Did Sputnik Really Scare Americans That Much?

Jun 2017
Yes. Think of the effect the Dreadnought had on the UK in terms of generating fear of Germans and this is on an incredible higher scale. I mean the Soviets were the first to send an object into space and this implied that they were technologically superior. Now this was nonsense the US quickly got an object into orbit of there own but that's now how the PR played, US was losing because the USSR was doing these things first. Also keep in mind due to the Red Scare the US population had many false notions about the power of the USSR, for example JFK in 1960 ran for President on closing the "missile gap" only to find when he entered office that this gap didn't exist and the US had a huge lead over the USSR. American public was ironically given a Soviet biased account of the Cold War in order to generate support for containment. Cuban Missile Crisis another example, US put missiles in Turkey, USSR responds but the US public just sees it as the USSR putting missiles right off the coast of Florida so they can. While I often talk about the lack of US support for intervention the late 1950s and early 1960s was one where the memory of Korea became distant and fear of the USSR was a major consensus even though in reality the US was technologically superior.
Feb 2016
I was nine. I don't remember anybody being scared at all.
A lot of the people who were kids during 9/11 didn't know that it was a serious situation at that time.

After Sputnik was launched, the United States put a lot more money into the education programs, notably into math and science courses.
This is something I would like to see actual evidence of.

Do you have a link?
When I was in school, I had a teacher who's old enough to remember when Sputnik was in space. He mentioned the United States funding a lot more money into the education programs.
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Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
San Antonio, Tx
Not really. JFK largely considered the space program a waste of money and considered a number of other high tech options to show U.S. superiority over the Soviets including a plan to green the Sahara.
That must be why he asked the American people to send astronauts to the moon and to return them safely to earth, because it was a “waste of money” instead of the greatest thing ever.


Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
San Antonio, Tx
I asked my Mom about this. My mom was and is politically naïve She said her and the people she knew weren't afraid as much the American ego was bruised (my phrase, not hers) because the Russians got to space first. After all, it was the Americans who won WWII in Europe, though the Russians helped a little :eek:.

I would guess that the majority of Americans felt the same way as my Mom. They didn't really understand Communism but they knew Communists were Godless, so they had to be bad. :notrust: From the Mercury program to the moon landing America's confidence in its technology capabilities was restored but that had little effect on the U.S.S.R until it rotted away from the inside a couple decades later.

I'd tend to agree with the magazines. The real fear was in Washington and perpetrated simplistically by the media. Did anyone in Washington really believe that school children were protected from nuclear radiation by getting under their wooden desks? The policy makers knew what really was at stake, even though they gave too much credence to the Domino theory. And they knew just wanted they wanted the American public to know or not know.

I remember asking my dad why they had us get under our desks in school and he said something like "I don't know, boy, but do what your told. The president of the United States is always right." My dad was a Republican and this was during the Kennedy administration.

What a strange place the United States was back then. :)
I was in Houston, about as far from Washington as one can be and I can tell you that Sputnik scared the hell out of ost of he Americans I knew back then. It was a huge concern and a giant worry.
May 2017
I was 13 years old , and yes there was lots of talk about our school systems and how far behind we were . Europe and Japan were a lot farther ahead scholastically . Panicked , not me , I wanted to be a cowboy !