top of page

This Day in Science Fiction History: 18 August

Fictional Entry—Thursday, August 18, 1966

War is a terrible thing. Atomic war is more so. There are no winners, only losers.

Special effects of destroyed cars, crumbling buildings, and magma in London, England
London in ruins (© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1960)

The great war between the East and West began on October 23, 1962, when a single atomic weapon detonated in the Atlantic Ocean at the Cuban Quarantine Line. No one knows what caused the explosion, which side attacked, or if the explosion was due to other factors.

The atomic fireball centered on the intercept point between the USS Essex (CV-9), USS Gearing (DD710), and the Soviet transports Yuri Gagarin and Kimovsk. Within minutes, Gieger counters in Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic were detecting high levels of radioactive fallout.

The EMP from the blast knocked out all electrical systems in the Caribbean islands, eastern Mexico, most of Central America, and the southern United States. In response to the detonation, President John F. Kennedy ordered Strategic Air Command (SAC) to launch their bombers and prepare for a missile strike.

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev accused the United States of using atomic weapons on unarmed ships, a blatant act of war. The United States government denied the claim and countered that the Soviets had set off the bomb.

Over the next several years, war raged over the world in small battles. The EMP damage from the initial atomic blast showed the weakness of land-based weapons systems. Each side scrambled to develop orbital weapons systems. Unfortunately, both the East and West were successful in their research.

By 1965, hundreds of orbital missile platforms, nicknamed “atomic satellites”, flashed over NATO and Warsaw Pact cities every day. Then, in mid-1965, the war shifted from conventional weapons to atomics. The first orbital attack was against the SAC bombers stationed on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The attack scoured the island clean. Over the next year, both sides targeted and destroyed several cities. One retaliatory strike followed another, with no end in sight.

On the morning of August 18, 1966, a Warsaw Pact atomic satellite adjusted course for an attack against London, Great Britain. Air raid sirens sounded, and the population quickly found their way to the underground shelters. When the weapons hit, they struck with such force a fissure opened near the outer edge of London. Magma poured forth, covering cars and buildings in a thick layer of molten rock. What had once been the shining city of the British Empire was now a smoking field of cooling lava.

No one is certain what happened to the population in the underground shelters. Perhaps they survived the attack. After all, scientists and engineers had designed the shelters to house such a population for decades. They had air manufacturing equipment, food stores for more than twenty years, and tools to help rebuild after the surface had become safe to return to. They may yet wait in those deep vaults. Wait for a time to return to the surface and rebuild what they lost.

The Time Machine

Motion Picture



This Day in Science Fiction History examines notable events, real and fictional, concerning fantasy and science fiction in various media.


bottom of page