At the end of the Second World War the US was the sole nuclear power in the world, although paradoxically it did not possess a single functioning atomic bomb after the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These were big, complex devices requiring weeks to prepare and prime. The US also had an air force and navy capable of projecting power around the globe, even if in Europe the Soviets had a colossal advantage, with 4.5 million troops, 15,500 combat aircraft and vast numbers of tanks.
The obvious answer to this conventional imbalance was to rapidly stockpile nuclear bombs – the initial target was 200 such weapons – and combine them with a dedicated bomber force, Strategic Air Command (SAC). Unlike the 1,000-bomber raids of the Second World War, this would concentrate on small