PEACE – OR ELSE! (Feb, 1946)

What’s up with the flying girder on the second page? Is Superman trying to save New York?

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HUMANITY is faced with the greatest decision it has ever had to make. The atomic bomb, in three gigantic, flashes, has transformed our planet into a world which has only one choice left. Earth has become a world of Either/Or.

Either—we are firmly determined that there shall be no war, and spend as much energy, thought and money on the problem of preventing it as we now spend in preparing for it. In that case—and if we succeed—the future promises a period of incredible achievements, of unlimited progress, of infinite riches of knowledge and material riches, of immediate preliminaries to humanity’s spread through the solar system as a first step to a spread through the galaxy.

Or—we blunder into irretrievable errors, such as trying to outlaw atomic energy, or believing that size and distance will save us, or thinking that there can be war only between other nations.

If we choose the latter course, we will almost inevitably become involved in another war—an atomic war. …

Atomic war will come without warning and without declaration, with a fury so monstrous that the mind cannot conceive it. The first authentic publication on the subject, the report written for the War Department by Professor H. D. Smyth, (Atomic Energy for Military Purposes), has already pointed out that the atomic bomb is especially suited to sudden, unannounced attack—blitzkrieg to make the Nazis’ version of it pale into insignificance. “A country’s major cities might be destroyed overnight by an ostensibly friendly power,” as Professor Smyth puts it. Overnight destruction of America’s major cities means the death of eighty million people in twelve hours— 57% of the population! That is, tragically for us, not a nightmare, but a very definite possibility.

The possibility can in no way be done away with by preventing potential aggressors from obtaining the “secret.” Several nations stood on the threshold of atomic energy when the war started: we barely won the race. Within five years} every nation will be able to construct atomic bombs, even though they will not be able to keep that fact secret. The prevention of war, therefore, is not a scientific problem—it is a political problem. Of course, destruction would be mutual. The Intelligence Service would know that war was brewing, and the military could get ready to hit back. The result would be destruction of all the centers of population and manufacture of all the belligerents, with nothing left after two days of war but small and unimportant villages and only about one-quarter or one-third of the populations of the warring nations still alive. It is a prospect so incredible that the mind rejects it, but in order to understand it clearly we must try to visualize the details. For that purpose we must understand a few pertinent facts about the atomic bombs which have been used. The atomic bomb has a mimimum size. It has been officially declared that the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were just about as small as they could be made. The destruction achieved in Japan is, therefore, the minimum destruction possible. British sources claim that these bombs weighed about 400 pounds, most of which was not the atomic explosive, but the mechanism required to make it safe in handling and to set it off. Furthermore—the bombs were set off in the air. The deaths of 100,000 Japanese in five microseconds was, therefore, the gentlest possible application of the smallest possible atomic bomb.

Our purpose was to put a stop to the face-saving, delaying tactics of an already-defeated enemy, but a future aggressor would aim at maximum destruction of life and property. He would use bigger bombs, and he would not use them relatively gently in the air to avoid both dangerous after-radioactivity in the ground and earthquakes: he would want the reverberations of earthquakes which might be set off by atomic blasts on, or in, the ground; and he would have no reason to avoid post-explosion radioactivity.

Size and weight of the bomb determines its use.

Airplanes, at first glance, appear to be the most obvious method of transporting bombs to target. Anything from a fighter bomber up can carry them. They cannot be used in projectiles, either because the projectile is too small, or because, if large enough, the firing battery would be within the destructive range of its own bombs. Only the primary turrets of battleships would have the necessary size and range, provided that the fuze mechanism of the bomb could be shot from a gun.

But guns will be of little use in an atomic war.

If the air defense is too violent, there are the German V-weapons. Of course, radar-equipped A.A. batteries shot them down in droves—but the A.A. battery which shoots down a V-1 flying bomb with an atomic warhead, cruising at an altitude of a few thousand feet, will never fire a shot again: it will be vaporized. Those V-1’s which got past the A.A. batteries were taken care of by fighter planes. Londoners, in spite of strict orders, used to stand on the rooftops and watch, cheering if a fighter pilot exploded a V-1 in midair.

But if the warheads had been atomic, there would no longer have been a London after three such “successful” exploits. Furthermore, the V-1 of the future will not be the clumsy robot which could fly only in a straight line at a set altitude. Since far fewer would be needed, they could be highly developed and expensive jet-propelled planes, without pilots, but with television sets, guided by means of television screens placed underground and well camouflaged in the aggressor’s base.

Still, theoretically you might cope with airborne atomic bombs if carried by aircraft or by robot planes. Here it is still a question of distance: robot fighters, also guided by television, and robot A.A. batteries might explode them some fifty miles from the city limits. The great difference is that only o?ic need get through. In World War II, London absorbed some 2000 robot bombs that got through, and continued to live and work.

But there is V-2, the long-distance rocket, against which there is no known defense. Couple V-2 and the atomic bomb (it can be done today) and you have a destroyer of cities against which there is no defense once the rocket is in the stratosphere. (It can be disturbed at take-off.) And if the long distance rocket can be equipped also with an atomic drive instead of a chemical, liquid-fuel, rocket motor, it can reach any point on earth from any other point on earth. It seems fairly certain now that V-2 was actually a part of the German atomic program; the rockets were finished in time, but the atomic bombs were not.

But there is no need to elaborate on the subject of atomic destruction. Future war is almost certain to be a sudden assault from a nation which is not openly hostile. There will be traffic and exchange of goods with that nation up until the very moment the bombs fall. It is all too probable that a potential enemy will be able to ship atomic bombs into a country with trained agents, store them in a corner of a commercial warehouse or in the basement of a private house rented for that purpose, bury them under the slagheaps of an industrial town—and set them off when ready.

At this moment of history, science does not know any counter measure whatever against atomic explosives.

Some writers have thought of a kind of force field into which no atomic explosive could be brought without being instantly exploded. But there are drawbacks to that idea. The most important is that such a field still has to be invented. If it were to be invented years from now, it might be highly dangerous to turn it on. If it were to be invented soon, it would also prevent the existence of atomic industries. To say that it should be used in such a way that it affects only quantities approaching critical mass is absolutely no solution, even if that restriction could be applied. The simple pieces of Plutonium in an atomic bomb are all below critical mass until the bomb is ready for explosion.

To find out about them we need nuclear research, the more the better; it is the only possible source of information. But quite aside from scientific research, we need to realize that a new era in human relations is here, an era that no longer permits the concept of war which now means complete, mutual, atomic destruction. What we have to learn is to live with atomic energy!

  1. slim says: February 12, 200912:24 am

    His term mutual atomic destruction is almost the same as M.A.D., mutual assured destruction, which has worked OK so far, at least for nuclear weapons. (knock on wood).
    I want a helmet like the guy on the first page.

  2. Charlie says: February 12, 200912:32 am

    His helmet antenna looks like those things people used to use to put out candles.

  3. Firebrand38 says: February 12, 20091:09 am

    Yeah, a candle snuffer.

  4. rsterling78 says: February 12, 20099:30 am

    Why is nothing on the fellow’s control panel labeled? And why are the controls all handles like you’d find on a manual food chopper?

  5. Rick Auricchio says: February 12, 20092:14 pm

    I want that five-slice toaster he’s wearing on his back.

  6. lunarmagpie says: February 12, 20095:21 pm

    Party at ground zero!

  7. Randy says: February 12, 20096:45 pm

    I think the “flying girder” is an early kinetic-energy ICBM interception concept. It is obviously an aerospace component, with all the lightening holes in the flanges that no real building girder would have.

  8. Eliyahu says: February 13, 20092:11 pm

    Despite the author’s contention that nuclear artillery would be unfeasible, it wasn’t long after this article was published that the Army developed its 280mm atomic cannon (from which a nuke was fired one time in a Nevada test) and the Davy Crockett weapons system, a recoilless rifle with nuclear capabilities. The latter was taken out of service in the late 1960s. As the author points out, range is crucial, and a short round would be devastating to the crew and any other troops nearby.

  9. jayessell says: February 14, 20099:13 am

    A nuclear attack would come from somewhere we didn’t expect? Britain?

    A ground burst would waste half of the bomb energy unless the target
    was an underground bunker. An air burst distributes the destruction over a wider area.

    The History channel or whatever mentioned after the U.S. tested an atomic artillery shell the
    Russian generals wanted one also. The Russian Preimer felt only he should have the authority
    to use nuclear weapons in a conflict, not some guy on the battlefield!

    An article by Willy Ley!
    Check out his video:…

  10. Seraph says: February 14, 20093:12 pm

    The “flying girder” oddly resembles the WWII VB-10/12 family of guided weapons.

  11. jayessell says: February 14, 20098:27 pm

    The ‘flying girder’ looks like bits of a bomb that was destroyed before it detonated.

    There seems to be a small explosion at the bottom of the second page.

  12. Andrew L. Ayers says: May 4, 20109:23 pm

    Based on this article, it looks like we went down the wrong path. Just think, if we had been wise as a species and chosen the first; where could we be today…?

    Instead, to this day, we still live with war, destruction, hatred, bigotry, intolerance, fear, uncertainty, doubt, environment disasters both natural and man-made, superstitions, lies, deceit, slavery and greed. It only a matter of time before another nuclear blast rocks this world; let us pray to whatever $DEITY you may think exists to save us that it is only a singular incident and not the start of a full-fledged world war.

    Our current weapons, 5000+ of them (and that is just the United States’ stockpile, according to recent reports), each have many times the power of the bomb which were dropped by us on Japan; it is crazy shocking what a singular hydrogen bomb can do. Should that third world war occur (one can almost argue it already started with 9/11; a scary proposition on its own), humanity is probably doomed for eternity, never to rise again to the level we are at today.

    Our planet will be our grave.

  13. Firebrand38 says: May 5, 20104:28 am

    Andrew L. Ayers: We will now end today’ sermon with Rock of Ages.

  14. jayessell says: May 5, 20105:57 am

    When I try to imagine a Nuke-Free world starting in the late 1940s,
    I can only think of a world-wide Orwellien dictatorship.
    It would have required the defeat of the Soviet Union and the
    overthrow of the United States Government.


    That 5110 US Nukes includes H Bombs and small tactical weapons equal or less than the
    first Fat Boy.

  15. Firebrand38 says: May 5, 20107:35 am

    Not to mention moaning about the 5000+ warheads number (recently revealed) which pales in comparison to what the inventory used to consist of…

    Gee, outlaw war! What a terrific idea! No one ever thought of that before.

  16. Andrew L. Ayers says: May 11, 20103:34 pm

    jayessell and Firebrand38:

    I’ve been on this planet for nearly 40 years; longer than some, less than many. I remember the premier on TV of the mini-series “The Day After”, one of the more horrific portrayals of nuclear war and the aftermath it leaves. I also remember reading many books and articles on these weapons, and how huge the global stockpiles were; as a child I recognized it for its madness then, the same as I recognize these smaller stockpiles for their madness now!

    One would think that man, having captured the ability to vaporize cities and their inhabitants with singular weapons – one would think that he would step back, ponder, and say “wait a minute”; perhaps re-think his position, his power, his hatreds, his fears, and his ignorance. Instead, we have forgotten the power we wield (indeed, I attribute some of this to the test ban treaties). Small “tactical” weapons – instead of destroying an entire city we can destroy a few square blocks of it! THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE GOOD? BETTER?!

    Mankind, humanity, US – WE COULD BE AMONG THE STARS TODAY. All it would take is a realization of the futility of war, and the cooperation among all of mankind in a global effort to move our species forward, off of this planet, and out into the beyond.

    We can and do continue to make great strides; there’s no denying that. There’s no denying that despite the continued threat of these weapons, we have acheived amazing discoveries, inventions, and new modes of thought and philosphy. This is what we are capable of when we are separate.

    What are we capable of if we cooperate?

    Small-minded individuals will be the death of us.

  17. Firebrand38 says: May 12, 201011:13 am

    Andrew L. Ayers: Look, I’m sure you’re sincere but your statements are incredibly naive. We live in a country that exists as the result of a war. Now maybe you think that’s futile but I happen not to. You want to engage in the kind of discussion that takes place in the local gin mill where a bunch of high school grads sit around and solve all the world’s problems after a hard day at the peanut brittle factory.

    It’s like Gandhi’s advice to the British Isles during WW2 when invasion seemed imminent: “I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions…If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them.”

    Call it weakness on my part but I ain’t going down that way. Civil disobedience against the Nazis? That’s naive.

  18. jayessell says: May 12, 20105:44 pm

    Actually, rather than a nuke that kills hundreds of thousands of people
    but not the generals in their bunkers, what is needed for peace is a
    “magic bullet'” that ONLY kills the warmongers where-ever they were.


    Some method of making war EVEN MORE unprofitable than it is now.
    Weapons coming off the assembly line broken and useless;
    the trucks to move them broken and useless.

    Unfortunately each of the above would require GodLike Powers
    or Extraterrestrial Technology.


    Some problem that puts the entire world at risk, like in the movies
    “Independence Day” and “Armageddon”, would unite the world.

    Just before it is destroyed.

  19. Firebrand38 says: May 12, 20106:15 pm

    jayessell: “magic bullet”? Where’s Simo Häyhä when we need him?

  20. Toronto says: May 12, 20109:12 pm

    FB- Based on his MO and current snow patterns, I’d say he’s most likely to be in the Sierra Nevadas, if he’s still operational (he’d be pretty old.)

  21. Firebrand38 says: May 13, 20105:41 am

    Toronto: No, White Death passed away several years ago.

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