up and I see what you mean.

ITTL the Pahlavis stay in charge in Iran

None of those regions would want to rejoin India due to religious differences nor would India want Them due to the large Muslim population.

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Chapter VII: Post-Reconstruction United States, Post-War Culture and Nixon goes to Asia, 1972-1974.
Update time.

Chapter VII: Post-Reconstruction United States, Post-War Culture and Nixon goes to Asia, 1972-1974.

A decade had passed since WW III had ended the lives of half a billion people. The damage of the war was still plainly visible as reconstruction of destroyed cities was nowhere near done, if it had even begun to begin with. And yet remarkable progress had been made in only a decade, something that had hardly seemed evident in the early years full of hardship, famine, disease and anarchy. While the misery people went through in the post-war decade, especially the first few years, was awful, it wasn’t the end of the world as many had predicted. The four horsemen of the apocalypse went to whence they’d come.

In the United States, 30 million people had died. The immediate aftermath had seen a famine in the winter of 1962-’63 that led to 1 million more deaths. People fled the heavy hit areas to escape the worst of the radiation while others left their homes in the search of food as all grocery stores had been bought empty by hoarders or had been looted with the same effect, i.e. no more food. The nuked areas were rife with anarchy as it was every man for himself, with organized crime trying to muscle in when they could. A refugee crisis unseen in US history was the known result. US Army and federalized National Guard troops restored order, based on the President’s increased authority under martial law and the 1807 Insurrection Act. Kennedy then began organizing food distribution, food production and a public housing construction program unlike anything before or since. Coal, steel and oil were nationalized for “the duration of the emergency.”

Additionally, Cuba was occupied as the ability of the authorities to maintain order had virtually collapsed in the aftermath of the war, leaving American soldiers as the only thing standing in the way of complete anarchy. There was fragmented communist resistance and resentment against the Americans definitely existed, but most people were too war weary and concerned with their own survival to join a guerrilla. The US Army assisted in clearing up debris and providing medical relief, but couldn’t prevent food shortages as they had none to spare. In later years, a deal was forged: for much of the Reconstruction Era, Cuba sent sugar, tobacco, coffee and nickel to the US in return for aid.

This strong, hands-on approach produced results over the course of one year, leading to an overwhelming Democratic victory in the May 1963 midterms (originally to have been held in November 1962, had there been no war). Knowing Kennedy’s popularity was immense, the Republicans fielded a pair of paper candidates in the 1964 Presidential elections as all prominent Republicans declined to run to avoid the blemish of defeat: Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton and Congressman John W. Byrnes formed the Republican ticket. Elections were held in all states in November 1964. In Washington DC, formally the District of Columbia, no elections were held as there was nobody there to vote because, bluntly put, the three Soviet nuclear strikes had turned the city into a parking lot. Its three electoral votes therefore went to neither side, which meant 268 electoral seats were needed to win. Kennedy and Johnson won the 1964 Democratic National Convention, facing only token opposition. Under the slogan “Putting America Back Together Again”, the Democrats won 70% of the popular vote, carried 46 states and got 500 electoral votes. With 30% of the vote, four states and 35 electoral votes, the Republicans were defeated in a landslide as had been expected and as predicted by all the polls.

It was much the same in ’68, when there were calls to abolish the 22nd Amendment so Kennedy could run for a third term. He shot that down himself by announcing he would not, under any circumstances, seek a third term even if the 22nd Amendment was revoked through a new constitutional amendment. He did support Lyndon B. Johnson’s candidacy. Johnson selected runner up Hubert Humphrey – former Minnesota Senator and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – as his running mate. Their new slogan was “Keeping up the Great Work.” Popular Governor of California and former actor Ronald Reagan won the Republican nomination and selected Harold Stassen – a former President of the University of Pennsylvania and a former Minnesota Governor – as his running mate. The Johnson/Humphrey ticket won 53% of the popular vote carried 22 states and obtained 338 electoral votes. The Reagan/Stassen ticket got 45.8% of the popular vote, carried 23 states and gained 197 electoral votes. Johnson continued the policies of his predecessor and used the Democratic dominance in Congress to create the “Great Society” by expanding civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, aid to education, the arts, urban and rural development, public services and his “War on Poverty.” Johnson died in January 1972 of a heart attack, making Humphrey the new President. He selected Speaker of the House John W. McCormack as his Vice President.

The twelve year reign of the Democrats ended in 1972. In the decade after the war, the Democrats had been able to carry out reconstruction as they saw fit, as Kennedy’s immense popularity had given him control over both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The 60s had seen an unprecedented government planned effort, greatly reducing the role of the free market in the economy as it couldn’t meet the demands of the immense devastation created by nuclear war. There was no more hunger, the epidemics had subsided, there were no more anarchy ridden areas, the tent cities for refugees were gone and almost everyone had a home. Of course, the war was never far from thought as the visible reminders, were still there: places like New York, Washington DC and other bombed areas were still blackened ruins off-limits to civilians; labour conscription was still in effect for public construction, albeit winding down; St. Louis had served as the interim capital for a decade now, and massive office buildings in functional modernist or brutalist architecture had been erected to house all the government’s departments; completely new neighbourhoods and towns in simple, easy to build (prefab) homes had been built; cancer rates had increased severely; and a National Cancer Act had been passed in 1966 declaring a “war on cancer” and vastly increasing funding to the National Cancer Institute. All of this had led to a monumental government debt. Besides that, desegregationist policies had caused some bad blood in parts of the south.

Finally, a WW III monument had been built, a 250 acre (100 hectare) area in St. Louis covered in six foot tall marble and granite monoliths inscribed with the names of all known victims of the war. There was a route from A to Z, gently guiding the visitors with signs over gravel paths with benches and public waste containers, while well maintained hedgerows, shrubs and ponds with fountains created a serene atmosphere. At the centre was the crypt of the unknown soldier at the base of a stone platform on which a twenty foot wide marble American bald eagle with spread wings was placed, like a phoenix arising from its ashes. It was commissioned in 1968 and opened to the public by President Johnson in 1970, in the presence of former President Kennedy and his family.

The 1972 Presidential campaign was not about if the Kennedy and Johnson administrations had done a good job in rebuilding the country from the most cataclysmic conflict in the history of mankind. They could not have done a better job in leading the country through such an unprecedented period of crisis. Wage and price controls, government control of food distribution, the de facto nationalization of the healthcare and pharmaceuticals sector, federal control over steel, coal, oil and other key sectors, the proportional distribution of refugees, and severe sentences for black marketeers, thieves, frauds etc. had been part of the package. A fast growing economy, but also a towering government debt were the result.

The US had never seen such a powerful federal government. It was precisely against this that the Republicans now started to agitate, complimenting the reconstruction efforts of the preceding administration but arguing that the power of the federal government should be toned down to a normal level. In many ways, the executive branch had acted with little involvement of the legislative and judicial branches under the powers vested into it by martial law. The Republicans argued for a complete return to normal, with Congress, the Supreme Court and the state legislatures resuming their pre-war roles, putting an end to state control of certain economic sectors, and ending the government controlled distribution of food and its heavy involvement in food production. Now that the economy was growing, in some years of the Reconstruction Era reaching double digits, austerity was advocated to get the government’s debt under control

Republican nominee Richard M. Nixon, former Vice President under Eisenhower and also the Republican candidate in the last pre-war Presidential election, said: “It’s time for America to return to normal. A continuation of the restrictive Reconstruction policies now that our country is doing so well is no longer necessary. I compliment both my predecessors for their successes in rebuilding our great nation. However, any attempt to extend martial law under these circumstances, and the far-reaching powers of the federal government along with it, however well-intentioned, would be dictatorial.” Humphrey had been very active in the background, but not very publicly, and as such hadn’t carved out a position of his own in the eyes of many voters. Additionally, the much more charismatic Nixon selected Nelson Rockefeller as his running mate for his liberal, progressive and moderate views to pull in swing voters sympathetic to the Democrats. The incumbent President lost with 47.5% of the popular vote, twelve states and 198 electoral votes. The Republican Nixon/Rockefeller ticket won 51.2% of the popular vote, 38 states and 337 electoral votes.

After he was inaugurated, Nixon ended martial law and gradually returned to a civilian economy. Steel, coal and oil were privatized again first and wage and price controls were released thereafter. The exception was a nationwide minimum wage of $1.10 per hour that was not mandated by the federal government, but was upheld in all states nonetheless, and annually adjusted for inflation. The final sector in which government control ceased was food production and distribution: the system of quotas and distribution was abolished first for easily available staples like bread, potatoes, corn, dairy, pork and poultry and later for the more expensive kinds of food like beef, veal, mutton, and fish. Rationing formally ended on January 1st 1975.

A second issue was government debt. The debt had reached the astronomical number of $1 trillion, an enormous amount at the time. With the demise of the USSR, there was no nation in the world able to threaten American power and therefore Nixon decided to cut defence spending by one third to free up money to pay its creditors. As it turned out, part of the creditors had been destroyed in the war, leaving nobody to receive the money, and this reduced the mountain of debt by several tens of billions of dollars. The remainder was still a substantial sum and therefore more needed to be done. Reluctant to raise income and corporate taxes further, Nixon instead decided to raise the excise tax on alcohol. Furthermore, since the National Cancer Institute confirmed earlier research showing a link between smoking and cancer, Nixon decided to double the excise tax on tobacco. He also passed a federal value added tax on non-food items.

A symbolic photograph was taken two weeks after new year’s day 1975, as a press opportunity, president Nixon attended a viewing of the movie “Murder on the Orient Express” in a drive-in cinema and had some popcorn. This US-UK coproduction, based on the 1934 Agatha Christie novel of the same name, was one of the highest grossing movies of 1974 and also one of the earliest blockbusters produced in colour rather than being coloured later. This was no incident as there was enormous nostalgia for the pre-WW III era. As far as movies went thrillers, action movies, crime movies and comedies set in the 1920s and 30s as well as Westerns set in the nineteenth century were highly popular, particularly among the survivors of the pre-war generations: the Lost Generation, G.I Generation, the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers (respectively born 1883-1900, 1901-1927, 1928-1945 and 1946-1962). Few dramatic war movies were made in the West, and the ones that were made concerned WW I and WW II and, in the case of the US, also the American Civil War. Slightly more rare, but still popular in the genre of historical dramas, were works set in Roman, Medieval, American revolutionary or Napoleonic times. Parodical, satirical, black comedy or dramedy films concerning these topics, however, predominated as the public demanded light, forgettable entertainment. The niche genre of horror comedies was the darkest that cinema got in the 1960s and 70s. In science-fiction, a highly popular franchise called Star Trek presented a utopian future resulting from a fictional nuclear war taking place in the mid-21st century. A TV series had originally been planned, but a two-and-half hour feature film was made instead because TV ownership took a nosedive after WW III, in contrast to cinema attendance: “Star Trek: the Motion Picture” was the highest grossing movie worldwide of 1975. After years full of relatively cheap productions to cut costs in the post-war crisis, Star Trek was the first real blockbuster, in large part due to its expensive special effects.

As far as music went, it was much as the same as film. People in the US and Europe concerned with the drab and often also perilous post-war reality weren’t interested in fancy, hard to follow artistic experiments, but in simple entertainment as a distraction. Musical trends and genres the 1950s such as rock and roll, pop, R&B, blues, country music and jazz re-emerged and singers that had survived the war like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash resumed their careers. Particularly in the United States, pre-war 1950s music continued to dominate well into the 60s.

The first musical experimentation originated in Great Britain, though it would inevitably reach the other side of the Atlantic in years to come. The war slowed down the developments that would lead to the “British Invasion”, with one tragic example being the deaths of the four members of an up and coming band called The Beatles when Liverpool was hit. Besides that, in the crisis years with money in short supply music studios were adverse to anything new and unproven. New work, however, continued to be made by struggling bands and performers like the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Herman’s Hermits, the Kinks and the Hollies, who gave club owners samples to get gigs and sell some cheap audiocassettes to the audience. Many of these were beat groups drawing on US influences including soul music, rhythm and blues, surf music and rock and roll to create new styles like psychedelic rock, blues rock, progressive rock, beat, baroque pop, sunshine pop, bubble gum pop, funk, soul and so on. Given the unsurprising desire to detach from drab reality, the genre of psychedelic rock (centred on perception-altering hallucinogenic drugs) became totally dominant in the early 70s. Toward the end of the sixties the music studios finally recognized the demand for this music, and the first albums hit the British market in 1968-’69, still in the midst of the post-war crisis (in relative terms, the war had hit Britain much harder than the US). When this music started to arrive in the United States in 1970-’71, it became immensely popular and dented or temporarily derailed the chart success of the likes of Fats Domino, Chubby Checker and Elvis Presley. Though the impropriety of certain lyrics and the promiscuous behaviour shown at concerts was of concern, President Nixon had other things on his mind.

Nixon had to deal with developments in Asia. He didn’t lose sleep over the fact that North Vietnam crumbled as it no longer had any communist sponsors; South Vietnam, with both American and Imperial Chinese support, unified the country. The unpopular Ngo Din Diem was removed in a coup d’état and a pro-Chinese coalition of several political parties (except the now illegal communists) took control and rewrote the constitution into a theocratic-democratic hybrid with a restored monarchy. Bao Dai was reinstated as Emperor with massive Chinese support. The restored Empire of Vietnam shifted from the American to the Chinese sphere of influence. This taught Nixon that, despite a shift back to imperial dynastic rule, China was most probably the biggest rival to America in Asia, and perhaps the world.

Nixon first visited Japan. The island of Okinawa, site of a US base, as well as Kobe, Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo and Niigata had been hit. Fortunately, the culturally iconic city of Kyoto had been spared and now served as the country’s capital, and from there Emperor Hirohito directed reconstruction efforts. In response to reduced American influence, the post-war crisis and fear of Imperial China, Japanese militarism had resurfaced and cliques of officers and Zaibatsu (Japanese conglomerates) side-lined the National Diet “for the duration of the emergency”. Heavily weakened, however, Japan looked to the Americans to contain the rising Chinese Empire and hoped for a strategic partnership. Nixon reaffirmed US-Japanese ties, but Japan alone could never serve as a buffer against China.

Who was to become America’s new partner in Asia? There was only one with the manpower to oppose China and that was India, but the US-Indian relationship was not cordial. Nehru adopted socialist policies for his own country that included the nationalization of steel, iron, coal and power. He intended to heavily invest in these public sector industries in a push for import substitution industrialization. India lagged behind the miracle economies of West Germany, Japan, France and Italy, though those were obliterated by the war, leaving India with serious little competition. On the other hand, however, chances of obtaining foreign investments were close to non-existent and in 1963 and ’64 the country had experienced famines due to the short and late monsoons that resulted in the deaths of 10 million people. Moreover, there the country had to cope with intermittent ethnic strife, resulting from the post-war crisis. The country struggled for much of the 1960s.

Nixon first set out diplomatic feelers in India by sending Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who negotiated a mostly symbolic friendship treaty. The cabinet and the National Security Council, with the approval of Congress, assisted and supported the policy toward India undertaken by the State Department and the President. After preparations via each other’s embassies, Air Force One touched down at Palam Airport, New Delhi, in June 1974. Before the eye of the cameras he visited sites like the India Gate, the Red Fort, the Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri and the Taj Mahal in this highly publicized state visit. These visits featured prominently in American cinema newsreels and newspapers.

Behind closed doors, Nixon met with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi several times and they discussed a variety of issues. The main topic of their talks was that Nixon wanted to achieve a balance of power that prevented total Chinese domination of Southeast Asia. Economic support was granted in return for India flexing its muscles and extending its influence over Southeast Asia. Nixon promised to supply expertise and material support for Bokaro Steel City, a steel plant and town near sources of coal, iron ore, manganese and other raw materials. Similarly, the US would assist in the construction of the Rourkela Steel Plant. Other engineers, irrigation experts and electrical experts were provided by the US to India as well. Most importantly, the US agreed to help modernize the agricultural sector, still the largest sector of India’s economy: 25.000 tractors, 25.000 combine harvesters, 25.000 cotton pickers and 25.000 sugar harvesters would be delivered by the US to India over the next four years. India’s weapons plants were allowed to manufacture certain American weapons’ systems like M60 tanks and F-4 Phantom II fighters. This gigantic effort set India on the path of becoming a leading Asian power. In return, India was expected to keep China’s influence from expanding in Southeast Asia, something New Delhi itself was very keen on as well.
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Good one. I'm not surprised that a lot of older movies would be popular among the public, reminding them of happier times. It's not unlike the Gumboverse 1970s with Hollywood studios re-issuing all those 1930s and 1940s films back into theaters.

I am somewhat surprised that originals and/or copies of such films survived nuclear destruction though.
Did anything of the Beat generation jazz, and literature culture survive. I'm guessing 60's Hippies never formed. However the Beats were established by 1962. If Jack Kerouac William Burroughs or possibly Allen Ginsberg were not in target cities. They or some associates might still be writing. Assuming literary expression was to a minor degree permitted within martial law. They might have some influence on post war music literature, and theatre.
Did anything of the Beat generation jazz, and literature culture survive. I'm guessing 60's Hippies never formed. However the Beats were established by 1962. If Jack Kerouac William Burroughs or possibly Allen Ginsberg were not in target cities. They or some associates might still be writing. Assuming literary expression was to a minor degree permitted within martial law. They might have some influence on post war music literature, and theatre.
Alternatively, the usage of drugs may have stemmed purely from escapism instead of rebellion, seeing that the society under Martial Law would probably leave no quarter to looters and subversives. Ironically, Nixon may approve or even encourage such behaviour ITTL since those were, well distractions from the ongoing infrastructure conscription and lack of progress in rebuilding the former major metropolises that which while warranted, would have left a depressing note on the populace regardless of their views.


If you want to have a debt you would need somebody to lend you money. And that might be hard to find after WW3. Even in your own population you will have trouble.
The idea that this nuclear exchange would that serious an effect at all on the weather is laughable.
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