I have trouble shaking the feeling that our distant posterity will look back at the America of 1945-1968 as the apex of human existence. It was an era of nearly full employment, remarkable public morality, and tremendous creativity across pretty much every industry or discipline one could imagine, from jazz to jet planes. Which is not to say that everything was hunky-dory, of course. Invisible Man was published in 1952; Last Exit To Brooklyn in 1964. Still, it was an era of exceptional safety and certitude for the vast majority of Americans. It was also a world where something like COVID-19 would have been swiftly handled, assuming that it somehow managed to make it across the Pacific Ocean in the first place. Most people behaved like grownups back then. It was expected of them. If Eisenhower had gone on television and asked people to wear a mask, then the masks would have been worn. If he’d asked people to stop burning down Rolex stores, the media would have reported this as a singular and outstanding idea rather than as incipient fascism on the hoof, and perhaps the store-burning would have stopped. Who knows? We had not yet acquired enough stupidity, as a nation, to create our current conditions.
It was the kind of era in which flying wings could happen, and did. As with so much else of our postwar tech Renaissance, the science behind the flying wing had been proven by Germans — in this case, a few Germans who managed to get a 55-foot-span jet-powered flying wing built more or less underground, with ersatz materials, during 1944.