Part one of Fallout lore: How the Plague and nation relations lead to the Wasteland.

Fallout history 101 primer: plague, oil crisis, and the Great War

Part one of Fallout lore: How the Plague and nation relations lead to the Wasteland.

Fallout first appeared on the shelves in 1997. When Black Isle Studios developed the first game, a full world of lore waited for discovery. In the next 19 years, with 6 more games added to the franchise, Bethesda created an even more intricate and entangled history. While wandering the wastes, it’s easy to ask yourself, “How did this all unfold? How did the US turn into such a radioactive, dangerous, and strange world?”

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The Fallout wiki and the Fallout Bible are thorough resources for all who seek a more comprehensive explanation than what I am about to outline. However, there is just SO MUCH that it is often more useful to thin out the minor stuff from the important details. In preparation for Fallout 4 this November, I present the shortened history of Fallout, Chapter one.

Fallout lore actually begins in the 1600s, although not much happens except for a few alien abductions. Around World War II, things start kicking. The world wars go over as they do in real history books, except for one minor difference: the creation of the US commonwealth.

Where real history splits into Fallout lore

Between 1945 and 1961, the Fallout timeline and the real-world timeline no longer coincide. Although the exact moment is unknown, evidence suggests that the time split is closer to the 60s by examining the etymology of “hippie.” 

We can see peace signs on the Brotherhood of Steel Bunker in the Hidden Valley, and we can hear Megaton residents expressing distrust of hippies. However, like I said, it is unclear, and even the hippie argument is not very solid.

 “Veronica wuz here.”  

The split timeline split happens, and everything goes normally until 1969 when the US splits into 13 commonwealths, adding a middle tier to the government level between federal and state. This is done to add “more democracy” in trying to resist the communist threat.

The New Plague

Then there are a TON of events between space travel and military advancements that take place between the 1960s and the 2050s. I will cover these in more depth in later parts. Briefly: turmoil over food rations and oil cause tensions between the US and Mexico until the “New Plague” hits the US, killing “tens of thousands.”

The virus is believed to have originated from an early strand of the military funded West Tec project, FEV and is responsible for mutant creation, not radiation. Even though, the use of FEV for mutant creation did not happen until after the Great War. 

The New Plague, however, caused the first nation-wide quarantine, effectively ending tensions with Mexico over oil scarcity.

Nation-States and the Resource Wars

In April of 2052, the European Commonwealth (Fallout’s version of the EU) and the Middle East fight in the Resource wars. This weakens the EU and they eventually disband into nation-states later in the year while many nations go bankrupt. 

By 2060, the Resource Wars are called off due to dry oil fields in the Middle East and almost total ruin on both sides. However, conflict still exists between the nation-states to grab any resources available. 

These conflicts call the US to protect the Alaskan Pipeline in Anchorage from the Chinese.


By 2054, the world is afraid of nuclear war. The Middle East is hoarding weapons and the US is still suffering from the Plague. With the EU disbanded, broke, broken, and fighting, the US scrambles to create weapons and defense for the nation. 

The creation of vaults begin and power armor is born in 2065.

Operation: Anchorage

In 2066, the world is void of all oil. China, already on the verge of collapse, tries to negotiate with the US over the last remaining resources, but the US declines. 

By that winter, China becomes desperate and invades Anchorage. The US eventually fends of China (2077) while Canada is protesting any war involvement. This causes tensions between the US and Canada until Canada is completely annexed by 2076. In August of the same year, food and energy riots rage across the US. 

Martial Law is declared, and the US military uses power armor against its own rioting citizens.

The Great War

The government, aware of the imminent war, head to safe quarters in March, while the rest of the country carries on. October 23, 2077 the Great War happens (enter, Fallout 4’s prologue). It’s two hours of nuclear bombardment. Who struck first is unclear, but the aftermath left the earth barren and disfigured. 

The West Tec facility is directly hit, creating The Glow and unleashing the FEV into the air.

The Glow 

Upcoming Histories

The rest of the lore also feeds into this strand of events. These are just the main governmental factors that propelled the Great War.

In the upcoming weeks, I will detail the pop culture (sugar bombs and Grognak the Barbarian), space travel (Mothership Zeta and Delta IX), important people and places (Shady Sands and Herald), weaponry and robots (power armor, Mariposa, and Skynet), and weird vault lore (Vault 92 and Gary!). So stay tuned. 

Come 'ere and give ol' Bender a kiss

Come ‘ere and give ol’ Bender a kiss. 


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Chelsea Senecal
An undergrad working torward a BA in professional writing in between GTAV and Destiny binges.