Washington, D.C., August 8, 2022 – After years of research and planning, U.S. officials and scientists overseeing the Manhattan Project were startlingly unprepared for the emergence of evidence of the long-term effects of radiation generated by the atomic bomb – even after the Trinity test in July 1945 and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 77 years ago this week, according to documents posted today by the National Security Archive.
Nuclear Strategy and Weapons
Long-Classified U.S. Estimates of Nuclear War Casualties During the Cold War Regularly Underestimated Deaths and Destruction
Washington, D.C., July 14, 2022 – For decades starting in the late 1940s, influential internal U.S. government analyses provided civilian and military leaders with staggering estimates of likely casualties in a nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union, but the sheer scale of those projected fatalities kept the reports classified until after the end of the Cold War.
Washington, D.C., May 29, 2012 - A secret exercise in 1986 by a U.S. government counter-terrorist unit uncovered a host of potential problems associated with disrupting a nuclear terrorist plot in the United States. Declassified documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and posted today by the National Security Archive offer the first detailed public look at the inner workings of the agencies, military units and other U.S. entities responsible for protecting the country from a terrorist nuclear attack.
Washington, D.C., June 2, 2022 – The apocalyptic threats emanating from Moscow over the Ukraine war raise the terrible prospect of nuclear weapons use. The probabilities may be low, but if a major nuclear war occurred, the catastrophic impact of a so-called nuclear winter could be felt on a global scale.
Washington, D.C., March 28, 2022 – Russia’s increasingly grueling invasion of Ukraine has given rise to chilling talk over whether the conflict might go nuclear, reminding the world that atomic weapons and their political and military importance remain a critically relevant public issue. A recent Washington Post article explored the weapon the West would be likely to turn to first – either for its political or military value – if and when the NATO alliance begins deliberating over a nuclear response. That weapon is the B61 bomb, which the U.S.
Washington, D.C., March 24, 2022 – At four in the morning on 3 October 1979, Colonel William Odom, military assistant to national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, received a phone call from the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center informing him that an Air Force missile warning system had detected a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launch off the coast of Oregon. As it turned out, the situation was far from dangerous, but Odom had found it alarming.
CIA U-2 Collection of Signals Intelligence, 1956-1960
By James E. David*
Washington, D.C., December 10, 2021 – As the United States engages in strategic stability talks with Russia and seeks similar talks with China, it is worth looking back to the origins of the concept and its early usage in the late 1950s and 1960s. Today, the National Security Archive posts selected White House and other high-level records that speak to “strategic stability’s” past – and continuing – impact on evaluations of new strategic systems and the risks of escalating the nuclear arms race.
Washington, D.C., October 14, 2021 – The Pentagon’s plan for a trillion-dollar spending program to build new ICBMs, submarines, and bombers has met pushback from critics in and out of Congress who worry about excessive military spending. Some argue that ICBMs are destabilizing and that fewer land-based missiles and bombers and continued investment in submarine-launched ballistic missiles would reduce the U.S.’s vulnerability to nuclear attack.
Washington D.C., July 16, 2021 - The United Kingdom in the 1970s and 1980s aspired to improve its nuclear weapons capability to bomb Soviet targets, including major cities, without having to depend on the United States, according to documents obtained and posted today by the National Security Archive. British officials had a variety of motives for seeking advanced modern submarine-launched ballistic missiles, from retaining their status as a nuclear power, to uncertainty about American reliability down the road, to a desire to stay ahead of their continental rivals the Fre