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If war toys had become a topic of heated public discussion by the mid-1960s, the growing controversy around the Vietnam War threw fuel on the fire. The mobilization against the war’s escalation not only strengthened activists’ resolve; it also turned the toy machine gun into a motif of anti-war discourse for the rest of the decade. That motif would be appropriated by new and unexpected voices, from the youth counterculture (embodied by the organization No War Toys) to a small group of toymakers (including Lionel Corporation). In 1968, the back-to-back assassinations of MLK and RFK helped achieve what the movement was unable to win on its own: an industry-wide moratorium on war toys, this time supported by the toy-industry establishment. War toys would return to the marketplace in the years ahead, but the American public would never look at them innocently again.

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