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Postcards from Heaven: Critical Geographies of the Cold War Military–Industrial–Academic Complex

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This article examines a little-known project funded by the US Air Force and CIA, and carried out by communications scientists at the University of Washington during the early 1950s. Project Revere sought to investigate how the seemingly humble information leaflet could be deployed, via air drops, as a “flexible weapon” to spark “interpersonal communications” and spread rumours throughout particular target populations. While the testing ground for these aerial experiments was the northwest United States (Washington State, Utah, Idaho), Revere scientists were aware that their work would find particular application in supporting America's Cold War activities overseas, not least in the Korean peninsula. At the same time, however, the Revere tests were implicated in the intensification of domestic anxieties as leaflets dropped over rural Washington State and Utah mobilised issues of civil defence, emergency procedures and warnings about “enemy bombers”. In this way, we suggest that Revere corresponded with, and heightened, efforts by national and local governments to mobilise citizens into a Cold War “call to arms”.

Keywords: Cold War; United States; civil defence; communications research; leafleting; rumour

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of London, Egham, Surrey, UK;, Email: 2: Department of Geography, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA;, Email: 3: Department of Geography, University of London, Egham, Surrey, UK;, Email:

Publication date: June 1, 2011


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