Vocabulary > War > Arms > Nuclear weapons
Color photograph showing damage in Hiroshima in March of 1946.
U.S. National Archives
Boston Globe > Big Picture > Hiroshima, 64 years ago
August 5, 2009
December 5, 2006
British Prime Minister
how many are there in 2009 and who has them?
Latest data on how many nuclear weapons there are in the world
shows that - even with some being dismantled - there are still 23,574.
So between the US, Russian, China, North Korea and Iran,
we can be destroyed
many times over
nuclear deterrent > Trident nuclear missile
small nuclear warhead / mini-nuke
nuclear "bunker buster"
New Start treaty
The New Start treaty
is an arms control pact that would force the
United States and Russia
to pare back nuclear arsenals and resume mutual inspections
that lapsed in 2009
for the first time since the cold war.
It was signed by President Obama
and Russia's president, Dmitiri A. Medvedev in
Its ratification has become one of the most contentious issues
of the current
lame-duck Congressional session,
with a large number of Republicans saying they plan to vote against it.
Under terms of the treaty, both countries would be prohibited
more than 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads or 700 launchers
each starting seven years after final ratification. Perhaps just as
the treaty would establish a new inspection and monitoring regime
to replace the longstanding program that lapsed in 2009
with the expiration of the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991, or
cartoons > Cagle > New Start treaty
B 52 USA
The B-52, laden with nuclear warheads,
was a forbidding-looking mainstay of American air defense
during the cold war and a strategic deterrent to a nuclear attack.
It saw substantial duty in Vietnam and the Iraq wars and is still in use.
And its fundamental design
— novel wings with engine “pods” positioned underneath —
became the standard for almost all commercial jet carriers.
the Doomsday Clock at the University of Chicago
The symbolic clock face, maintained since 1947
by the board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
University of Chicago,
counts down to nuclear armageddon
Donald Frederick Hornig 1920-2013
In a small shed at the top of a 100-foot-tall steel tower deep in the New
Donald Hornig sat next to the world’s first atomic bomb in the late evening of
July 15, 1945,
reading a book of humorous essays.
In July 1946,
the United States conducted two atomic tests at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific.
The tests, codenamed Able (an atmospheric explosion) and Baker (underwater),
were among the very first of the more than 1,000 tests that the U.S.
would eventually conduct in Nevada and the South Pacific over the next five
atomic bomb / A-bomb
The (first) bomb was detonated at 5:29:45 a.m. on July 16, 1945
Three weeks later, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
Three days after that, another fell on Nagasaki.
Manhattan Project, the secret American effort to build an atomic bomb
The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II
A Collection of Primary Sources
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 162
Edited by William Burr - 202/994-7000
Posted - August 5, 2005
Updated - April 27, 2007
Stanley Kubrick's DR. STRANGELOVE OR:
HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB
> Hiroshima August 6 1945
Atomic Bomb Test In Nevada
Scorched & disheveled male mannequin
clad in dark business suit standing in the desert w. lady mannequin in
7000 ft. from the 44th nuclear test explosion,
a day after the blast, indicating that humans could be burnt but still alive.
Location: Yucca Flat, NV, US
Date taken: May 1955
Photographer: Loomis Dean
Nuclear Time Warp
June 10, 2012
The New York Times
Did House Republicans somehow miss the end of the cold war? At a time when, for
the sake of both security and fiscal responsibility, the country should be
reducing its nuclear arsenal, the House has approved a defense authorization
bill for 2013 that threatens to freeze the number of weapons at current levels
and, over time, waste billions of dollars on unnecessary purchases and programs.
Thankfully, the bill isn’t likely to become law. But it is worth taking a closer
look, both for what it says about Republicans’ misplaced strategic priorities —
and about how far President Obama has already gone to appease them.
The United States and Russia each have more than 1,500 nuclear weapons deployed
and many thousands more as backup or awaiting dismantlement. Gen. James
Cartwright, the retired vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former
commander of nuclear forces, recently said that deterrence could be guaranteed
with 900 warheads, with only half deployed at any time.
If the United States fails to keep pushing for even deeper cuts — or raises any
doubts about its current commitments — it will have an even harder time rallying
global pressure to contain the nuclear ambitions of Iran, North Korea and
others. Remember George W. Bush’s contempt for treaties?
At $642 billion, the House Pentagon authorization is $4 billion above President
Obama’s request and $8 billion above the 2011 Budget Control Act agreement that
the Republicans demanded and are now trying to overturn. More than $1 billion of
that increase is nuclear-related. Here are some of the worst parts of the bill:
¶The 2010 New Start pact commits Washington and Moscow to cut their deployed
strategic weapons from 2,200 to 1,550 by 2018. One provision in the bill would
halt reductions if the president, or any successor, failed to meet Mr. Obama’s
promise to spend $88 billion to upgrade the nuclear labs and $125 billion over
10 years to replace aging bombers, submarines and land-based missiles. Mr. Obama
made those overly generous commitments to win ratification of New Start. Most
outrageously, the bill says the country can’t keep reducing weapons if the
defense cuts in the Budget Control Act are not overturned.
¶The bill would bar reduction, consolidation or withdrawal of tactical weapons
in Europe — we can’t imagine a more unnecessary weapon — unless several onerous
conditions are met. It mandates a report on possibly reintroducing tactical
nuclear weapons in South Korea.
¶It contains $160 million to build a new plutonium plant in New Mexico to make
new cores for weapons. The Energy Department has said its needs can be met for
now with existing facilities. The projected cost has ballooned to nearly $6
billion. It adds nearly $500 million next year to develop a ballistic missile
submarine that the administration wants to delay and we believe is unnecessary.
The White House has threatened to veto the authorization unless the worst
provisions are deleted. The Senate bill has only made it through committee, but
it has some troubling aspects, including keeping the plutonium plant project
General Cartwright is only the latest heavyweight to endorse significant nuclear
reductions. Former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Senator Chuck Hagel
joined him in a report by Global Zero, a policy group urging major changes,
including the 900 target. Separately, Henry Kissinger, James Baker, George
Shultz and Sam Nunn have endorsed the eventual goal of a world without nuclear
weapons. So has President Obama.
The president needs to leverage that support to argue the case for much deeper
cuts and push back against members of Congress who — incredibly — still haven’t
gotten beyond their cold war obsessions.
Nuclear Time Warp, NYT, 10.6.2012,
for All These Nukes
The New York Times
By PHILIP TAUBMAN
OVER the last three years, as I delved into the world of American nuclear
weapons, I felt increasingly as though I had stepped into a time warp. Despite
the nearly total rearrangement of the international security landscape since the
demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, the rise of Islamic terrorism and the spread
of nuclear materials and technology to volatile nations like Pakistan, North
Korea and Iran, the Defense Department remains enthralled by cold war nuclear
strategies and practices.
Barack Obama took office determined to change that. He has made progress on many
fronts. Last week, he outlined a new, no-frills defense strategy, downsizing
conventional forces. He now needs to double down on his commitment to refashion
nuclear forces. He should trim the American nuclear arsenal by two-thirds to
bring it down to a sensible size, order the Pentagon to scale back nuclear
war-fighting plans so they are relevant to contemporary threats, remove most
American intercontinental, land-based missiles from high alert and drop the
quaint notion that a fleet of aging B-52 bombers can effectively deliver nuclear
weapons to distant targets.
This agenda is not only desirable, it is doable without undercutting American
security. It would save tens of billions of dollars a year, a relatively small
amount by Pentagon standards, but every billion counts as Leon E. Panetta, the
defense secretary, trims his budget. And the steps can safely be taken without
requiring reciprocal moves by Russia that must be codified in a treaty.
For the last few months, the Obama administration has been conducting a
classified review of the doctrines and operations that determine the shape and
potential uses of America’s nuclear armaments. If the president pushes back
against the defenders of the old order at the Pentagon and other redoubts of the
nuclear priesthood, he can preserve American security while making the United
States a more credible leader on one of today’s most critical issues —
containing the spread of nuclear weapons. Like a chain smoker asking others to
give up cigarettes, the United States, with its bloated arsenal, sounds
hypocritical when it puts pressure on other nations to cut weapons and stop
producing bomb-grade highly enriched uranium, the key ingredient of a crude
American actions alone won’t end the proliferation danger, but American
leadership is essential to any hope of containing the threat.
Sam Nunn, the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and
anything but a dove over the years, rightly warns that the spread of weapons and
the means to make them may soon reach a combustible stage where New York,
Washington, Moscow, Tokyo or London is at risk of a nuclear terrorist attack.
Mr. Nunn and other keepers of America’s cold-war armory, George P. Shultz and
Henry A. Kissinger, former Republican secretaries of state, and William J.
Perry, a former Democratic defense secretary, have banded together in recent
years to press, among other things, for cutting nuclear forces, de-alerting
missiles and, ultimately, eliminating nuclear arms. Mr. Obama has embraced their
aims and welcomed them to the Oval Office. Their high-powered, bipartisan
alliance, if adroitly employed by the White House, ought to provide some
political cover as Mr. Obama reshapes nuclear policy while running for a second
There is no national security rationale for maintaining an arsenal of some 5,000
warheads, with nearly 2,000 arms ready to use on short notice and the rest in
reserve. We don’t need thousands of warheads, or even hundreds, to counter
threats from countries like Iran or North Korea.
The only conceivable use of so many weapons would be a full-scale nuclear war
with Russia, which has more warheads than the United States. But two decades
after the collapse of the Soviet Union, even Vladimir V. Putin, with his
authoritarian bent, is not about to put Russia on a collision course with the
United States that leads to nuclear war. China, equally unlikely to escalate
tensions to the nuclear brink, probably has fewer than 400 warheads and a policy
to use them only in self-defense. Pakistan has roughly 100, North Korea fewer
than 10 and Iran, so far, zero.
The United States could live quite securely with fewer than 1,500 warheads, half
in reserve. Defenders of the nuclear faith claim we need 5,000 weapons as a
hedge against warheads that may become defective over time. But an elaborate
Energy Department program to maintain and refurbish warheads, the Stockpile
Stewardship Program, has proved highly effective.
Another oft-cited reason for increasing our arsenal is that the Pentagon’s
nuclear war-fighting plans still call for striking hundreds of targets in Russia
and China, as well as dozens of sites in a number of other publicly unidentified
nations — presumably Iran, North Korea and Syria — considered potentially
hostile to the United States and eager to possess unconventional weapons.
Washington’s current nuclear war plans remain far too outsize to deal with any
plausible attack on America. Mr. Obama could remove some nations from the hit
list, starting with China, and tell his generals to limit the number of targets
in the countries that remain.
The oversize American nuclear arsenal features an equally outdated reliance on
long-distance bombers. The days when lumbering B-52 bombers could play a central
role in delivering nuclear weapons — memorably spoofed in Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr.
Strangelove” — ended decades ago. Mr. Obama should ground the bombers and depend
on land- and sea-based missiles.
The high-alert status of America’s intercontinental ballistic missiles is
another anachronism. There are few circumstances that might require the United
States to quickly launch nuclear-tipped missiles, and missiles on high alert are
an invitation to an accident, or impulsive action. In the first year of his
presidency, Mr. Obama outlined an ambitious nuclear weapons agenda. Absent new
action, Washington will remain frozen in a costly cold war posture.
is a former New York Times bureau chief in Moscow
and the author of “The Partnership:
Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb.”
No Need for All These Nukes, NYT, 7.1.2012,
Samuel T. Cohen,
Neutron Bomb Inventor,
Dies at 89
December 1, 2010
The New York Times
By ROBERT D. McFADDEN
Samuel T. Cohen, the physicist who invented the small tactical
nuclear weapon known as the neutron bomb, a controversial device designed to
kill enemy troops with subatomic particles but leave battlefields and cities
relatively intact, died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 89.
The cause was complications of stomach cancer, his son Paul said.
Unlike J. Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller, the respective fathers of the
atomic and hydrogen bombs, Mr. Cohen was not well known outside government and
scientific circles, although his work for years influenced the international
debate over the deployment and potential uses of nuclear arms.
In contrast to strategic warheads, which can kill millions and level cities, and
smaller short-range tactical nuclear arms designed to wipe out battlefield
forces, the neutron bomb minimized blast and heat. Instead, it maximized a
barrage of infinitesimal neutrons that could zip through tanks, buildings and
other structures and kill people, usually by destroying the central nervous
system, and all other life forms.
While doubters questioned the usefulness, logic and ethics of killing people and
sparing property, Mr. Cohen called his bomb a “sane” and “moral” weapon that
could limit death, destruction and radioactive contamination, killing combatants
while leaving civilians and towns unscathed. He insisted that many critics
misunderstood or purposely misrepresented his ideas for political, economic or
A specialist in the radiological effects of nuclear weapons, he relentlessly
promoted the neutron bomb for much of his life, writing books and articles,
conferring with presidents and cabinet officials, taking his case to
Congressional committees, scientific bodies and international forums. He won
many converts, but ultimately failed to persuade the United States to integrate
the device into its tactical nuclear arsenal.
The Reagan administration developed but never deployed the weapons in the 1980s.
France, Israel and the Soviet Union were believed to have added versions of the
bomb to their arsenals. Western military planners rejected their use in the
Vietnam War and regarded them only as a possible deterrent to superior Soviet
tank forces in Europe. But the end of the cold war obviated even that purpose.
A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, Mr. Cohen was recruited
while in the Army in World War II for the Manhattan Project, which developed the
first atomic bomb at Los Alamos, N.M. After the war, he joined the RAND
Corporation and in 1958 designed the neutron bomb as a way to strike a cluster
of enemy forces while sparing infrastructure and distant civilian populations.
Fired via a missile or an artillery shell and detonated a quarter-mile above
ground, his bomb limited death to an area less than a mile across, avoiding
wider indiscriminate slaughter and destruction. It was not a radioactively
“clean” bomb, but its neutrons dissipated quickly, leaving no long-term
contamination that could render entire regions uninhabitable for decades.
But many military planners scoffed at the idea of a nuclear bomb that limited
killing and destruction, and insisted that deployment would escalate the arms
race and make nuclear war more likely. The device was anathema to military
contractors and armed services with vested interests in nuclear arsenals. Even
peace activists denounced it as “a capitalist weapon” because it killed people
but spared the real estate.
Washington rejected the bomb repeatedly. The Kennedy administration said it
might jeopardize a test-ban moratorium. The Johnson administration said its use
in Vietnam might raise the specter of Hiroshima — Asians again slaughtered by
American nuclear bombs — drawing worldwide condemnation. In 1978, President
Jimmy Carter said development might impede disarmament prospects.
In 1981, President Ronald Reagan ordered 700 neutron warheads built to oppose
Soviet tank forces in Europe. He called it “the first weapon that’s come along
in a long time that could easily and economically alter the balance of power.”
But deployment to the North Atlantic alliance was canceled after a storm of
antinuclear protests across Europe. President George Bush ordered the stockpile
By 1982, Mr. Cohen had abandoned his deployment quest. But he continued for the
rest of his life to defend the bomb as practical and humane.
“It’s the most sane and moral weapon ever devised,” he said in September in a
telephone interview for this obituary. “It’s the only nuclear weapon in history
that makes sense in waging war. When the war is over, the world is still
Samuel Theodore Cohen was born in Brooklyn on Jan. 25, 1921, to Lazarus and
Jenny Cohen, Austrian Jews who had migrated to the United States by way of
Britain. His father was a carpenter and his mother a housewife who rigidly
controlled family diets and even breathing habits (believing it unhealthy to
breathe through the mouth). The boy had allergies, eye problems and other
ailments, and for years was subjected to daily ice-water showers to toughen him
The family moved to Los Angeles when he was 4. He was a brilliant student at
public schools and U.C.L.A., where he graduated in 1943 with a physics degree.
He joined the wartime Army and was posted to the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology for advanced training in mathematics and physics.
In 1944 he was tapped for the Manhattan Project to analyze radioactivity in
nuclear fission. He worked on Fat Man, the bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945,
days after Little Boy destroyed Hiroshima.
Mr. Cohen was married twice. His first marriage, to Barbara Bissell in 1948,
ended in divorce in 1952. In 1960, he married Margaret Munnemann. She survives
him, as do their three children, Carla Nagler, Paul and Thomas, and three
Mr. Cohen joined RAND in Santa Monica in 1947 and 11 years later designed the
neutron bomb as a consultant to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Many
technical features of what the Pentagon called an “enhanced radiation weapon”
had been known for years, and scientists had theorized about a nuclear device
that would release most of its energy as radiation.
All nuclear explosions produce a rain of potentially lethal neutrons, uncharged
particles from an atom’s nucleus, and Mr. Cohen, by adjusting components and
reshaping the bomb shell, limited the blast and released more energy as neutrons
— so tiny they passed easily through solid inanimate objects, but killed all
living things in their path.
The military successfully tested the bomb, and over the next two decades Mr.
Cohen campaigned for its deployment without success. He left RAND in 1969, but
continued writing about the bomb. His articles appeared in The Washington Post,
The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other publications. He was
featured in a 1992 segment of the BBC-TV series “Pandora’s Box.”
His books included “Tactical Nuclear Weapons: An Examination of the Issues”
(1978); “The Neutron Bomb: Political, Technological and Military Issues” (1978);
“Checkmate on War” (1980); “The Truth About the Neutron Bomb” (1983); “We Can
Prevent World War III” (1985); and “Nuclear Weapons, Policies and the Test Ban
Issue” (1987). His memoir, “Shame: Confessions of the Father of the Neutron
Bomb,” was published on the Internet in 2000.
In recent years, Mr. Cohen prominently warned of a black market substance called
red mercury, supposedly capable of compressing fusion materials to detonate a
nuclear device as small as a baseball — ideal for terrorists.
Most scientists call the substance mythical, and stories about it, many
circulating on the Internet, are widely regarded as spurious.
Samuel T. Cohen, Neutron
Bomb Inventor, Dies at 89, NYT, 1.12.2010,
U.S. Faces Choice on New Weapons
for Fast Strikes
April 22, 2010
The New York Times
By DAVID E. SANGER and THOM SHANKER
WASHINGTON — In coming years, President Obama will decide whether to deploy a
new class of weapons capable of reaching any corner of the earth from the United
States in under an hour and with such accuracy and force that they would greatly
diminish America’s reliance on its nuclear arsenal.
Yet even now, concerns about the technology are so strong that the Obama
administration has acceded to a demand by Russia that the United States
decommission one nuclear missile for every one of these conventional weapons
fielded by the Pentagon. That provision, the White House said, is buried deep
inside the New Start treaty that Mr. Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev
signed in Prague two weeks ago.
Called Prompt Global Strike, the new weapon is designed to carry out tasks like
picking off Osama bin Laden in a cave, if the right one could be found; taking
out a North Korean missile while it is being rolled to the launch pad; or
destroying an Iranian nuclear site — all without crossing the nuclear threshold.
In theory, the weapon will hurl a conventional warhead of enormous weight at
high speed and with pinpoint accuracy, generating the localized destructive
power of a nuclear warhead.
The idea is not new: President George W. Bush and his staff promoted the
technology, imagining that this new generation of conventional weapons would
replace nuclear warheads on submarines.
In face-to-face meetings with President Bush, Russian leaders complained that
the technology could increase the risk of a nuclear war, because Russia would
not know if the missiles carried nuclear warheads or conventional ones. Mr. Bush
and his aides concluded that the Russians were right.
Partly as a result, the idea “really hadn’t gone anywhere in the Bush
administration,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has served both
presidents, said recently on ABC’s “This Week.” But he added that it was
“embraced by the new administration.”
Mr. Obama himself alluded to the concept in a recent interview with The New York
Times, saying it was part of an effort “to move towards less emphasis on nuclear
weapons” while insuring “that our conventional weapons capability is an
effective deterrent in all but the most extreme circumstances.”
The Obama national security team scrapped the idea of putting the new
conventional weapon on submarines. Instead, the White House has asked Congress
for about $250 million next year to explore a new alternative, one that uses
some of the most advanced technology in the military today as well as some not
yet even invented.
The final price of the system remains unknown. Senator John McCain of Arizona,
the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said at a hearing
on Thursday that Prompt Global Strike would be “essential and critical, but also
It would be based, at least initially, on the West Coast, probably at Vandenberg
Air Force Base.
Under the Obama plan, the Prompt Global Strike warhead would be mounted on a
long-range missile to start its journey toward a target. It would travel through
the atmosphere at several times the speed of sound, generating so much heat that
it would have to be shielded with special materials to avoid melting. (In that
regard, it is akin to the problem that confronted designers of the space shuttle
But since the vehicle would remain within the atmosphere rather than going into
space, it would be far more maneuverable than a ballistic missile, capable of
avoiding the airspace of neutral countries, for example, or steering clear of
hostile territory. Its designers note that it could fly straight up the middle
of the Persian Gulf before making a sharp turn toward a target.
The Pentagon hopes to deploy an early version of the system by 2014 or 2015. But
even under optimistic timetables, a complete array of missiles, warheads,
sensors and control systems is not expected to enter the arsenal until 2017 to
2020, long after Mr. Obama will have left office, even if he is elected to a
The planning for Prompt Global Strike is being headed by Gen. Kevin P. Chilton
of the Air Force, the top officer of the military’s Strategic Command and the
man in charge of America’s nuclear arsenal. In the Obama era — where every
administration discussion of nuclear weapons takes note of Mr. Obama’s
commitment to moving toward “Global Zero,” the elimination of the nuclear
arsenal — the new part of General Chilton’s job is to talk about conventional
In an interview at his headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, General Chilton
described how the conventional capability offered by the proposed system would
give the president more choices.
“Today, we can present some conventional options to the president to strike a
target anywhere on the globe that range from 96 hours, to several hours maybe,
4, 5, 6 hours,” General Chilton said.
That would simply not be fast enough, he noted, if intelligence arrived about a
movement by Al Qaeda terrorists or the imminent launching of a missile. “If the
president wants to act on a particular target faster than that, the only thing
we have that goes faster is a nuclear response,” he said.
But the key to filling that gap is to make sure that Russia and China, among
other nuclear powers, understand that the missile launching they see on their
radar screens does not signal the start of a nuclear attack, officials said.
Under the administration’s new concept, Russia or other nations would regularly
inspect the Prompt Global Strike silos to assure themselves that the weapons
were nonnuclear. And they would be placed in locations far from the strategic
“Who knows if we would ever deploy it?” Gary Samore, Mr. Obama’s top adviser on
unconventional weapons, said at a conference in Washington on Wednesday. But he
noted that Russia was already so focused on the possibility that it insisted
that any conventional weapon mounted on a missile that could reach it counted
against the new limit on the American arsenal in the treaty.
In a follow-on treaty, he said, the Russians would certainly want to negotiate
on Prompt Global Strike and ballistic missile defenses.
If Mr. Obama does decide to deploy the system, Mr. Samore said, the number of
weapons would be small enough that Russia and China would not fear that they
could take out their nuclear arsenals.
U.S. Faces Choice on New
Weapons for Fast Strikes, NYT, 22.4.2010,
New Think and Old Weapons
February 28, 2010
The New York Times
Every four years the White House issues a “nuclear posture
review.” That may sound like an anachronism. It isn’t. In a world where the
United States and Russia still have more than 20,000 nuclear weapons — and Iran,
North Korea and others have seemingly unquenchable nuclear appetites — what the
United States says about its arsenal matters enormously.
President Obama’s review was due to Congress in December. That has been delayed,
in part because of administration infighting. The president needs to get this
right. It is his chance to finally jettison cold war doctrine and bolster
America’s credibility as it presses to rein in Iran, North Korea and other
Mr. Obama has already committed rhetorically to the vision of a world without
nuclear weapons. But we are concerned that some of his advisers, especially at
the Pentagon, are resisting his bold ambitions. He needs to stick with the ideas
he articulated in his campaign and in speeches last year in Prague and at the
These are some of the important questions the posture review must address:
THEIR PURPOSE: Current doctrine gives nuclear weapons a “critical role” in
defending the United States and its allies. And it suggests they could be used
against foes wielding chemical, biological or even conventional forces — not
just nuclear arms. Mr. Obama’s aides have proposed changing that to say that the
“primary” purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter a nuclear attack against the
United States or its allies. This still invites questions about whether
Washington values — and might use — nuclear forces against non-nuclear targets.
Given America’s vast conventional military superiority, broader uses are neither
realistic nor necessary. Any ambiguity undercuts Washington’s credibility when
it argues that other countries have no strategic reason to develop their own
nuclear arms. The sole purpose of American nuclear forces should be to deter a
nuclear attack against this country or its allies.
HOW MANY: President George W. Bush disdained arms control as old think, and
Washington and Moscow have not signed an arms reduction treaty since 2002. Mr.
Obama launched negotiations on a new agreement that would slash the number of
warheads each side has deployed from 2,200 to between 1,500 and 1,675. The talks
are dragging on, but there is hope for an agreement soon. Both sides should go
The review should make clear that the United States is ready to move, as a next
step, down to 1,000 deployed warheads — military experts say half that number is
enough to wipe out the assets of Russia, which is no longer an enemy. China, the
only major nuclear power adding to its arsenal, is estimated to have 100 to 200
warheads. The treaty being negotiated says nothing about the nearly 15,000
warheads, in total, that the United States and Russia keep as backups — the
so-called hedge. And it says nothing about America’s 500 short-range nuclear
weapons, which are considered secure, or Russia’s 3,000 or more, which are
chillingly vulnerable to theft.
The review should make clear that there is no need for a huge hedge, and that
tactical weapons have an utter lack of strategic value — as a prelude to
reducing both. Certainly no general we know of could imagine exploding a warhead
on a battlefield. Today’s greatest nuclear danger is that terrorists will steal
or build a weapon. That is best countered by halting proliferation and securing
and reducing stockpiles and other material.
NEW WEAPONS: The United States built its last new warhead in 1989. So when aides
to President George W. Bush called for building new weapons, with new designs
and new capabilities, it opened this country to charges of hypocrisy and double
standards when it demanded that North Korea and Iran end their nuclear programs.
Mr. Obama has said that this country does not need new weapons. But we are
concerned the review will open the door to just that by directing the labs to
study options — including a new weapons design — for maintaining the arsenal.
The government has a strong and hugely expensive system for ensuring that the
stockpile is safe and reliable. Mr. Obama has already vastly increased the labs’
budgets. The review should make clear that there is no need for a new weapon.
ALERT LEVELS: The United States and Russia each still have about 1,000 weapons
ready to fire at a moment’s notice. Mr. Obama has rightly described this as a
dangerous cold war relic. The review should commit to taking as many of those
forces off hair-trigger alert as possible — and encourage Russia to do the same.
In April, Mr. Obama will host a much needed summit meeting on the need to better
secure nuclear material from terrorists. In May, Washington will encourage a
United Nations-led conference to strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,
the bedrock, and battered, agreement for curbing the spread of nuclear arms.
President Obama will also have to persuade the Senate to ratify the Start
follow-on treaty, and we hope he will quickly press the Senate to approve the
test ban treaty. He is also working with allies to revive nuclear talks with
North Korea and to impose tougher sanctions on Iran. Getting the nuclear posture
review right is essential for moving all of this ahead.
New Think and Old
Weapons, NYT, 28.2.2010,
Watershed Moment on Nuclear Arms
March 25, 2009
The New York Times
During the 2008 campaign, President Obama promised to deal
with one of the world’s great scourges — thousands of nuclear weapons still in
the American and Russian arsenals. He said he would resume arms-control
negotiations — the sort that former President George W. Bush disdained — and
seek deep cuts in pursuit of an eventual nuclear-free world. There is no time to
In less than nine months, the 1991 Start I treaty expires. It contains the basic
rules of verification that give both Moscow and Washington the confidence that
they know the size and location of the other’s nuclear forces.
The Bush administration made little effort to work out a replacement deal. So we
are encouraged that American and Russian officials seem to want a new agreement.
Given the many strains in the relationship, it will take a strong commitment
from both sides, and persistent diplomacy, to get one in time.
When President Obama meets Russia’s president, Dmitri Medvedev, in London on
April 1, the two should commit to begin talks immediately and give their
negotiators a deadline for finishing up before Dec. 5. For that to happen, the
Senate must quickly confirm Mr. Obama’s negotiator, Rose Gottemoeller, so she
can start work.
Mr. Bush and then-President Vladimir Putin signed only one arms-control
agreement in eight years. It allowed both sides to keep between 1,700 and 2,200
deployed warheads. Further cuts — 1,000 each makes sense for the next phase —
would send a clear message to Iran, North Korea and other wannabes that the
world’s two main nuclear powers are placing less value on nuclear weapons.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev should also pledge that these negotiations are just a
down payment on a more ambitious effort to reduce their arsenals and rid the
world of nuclear weapons. The next round should aim to bring Britain, France and
China into the discussions. In time, they will have to cajole and wrestle India,
Pakistan and Israel to the table as well.
There is a lot President Obama can do right now to create momentum for serious
change. We hope his expected speech on nuclear weapons next month is bold.
He can start by unilaterally taking all of this country’s nuclear weapons off of
hair-trigger alert. He should also commit to eliminating the 200 to 300
short-range nuclear weapons this country still has deployed in Europe. That
would make it much easier to challenge Russia to reduce its stockpile of at
least 3,000 short-range weapons. These arms are unregulated by any treaty and
are far too vulnerable to theft.
Mr. Obama must also declare his commitment to include all nuclear weapons in
negotiated reductions — including thousands of warheads that are now held in
reserve and excluded from cuts. And he must make good on promises to press the
Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (opponents are already
quietly organizing) and the international community to adopt a pact ending
production of weapons-grade nuclear fuel.
Mr. Obama must reaffirm his campaign pledge to transform American nuclear policy
that is still mired in cold war thinking. His administration’s nuclear review is
due by year’s end. It must make clear that this country has nuclear weapons
solely to deter a nuclear attack — and that this administration’s goal is to
keep as few as possible as safely as possible. The review must also state
clearly that the country has no need for a new nuclear weapon and will not build
Two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russia and the United States
together still have more than 20,000 nuclear weapons. It is time to focus on the
21st-century threats: states like Iran building nuclear weapons and terrorists
plotting to acquire their own. Until this country convincingly redraws its own
nuclear strategy and reduces its arsenal, it will not have the credibility and
political weight to confront those threats.
Watershed Moment on
Nuclear Arms, NYT, 25.3.2009,
Pilot of Plane That Dropped A - Bomb Dies
November 2, 2007
Filed at 12:18 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Paul Tibbets, who etched his mother's name -- Enola Gay
-- into history on the nose of the B-29 bomber he flew to drop the atomic bomb
over Hiroshima, died Thursday after six decades of steadfastly defending the
mission. He was 92.
Throughout his life, Tibbets seemed more troubled by other people's objections
to the bomb than by him having led the crew that killed tens of thousands of
Japanese in a single stroke. The attack marked the beginning of the end of World
Tibbets grew tired of criticism for delivering the first nuclear weapon used in
wartime, telling family and friends that he wanted no funeral service or
headstone because he feared a burial site would only give detractors a place to
And he insisted he slept just fine, believing with certainty that using the
bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved more lives than they erased because they
eliminated the need for a drawn-out invasion of Japan.
''He said, 'What they needed was someone who could do this and not flinch -- and
that was me,''' said journalist Bob Greene, who wrote the Tibbets biography,
''Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War.''
Tibbets, 92, died at his Columbus home after a two-month decline caused by a
variety of health problems, said Gerry Newhouse, a longtime friend.
''I'm not proud that I killed 80,000 people, but I'm proud that I was able to
start with nothing, plan it and have it work as perfectly as it did,'' he said
in a 1975 interview.
''You've got to take stock and assess the situation at that time. We were at
war. ... You use anything at your disposal.''
He added: ''I sleep clearly every night.''
Filmmaker Ken Burns said Tibbets' life ''helps to take this incredible, gigantic
event and personalize it. This is a real human being who changed the course of
the world inexorably on that August morning.''
Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr. was born Feb. 23, 1915, in Quincy, Ill., and spent
most of his boyhood in Miami. He was a student at the University of Cincinnati's
medical school when he decided to withdraw in 1937 to enlist in the Army Air
''I knew when I got the assignment it was going to be an emotional thing,''
Tibbets told The Columbus Dispatch for a story on the 60th anniversary of the
bombing. ''We had feelings, but we had to put them in the background. We knew it
was going to kill people right and left. But my one driving interest was to do
the best job I could so that we could end the killing as quickly as possible.''
Tibbets, a 30-year-old colonel at the time, and his crew of 13 dropped the
five-ton ''Little Boy'' bomb over Hiroshima the morning of Aug. 6, 1945. The
blast killed or injured at least 140,000.
Three days later, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki,
killing at least 60,000 people. Tibbets did not fly in that mission. The
Japanese surrendered a few days later.
''It did in fact end the war,'' said Morris Jeppson, the officer who armed the
bomb during the Hiroshima flight. ''Ending the war saved a lot of U.S. armed
forces and Japanese civilians and military. History has shown there was no need
to criticize him.''
Former U.S. Sen. John Glenn, a former Marine fighter pilot, said people who
criticized Tibbets for piloting the plane that dropped the bomb failed to
recognize that an allied invasion of Japan, which the bomb helped avert, would
have resulted in the deaths of several million people.
''It wasn't his decision. It was a presidential decision, and he was an officer
that carried out his duty,'' Glenn said. ''It's a horrible weapon, but war is
pretty horrible, too.''
The head of the Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs rejected the idea that the
bombing saved lives.
''What Mr. Tibbits did should never be forgiven,'' said Takashi Mukai, whose
mother, a nurse, suffered lifelong effects of radiation as she treated bombing
victims. ''His actions led to the indiscriminate killing of so many, from the
elderly to young children.
''Nevertheless, I would like to express my condolences to his family, and pray
for his soul,'' he said. ''What's important now is that we move toward a world
free of nuclear weapons.''
Tibbets retired from the Air Force as a brigadier general in 1966. He moved to
Columbus, where he ran an air taxi service until he retired in 1985.
Tibbets said in 2005 that after the war he was dogged by rumors claiming he was
in prison or had committed suicide.
''They said I was crazy, said I was a drunkard, in and out of institutions,'' he
said. ''At the time, I was running the National Crisis Center at the Pentagon.''
In 1976, he was criticized for re-enacting the bombing during an appearance at a
Harlingen, Texas, air show. As he flew a B-29 Superfortress over the show, a
bomb set off on the runway below created a mushroom cloud.
He said the display ''was not intended to insult anybody,'' but the Japanese
were outraged. The U.S. government later issued a formal apology.
Tibbets again defended the bombing in 1995, when an outcry erupted over a
planned 50th anniversary exhibit of the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian
In his later years, he frequently accepted speaking invitations and signed books
on the bombing of Hiroshima, said granddaughter Kia Tibbets.
Author Richard Rhodes said Tibbets' feelings about the bombing he helped plan
embodied public opinion at the time.
''He was so characteristic of that generation. He was a man who took great pride
in what he did during the war, including the atomic bombing,'' said Rhodes, who
wrote ''The Making of the Atomic Bomb.''
''It's hard for people today to think about the atomic bombings without feeling
they were just out and out atrocities, but people at the time had a very
different sense of what they needed to do,'' Rhodes said.
Tibbets told the Dispatch in 2005 he wanted his ashes scattered over the English
Channel, where he loved to fly during the war.
Survivors include his wife, Andrea, and three sons, Paul, Gene and James, as
well as a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A grandson named
after Tibbets followed his grandfather into the military as a B-2 bomber pilot
currently stationed in Belgium.
Associated Press writers James Hannah in Dayton
and Jon Belmont in Washington
contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Enola Gay Remembered Inc.:
Pilot of Plane That Dropped A - Bomb Dies, NYT, 2.11.2007,
A foolish decision, made in
Published: 05 December 2006
The Prime Minister's announcement that Britain's
Trident nuclear deterrent is to be renewed was as disappointing as it was
unsurprising. Whatever arguments Mr Blair marshalled yesterday to justify the
spending of £20bn or so on new submarines, we find the arguments on the other
side a good deal more compelling. The Trident system was conceived and built to
combat a particular threat: that presented by the Soviet Union at the height of
the Cold War. Today's Russia may not be the benign Western-orientated state we
had hoped for after the collapse of the USSR, but it is not the threatening
superpower of old either.
Leading article: A foolish decision, made in haste, I, 5.12.2006,
Today's strategic neighbourhood is quite different - and less predictable. The
threats we face are from terrorism and global warming, and from countries that
aspire to buck the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. North Korea
makes no secret of its nuclear ambitions, and Iran wants to keep us guessing.
Whether yesterday's announcement sends these countries a useful message is
questionable. There was a chance here for Britain to set a new direction in the
international debate: one that was about restraint rather than escalation. That
opportunity has been lost.
The timing also smacks of politics. The Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies
Campbell, argued yesterday - and we agree with him - that there would have been
merit in waiting until international security trends became clearer. There was
no need to take any decision on Trident until the next Parliament at the
earliest. The haste suggests a desire on Mr Blair's part to seal a part of his
New Labour legacy by ensuring that Labour never retreats again into
unilateralism: this is to play party politics with national defence.
Mr Blair's statement contained some concessions to his critics - most of whom
sit on his own benches. The nuclear weapons budget, he said, will account for a
fraction - 3 per cent - of the overall defence budget. Investment in new
submarines will not be at the expense of conventional defence. The submarines
will be built by British companies, in Britain. The number of warheads could be
reduced from around 200 to 160 - rather less than the 50 per cent cut some had
These, though, are details. They do not alter the principle, which is that
Britain is set to modernise its nuclear capacity using money that could better
be spent on other things, at a time when nuclear weapons may not be the best way
of meeting the new threats to our national security. Parliament has been
promised a vote next March. Regrettably, the extensive public debate that we
should have had about the future of Britain's defence capability has been closed
before it had properly begun.
"If they ask for it,
we know how to make
some really big parking lots
in this world"
- Tom Clancy
in We were told that life would change for ever
I p. 4 11.9.2003.
August 1, 1963
The toboggan ride to
From the Guardian archive
Thursday August 1, 1963
The decision to drop the Hiroshima bomb was made by President Truman against the
advice of General George Marshall, the chief American military leader of the
Second World War, and in ignorance of a petition directed to the President by
seven atomic scientists working in the secret laboratories of the bomb project
This is the nub of a moral and strategical controversy that raged behind closed
doors [in] 1944-45, and which has until now been locked in the files.
"Look" magazine publishes the findings of two of its correspondents. Final
clearance of the piece published today was granted by the State Department.
Certain conclusions appear to be inevitable. The overriding aim of President
Truman and his closest advisers including General Marshall, was to attain the
conquest of Japan with the fewest possible losses of American manpower.
The estimate of American losses in the first month of an invasion of Japan was
put between 31,000 and 42,000. Mr Truman and Mr Stimson strengthened in each
other the conviction that the bomb should be used, without warning, on a large
metropolitan area as a direct military weapon.
The moral question had been canvassed among all the participants. The President,
it seems, was never seriously faced with the choice of using the bomb on Japan
or deliberately withholding it. All the advice he received led him to accept the
decisions of an interim committee of Government and scientific advisers he set
It reported on June 6, 1945 that the bomb was "to be used as soon as possible on
a dual target, that is, a military installation or War plant surrounded by or
adjacent to homes", and "without prior warning".
Bush and Conant [two committee members] argued, evidently without success, that
immediately after the first successful trial, the facts should be published and
Japan be put on notice.
On this question of "prior warning" General Marshall disagreed. "Every effort,"
he said, "should be made to keep our record of warning clear. We must offset by
such warning methods the opprobrium."
It now appears that [the scientists' petition] was never shown to Mr Truman. As
for the moral torment that some historians have seen Mr Truman enduring and
conquering, General Groves has a laconic comment. The President, he says, acted
all along on the assumptions he was fed that the bomb would be used when ready.
"He was," said the General, "like a little boy on a toboggan."
From the Guardian archive > August 1, 1963 > The toboggan ride to
On This Day - April 19, 1960
From The Times Archive
A crowd of more than 60,000,
including Michael Foot,
arrived at Trafalgar Square to protest against the
THE biggest demonstration seen for a
long time took place in Trafalgar Square yesterday afternoon at the end of the
Aldermaston to London “ban-the-bomb” march.
The crowd at one time appeared to number not fewer than 60,000 in the square and
surrounding area, and the organisers put it nearer 100,000. In the square itself
there was a crowd of between 30,000 and 40,000 at one time.
The square was already looking full at 3 o’clock when the first of the marchers
arrived from Whitehall, and it took the column, which was said to have grown to
40,000 on its way through London, nearly two hours to come into the welcoming
crowds. The organisation of the demonstration was highly efficient. In spite of
the throng of people everything appeared to run smoothly and there were no
Canon L.J.Collins introduced a number of speakers, including the Bishop of
Southwark, Dr Mervyn Stockwood, who said that Canon Collins, although he might
be looked upon as the “bad boy” of the Church of England at the moment, would go
down in history as one of the true priests of the Church at this time.
“I realise that many members of my Church take the opposite view, and although I
believe them to be wrong I do not question the sincerity of their views.”
Mr Michael Foot was given an ovation by the crowd after his speech. The march he
said was a mighty upsurge of democratic protest against the “military
dictatorship” into which the politicians had allowed our destinies to slip.
After the rally, a party of people left Trafalgar Square on the first stage of a
march to Paris.
From The Times Archive > On This Day - April 19, 1960, Times,
On This Day -
June 20, 1953
From The Times Archive
Robert and Michael Rosenberg were orphaned
by the execution of their parents
and no relatives dared to adopt them.
Meeropol, who wrote the anti-lynching anthem Strange Fruit,
took them in
JULIUS and Ethel Rosenberg, convicted more
than two years ago for conspiring to transmit atomic secrets to a foreign power
(Russia), were put to death shortly after 7 o’clock in the electric chair in
Sing Sing prison. Neither made any statements before dying.
The Supreme Court reversed the stay of execution granted to the Rosenbergs on
Wednesday by Justice Douglas. Soon after the court had announced its decision,
President Eisenhower indicated that he would not use his right of executive
In a formal statement he expressed his conviction “that the only conclusion to
be drawn from the history of the case is that the Rosenbergs have received the
benefit of every safeguard which American justice can provide.
“Accordingly, only the most extraordinary circumstances would warrant executive
intervention in the case. I am not unmindful of the fact that the case has
aroused grave concern both here and abroad. In this connexion I can only say by
immeasurably increasing the chances of an atomic war the Rosenbergs may have
condemned to death tens of millions of innocent people all over the world.
“The execution of two human beings is a grave matter. But even graver is the
thought of millions of dead whose deaths may be directly attributable to what
these spies have done. I will not intervene in this matter.”
The Times Archives > On This Day - June 20, 1953, Times, 20.6.2005,
On This Day - April 23, 1952
From The Times Archive
This atomic bomb blast was
to be larger than any of its predecessors.
A group of Idaho residents
is currently fighting
for US Government compensation for cancers
were caused by toxic clouds carried on the wind
from the Nevada Desert
AN ATOMIC bomb explosion more
violent than those at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and perhaps even bigger than the
heaviest of those at Bikini in 1946, was set off today in the Nevada desert,
with 1,500 troops watching it from foxholes, in what Press reports said were
“astonishingly close” positions.
Farther away than the soldiers were great numbers of press reporters and
photographers, some members of Congress, and other persons invited by the Atomic
Energy Commission to watch the test. All over the country, about 35 million more
persons, it is estimated, saw the spectacle on television.
The bomb was dropped from an aircraft at a height of 30,000ft. The flash of the
explosion, even in brilliant sunshine, was seen in Las Vegas, 75 miles away, and
seven minutes afterwards the rumbling of it was heard there.
A reporter at the Press position, which was apparently about ten miles from the
point where the bomb fell, said his neck was twisted by the shock of the
explosion about a minute after the flash occurred and that heat from the blast
singed observers’ faces there.
The explosion formed the familiar big mushroom of changing colours and its dust
column was a mile in diameter. Within a few minutes an ice cap covered the top
of the main ball-shaped cloud, which was mostly white, with orange and yellow
Before the explosion, the Atomic Energy Commission said that troops observing it
would be in foxholes 4.5 feet deep and from three to five miles away.
Previously, the closest troops had been was seven miles. Close under the
explosion there would be 24 pigs and 1,600 mice in cages and pens.
In the area also, ahead of the troops would be seven tanks, more than 20 machine
guns and mortars, some heavy artillery pieces, and several light aircraft.
On This Day - April 23, 1952, The Times, 23.4.2005,
Day - August 9, 1945
From The Times Archive
An estimated 140,000 people died
when an American B29 dropped on Hiroshima
the first nuclear bomb used on a
Official reconnaissance photographs
of Hiroshima show clearly that four and one-tenth square miles of the city, or a
total area of almost seven square miles, were completely destroyed by one atomic
bomb, and heavy additional damage is shown outside the completely destroyed
area. “Destroyed” is the word officially, but it appears “obliterated” might be
a better word.
Cold figures, however, scarcely give it a sufficient idea of what took place.
For a more graphic picture one must turn to Japanese broadcasts, which are now
beginning to admit the terrible results of this attack. The Japanese state that
most of Hiroshima no longer exists, and blasted corpses “too numerous to count”
litter the ruined city. “The impact of the bomb was so terrific,” say the
Japanese, “that practically all living things, human and animal, were literally
seared to death by the tremendous heat and pressure engendered by the blast.”
Buildings were crushed or wiped out. Unofficial American sources on Guam
estimate that Japanese dead and wounded in Hiroshima may exceed 100,000.
Tokyo wireless speaks of the “indescribable destructive power” of the bomb,
which crushed big buildings as well as small dwellings. The inhabitants of the
city were killed by blast, fire and crumbling buildings, and most bodies are so
badly battered that men cannot be distinguished from women.
The official report of the raid from Guam states that a large part of Hiroshima
simply dissolved into a vast cloud of dust when the bomb exploded.
From The Times Archives
> On This Day - August 9, 1945, The Times, 9.8.2005,
war / peace > intelligence / spies
> soldiers > action
soldiers > British army
war > soldiers > U.S. army ranks
war > veterans
war > weapons, arms sales
war > weapons >
aircraft, missiles, rockets
weapons > robots
war > weapons
> prisoners / abuse / torture
war > casualties >
war > burials
war > remembrance