In Collier’s Magazine, World War III Already Happened…In 1952

In Collier’s Magazine, World War
III Already Happened…In 1952
by Ron Miller

In 1951 Collier’s magazine devoted an entire issue to reporting an imagined version of World War III. The magazine followed every detail of the conflict from the first attack to the eventual occupation of Russia by the United Nations.

Collier’s recruited some of the nation’s best-known writers and journalists to provide articles. These included Edward R. Murrow, Robert Sherwood, Lowell Thomas, J.B. Priestley, Margaret Chase Smith, Philip Wylie and Walter Winchell, among numerous other celebrity authors. To increase the sense of reality, even the magazine’s cartoons—some of which were provided by famed World War II cartoonist Bill Mauldin—and many of its advertisements were geared to reflect the “reality” of the imaginary war.

All of this was assembled under the direction of legendary Collier’s editor, Cornelius Ryan—the genius behind the seminal Collier’s space symposium and later the author of The Longest Day (1959).

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Even the magazine’s obligatory short stories were romances set in the world of World War III. Collier’s also enlisted some of the country’s top illustrators to provide the visual documentation—some of which was uncannily realistic, and some outright disturbing. Not the least of these were Chesley Bonestell’s renderings of Moscow, Washington and New York during and after a nuclear bombing. The latter illustrations are disturbingly reminiscent of news photos from 9/11.

In Collier's Magazine, World War III Already Happened...In 1952

According to Collier’s, this is how World War III played out…

An attempted assassination of Yugoslavian Marshal Tito on May 10, 1952 triggers a Moscow-planned uprising in that country. Red Army troops accompanied by troops from the Soviet satellite states of Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary invade Yugoslavia. While President Truman condemns this “Kremlin inspired” action, Stalin says it is “an internal matter” and that the invasion is in fact “the will of the Yugoslav people.” Defying Truman, Moscow refuses to withdraw its troops.

In Collier's Magazine, World War III Already Happened...In 1952

The United Nations joins the U.S. in declaring war on the Soviet Union. A preemptive saturation bombing of Russia with nuclear weapons begins immediately. Needless to say, the coalition forces avoid bombing major cities and instead focus on military targets, such as factories, oil and steel refineries, and nuclear installations.

The Soviets retaliate with a nuclear-armed air force that outnumbers UN planes five to three. They attack Germany, the Baltic states the Middle East. UN troops are forced to retreat on all fronts, including a catastrophic evacuation from Korea and Japan.

While Communist cells throughout Western world begin a campaign of sabotage and open attacks, such as the detonation of a bomb in New York’s Grand Central Station, Stalin’s son, aviator General Vassily Stalin, is captured and made a prisoner of war.

In Collier's Magazine, World War III Already Happened...In 1952

The Red Army invades North America when it lands in Alaska and immediately occupies territory. Meanwhile, the Soviets drop atomic bombs on London and other coalition capitals. Atomic bombs also fall on Detroit, New York and Washington, DC.

The U.S. is bombed again the following year when Chicago, New York, Washington and Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Norfolk and other US cities are nuked by missiles fired from Soviet submarines. The UN finally begins to make some progress, however, and after a successful Christmas Day nuclear attack on the Red Army, UN air forces finally dominate the air over the European battle fronts.

After warning the Russian people of an imminent nuclear
attack, US planes drop atomic bombs on the Kremlin.

In Collier's Magazine, World War III Already Happened...In 1952

Shortly afterward, a suicide attack by 10,000 troops in the Ural
Mountains destroys Russia’s remaining stockpile of nuclear weapons.

In Collier's Magazine, World War III Already Happened...In 1952

The UN follows up by providing arms to resistance fighters in Russia and its satellite nations. Red troops begin to lose ground to the guerrillas. Civil uprisings occur throughout the Soviet Union. A UN offensive begins on all fronts as Soviet resistance finally begins to collapse. Eventually, the Red Army collapses as UN troops begin to occupy major cities and regions in not only the satellite states but Russia as well.

In Collier's Magazine, World War III Already Happened...In 1952

Stalin “disappears” at the beginning of the following year. Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria, the ruthless overseer of Russia’s nuclear arms program, is proclaimed the new Premier.

The war effectively ends in 1955 as the Soviet Union
disintegrates and Moscow is occupied by UN forces.

The magazine follows up this victory with articles such as “We Worship GOD Again,” by Oksana Kasenkina (a Russian schoolteacher who had leaped from the third floor of the Soviet Consulate in NY in a bid for freedom) and “The Women of Russia.” The latter is accompanied by an illustration of Moscow’s vast Dynamo Stadium, filled with “fashion-starved Moscow women for their first style show.”

The final articles focus on the rebuilding of Russia in “A New Russia,” by economist Stuart Chase, and “Free Men at Work,” by labor union leader Walter Reuther, and the renaissance of culture in a report on a Moscow production of “Guys and Dolls” and the opening day of the 1960 Moscow Olympics, signaling “world brotherhood and good will.”

COLLIER’S: Preview of the War We Do Not Want

Collier's October 27, 1951: Preview of the War We Do Not Want - Russia's Defeat and Occupation: 1952-1960'

Collier’s magazine devoted its entire 130 page October 27, 1951 issue to an imagined World War III and subsequent United Nations occupation of Russia. It is fascinating to read how the editors and guest writers (Edward R. Murrow, Philip Wylie and Walter Winchell among many) thought WW III might unfold. It is also more than a little unsettling to flip through the peppy ads for Nash automobiles and Frigidaire refrigerators and countless other products to land on full-color renderings of Moscow and Washington in atomic flames. One illustration caption reads “Note Pentagon blazing (at upper left).” Another illustration caption reads “In an effort to terrorize people, Soviet agents planted bombs in New York’s Grand Central Terminal, killed 22. Americans were outraged.”

The magazine’s literary war game presentation is so comprehensive that it even includes illustrations by the famous World War II editorial cartoonist Bill Maudlin who created the characters Willie and Joe.”

It is interesting to note the treatment of civil defense in this speculative story and how it mirrors the conservative attitude of 1951. At first, civil defense is deemed to be inadaquate but later, after the first round of Soviet atomic attacks has taught the complacent U.S. a lesson, civil defense procedures are described as having been improved. The proof? Far fewer casualties in the second Soviet A-bomb raids than the first.

For the benefit of CONELRAD readers who will never be able to track down a copy of this masterpiece of Cold War publishing, the following is a summary of the events of the fictional war from the issue. Spoiler alert: America wins!:



Assassination attempt on Marshal Tito’s life, May 10th, precipitates Cominform-planned uprising in Yugoslavia. Troops from satellite nationsof Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, backed by the Red Army, cross borders. Truman terms agression “Kremlin inspired.”; Reds call it “an internal matter.”

Third World War begins when Moscow, still insisting that uprising is “the will of the Yugoslav people,” refuses to withdraw Red Army units. Stalin miscalculates risk: had believed U.S. would neither back Tito nor fight alone. U.S. is joined by principal UN nations in declaration of war.

Neutrals include Sweden, Ireland, Switzerland, Eqypt, India and Pakistan.

Saturation A-bombing of U.S.S.R. begins. Avoiding completely population centers, West concentrates on legitimate targets only. Principal objectives: industrial installations; oil, steel and A-bomb plants.

Communists throughout West begin sabotage campaign. Trained saboteurs open attacks in U.S.

General Vassily Stalin, aviator son of Red dictator, becomes a UN prisoner of war.

Red Army, under vast air umbrella which outnumbers UN planes five to three, attacks across north Germany plane, in Baltic countries and through Middle East.

UN Troops, fighting for time, retreat on all fronts, suffering many losses.

North American continent invaded when Red Army, in combined air-sea operation, lands in Alaska, occupying Nome and Little Diomede Island.

Reds A-bomb London and UN bases overseas.

Far East “Dunkerque” takes place when, under unremitting air and submarine attacks, U.S. occupation forces evacuate from Korea and Japan.

U.S. A-bombed for first time when Red air force hits Detroit, New York and A-bomb plant at Hanford (Washington). Civil defense proves inadequate.

Turning point in war’s first phase reached with atomic artillery smashes enemy on Christmas Day in Europe.


U.S. A-bombed for second time. Bombers hit Chicago, New York, Washington and Philadelphia. Red submarines fire atomic-headed missiles into Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Norfolk (Virginia) and Bremerton (Washington). Casualties greatly lessened by improved civil defense procedures.

UN air forces finally achieve air superiority over battle fronts.

Psychological warfare begins to play an imporant role; propaganda emphasizes that UN is fighting war of liberation for Russian people; leaflet raids and broadcasts warn Russian people to evacuate area scheduled for attack.

Moscow A-bombed midnight, July 22nd, by flying B-36s in retaliation for Red A-bomb terror raid on Washington. Planes flying from U.S. bases destroy center of Moscow. Area of damage: 20 square miles.

Suicide task force lands behind U.S.S.R. borders, destroys Soviets’ last remaining A-bomb stockpile in underground chambers of Ural Mountains. Of 10,000 paratroopers and airborne units, 10 percent survive.

UN General Assembly issues momentous war-aims statement known as “Denver Declaration.”

Underground forces in satellite countries receive arms and materials in UN plane-drops; highly trained guerrilla fighters parachute into U.S.S.R. to aid resistance movements and destroy specific targets.

Severest rationing since beginning of war introduced in U.S.

Yugoslav guerrilla fighters begin to tie down large numbers of Red troops.


A captured Soviet general reports disappearance of Stalin, reveals that MVD (secret police) Chief Beria is new Red dictator.

Uprisings take place in U.S.S.R. and satellite nations. UN parachutes Russian emigres into Soviet Union to aid dissident groups.

UN offensive begins on all fronts as West at last gains initiative.

Red Army gradually retreats, then disintegrates under onslaught of UN air and ground forces.

Three Red generals desert to UN forces.

UN armored spearhead captures Warsaw, reaches Pripet Marshes in Poland. Another armored column crosses U.S.S.R. border into Ukraine.

UN forces clear Asiatic Turkey and cross border into Crimea.

Marines, in combined air-sea operation, capture and occupy Vladivostok.


Hostilites cease as U.S.S.R. degenerates into a state of chaos and internal revolt.

UN forces begin occupation duties in satellite nations and Ukraine.

UNITOC – United Nations Temporary Occupation Command – set up in Moscow.

COLLIER’S: Preview of the War We Do Not Want

Collier’s magazine
By Various authors including Edward R. Murrow; Philip Wylie and Walter Winchell
October 27, 1951


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