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By: Sharon Packer (TACDA Board Member)
The nuclear threat from North Korea has prompted many callers during the past few weeks, asking about the effects and attenuation of radiation. There is a great deal of misinformation about radiation from fallout. The following old rule of thumb for shelter design still holds true. NBC shelters should have four feet of dirt cover, or three feet of concrete cover to give a minimum PF level of 1,000 from fallout. If a “rainout” should occur, or if the sheltered area is within 1.5 miles of a potential primary target, the shelter will require a minimum of eight to ten feet of cover. Shelter entrances require careful engineering, as most of the radiation exposure will come from these entrance areas.
I recently reviewed a series of articles about Nuclear Weapons Effects, written by Carsten Haaland, of the Oak Ridge national Laboratory. The entire series of articles can be found in our Journal of Civil Defense published in 1990. Some of you may be fortunate enough to still possess these journal articles. I have re-typed, in part, the section on ‘Fallout’ and ‘Rainout’ for this current article.
FALLOUT FROM NUCLEAR DETONATIONS
Carsten M. Haaland, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
What is Fallout?
Fallout is the radioactive dust that comes back to earth as a result of a nuclear explosion at the surface of the earth, or at an altitude low enough for the fireball to engulf solid materials. Fallout dust may look like sand, ash or crystals, depending on the kind of material engulfed by the fireball. If the material engulfed is ordinary earth or sand the fallout will look like sand, but if the engulfed material contains calcium to the extent found in concrete buildings or coral, the fallout may look like ashes. Large dense particles will descend faster than very small particles. For this reason, fallout particles several hundred miles downwind from a nuclear surface burst will be very small, somewhat like particles in atmospheric pollution, and the nuclear radiation from the fallout will be greatly reduced.
The danger of fallout arises from the intense and highly penetrating nuclear radiation emitted from it, which produces a potentially lethal hazard to people in the vicinity unless they have protection. Large areas, covering hundreds to thousands of square miles, depending on the yield and number of surface detonations, can be poisoned with fallout such that radiation from the contaminated area is hazardous or lethal to an unprotected person passing through or dwelling in the area, for periods of days to weeks after the detonations.
How is Fallout Produced?
When a nuclear weapon explodes near the ground, the instantaneous release of incredible energy makes a huge pit or crater. Tons of earth in the crater are instantly changed from solids into hot gas and fine dust, by the tremendous heat and pressure from the bomb explosion. This hot gas and dust, together with vaporized materials of the bomb itself, form a giant fireball that rises like a hot-air balloon to high altitude. This material spreads out, cools, and becomes more dense as it rises. The fireball stops rising when its density reaches the same density as the atmosphere into which it has risen.
Some of the dust and heavier particles that are drawn up with the fireball form the stem of the mushroom cloud. The dust in the cap of the mushroom spreads out horizontally when the fireball stops rising, and begins to be shaped and drawn along by the winds at that altitude. This dust cloud can be carried for hundreds of miles by the upper winds. The dust falling and drifting to the earth from this moving cloud becomes the radioactive fallout with which we are concerned. Somewhat confusingly, the process itself; that is, the dust’s action of falling and drifting to the ground, is also called “fallout”.
The dust in the stem and in the mushroom cloud becomes radioactive mostly from the fission products created in the nuclear explosion that become stuck to part of the dust particles. The air around the particles does not become radioactive, and neither do the ground-surface materials on which they settle.
The smallest particles of fallout can be carried hundreds of miles by the wind before reaching the earth. Most of the fallout will come down to the ground within 24 hours after the detonation. Very small particles come down very slowly and may be spread over large areas of the earth’s surface in the downwind directions over time periods of many days, even weeks. This delayed fallout is sometimes called “worldwide” fallout, although most of the fallout comes down in the hemisphere in which it is produced (Northern or Southern). Fallout that arrives within the first day or two after the explosion poses a much greater threat to human life than does delayed fallout.
Because the rate of fall of a fallout particle depends on the size, shape and density of the particle and on the local winds (Haaland, 1989), the pattern of deposition on the ground can be highly irregular. The pattern shown in Fig. 1 resulted from measurement of radiation intensities on the ground after the nuclear test named TURK at the Nevada Test Site in 1955, a 43 kiloton tower shot (Glasstone, 1977). The pattern shown in Fig. 2 shows how an “idealized” fallout pattern is used to estimate fallout on the city of Phoenix, Arizona, resulting from a hypothetical ground burst of a 10 megaton nuclear weapon on Luke Air Force Base (Haaland, 1987a).
Radiation from Fallout
The radioactivity from fallout decays and fades away by natural processes. The radioactive materials produced by the nuclear explosion are unstable. These materials change (or decay) into a stable condition by shooting out nuclear radiation, such as alpha, beta, and gamma rays. Gamma radiation is by far the most dangerous of the three kinds of fallout radiation, because it can penetrate the entire body and cause cell damage to all parts, to the organs, blood and bones.
A more detailed discussion of the kinds of fallout radiation and their potentially harmful effects may be found in Radiation Safety in Shelters, CPG 2-6.4, 1983, available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Washington, DC. The penetration of gamma radiation through matter, dose-factors for the body, comparison of fallout radiation with initial nuclear radiation, and other topics, are discussed in great technical detail in Fallout Facts for Nuclear-Battlefield Commanders (Haaland, 1989). Methods of providing protective shielding from lethal fallout contamination have been presented by Chester (1986) and Spencer (1980).
Decay of Radioactivity
Some materials decay into their stable form faster than others. Those that change fast produce intense nuclear radiation in the first few moments after a nuclear explosion. Those that decay more slowly, such as cesium-137 and strontium-90, may be responsible for measurable nuclear radiation years after the explosion. These particular radioisotopes may enter the body through the food chain and may remain for long periods in certain parts of the body. The increased radioactive emissions from these isotopes (above the normal radioactive emissions from potassium-40 which exists in our bodies) may increase the potential for various cancers.
Because many materials in the fallout cloud decay quickly, the nuclear radiation from a given quantity of fallout is most intense in the first moments after detonation and its intensity rapidly falls to lower levels. This behavior can be approximately described by a rule of thumb called the seven-ten rule. This rule applies only to fallout of the same “effective” age. If the fallout results from unclear detonations that all exploded within a few minutes of each other, then the “effective” age is the same as the actual age, the time measured from the mean time of the detonations. If the fallout is produced from detonations that are separated in time by more than a half-hour or so, then the average decay rates of the different clouds of fallout are sufficiently different. The concept of “effective” age must be applied to estimate the decay rate of the composite fallout. Methods have been developed for determining the effective age of composite fallout from simple measurements by a survey meter and the use of a monogram (Haaland, 1989).
The seven-ten rule states that the measured radiation intensity from a given quantity of fallout particles will decay to (1) one-tenth as much when the fallout becomes seven times older than the effective age at the time of measurement, (2) one-hundredth (1/10 x 1/10) as much when the fallout becomes forty-nine times (7 x 7) older than the effective age at the time of measurement, and so on. The unit of time can be seconds, minutes, hours, half-days, days or whatever period of time is appropriate for the situation. For instance, if the measured level of radiation is 1,000 R/hr., after 7 hours the radiation level will decay to 100 R/hr. After 7 x 7 hours (about 2 days) the radiation level will decay to 10 R/hr. After 7 x 2 days (about 2 weeks) the radiation level will decay to 1 R/hr.
If the air is humid, the nuclear explosion may start a local rain. The fireball from a low-yield nuclear detonation, less than a few hundred kilotons, may not rise above the troposphere. In this case, if it is already raining or if the explosion starts a rain shower, much of the radioactive material will come quickly to the ground as “rainout”. A light rainout produced low-level fallout-type radiation after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki detonations, even though the fireballs did not engulf solid materials on the ground. Radiation from rainout could be extremely intense and localized if the fireball does not rise above the rain cloud, because the fallout cloud has not had a chance to spread out as it does when carried a long way by the wind, and it has not had as much time to decay. If the rainfall is heavy, the fallout may be washed into gutters, ditches, and storm sewers, from whence it may be carried into streams and rivers. In this case the earth surrounding the ditches, sewers and streams, and the water itself will provide shielding to greatly reduce the fallout hazard to local residents. However, radioactive material, like dirt and sand particles, can collect in unpredictable locations under these circumstances to produce highly lethal concentrations. A radiation survey meter will be needed to help detect, and avoid remaining in such locations.
Fallout radiation is a potential hazard that must be considered in the event of nuclear attack. The magnitude of the area covered, the geographical shape, and the levels of radiation intensity CANNOT be precisely predicted. Protection by shelters is possible, and radiation management through the use of rate meters and dosimeters will reduce the potential risk.
Thoughts on water purification as shared by one of TACDA’s advisory board members, Paul Seyfried ….
Thanks for the heads-up. As most of the attendees are well into their fifties, sixties, and seventies, I wonder just how far they’ll get on foot or pushing a bicycle. Water is HEAVY, and there may be precious few (none) sources of water that are suitable for using a single or two-stage water filter. Pollution. Even the best “emergency” water filters cannot deal with urban chemical pollutants.
So far, most evacuees in the US in recent memory had a source of good water in the areas they evacuated to. The EMP problem will eliminate that stop-gap. No one, without a well and the ability to use that well without grid power, will have safe water.
Don’t be a refugee. Find a relative out of town that is willing to have you pre-position generous supplies there. That will assure your support if you are able to get out, and that you won’t be a burden on the host. Over-achieve on the food and clothing end of the list….it may last a lot longer than you think! From casual conversations with guys like Bron Cikotas and Lowell Wood, they revealed that any species of a new grid will take between 10 and 20 years, and it may not be Americans that restore it. The “experts” that assert a “months-to-a year” time window for restoring the power grid are just not realistic. Also consider that among the suffering and dying population will be the very people who know now to install high voltage transformers and equipment. IF they can get it, and IF they can pay for it with now-worthless American dollars from suppliers abroad, and IF they can transport it around the country without fuel, water, food, and security that we now enjoy at re-supply points along the way.
I know a man who is one of only a dozen or so who know how to splice high voltage cable. I’m not talking the 12,000 volt stuff, I mean 500,000+ transmission lines. A dozen such men are adequate for the random incidents where their skills are needed. It’s the same demand for installing 700 ton extreme-high-voltage transformers at power plants. Don’t need too many of those on a daily basis. But melt down 6,000 EHV transformers, and you have a problem. How do we contact these men (no communications)? Which of them are willing to leave their starving and thirsty families to travel long distances in a grid-down country to work on your power plant (assuming they could get the huge list of gear to restore the plant) assuming they are alive by the time they need him?
With all of the perils and pitfalls of evacuation, it is probably the only way forward for city dwellers, because there will be nothing in the city for them. The cities will die.
You can pass this short video of a talk by Bronius Cikotas about the consequences of a CME or EMP on the nation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpHjP1j70Xo The follow-on videos about EMP are also excellent! He softened his remarks for the audience….but over a hamburger at Hires in September 2014, Bron left his line of conversation about life in Virginia to say, “They cities will die. Get OUT.” The way he said it, out of the blue- and then moved on, was unexpected. I’m going somewhere with this, and it relates to a conversation I had with the water works engineer in West Jordan in the lobby of his building. I just drove to the water works and walked in asking for someone from the engineering staff. A kindly man in his fifties came out and addressed my questions about how, where, West Jordan gets it drinking water. Indeed, his comments applied to the Wasatch Front, not just WJ, with the possible exceptions of their wells.
West Jordan gets 82% of its water from the reservoirs in the mountains….Jordanelle, Pine View, etc. It is piped down through very large concrete aqueducts. If an earthquake damages these, it may take 3 or 4 months to repair them. “But we could keep the city alive with the wells, if the quake didn’t disrupt them…….if no one takes a shower. It would be close.” I then asked, “What about EMP?” I got no tap dancing, hemming or hawing. He looked right at me and said, “The city will die.” Almost exactly what Bron said at Hires. It’s likely he had attended the EMP seminar Bron was presenting at the Little America Hotel on the morning of 9/11, which was adjourned by the events in New York City. About 600 city and state officials were in attendance, those associated with law enforcement, utility management, etc.
In Lowell Wood’s 1999 testimony on EMP, he discusses the challenges of “bootstrapping” the grid. It is bleak. It is wise to consider the importance safe, clean water has on the priority list of our preparations. Without the grid, municipal water will be a fond memory and the largest factor in the demise of hundreds of millions of Americans. Those relying on emergency backpack filters will soon find themselves in serious trouble as their filters become hopelessly clogged using ditch water. Virtually all filter manufacturers use tap water to rate their capacities. In my experience in the high Uinta mountains, I had to clean my Katadyn filter after only a few quarts of clear stream water. It was frustrating and time consuming. With cloudy, muddy water, it would be much worse.
What is needed for long-term water filtration is multiple stages….starting at 20 microns, and moving down to the .3 micron level so that one filter is not overwhelmed by trying to handle the whole task. Processes to handle viruses and chemicals need to be included. The best filter I’ve found for the long-term water problem is the Lakewater Filter by Vitasalis (Equinox) out of Michigan. Six processes (still not as good as the 19 to 23 stages your city uses) instead of one or two. It requires power to use….so alternative power is also high on your list. It will provide plenty of water for the long haul for showers, cooking, drinking, etc.
Plan and DO for the long haul. In virtually any nuclear confrontation with our very real enemies, you can count on loss of the grid and all its attendant benefits.
From the “Journal Archives” ….. Journal of Civil Defense, Jan-Feb 1978
Reports and repercussions of the 1977 American “Civil Defense Debate” are appearing in foreign publications. In Great Britain, The Journal of the Institute of Civil Defense digs into Congressional hearings and says: One Republican, Congressman William Whitehurst, also argued that it would be criminal to give up hope of defending against a nuclear attack when civil shelters could reduce casualties “down to 20 million.” But the new director of the Pentagon’s Defense Civil Preparedness Agency, Mr. Bardyl Tirana, said there was no question of building blast shelters for the civil population, which would cost far more than the sums being voted. “Frankly, we do not seek an increase,” he said. “All we would do with the funds is accelerate our program. We’re not going to build shelters or do any industrial hardening, as some people have suggested.”
Russians carefully monitored the hearings, and General of the Army A. I. Radziyevskiy in an interview with V. Aleksandrov printed in the Canadian Emergency Planning Digest for September-October 1977 has praise for “sober minded” Americans who play down civil defense. In answer to a question about claims of a stepped-up Russian civil defense made by the American press, American generals and Boeing Aerospace Company Radziyevskiy says:
“They are totally baseless. Soviet civil defense has never threatened anyone and has always pursued humane aims.
“As in the past, the main tasks of civil defense are: to protect the population during war; to increase the stability of the functioning of the national economy in wartime and to eliminate the consequences of an aggressor’s attack on peaceful cities and villages . . .
“Naturally, the civil defense organization and its methods of protecting the population and national economy from an aggressor’s air attacks and natural catastrophes are constantly being improved. However, this fact, which was recognized during the conclusion of the ABM Treaty, was no obstacle to its signing and alarmed no one until 1976, when the struggle over the US military budget for the next few years broke out.
“Seeking an increase in the military budget, American ‘hawks’ are now trying to belittle US civil defense potential as much as possible. Yet in the past, when the military-industrial complex had to convince American public opinion that the vast sums being spent at the taxpayer’s expense to implement extensive civil defense programs were being used most effectively, they enthusiastically praised the achievements of US civil defense . . .
“While knowing of the United States’ extensive civil defense programs, the Soviet Union has never called these measures a threat to the peace and security of other peoples, and has never tried to depict them as an obstacle to ending the arms race or to general disarmament. Indeed, it is not hard to understand that with the ending of the arms race and the total elimination of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, the need for civil defense measures will also recede of its own accord. Therefore, the attempt to present civil defense measures as an insurmountable obstacle to further progress at the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks is just as ridiculous as an attempt to lead a jackass backwards along a road . . .
Closer to home, Soviet Scientist M. A. Markov writes a persuasive article for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (November 1977) which is meant to refute Richard Pipes’ statement in the July 1977 Commentary. Pipes said:
“Since the mid-1960s, the proposition that thermonuclear war would be suicidal for both parties has been used by the Russians largely as a commodity for export. Its chief proponents include staff members of the Moscow Institute of the USA and Canada, and Soviet participants at Pugwash, Dartmouth and similar international conferences, who are assigned the task of strengthening the hand of anti-military intellectual circles in the West.”
Markov tackles his mission pretty well and he tries to reemphasize the title of his article, which is “Have We Learned to Think in a New Way?” He quotes the Pugwash Manifesto in saying that “There can be no winners in a third world war.” A familiar goblin, and he points out:
“With the appearance of the nuclear weapon, and with the threat of global destruction of life on earth, arose the realization that the use of this weapon was tantamount to self-destruction . . .
“The duty of scientists is to warn the world about this god of war donning the mask of a pacifist, and to warn about the military strategists’ temptation to unleash a preventive war for ‘humanistic’ ends. . .
“The genie has been released from the bottle, and it only remains for us to search for different forms of limiting its spread and preventing its aggressiveness. The danger is that an accumulation of plutonium can take place in reactors designed for generating nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
” . . . The disappearance of an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and fear in favor of an atmosphere of security will lead to a new economic order and to the peaceful cooperation among people in solving tasks common to all mankind.”
Prominent among those whom the Soviets would like to discredit is Major General George Keegan, who retired a year ago as Chief of Air Force Intelligence . Following are excerpts of an interview published in Human Events of September 24, 1977:
“ . . . The Soviets have taken extraordinary steps to harden, protect and shelter their military, leadership, industrial and population resources from nuclear attack . While Soviet cities would be destroyed, they would probably suffer no more than four or five million fatalities to our 160 million.
“ . . . Future catastrophe can be averted – just as World War II could have been prevented.
“All the United States has to do is continue making a prudent, objective assessment of what the Soviet Union is doing and assuring that we don’t let it happen. Prudent and adequate investment in security and defense is basically what is required. In my opinion, we are not doing that today . . .
“Altunin [Soviet Chief of Civil Defense] has over 200 general officers on active duty from the several services, serving directly on his staff, or in command of civil defense in all the major cities of the Soviet Union. He is known to have many dozens of regiments of civil defense troops that are assigned principally to supervising city defense throughout the Soviet Union. His organization includes several large military academies like the Air Force Academy or West Point exclusively devoted to training civil defense officers.
“After four years of the most intensive training in civil defense, they graduate with the equivalent of a college degree, are commissioned second lieutenants, and spend their entire 35- to 50-year career in civil defense. Ultimately, these young officers become the commanders of civil defense detachments throughout the cities of the Soviet Union.
“ . . . There is no longer any mystery about the matter of Soviet civil defense . The difficulty is that you cannot get senior officials of the U. S. government to believe, because to believe would simply be to put detente, SALT and the ABM treaty of 1972 in an extremely adverse light.”
We here at the American Civil Defense Association felt this was important to share;
Statement for the Record
Dr. William R. Graham, Chairman
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, Chief of Staff
Commission to assess the threat to the United States from
Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack
U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on Homeland Security
Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency Hearing
October 17, 2017
North Korea Nuclear EMP Attack:
An Existential Threat
During the Cold War, major efforts were undertaken by the Department of Defense to assure that the U.S. national command authority and U.S. strategic forces could survive and operate after an EMP attack. However, no major efforts were then thought necessary to protect critical national infrastructures, relying on nuclear deterrence to protect them. With the development of small nuclear arsenals and long-range missiles by new, radical U.S. adversaries, beginning with North Korea, the threat of a nuclear EMP attack against the U.S. becomes one of the few ways that such a country could inflict devastating damage to the United States. It is critical, therefore, that the U.S. national leadership address the EMP threat as a critical and existential issue, and give a high priority to assuring the leadership is engaged and the necessary steps are taken to protect the country from EMP. (Read entire address here.)
March 1, 1955. (House of Commons)
This was the last great speech made by Winston Churchill in the House of Commons. It was listened to with deep respect and almost total silence in a packed Chamber. It contains the last of the remembered Churchill phrases “… safety will be the sturdy child of terror, and survival the twin brother of annihilation”. The two final sentences may be regarded as Churchill’s farewell to the House of Commons and to the British people.
I beg to move, ‘That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1955, Command Paper No. 9391.’
This Motion stands in my name, and it is supported by my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Minister of Defence.
We live in a period, happily unique in human history, when the whole world is divided intellectually and to a large extent geographically between the creeds of Communist discipline and individual freedom, and when, at the same time, this mental and psychological division is accompanied by the possession by both sides of the obliterating weapons of the nuclear age.
We have antagonisms now as deep as those of the Reformation and its reactions which led to the Thirty Years’ War. But now they are spread over the whole world instead of only over a small part of Europe. We have, to some extent, the geographical division of the Mongol invasion in the thirteenth century, only more ruthless and more thorough. We have force and science, hitherto the servants of man, now threatening to become his master.
I am not pretending to have a solution for a permanent peace between the nations which could be unfolded this afternoon. We pray for it. Nor shall I try to discuss the cold war which we all detest, but have to endure. I shall only venture to offer to the House some observations mainly of a general character on which I have pondered long and which, I hope, may be tolerantly received, as they are intended by me. And here may I venture to make a personal digression? I do not pretend to be an expert or to have technical knowledge of this prodigious sphere of science. But in my long friendship with Lord Cherwell I have tried to follow and even predict the evolution of events. I hope that the House will not reprove me for vanity or conceit if I repeat what I wrote a quarter of a century ago:
We know enough [I said] to be sure that the scientific achievements of the next fifty years will be far greater, more rapid and more surprising than those we have already experienced . . . High authorities tell us that new sources of power, vastly more important than any we yet know, will surely be discovered. Nuclear energy is incomparably greater than the molecular energy which we use to-day. The coal a man can get in a day can easily do 500 times as much work as the man himself. Nuclear energy is at least one million times more powerful still. If the hydrogen atoms in a pound of water could be prevailed upon to combine together and form helium, they would suffice to drive a 1,000 horse-power engine for a whole year. If the electrons those tiny planets of the atomic systems were induced to combine with the nuclei in the hydrogen, the horse-power liberated would be 120 times greater still. There is no question among scientists that this gigantic source of energy exists. What is lacking is the match to set the bonfire alight, or it may be the detonator to cause the dynamite to explode.
This is no doubt not quite an accurate description of what has been discovered, but as it was published in the Strand Magazine of December, 1931- twenty-four years ago-I hope that my plea to have long taken an interest in the subject may be indulgently accepted by the House.
What is the present position? Only three countries possess, in varying degrees, the knowledge and the power to make nuclear weapons. Of these, the United States is overwhelmingly the chief. Owing to the breakdown in the exchange of information between us and the United States since 1946 we have had to start again independently on our own. Fortunately, executive action was taken promptly by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to reduce as far as possible the delay in our nuclear development and production. By his initiative we have made our own atomic bombs.
Confronted with the hydrogen bomb, I have tried to live up to the right hon. Gentleman’s standard. We have started to make that one, too. It is this grave decision which forms the core of the Defence Paper which we are discussing this afternoon.
Although the Soviet stockpile of atomic bombs may be greater than that of Britain, British discoveries may well place us above them in fundamental science.
May I say that for the sake of simplicity and to avoid verbal confusion I use the expression ‘atomic bombs’ and also ‘hydrogen bombs’ instead of ‘thermo-nuclear’ and I keep ‘nuclear’ for the whole lot. There is an immense gulf between the atomic and the hydrogen bomb. The atomic bomb, with all its terrors, did not carry us outside the scope of human control or manageable events in thought or action, in peace or war. But when Mr. Sterling Cole, the Chairman of the United States Congressional Committee, gave out a year ago – 17 February 1954 – the first comprehensive review of the hydrogen bomb, the entire foundation of human affairs was revolutionized, and mankind placed in a situation both measureless and laden with doom.
It is now the fact that a quantity of plutonium, probably less than would fill the Box on the Table-it is quite a safe thing to store-would suffice to produce weapons which would give indisputable world domination to any great Power which was the only one to have it. There is no absolute defence against the hydrogen bomb, nor is any method in sight by which any nation, or any country, can be completely guaranteed against the devastating injury which even a score of them might inflict on wide regions.
What ought we to do? Which way shall we turn to save our lives and the future of the world? It does not matter so much to old people; they are going soon anyway; but I find it poignant to look at youth in all its activity and ardour and, most of all, to watch little children playing their merry games, and wonder what would lie before them if God wearied of mankind.
The best defence would of course be bona fide disarmament all round. This is in all our hearts. But sentiment must not cloud our vision. It is often said that ‘facts are stubborn things.’ A renewed session of a sub-committee of the Disarmament Commission is now sitting in London and is rightly attempting to conduct its debates in private. We must not conceal from ourselves the gulf between the Soviet Government and the N.A.T.O. Powers, which has hitherto, for so long, prevented an agreement. The long history and tradition of Russia makes it repugnant to the Soviet Government to accept any practical system of international inspection.
A second difficulty lies in the circumstance that, just as the United States, on the one hand, has, we believe, the overwhelming mastery in nuclear weapons, so the Soviets and their Communist satellites have immense superiority in what are called ‘conventional’ forces-the sort of arms and forces with which we fought the last war, but much improved. The problem is, therefore, to devise a balanced and phased system of disarmament which at no period enables any one of the participants to enjoy an advantage which might endanger the security of the others. A scheme on these lines was submitted last year by Her Majesty’s Government and the French Government and was accepted by the late Mr. Vyshinsky as a basis of discussion. It is now being examined in London.
If the Soviet Government have not at any time since the war shown much nervousness about the American possession of nuclear superiority, that is because they are quite sure that it will not be used against them aggressively, even in spite of many forms of provocation. On the other hand, the N.A.T.O. Powers have been combined together by the continued aggression and advance of Communism in Asia and in Europe. That this should have eclipsed in a few years, and largely effaced, the fearful antagonism and memories that Hitlerism created for the German people is an event without parallel. But it has, to a large extent, happened. There is widespread belief throughout the free world that, but for American nuclear superiority, Europe would already have been reduced to satellite status and the Iron Curtain would have reached the Atlantic and the Channel.
Unless a trustworthy and universal agreement upon disarmament, conventional and nuclear alike, can be reached and an effective system of inspection is established and is actually working, there is only one sane policy for the free world in the next few years. That is what we call defence through deterrents. This we have already adopted and proclaimed. These deterrents may at any time become the parents of disarmament, provided that they deter. To make our contribution to the deterrent we must ourselves possess the most up-to-date nuclear weapons, and the means of delivering them.
That is the position which the Government occupy. We are to discuss this not only as a matter of principle; there are many practical reasons which should be given. Should war come, which God forbid, there are a large number of targets that we and the Americans must be able to strike at once. There are scores of airfields from which the Soviets could launch attacks with hydrogen bombs as soon as they have the bombers to carry them. It is essential to our deterrent policy and to our survival to have, with our American allies, the strength and numbers to be able to paralyse these potential Communist assaults in the first few hours of the war, should it come.
The House will perhaps note that I avoid using the word ‘Russia’ as much as possible in this discussion. I have a strong admiration for the Russian people -for their bravery, their many gifts, and their kindly nature. It is the Communist dictatorship and the declared ambition of the Communist Party and their proselytizing activities that we are bound to resist, and that is what makes this great world cleavage which I mentioned when I opened my remarks.
There are also big administrative and industrial targets behind the Iron Curtain, and any effective deterrent policy must have the power to paralyse them all at the outset, or shortly after. There are also the Soviet submarine bases and other naval targets which will need early attention. Unless we make a contribution of our own-that is the point which I am pressing-we cannot be sure that in an emergency the resources of other Powers would be planned exactly as we would wish, or that the targets which would threaten us most would be given what we consider the necessary priority, or the deserved priority, in the first few hours.
These targets might be of such cardinal importance that it would really be a matter of life and death for us. All this, I think, must be borne in mind in deciding our policy about the conventional forces, to which I will come later, the existing Services.
Meanwhile, the United States has many times the nuclear power of Soviet Russia – I avoid any attempt to give exact figures and they have, of course, far more effective means of delivery. Our moral and military support of the United States and our possession of nuclear weapons of the highest quality and on an appreciable scale, together with their means of delivery, will greatly reinforce the deterrent power of the free world, and will strengthen our influence within the free world. That, at any rate, is the policy we have decided to pursue. That is what we are now doing, and I am thankful that it is endorsed by a mass of responsible opinion on both sides of the House, and, I believe, by the great majority of the nation.
A vast quantity of information, some true, some exaggerated much out of proportion, has been published about the hydrogen bomb. The truth has inevitably been mingled with fiction, and I am glad to say that panic has not occurred. Panic would not necessarily make for peace. That is one reason why I have been most anxious that responsible discussions on this matter should not take place on the B.B.C. or upon the television, and I thought that I was justified in submitting that view of Her Majesty’s Government to the authorities, which they at once accepted-very willingly accepted.
Panic would not necessarily make for peace even in this country. There are many countries where a certain wave of opinion may arise and swing so furiously into action that decisive steps may be taken from which there is no recall. As it is, the world population goes on its daily journey despite its sombre impression and earnest longing for relief. That is the way we are going on now.
I shall content myself with saying about the power of this weapon, the hydrogen bomb, that apart from all the statements about blast and heat effects over increasingly wide areas there are now to be considered the consequences of “fall out” as it is called, of wind-borne radio-active particles. There is both an immediate direct el feet on human beings who are in the path of such a cloud and an indirect effect through animals, grass, and vegetables, which pass on these contagions to human beings through food.
This would confront many who escaped the direct effects of the explosion with poisoning, or starvation, or both. Imagination stands appalled. There are, of course, the palliatives and precautions of a courageous Civil Defence, and about that the Home Secretary will be speaking later on to-night. But our best protection lies, as I am sure the House will be convinced, in successful deterrents operating from a foundation of sober, calm, and tireless vigilance.
Moreover, a curious paradox has emerged. Let me put it simply. After a certain point has been passed it may be said. “The worse things get, the better”.
The broad effect of the latest developments is to spread almost indefinitely and at least to a vast extent the area of mortal danger. This should certainly increase the deterrent upon Soviet Russia by putting her enormous spaces and scattered population on an equality or near-equality of vulnerability with our small densely populated island and with Western Europe.
I cannot regard this development as adding to our dangers. We have reached the maximum already. On the contrary, to this form of attack continents are vulnerable as well as islands. Hitherto, crowded countries, as I have said, like the United Kingdom and Western Europe, have had this outstanding vulnerability to carry. But the hydrogen bomb, with its vast range of destruction and the even wider area of contamination, would be effective also against nations whose population, hitherto, has been so widely dispersed over large land areas as to make them feel that they were not in any danger at all.
They, too, become highly vulnerable: not yet equally perhaps, but, still, highly and increasingly vulnerable. Here again we see the value of deterrents, immune against surprise and well understood by all persons on both sides I repeat “on both sides” who have the power to control events. That is why I have hoped for a long time for a top level conference where these matters could be put plainly and bluntly from one friendly visitor to the conference to another.
Then it may well be that we shall by a process of sublime irony have reached a stage in this story where safety will be the sturdy child of terror, and survival the twin brother of annihilation. Although the Americans have developed weapons capable of producing all the effects I have mentioned, we believe that the Soviets so far have tested by explosion only a type of bomb of intermediate power.
There is no reason why, however, they should not develop some time within the next four, three, or even two years more advanced weapons and full means to deliver them on North American targets. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that within that period they will. In trying to look ahead like this we must be careful ourselves to avoid the error of comparing the present state of our preparations with the stage which the Soviets may reach in three or four years’ time. It is a major error of thought to contrast the Soviet position three or four years hence with our own position to-day. It is a mistake to do this, either in the comparatively precise details of aircraft development or in the measureless sphere of nuclear weapons.
The threat of hydrogen attack on these islands lies in the future. It is not with us now. According to the information that I have been able to obtain I have taken every opportunity to consult all the highest authorities at our disposal-the only country which is able to deliver to-day a full-scale nuclear attack with hydrogen bombs at a few hours’ notice is the United States. That surely is an important fact, and from some points of view and to some of us it is not entirely without comfort.
It is conceivable that Soviet Russia, fearing a nuclear attack before she has caught up with the United States and created deterrents of her own, as she might argue that they are, might attempt to bridge the gulf by a surprise attack with such nuclear weapons as she has already. American superiority in nuclear weapons, reinforced by Britain, must, therefore, be so organized as to make it clear that no such surprise attack would prevent immediate retaliation on a far larger scale. This is an essential of the deterrent policy.
For this purpose, not only must the nuclear superiority of the Western Powers be stimulated in every possible way, but their means of delivery of bombs must be expanded, improved, and varied. It is even probable, though we have not been told about it outside the N.A.T.O. sphere, that a great deal of this has been already done by the United States. We should aid them in every possible way. I will not attempt to go into details, but it is known that bases have been and are being established in as many parts of the world as possible and that over all the rest the United States Strategic Air Force, which is in itself a deterrent of the highest order, is in ceaseless readiness.
The Soviet Government probably knows, in general terms, of the policy that is being pursued, and of the present United States strength and our own growing addition to it. Thus, they should be convinced that a surprise attack could not exclude immediate retaliation. As one might say to them, ‘Although you might kill millions of our peoples, and cause widespread havoc by a surprise attack, we could, within a few hours of this outrage, certainly deliver several, indeed many times the weight of nuclear material which you have used, and continue retaliation on that same scale.’
‘We have,’ we could say, ‘already hundreds of bases for attack from all angles and have made an intricate study of suitable targets.’ Thus, it seems to me with some experience of wartime talks, you might go to dinner and have a friendly evening. I should not be afraid to talk things over as far as they can be. This, and the hard facts, would make the deterrent effective.
I must make one admission, and any admission is formidable. The deterrent does not cover the case of lunatics or dictators in the mood of Hitler when he found himself in his final dug-out. That is a blank. Happily, we may find methods of protecting ourselves, if we were all agreed, against that.
All these considerations lead me to believe that, on a broad view, the Soviets would be ill-advised to embark on major aggression within the next three or four years.
One must always consider the interests of other people when you are facing a particular situation. Their interests may be the only guide that is available. We may calculate, therefore, that world war will not break out within that time. If, at the end of that time, there should be a supreme conflict, the weapons which I have described this afternoon would be available to both sides, and it would be folly to suppose that they would not be used. Our precautionary dispositions and preparations must, therefore, be based on the assumption that, if war should come, these weapons would be used.
I repeat, therefore, that during the next three or four years the free world should, and will, retain an overwhelming superiority in hydrogen weapons. During that period it is most unlikely that the Russians would deliberately embark on major war or attempt a surprise attack, either of which would bring down upon them at once a crushing weight of nuclear retaliation. In three or four years’ time, it may be even less, the scene will be changed. The Soviets will probably stand possessed of hydrogen bombs and the means of delivering them not only on the United Kingdom but also on North American targets. They may then have reached a stage, not indeed of parity with the United States and Britain but of what is called ‘saturation.’
I must explain this term of art. ‘Saturation’ in this connection means the point where, although one Power is stronger than the other, perhaps much stronger, both are capable of inflicting crippling or quasi-mortal injury on the other with what they have got. It does not follow, however, that the risk of war will then be greater. Indeed, it is arguable that it will be less, for both sides will then realize that global war would result in mutual annihilation.
Major war of the future will differ, therefore, from anything we have known in the past in this one significant respect; that each side, at the outset, will suffer what it dreads the most, the loss of everything that it has ever known of. The deterrents will grow continually in value. In the past, an aggressor has been tempted by the hope of snatching an early advantage. In future, he may be deterred by the knowledge that the other side has the certain power to inflict swift, inescapable, and crushing retaliation. Of course, we should all agree that a world-wide international agreement on disarmament is the goal at which we should aim. The Western democracies disarmed themselves at the end of the war. The Soviet Government did not disarm, and the Western nations were forced to rearm, though only partially, after the Soviets and Communists had dominated all China and half Europe. That is the present position. It is easy, of course, for the Communists to say now, ‘Let us ban all nuclear weapons.’ Communist ascendancy in conventional weapons would then become overwhelming. That might bring peace, but only peace in the form of the subjugation of the Free World to the Communist system.
I shall not detain the House very much longer, and I am sorry to be so long. The topic is very intricate. I am anxious to repeat and to emphasize the one word which is the theme of my remarks, namely, ‘Deterrent.’ That is the main theme.
The hydrogen bomb has made an astounding incursion into the structure of our lives and thoughts. Its impact is prodigious and profound, but I do not agree with those who say, ‘Let us sweep away forthwith all our existing defence services and concentrate our energy and resources on nuclear weapons and their immediate ancillaries.’ The policy of the deterrent cannot rest on nuclear weapons alone. We must, together with our N.A.T.O. allies, maintain the defensive shield in Western Europe.
Unless the N.A.T.O. powers had effective forces there on the ground and could make a front, there would be nothing to prevent piecemeal advance and encroachment by the Communists in this time of so-called peace. By successive infiltrations, the Communists could progressively undermine the security of Europe. Unless we were prepared to unleash a full-scale nuclear war as soon as some local incident occurs in some distant country, we must have conventional forces in readiness to deal with such situations as they arise.
We must, therefore, honour our undertaking to maintain our contribution to the N.A.T.O. forces in Europe in time of peace. In war, this defensive shield would be of vital importance, for we must do our utmost to hold the Soviet and satellite forces at arms’ length in order to prevent short-range air and rocket attack on these islands. Thus, substantial strength in conventional forces has still a vital part to play in the policy of the deterrent. It is perhaps of even greater importance in the cold war.
Though world war may be prevented by the deterrent power of nuclear weapons, the Communists may well resort to military action in furtherance of their policy of infiltration and encroachment in many parts of the world. There may well be limited wars on the Korean model, with limited objectives. We must be able to play our part in these, if called upon by the United Nations organization. In the conditions of to-day, this is also an aspect of our Commonwealth responsibility. We shall need substantial strength in conventional forces to fulfil our world-wide obligations in these days of uneasy peace and extreme bad temper.
To sum up this part of the argument, of course, the development of nuclear weapons will affect the shape and organization of the Armed Forces and also of Civil Defence. We have entered a period of transition in which the past and the future will overlap. But it is an error to suppose that, because of these changes our traditional forces can be cast away or superseded. The tasks of the Army, Navy, and Air Force in this transition period are set forth with clarity in the Defence White Paper. The means by which these duties will be met are explained in more detail in the Departmental Papers which have been laid before the House by the three Service Ministers.
No doubt, nothing is perfect; certainly, nothing is complete, but, considering that these arrangements have been made in the first year after the apparition of the hydrogen bomb, the far-seeing and progressive adaptability which is being displayed by all three Services is remarkable. [Hon. Members: ‘Oh.’] I understand that there is to be a Motion of censure. Well, certainly, nothing could be more worthy of censure than to try to use the inevitable administrative difficulties of the transitional stage as a utensil of party politics and would-be electioneering. I am not saying that anyone is doing it; we shall see when it comes to the vote.
The future shape of Civil Defence is also indicated in broad outline in the Defence White Paper. This outline will be filled in as the preparation of the new plans proceeds, but the need for an effective system of Civil Defence is surely beyond dispute. It presents itself to-day in its noblest aspect, namely, the Christian duty of helping fellow-mortals in distress. Rescue, salvage, and ambulance work have always been the core of Civil Defence, and no city, no family nor any honourable man or woman can repudiate this duty and accept from others help which they are not prepared to fit themselves to render in return. If war comes, great numbers may be relieved of their duty by death, but none must deny it as long as they live. If they do, they might perhaps be put in what is called ‘Coventry.’ [Laughter.] I am speaking of the tradition, and not of any particular locality.
The argument which I have been endeavouring to unfold and consolidate gives us in this island an interlude. Let us not waste it. Let us hope we shall use it to augment or at least to prolong our security and that of mankind. But how? There are those who believe, or at any rate say, ‘If we have the protection of the overwhelmingly powerful United States, we need not make the hydrogen bomb for ourselves or build a fleet of bombers for its delivery. We can leave that to our friends across the ocean. Our contribution should be criticism of any unwise policy into which they may drift or plunge. We should throw our hearts and consciences into that.’
Personally, I cannot feel that we should have much influence over their policy or actions, wise or unwise, while we are largely dependent, as we are to-day, upon their protection. We, too, must possess substantial deterrent power of our own. We must also never allow, above all, I hold, the growing sense of unity and brotherhood between the United Kingdom and the United States and throughout the English-speaking world to be injured or retarded. Its maintenance, its stimulation, and its fortifying is one of the first duties of every person who wishes to see peace in the world and wishes to see the survival of this country.
To conclude: mercifully, there is time and hope if we combine patience and courage. All deterrents will improve and gain authority during the next ten years. By that time, the deterrent may well reach its acme and reap its final reward. The day may dawn when fair play, love for one’s fellow-men, respect for justice and freedom, will enable tormented generations to march forth serene and triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we have to dwell. Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair.
Watch this story about Peter Larson (a good friend to TACDA board members) on National Geographic’s TV show “Doomday Preppers”.
Peter Larson is a recognized expert in the field of Prepping. His unique brand of planning, training and preparing helps Peter stand out as a voice of reason amongst conspiracy theorists, renegades, anarchists and all around crazies.
The following is a letter from President John F. Kennedy to the members of Congress and read by Stewart Pittman
October 6, 1961
I was gratified to learn of the productive meeting of the Committee on Civil Defense of the Governors’ Conference on September 17 in the Pentagon. The basis was well laid for continuing and close cooperation between your committee and all of us concerned with the federal civil defense program.
There is need for a nationwide understanding of what each level of government, each private organization and each citizen can do to bring about and maintain the best attainable protection for the civilian population against the major effects of a thermonuclear attack. Information is in preparation which I will use to inform the American people on what individuals should know and can do for their own protection. In the meantime, your committee may wish to inform the Governors of the goal towards which the Federal Government, the state governments, industry and other institutions in the United States should work.
In simple terms, this goal is to reach for fallout protection for every American as rapidly as possible. Radioactive fallout, extending down-wind for as much as several hundred miles, could account for the major part of the casualties which might result from a thermonuclear attack on an unprotected population. Protection against this threat is within reach of an informed America willing to face the facts and act.
The Federal Government is moving forward to bring into operation fallout shelter space for large groups of people under very austere conditions. Many homeowners, communities and business firms can and will provide more adequate and better located shelter space for their own needs. The Federal Government is backing this effort with a massive dissemination of technical information. In addition, we will inform those who cannot afford costly structures on low-cost methods of improvising shielding against fallout radiation. The people of this country will be urged, by me, by the Governors and by other leaders to do what is within their means.
The state governments have a vital role to play in accelerating attainment of the goal of full fallout protection. Shelter can be provided in new construction of state and local public buildings. State and municipal laws and ordinances can be adapted to encourage private initiative in this effort. State and local leadership in organizing people to prepare, and communities to operate, during and immediately after an attack is a cornerstone of any successful civil defense effort.
I look forward to the closest cooperation between all levels of government in the United States to move rapidly towards this goal. Your committee is making a major contribution in stimulating participation by the state governments in the nationwide civil defense effort.
JOHN F. KENNEDY