The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union took place at the same time as the so-called “Space Age” or “Atomic Age,” a time of massive innovation and excitement about the possibilities of science in the wake of World War II. It was during this era that human spaceflight was first achieved, and that the foundations of modern computer technology were laid down. Both great powers, the Americans and the Soviets, tried out many ideas in their efforts to indirectly thwart one another. Some of them were quite wacky and fanciful, and thus look rather like something out of science fiction. These four inventions were the strangest things used to fight the Cold War.
The CIA Anti-Castro Arsenal
As the Communist leader who was closest to home for the Americans, and one who was incredibly hard to get rid of, Fidel Castro posed at best a major annoyance and at worst an imminent threat in the mind of intelligence officers in the United States (particularly the paranoid FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover). Many elite CIA agents were dispatched with gadgetry that was more Austin Powers than James Bond to either kill or discredit the Cuban dictator. Most of the weapons they used were based on his personal routine and thus could unobtrusively be used to take him out – an idea that would have been clever if it weren’t so ridiculous. For example, Castro was an avid skin-diver (as many people in the sunny Caribbean are) and the CIA thought that they might disguise a high-explosive device as a particularly interesting piece of coral and put it in Castro’s favorite diving cove. Castro was also famously a cigar-chomping smoker, so they specially designed explosive cigars to present to him as a fake gift. They also attempted to put thallium salts in his soap so that washing up would make his beard fall out and cause him to look silly and unmasculine. Perhaps most strangely of all, they schemed to set up secret gas pumps in his radio studio, so that they could fill the room with LSD and make him hallucinate, rant, and rave before a national audience during a broadcast.
The M-28 “Davy Crockett”