Salon has a reasonably good piece up entitled Weird suburbia: How atomic bombs and UFOs created modern America, which is an excerpt from Welcome to Mars: Politics, Pop Culture, and Weird Science in 1950s America by Ken Hollings. It’s a nice introduction to the relationship between suburban growth, the military-industrial complex, and the RAND-style thinktank culture that dominated the postwar west. A snippet:
The Atomic energy Commission and Project RAND are soon studying the flying saucers, AeC chairman David Lilienthal going so far as to make a public statement discounting any direct relationship between such sightings and the effects of atomic radiation. However, the main connection between the saucers and the emergent military-industrial complex will inevitably be supplied by the United States Air Force: an organization that has had to wait until now for an Act of Congress to bring it into being. The 1947 National Security Act does as much to recalibrate the American war machine as von Neumann and Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behavior.
I will be interested to read Hollings’s book, not least because there might be (should be?) some overlap with my Extraterrestrials and the American Zeitgeist: Alien Contact Tales Since the 1950s. The 50s seem like they’ve been done to death by historians and pop culture scholars, but the overwhelming view of the era as Leave it to Beaver seems to persist for the general public.
In any case, Hollings’s book is now on my to-read list. I hope I remember to look at my to-read list at some point…
Hat-tip to The Anomalist for pointing me to the Salon article.