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The United States of America (USA), commonly truncated as the United States, U.S., or simply America, was a pre-war federal republic, and one of the only two known nuclear superpowers remaining by the end of the Resource Wars in 2077. By that point, the U.S. had around 400 million citizens,[Non-canon 1] with a political system increasingly controlled by a military-corporate oligarchy with access to nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, nuclear fusion and fission technology, orbital facilities, and other advanced technologies it had pioneered.
The United States ceased to exist after the catastrophic nuclear exchange known as the Great War. The American government controlled by the military-corporate oligarchs abandoned the country shortly before the nuclear exchanges began, there was no command and control structure remaining that could organize any recovery efforts, leading to the total or near collapse of society, economy, and its military.
Survivors went on to organize themselves on their own, creating new tribes, nation states, and other recognizable organizations. One of these known as the Enclave, a collection of paramilitary organizations scattered across post-War America, claims to be the legal continuation of the United States.
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The United States aggressively asserted its position as a major global power, competing with China in the mid-21st century, to subsequently become the world's foremost superpower. Intense research into space technologies and funding of the United States Space Agency, resulted in the pioneering flight of Defiance 7 on May 5, 1961, when Captain Carl Bell became the first known human in space. However, the claim was widely disputed by the Soviet Union and China. By the end of the decade, the United States had achieved victory in the space race, as the Virgo II lunar lander touched down on the surface of Earth's Moon on July 16, 1969. Valiant 11 mission members, Captain Richard Wade, Captain Mark Garris, and Captain Michael Hagen, became the first humans known to have walked on the surface of another celestial body. Another mission followed directly afterward, and on November 14 of that same year, Virgo III of Valiant 12 landed on the Moon. The flag was subsequently retrieved for display in the Museum of Technology. The space exploration program petered out by 2034, when the last known manned mission to the Moon occurred, and remaining crewed rockets, such as the Delta IX, were converted into military ordnance as the global situation deteriorated.
The Resource Wars
The series of conflicts known as the Resource Wars were but one symptom of an increasingly aggressive foreign policy adopted as a result of the increasing shortage of critical resources, including crude oil. One example came in 2051, when the United States began exerting pressure on Mexico, in order to protect their economic interests there, primarily the crude oil supply. The U.S. deliberately destabilized the country using economic sanctions, before invading the country outright.[Non-canon 2] American military units seized oil refineries and infrastructure to ensure that the flow of crude oil did not cease.[Non-canon 3] However, these tactics did little to avert the crisis, and as the Texan oil fields ran dry, their withering husks revealed to the American public just how deep the resource and energy crisis was, in a landmark 2052 television documentary.[Non-canon 4] Not long afterward, rising oil prices worldwide bankrupted smaller nations, which lead to the European Commonwealth declaring war on the Middle East; the United States was also severely affected by the skyrocketing prices of oil, which led to further imperialist aggression.[Non-canon 5] The dissolution of the United Nations in July marked the beginning of the road towards nuclear annihilation.
Another blow was struck in 2053, when the New Plague virus emerged. The virulent nature of the contagion and the speed at which it had spread led to the first-ever national quarantine and the closing of American borders. Tens of thousands died, according to the timeline in Fallout Bible 0.[Non-canon 6] In 2055, the government commissioned West Tek to develop a cure for the virus. Though no cure was known to have ever been found, the research into a cure paved the way for subsequent biochemical research efforts.
Nuclear exchanges in the Middle East, along with the devastating Euro-Middle Eastern War and the New Plague's death toll caused the federal government to initiate Project Safehouse in 2054, which created fallout shelters that would protect a percentage of the United State's population in the event of a nuclear war or fatal plague. The Vault-Tec Corporation won the contract, and this massive national defense project was set in motion. Breakthroughs in construction technology allowed for these gargantuan bunkers to be constructed at a rapid pace, although Vault-Tec's status as a critical defense contractor, and the classified nature of its enterprises, lead to many instances of fraud and mismanagement.[Non-canon 7][Non-game 1]
By the end of the decade, in 2059, the United States began to prepare for war, as the global situation continued to worsen. The Anchorage front line had been established in Alaska, to protect its oil reserves from foreign invaders. Canada had also begun to feel the pressure exerted by its increasingly hostile neighbor.[Non-canon 8] As a peculiar consolation prize to wrap up the decade, the first artificial intelligence was born in American laboratories. Limited by memory constraints, its expansion was rapidly halted. The discovery paved the way for future research in laboratories throughout the United States.[Non-canon 9]
The Sino-American War
In 2060, available fuel reserves ran out worldwide. Traffic on the streets died as fuel became too valuable to waste on automobiles. The automotive industry desperately tried to come up with a solution to the problem, but electric and early fusion cars were too little, too late to help solve the growing needs of society.[Non-canon 10] The fuel problem was further emphasized by the collapse of the European Commonwealth and the Middle Eastern oil powers, as the oil fields were allegedly exhausted.[Non-canon 11]
The situation across the nation worsened, both as a result of the deteriorating economy, and as a result of the New Plague continuing to wreak havoc despite increased quarantine measures.[Non-canon 12] The federal government attempted to use the increasing national paranoia to control the situation, by discouraging assemblies, fueling the anti-communist sentiment, and encouraging the reporting of subversive elements. The Vigilant Citizen's Hotline was even established to allow hysterical citizens to report neighbors to the government for any behavior that could be construed as in support of communism. The Third Red Scare unfolded as a response to the increased hostility of the People's Republic of China and its operations on American soil.
There were research efforts undertaken that could have alleviated the resource crisis entirely. The military, seeking to increase the mobility of its mechanized cavalry units, initiated a research program seeking to develop power armor in 2065.[Non-canon 13] Research, development, and prototyping paved the way for future advances in military, construction, and most importantly, fusion technology.[Non-canon 14] Research in other areas continued as well, including more powerful nuclear weapons.[Non-game 2]
However, these efforts ultimately could not prevent the United States from clashing with China. As the economy of the communist state was dependent to a much greater degree on fossil fuels than that of the U.S., China found itself on the brink of collapse by spring of 2066, with oil fields finally drying up globally. With the United States unwilling to export its own reserves of crude oil, China had become more aggressive in its negotiations.[Non-canon 15] In June 2074, this resulted in a declaration by the U.S. president that the last known supply of petroleum would be used exclusively by and for the U.S., and that the U.S. would not even contemplate the selling or trading of any oil to foreign parties. Adding further insult to the world-crises, the first crude fusion cell developed for the power armor project was revealed to the American public in the summer of 2066.[Non-canon 16][Non-canon 17] In desperation, China launched an invasion of Alaska to seize its oil reserves. This daring military operation began the Sino-American War, the last known war the United States would ever fight.[Non-canon 18] This war also inadvertently triggered the gradual annexation of Canada, as the United States effectively forced its neighbor to grant the right of passage to American military forces.[Non-canon 19] On the front, the deployment of the T-45 power armor aided in preventing Chinese tanks and infantry from overrunning Alaska. However, the situation rapidly deteriorated into a stalemate, with neither side capable of breaking the it and forcing peace terms on the enemy.[Non-canon 20]
The war consumed increasing amounts of resources, materiel, and manpower, straining the ailing American economy even further. To counteract this, the United States military had begun to liberally exploit Canadian resources. Protests from Ottawa in return towards this blatant intrusion were ignored, as Canada ultimately became little more than a territory of the United States.[Non-canon 21] Riots and protests eventually culminated in a sabotage attempt on an oil pipeline in 2072. The United States military used this incident as a pretext to outright invade Canada and begin annexation.[Non-canon 22] On the domestic front, the aggressive use of biological weapons by the Chinese led the U.S. government to order West Tek to develop a Pan-Immunity Virion on September 15, 2073. This research eventually evolved into the Forced Evolution Virus project.[Non-canon 23] Since West Tek was effectively nationalized two years prior, the scientists had no other choice but to obey their military masters.
Despite claims of fighting a defensive war, American infantry and mechanized divisions launched an invasion of the Chinese mainland in 2074. The economy was stretched to the breaking point as America found itself fighting a war on three fronts: Canada, Alaska, and mainland China. Neither side was willing to yield, despite eight years of constant warfare.[Non-canon 24] By 2076, the war had raged for a decade. Both China and the United States teetered on the brink of collapse, yet both sides were in too deep to retreat. In January, a permanent garrison was installed at West Tek, to ensure that the Forced Evolution Virus project remained safe from international espionage, as it entered a new stage of experimentation on dogs and chimpanzees.[Non-canon 25] By the end of the month, the annexation of Canada was completed. Its provinces were put under martial law, and all protesters and rioters were shot on sight. Atrocities committed in the name of the Union made their way stateside, fermenting into anti-governmental sentiment.[Non-canon 26]
However, U.S. propaganda gained an advantage to offset the problems, and the introduction of the T-51 power armor in June helped to tip the scales in favor of the U.S. military. The next-generation power armor resolved problems existing in older generations of armor, allowing for superior firepower and mobility. Mechanized cavalry units outfitted with the T-51b's were sent to the Alaskan and Chinese fronts, carving a swath through communist forces. The Chinese economy crumbled under the onslaught, and supply lines from nations annexed by the Beijing regime began falling apart as well.[Non-canon 27] However, even with these new advantages, the American regime did not fare any better in the long-term. In August, food and energy riots had begun breaking out in urban centers across the United States. A state of emergency and eventually martial law was declared, with U.S. military forces being deployed on the domestic front to fight their own countrymen. The United States effectively became a military junta.[Non-canon 28]
Collapse of America
The year 2077 began on a high note, as the Anchorage Reclamation ended with a decisive American victory on January 10.[Non-canon 29] However, this heralded bad news for both American and Canadian citizens, as the military junta in control of the United States deployed mechanized cavalry units to Canada and the United States in order to settle and prevent further sedition. Veterans of the Chinese and Alaskan fronts found themselves fighting their own countrymen, quelling riots, and enforcing the national quarantine. Mounting civilian casualties snapped the loyalty of many soldiers, and desertions started to frequently occur.[Non-canon 30] The situation only worsened when F.E.V. research leaked to the public after the project was transferred to the Mariposa Military Base for human trials. The American public and surviving governments worldwide were outraged by this revelation. Many speculated that the American government was responsible for engineering the New Plague, deliberately fueling paranoia and unrest.[Non-canon 31]
The collapse of the Alaskan front sent the Chinese reeling. A combination of constant American bombardment and trench warfare, alongside a wave of cutting-edge T-51 power armor suits sweeping through mainland China, caused their supply lines to break down completely. Victory seemed in reach.[Non-game 3] However, fierce Chinese resistance halted the advance and forced the overstretched American military into a war of attrition. As the casualties mounted in a historic clash of the titans, the public grew increasingly disaffected by the war. After all, although the Chinese were repulsed from Alaska, it came after over a decade of war, with no end in sight. Billions of dollars and thousands of casualties later, the war was once more at a stalemate with no clear victor. Another contributing factor was the increasingly dire food situation, with riots a regular occurrence. The United States Army servicemen deployed to protect food banks were known for responding to altercations with violence. One notable incident in Roxbury, Massachusetts, left four dead and eight wounded, after soldiers were laughing and picking targets out in the crowd well in advance. It was far from an exception.
Faced with a rapidly disintegrating nation, and with China-backed into a corner, the oligarchs ruling the United States retreated to remote locations around the globe, expecting a last-ditch nuclear strike from China at any moment.[Non-game 4] An oil rig off the coast of southern California was claimed by the president and key members of the junta, becoming the foundation of the future Enclave.[Non-canon 32] Bases across the United States were sealed and troops redeployed to feed more men into the meat grinder that the Chinese front became, thereby sustaining the American war effort. By October, the United States had become virtually leaderless, continuing on simply from inertia. When the U.S. Army security detail at Mariposa discovered that the F.E.V. experiments were being conducted on their comrades in arms – the very men arrested for refusing to fight their own countrymen – they rebelled. However, even as Captain Roger Maxson declared them in full desertion from the U.S. Army and broke all ties with the United States, there was no response – the chain of command ceased to exist.[Non-canon 33] All the offices of power across the United States were closed and dark, maintained by skeleton crews. A few dedicated writers, such as Mags Veccio, conducted the last pre-War journalist investigations, uncovering the Enclave's oil rig and the President's residence there. The lid was almost blown off the Enclave.
Nuclear weapons were launched on October 23, 2077.[Non-game 5] Within two hours, the United States ceased to exist as a nation, its cities vaporized in nuclear fireballs. The former leaders of the country having already retreated to their safe havens. Abandoned by their leaders, the survivors began rebuilding on their own.
While the United States had been founded on the principles of liberty and justice for all, the reality of the 21st-century resource crisis and traumatic experiences, caused the nation to abandon these principles almost entirely. The fear of communism and economic collapse led to the population willingly complying with the gradual abrogation of civil rights; trading liberty for security. While collusion between the executive branch and the corporations dominating the economy of the United States affected constitutional freedoms, the transition towards a totalitarian state began in earnest with the Sino-American War. Wartime censorship enabled the government to confiscate and indiscriminately destroy any material deemed seditious. Such was the fate of the Patriot's Cookbook, and many other publications. Many publications became outlets for propaganda, used to mock non-nationalist sentiments and protesters.
Organized labor and unions came under heavy attack from both the government and the corporations. Repression was particularly severe in Appalachia, a strategic region supplying raw materials for the war effort and a crucible of widespread automation. Hornwright Industrial Mining Company, Atomic Mining Services, and RobCo Industries, supported by Appalachia's Governor Evans, pushed for replacing human labor with robotics, leaving thousands of workers out of jobs, fueling widespread social unrest and impoverishing the population, made worse by the Wartime Workers Act. The unrest culminated in the Appalachian mining riots of late 2077, which saw regular combat between workers and government and corporate enforcers. However, even before that explosion, the totalitarian state was abusing and murdering their citizens: The United States Navy facility at Sugar Grove was an example of this tendency, engaging in covert surveillance of U.S. citizens, identifying labor activists and other "traitors", which usually led to abduction, murder without trial, and any surviving children being put up for adoption by loyalist families.
Politics were not the only reason for repression. Under Executive Order 99066, Chinese and Chinese-American citizens and residents were interned and placed in concentration camps without trial, sometimes by private security contractors hired by the military to conduct what were essentially abductions. The Turtledove Detention Camp in Maryland was one such camp, forcing the inmates to live in squalid conditions without access to proper sanitation facilities and its inmates being subjected to abuse, torture, and brutal interrogations. Eventually, the Order was used as grounds for imprisoning any and all dissidents at the military's discretion. Many ended up disappearing in the various research facilities across the United States, used as guinea pigs in various research projects fueling the war effort.
The declaration of martial law nationwide in 2076 marked the completion of this gradual process; the military had finally been given free rein and total control over the state security apparatus and public affairs. Military units were deployed to quell riots and enforce the quarantine, answering only to their own chain of command.[Non-canon 34]
They had practice: the annexation of Canada added a large population of disgruntled residents to the United States, victims of nearly a decade-long abuse by American military and its corporations.[Non-canon 35] Protests and rioting did little to stay the iron hand of their new American masters.[Non-canon 36] Martial law instituted in the wake of the annexation earlier in 2076 allowed the U.S. military to shoot protesters and rioters without consequence. Canada was brought to heel, although the atrocities committed in the name of the American people were leaked stateside, leading to unrest and protests despite the best efforts of American propagandists.[Non-canon 37][Non-canon 38]
Government and politics
The government of the United States of the 21st century had strayed far from the principles of governance enshrined within the Constitution of the United States, becoming an oligarchy with the characteristics of a military junta by 2077. Civil rights and liberties were increasingly curtailed in the name of national security and the war effort, until all pretense of a democratic order was dropped in late 2076, in the face of an open revolt by allies, neighbors, soldiers, and civilians. The state of emergency and then martial law granted the military and corporations total control over the country formalizing an existing state of affairs,[Non-canon 39] not unlike the annexation of Canada: When the fact was announced in 2077, it was largely a formality, as the United States consistently exploited Canadian resources without regard for Ottawa's opinions since 2069.[Non-canon 40]
The reason the military and civilian government stayed in power was in part due to Project Brainstorm, the "Induced Patriotism Initiative". Pervasive propaganda designed to instill nationalist sentiment and loyalty in the citizenry had been developed as part of the Sino-American War. This provided the military with increased enlistment rates, and thus a continuous source of new soldiers to throw at their Chinese enemies, as well as an increased tolerance for excesses of the state.
The structure of the federal government remained of use to the American regime, however. Federal agencies, such as the National Park Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Drugs, Tobacco, Firearms and Lasers, and the United States Space Administration continued to exist and execute their duties. However, the balance of power was still predictably shifted towards the Department of Defense and the military. The legislative and judiciary branches of government were severely hampered in the execution of their constitutional oversight, subordinated to the goals of the executive. A separate federal agency, the Political Office, was set up to handle investigations into internal affairs, much like Soviet commissariats. The agency was empowered to arrest and allocate the interned persons for any purpose it saw fit – including the transfer to various corporations so that they may be used as test subjects.
States and commonwealths
Both state and commonwealths were used to describe regions and governmental entities before and after the Great War. The thirteen commonwealths of the United States were created in 1969. After the war, survivors continued to use these distinctions as well as developed new naming structures. In Appalachia, federal documents use the distinction "Territory of Appalachia," among other similar names.
Several variants of the flag were utilized by the country to represent itself both before and after the war. All variants had 13 horizontal stripes alternating white and red. Variants differed in their number of stars on a blue background, including those with 13, 14, and 50 stars. Although the majority of flags appearing are the 13 star version, the 50 star flag was also used, appearing in posters and on weapons, armor, and clothing.
Military, law enforcement and crime
As an increasing militaristic superpower, the United States had given priority to its armed forces, which asserted increasing control over law enforcement and public affairs. With widespread propaganda and pervasive domestic espionage efforts through the Defense Intelligence Agency and black projects of the various branches, the military, controlled by the Department of Defense was one of the pillars of the American regime, supported by a network of vigilant citizens reporting suspected sedition and crime. In fact, fusion, the life-saving technology that allowed the American economy to last a while longer, was an off-shoot of a military weapons program.[Non-canon 41]
Most units outside the veteran formations fighting on the front lines against the Chinese and subjugating Canada suffered from poor training regimens. The situation was particularly bad with auxiliary units of the National Guard.
The situation eventually led to the authorization and issuance of military-grade laser weapons to civilians, in order to use them as cannon fodder in case of a communist invasion or insurgency on American soil. Private security companies were also contracted to perform arrests and round up civilians, completely blurring the line between the public and private sectors.
Like other economies worldwide, the United States was severely affected by the resource shortage of the middle 21st century and the resulting Resource Wars. Though based on the principles of a free market and open competition, the crisis allowed a handful of mega-corporations to seize control and establish a practical monopoly in key sectors of the American and even world economy. Many of these corporations became so deeply involved and integrated into the nation's infrastructure, that trying to decide where the corporation ended and the state began, became a largely academic discussion. As a result, the corporations effectively acted as sovereign nations unto themselves. Exploitative and abusive labor practices were the norm, such as with the Vault-Tec Corporation, which was notorious for its strictly enforced 2.25 minute (135 seconds) bathroom breaks. Worse yet, as a strategic defense contractor for the government, Vault-Tec's affairs and all related publications (including, for example, the Vault Dweller's Survival Guide) were protected by the New Amended Espionage Act and any whistleblowing attempts would likely hurt the whistleblower more than the corporation.[Non-game 6]
One such mega-corporation was Poseidon Energy. It had a near-monopoly on the energy market in the United States, controlling nuclear power plants, exploitation of remaining oil fields, and even sustainable energy projects, like HELIOS One. It hid its involvement by operation through numerous companies established as fronts to influence and eventually control key industries. It also conducted a slew of its own military research projects, including development and implementation of orbital beam weapons.
The war with China also allowed smaller companies considered vital to the war effort to cut support for their workers by a considerable margin. Workman's compensation was among many staples of labor law suspended as part of the war effort, denying vital support to laborers injured in the course of their work. The deteriorating economy also made it easier for corporations to take advantage not just of their employees, but also of the general public. The Big Mountain Research and Development company was particularly infamous for luring isolated communities into Faustian pacts, where they agreed to act as test subjects for bleeding-edge technologies – often with disastrous effects.
The mildest example of collusion was the ability of corporations to advertise directly to members of Congress and the House of Representatives. Companies from Nuka-Cola to the Red Racer tricycle company were able to purchase advertising airtime on the Presidential metro PA system.
Of course, giving corporations free rein did not alter the harsh reality of an imminent economic collapse. One way in which this was delayed was by annexing and exploiting resources of sovereign countries. Mexican oil refineries were occupied in 2051 to keep the pipelines open,[Non-canon 42] while Canadian timberland, ore deposits and other critical resources were claimed in 2069, as the Sino-American War lumbered on with no end in sight.[Non-canon 43] Formal annexation began in 2072, following a sabotage attempt and occupation of Canadian soil by American military forces.[Non-canon 44]
Even with these resources propping up the economy, shortages were common. When the first fusion-powered cars were introduced by Chryslus Motors in 2070, the initially limited models were expensive but sold out within days. Supply was limited, as many Chryslus manufacturing facilities were long since converted into making military ordnance.[Non-canon 45] These were not isolated incidents, as many factories whose production and sales that were less than adequate were also systematically nationalized. This was the case with Radiation King Assembly Plant 12 in the Appalachian Territories, even though they were close to a 100% peak efficiency rating. The process was a quick one; Army engineers arrived, looked at the machinery and questioned the employees about their operation, then they promptly left and began the conversion process. With the rapid transition of the factory, its workers were conscripted and put to work manufacturing ammunition. This overproduction was to have the benefit of keeping its workers employed while keeping their morale up, with the added benefit of stockpiling supplies locally should the war go nuclear. There was also a high rate of inflation, with a mundane coffee selling for $28, a magazine for $35, and a car for $199,999.
However, voluntary compliance with government control was not enough. Critical defense contractors were effectively nationalized without compensation, by being put under military command – as was the case with West Tek's Californian facility. Some companies, like Poseidon Energy, were only placed under military command in 2077 – although the degree to which the oligarchs controlled the American government alongside the junta made it a cosmetic change, at best.
Role in the games
Every game in the series takes place in the former United States:
- Fallout and Fallout 2 take place in the former state of California, some portions of which include New California (Fallout 2 located north of Fallout).
- Fallout 3, as well as its add-on Broken Steel, are set in the Capital Wasteland, which is comprised of Washington, D.C. and its surrounding areas. The add-on Operation: Anchorage takes place in a simulation of Anchorage, Alaska. The add-on The Pitt takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The add-on Point Lookout takes place in Point Lookout, Maryland. The add-on Mothership Zeta takes place in space.
- Fallout: New Vegas is set in the Mojave Desert of Nevada, east of where Fallout and Fallout 2 took place. The add-on Dead Money takes place in the Sierra Madre. The add-on Honest Hearts takes place in Zion National Park, Utah. The add-on Old World Blues takes place at Big MT. The add-on Lonesome Road takes place in the Divide.
- Fallout 4 (and most of its add-ons, such as the Automatron and the Workshop add-ons) is set in the Commonwealth, in reference to Massachusetts' official pre-War title of "The Commonwealth of Massachusetts." The map of Fallout 4 is only a small part of Massachusetts, centered around Boston. The add-on Far Harbor takes place in Mount Desert Island, Maine. The add-on Nuka-World takes place in Nuka-World, an amusement park to the west of Boston.
- Fallout 76 takes place in Appalachia, which comprises the former state of West Virginia.
All Fallout games to date have been set exclusively within United States territory, but following the collapse of civilization, in most cases, this territory is now either claimed by other groups or not governed at all. Ruins/relics of now long-defunct government institutions are seen throughout the series.
Newsreel footage of the U.S. Army in action is present in Fallout. The Enclave appear as a major enemy faction in Fallout 2 and Fallout 3 and a handful of retired members appear in Fallout: New Vegas and the Fallout 4 add-on Far Harbor. A simulated, fictionalized representation of the U.S. Army appears in the Fallout 3 add-on Operation: Anchorage. The prologue sequence of Fallout 4 takes place in the United States' final moments before the Great War.