Yves here. I’m running this cross post as an extra. I can pretty much guarantee that no one will ask the Joint Chiefs how widely distributed the authority to launch a nuclear strike is now.
Update: George Washington sent this e-mail:
To keep the article short, I didn’t get into the fact that current U.S. defense policy apparently also empowers local field commanders to use tactical nuclear weapons … in other words, some cowboy commander could authorize using mini-nukes … which could then escalate …
By George Washington. Originally published at Washington’s Blog
Daniel Ellsberg – America’s most famous whistleblower, the former military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers which helped end the Vietnam war – has just published a book revealing that he was also one of the main nuclear war planners for the United States in the 1960s.
Ellsberg said in an interview this morning that the U.S. had plans for a first strike on every city in Russia and China … and that numerous field-level commanders had the power to start nuclear Armageddon:
[Interviewer] So, you made copies of top-secret reports for plans about nuclear war years before you copied the Pentagon Papers—
DANIEL ELLSBERG: That’s right.
[Interviewer] —and released them to the press?
DANIEL ELLSBERG: Essentially, my notes, and sometimes verbatim excerpts, not the entire plans themselves, but on plans that were then unknown to the president, to begin with, to President Kennedy. I briefed his aide, McGeorge Bundy, in his first month in office on the nature of the plans and some of the other problems, like the delegation of authority to theater commanders for nuclear war by President Eisenhower, which was fairly shocking to McGeorge Bundy, even though Kennedy chose to renew that delegation, as other presidents have.
But I was given the job of improving the Eisenhower plans, which was not a very high bar, actually, at that time, because they were, on their face, the worst plans in the history of warfare. A number of people who saw them, but very few civilians ever got a look at them. In fact, the joint chiefs couldn’t really get the targets out of General LeMay at the Strategic Air Command.
And there was a good reason for that: They were insane. They called for first-strike plans, which was by order of President Eisenhower. He didn’t want any plan for limited war of any kind with the Soviet Union, under any circumstances, because that would enable the Army to ask for enormous numbers of divisions or even tactical nuclear weapons to deal with the Soviets. So he required that the only plan for fighting Soviets, under any circumstances, such as an encounter in the Berlin corridor, the access to West Berlin, or over Iran, which was already a flashpoint at that point, or Yugoslavia, if they had gone in—however the war started—with an uprising in East Germany, for example—however it got started, Eisenhower’s directed plan was for all-out war, in a first initiation of nuclear war, assuming the Soviets had not used nuclear weapons.
And that plan called, in our first strike, for hitting every city—actually, every town over 25,000—in the USSR and every city in China. [Ellsberg isn’t the first to discuss U.S. plans for a nuclear first strike. In the 1986 book To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon’s Secret War Plans, one of the world’s leading physicists – Michio Kaku – revealed declassified plans for the U.S. to launch a first-strike nuclear war against Russia. The forward was written by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clarke.] A war with Russia would inevitably involve immediate attacks on every city in China. In the course of doing this—pardon me—there were no reserves. Everything was to be thrown as soon as it was available—it was a vast trucking operation of thermonuclear weapons—over to the USSR, but not only the USSR. The captive nations, the East Europe satellites in the Warsaw Pact, were to be hit in their air defenses, which were all near cities, their transport points, their communications of any kind. So they were to be annihilated, as well.
The weapons, the machinery that will carry this out, this was no hypothetical plan, like Herman Kahn might have conceived at the doomsday machine that he thought up at the RAND Corporation as my colleague. This was an actual war plan for how we would use the existing weapons, many of which I had seen already that time.
Every president has delegated. I don’t know the details of what President Trump has done or since the Cold War. Every president in the Cold War, right through Carter and Reagan, had delegated, in fact, to theater commanders in case communications were cut off. That means that the idea that the president is the only one with sole power to issue an order that will be recognized as an authentic authorized order is totally false.
How many fingers are on buttons? Probably no president has ever really known the details of that. I knew, in ’61, for example, that Admiral Harry D. Felt in CINCPAC, commander-in-chief of Pacific, for whom I worked as a researcher, had delegated that to 7th Fleet, down to various commanders, and they, in turn, had delegated down to people. So when you say, “How many altogether feel authorized?” if their communications are cut off—and that happened part of every day in the Pacific when I was there—communications got better, but the delegations never changed.
Generally, they allow for lower-level majors, colonels to decide, “The time has come. We’ve lost our commanders. The time has come to go.”
The story is also in Kai Bird’s biography of the Bundy brothers, “The Color of Truth”, published in 2000. Excerpt here– search down for where it says “Ellsberg”:
Paging General Ripper, General Jack D. Ripper, paging General Ripper….
(Sterling Hayden)…actor, author of surprising confessional, “Wanderer”, on Kubrick:
“.. this was no hypothetical plan, like Herman Kahn might have conceived at the doomsday machine that he thought up at the RAND Corporation as my colleague. This was an actual war plan for how we would use the existing weapons, many of which I had seen already that time.”
Which is why the US practices “my way or the highway” foreign policy.
Putting aside Plan R, James Carroll has also written about this in his book, Bomb Power. Carroll’s father was the first director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and his family knew General LeMay. In his book, he has few kind words for LeMay.
He was a complicated figure, but over the top when it came to wanting to blow the Ruskies off the face of the earth on the slightest provocation, including it seems, none at all. He was equally convinced that those not targeted could easily survive the onslaught, even if their hair was mussed. That belief was presumably critical to advocating for a first strike.
LeMay’s conviction seemed to be that the bomb was Air Force property and could be used only with its agreement, and only according to its plan. He was as fixed in this as any exponent of WWI Germany’s von Schlieffen Plan.
Carroll agrees with Ellsberg’s comment that this was LeMay’s baby, that his Air Force’s response was complete and total, encompassing any town or city over a few thousand inhabitants. The Air Force apparently refused to divulge the plan – assuming it was a single, consistent thing – even to the president, while LeMay was in charge. LeMay and JFK apparently did not see eye to eye.
…during Poly-Sci, 70’s, 80’s, it was discussed that the “revolutionaries” who created change, would not be proper dynamic for implementation of said “change”…while I am not a fan of LeMay, he was the “revolutionary” who took over WWII bombing strategies and personally led from front on missions. Prior, there were nearly 40% “turn-back” with problems, missions.
People may not recall LeMay ran as Gov. George Wallace’s VP candidate, presidential election, 1968…RFK assassination devastated this election; chaos, anger, sympathies were such noone cared who won. Railroad tracks between Oakland (“Ambassador Hotel”) and D.C. where RFK was taken by rail, were populated by americans paying respect the entire way…it was a moment like none other. RFK was not at all perfect, close to Joseph McCarthy as youth, however he delivered perhaps the finest spontaneous speech in U.S. history, during another period of national adversity, here:
(I met RFK 3 days prior assassination, on way to California primary. He obviously had weight of history upon his tired shoulders-it was this history led me to university, Poly-Sci)
james w. douglass’s ‘jfk and the unspeakable: why he died and why it matters’
includes lemay as a possible conspirator in the assassination.
there was, indeed, a coup in this country 11/22/63.
..look no further than Dulles-CIA: “The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government”
“Dulles’s decade as the director of the CIA (and previously OSS)—which he used to further his public and private agendas—were dark times in American politics. Calling himself “the secretary of state of unfriendly countries,” Dulles saw himself as above the elected law, manipulating and subverting American presidents in the pursuit of his personal interests and those of the wealthy elite he counted as his friends and clients—colluding with Nazi-controlled cartels, German war criminals, and Mafiosi in the process. Targeting foreign leaders for assassination and overthrowing nationalist governments not in line with his political aims, Dulles employed those same tactics to further his goals at home…”
There is nothing new about this. You can read about it in a number of books that have been published. And before that some declassified documents from the Eisenhower presidency.
It has been assumed that Washington DC be destroyed by a decapitation strike which would remove both the top of the civilian and military command structure since the late 1950’s.
The president and vice president would be killed unless they were traveling. The same would be true for the Secretary of Defense and the top military command in the Pentagon.
It was assumed that the Soviets had a small nuclear device in their embassy.
Lacking that in 1969 when the Soviet Yankee class ballistic missile submarines started patrolling off the East Coast of the US realized that there would be about 10 minutes from missile launch to denotation over Washington. A few years later the Soviets perfected a depressed trajectory for their missiles and the time between launch and denotation went down to about 5 minutes.
Starting with Eisenhower the president’s delegated the power to respond to a nuclear attack downwards (out of Washington DC). There where specific sets of instructions on what the commanders could do. Nobody could launch a first strike out of the blue. But they could respond to a nuclear attack with the use of nuclear weapons. The orders went something like this: If the Soviet Union attacked the US they could respond by attacking Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and China. As time went by the instructions where narrowed down. If the Soviet Union attacked the US they could attack Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. If China attacked the US then they could respond by attacking China. Later the instruction became even narrower. If the Soviets attached the US they could attack the Soviet Union but not Eastern Europe.
Exactly how ‘low level’ that delegation went is disputable.
The story with the British is that the Prime Minister writes a letter of instruction that is locked in the safe in the captain’s cabin of their ballistic missile submarines. If London disappears the captain is supposed to open the letter and see what he/she is supposed to do. When the Prime Minister changes the old letters are destroyed unopened and new ones are written.
Starting with Carter there has been a lot of money spent to try to keep the military communications running for a bit after the start of nuclear war to try to limit it or fight it (depending on your view).
The story isn’t new. What’s new is that Daniel Ellsberg had first hand experience of it. That his memories contradict or support comments by earlier writers is an important part of how history is reconstructed.
I’ve read that the declassified Eisenhower-era first strike plan, even if executed perfectly and with no return fire, would have released enough radiation to drift back east and destroy ourselves.
Perhaps more importantly, there have been over 3,000 nuclear warheads detonated on earth. All but 2 for testing.
Here’s a video breakdown, perhaps gleaned from this site.
It isn’t the radiation that is the more immediate danger if especially if two countries like India or Pakistan exchanged nuclear weapons.
A mild global nuclear winter is predicted if even as few 20-25 thermonuclear weapons were utilized on land-based targets because of all of the incarnated material & debris that would drift up into the upper layers of the atmosphere.
It would be the same as having a very severe volcanic explosion would almost certainly lead to irregular weather patterns and global food supply disruption & likely famine.
That’s unlikely. More recent modelling suggests that a nuclear winter would be pretty mild, even with a full scale war. That’s just a function of the fact that nuclear bombs are not anywhere near as effective at injecting particulates into the upper atmosphere as volcanoes.
You’d still get big problems from a breakdown in global trade, of course, and it’s always worth bearing in mind that the world carries about 100 days of food stocks at the best of times.
Response to a nuclear attack.
Is that different from first-strike plans?
You’re missing the point. Ellsberg is describing first strike capacity in response to events that are well short of a decapitation of the US leadership. This sounds like the Trip Wire doctrine to a genocidal max.
Not really, others involved who spoke with researchers see it differently. Read “Raven Rock”, or “Surprise Attack”.
Basically it came down to if the chain of command existed, the instructions where not operable.
It was well know that the US / NATO never ruled out first strike on an invading Soviet force. ((They didn’t want to spend the money to build up a conventional defense capability.) The question is would be who could order that first use of nuclear weapons without a first strike on the US. That was handled differently than a response after a nuclear attack on the US.
And yes, it was all out or nothing in the early days. The simulations showed that SAC plan to pave its way across the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons would be knocking down the Navy’s carrier aircraft and various US / NATO air force tactical aircraft doing the same. There would be an enormous amount of fratricide.
Maybe not new, but certainly not widely known – and it should be. In JFK and the Unspeakable, there is a description of several meetings, during which JC of Staff pushed Kennedy to authorize a strike. The fact that the plans were drawn even before WWII ended is horrifying:
…all need comprehend actual dynamics involved, well documented surrounding Dulles-CIA, here:
“The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government”
“Dulles’s decade as the director of the CIA (and previously, OSS)—which he used to further his public and private agendas—were dark times in American politics. Calling himself “the secretary of state of unfriendly countries,” Dulles saw himself as above the elected law, manipulating and subverting American presidents in the pursuit of his personal interests and those of the wealthy elite he counted as his friends and clients—colluding with Nazi-controlled cartels, German war criminals, and Mafiosi in the process. Targeting foreign leaders for assassination and overthrowing nationalist governments not in line with his political aims, Dulles employed those same tactics to further his goals at home..”
We had a previous hint of this from John Pilger’s Coming War on China” wherein he mentions the USAF Major on Okinawa who ordered his men to nuke China at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
And at least one of the “architects” (aren’t architects supposed to design and build useful and beautiful stuff?) of the manufacture and deployment of 70,000 nuclear weapons, of all sorts from 50 megaton to “nuclear hand grenades,” and the effing idiocy called MAD and the other horror acronyms of those bad old days, is having second thoughts and regrets and offering a “stern warning” to his successors in the Great Game, https://www.sgtreport.com/articles/2017/12/4/former-us-defense-secretary-explains-why-nuclear-holocaust-is-now-likely
People call me a prevaricator when I relate a little episode from my own experience. In 1979 or 1980, I think that was the year, I was in Japan, on the southern island, staying at the Suginoi Hotel in Beppu. It’s a big resort hotel, and features several public baths on different themes. I was sitting in the “sento” that recalled the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the only “ijin-san” in the place, having done my best to wash thoroughly first as per custom. In come three loud American naval officers in civvies, some of the crew of a couple of navy warships that were making a port call at Beppu. They disrobed, did a perfunctory squirt of a wash, and then dove into the shallow bath that was about 3 feet deep. They came over to where I was soaking and did the usual hail-fellow-well-met American greeting, and we talked for a while. I mentioned I was a Vietnam veteran when the talk turned to military stuff and why they were there. I had noted in the English language press that the port calls were a Big Deal for the Japanese, because of the likelihood that the vessels carried nuclear weapons that many Japanese were sort of sensitive about.
These three were weapons officers from two different ships, I don;t recall the ship’s names but it was a “guided missile frigate” and a “guided missile destroyer.” The conversation got turned to the low-order conflict then ongoing between Soviet ships and US vessels in the Sea of Japan and northward. These three acknowledged that there were nuclear-armed surface-to-surface missiles on board, and there was some discussion of what happened if the similarly armed Soviet ships or some other enemy launched missiles at the US vessels. I had run across the phrase “horizon time” in my random readings, and asked them what the horizon time was for incoming likely nuclear-armed antiship missiles. They said their radars gave them maybe four or five minutes of warning, and that there was not much of a defense at that time against them. There still isn’t, against a variety of anti-ship weapons above and below the surface. What was left was retaliation, tit for tat, shooting nukes back at the Soviets so they would be blasted to atoms too.
I asked how they could get clearance to return fire in those circumstances, having read that “the president” had to authorize use of nukes. No time to report and get authorization back, on that kind of short fuse. One of them stated that the authority to launch on perception of incoming was delegated down to the officers just one level above them, equivalents of majors in the Army, and did not require much more than notice to the ship’s captain if time seemed to allow. Knowing you are going to die in a nuclear detonation frees up the vengeance juices pretty good, and these guys were all ready to take on the Russkies, any old place and time, in a grand mutual murder-suicide pact. And Us and soviet ships were engaging in a lot of beer-muscle interactions at the time. http://www.nytimes.com/1983/11/18/world/us-and-soviet-ships-collide-navy-says-accident-is-minor.html (Note how the War Department and NYT editors downplay the events — “just shadowing, everybody is doing it…”)
So given the maybe 10,000 deployed nuclear weapons (including Israel’s “200 to 600”), and the likelihood that authority to use (and the ability to employ many of them with or without “authority,”) is devolved “of tactical necessity” and delegated to some pretty low level Troops, old William J, Perry, maybe concerned that there actually is a H3ll he might get consigned to for acts on this earth, may be only too right about this among many modes of idiocy- and vulnerability-generated ways we humans can off ourselves wholesale…
Anybody here recall the 1965 film “The Bedford Incident”? If not, there is a synopsis at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bedford_Incident or you can see clips at YouTube (good clip at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOll3v55Dmo). The tension depicted aboard the Bedford in the film seemed mirrored in the US warship that shot down that Iranian passenger airliner years ago.
Fine movie, highly recommended. Richard Widmark did a great job as a commander who drove his subordinates over the nuclear edge.
Yes. The Soviet sub is never seen, only ‘sensed.’
In the 1950’s, any nuclear war-fighting strategy would have to be “countervalue” (i.e. based on slaughtering people) because the delivery systems of the time were too inaccurate to make a viable strategy of “counterforce” (i.e based on trying to destroy only enemy armed forces).
Eisenhower’s doctrine was “massive retaliation,” which is to say that rather than engage in an escalating conflict, the USA would instead embark on all-out attack in the event of war.
In my opinion, this is the least dangerous of all nuclear war-fighting doctrines, because the type of weapons and strategy employed are quite useless for the purposes of aggrandizement.
As noted in the article, Eisenhower was trying to avoid a large conventional forces buildup. This policy was nicknamed, “more bang for the buck.”
Instead, he relied on a nuclear arsenal under the command of a notorious butcher such as General LeMay. Who could question the credibility?
In fairness to LeMay, at least he was politically reliable, quite unlike a Macarthur type. LeMay often quarreled with the civilian heads, but he did obey them.
It is also worth bearing in mind that it wasn’t the strategic nuclear arsenal that the USA into wars in Vietnam or Iraq.
I seem to remember that Eisenhower overthrew one or two foreign governments during his Presidential term, and also that he offered the French a nuke to use during the siege of Dien Bien Phu, which thankfully they turned down. (My source is Embers of War, by Fredrik Logevall.)
Truthfully I had not ever considered that any great number of people were authorized to loose nuclear weapons.
The only ones I’d theorized to have had independent launch power
Were Submarine Captains.
Related, I wonder how many Arkhipovs there are in the mix versus those at the other end of the spectrum? I appreciated the requirement of unanimous consent to the use of such weapons among the three senior officers at the tactical level that enabled Arkhipov to overrule the others, even though he was not the commanding officer. Amazing how such grave matters can hang by such a slender individual thread. Given the proliferation in both weapons and ideologues, both we and other life forms might not be so lucky next time.
Everybody should do themselves a favour and see a YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RNcTnvTJa0 called “Our Cities Must Fight” from 1951. I cannot recommend this film enough. The idea behind that film is that in case there were a nuclear attack on America, that it would be TREASON for the people to flee the cities and take to the hills with their families. They must stay in those targeted cities and fight the nuclear attack.
I am not kidding and this is a genuine film. It is an official US Civil Defense film. How you fight a nuclear attack I am not sure but as the movie goes on (watch all 9 minutes) it makes clear that Americans who flee are deserters and traitors (see about 6:15 on). The end line, I kid you not, is “Have you got the guts?” I was amused when I first saw this film but when I realized what it would have meant if carried out, well, who exactly was guilty of treason here?
One of the few reasons I still blew in a higher power/God is that we have not annihilated each other with a global thermonuclear war.
6 times during the Cold War either a single Russian or American military commander made the decision to not push us down that dire path. Those the the ones that have been publicly acknowledged as well too.
Many thanks, Yves.
This post is timely.
I attended a friend’s birthday drinks yesterday evening. She’s a former diplomat from one of the EU’s founding six. Another attendee is number two at their home state’s mission to the UK and was number three in Paris.
Brexit was brought up. There was a feeling that the UK is not just leaving an economic block, but a pillar of the western alliance. There was a sense of the UK shooting itself, but also a betrayal of the west. I asked how and was told that Russia and China are not reliable (whatever that means and which was not elaborated) and Russia wants to subjugate the whole of Europe, hence having to bring Ukraine into NATO and the EU. I suggested that outside the west, perception of Russia and China is different. I was told that, despite the Texan (sic) in charge, the US is fundamentally a force for good around the world.
There seemed to be some paranoia about Russia and China, which can’t be healthy or sensible.
Especially regarding China, you must wonder whether at some basic level they fear revenge being taken but won’t acknowledge the basis for it. What would be the equivalent of an Opium War in reverse? No tariff barriers, you must buy our steel? I’ve come to think of the British stiff upper lip as reflecting a steadfast refusal to acknowledge the miseries inflicted by British imperialism.
What would be the equivalent of an Opium War in reverse?
Hello Colonel, thanks for the comment- as always.
I was recently at a talk given by Dan Rather, promoting his new book, “What Unites Us”. My main interest was to see how Rather reconciled his role in shaping public opinion throughout the years and our sorry state of civic duty in America today. My impression was that he was a man of deep regrets, but wanted to remind his audience that they should not succumb to fear and paranoia, but attempt to do good in the world- every day- to the best of their ability. He also related this idea of doing good in the world as an inherent American trait. Yes, Americans have done “bad” things, but if we regain the path of trying to do good, redemption can be found.
Sitting in the audience with my wife, searching the crowd for friends and acquaintances, I tried to gage how many of my fellow citizens responded to this message of American benevolence and road to redemption. Living in a prosperous town, with little visible signs of hardship, the message was well received indeed. The upper-middle class audience was looking for reassurances for their trouble lives brought on by Trump, Russia, and China, and they herd a reassuring message. We are inherently good, we just need to keep working at it- what that good is remains unspecified.
The irony of the talk was that Rather also told his audience that they needed to be skeptical, first and foremost in order to deal with “Fake News”, but very few in attendance seemed skeptical of the Americas inherent good message- regardless of endless war policy.
Open class warfare does not go over well in America. The pessimism I felt after the talk was mainly that the elite in society have no clear sense or plan on how to deal with the turmoil and hostility which lies ahead. The few pointed questions raised during the question and answer session were deferred, while the majority just wanted to feel good and reassured.
Bold leadership is needed, or I fear tyranny will reign supreme for a long time.
Bizarre. Given population reproduction rates, Russians aren’t going to take anyone over.
Europe will be Islamic in 50 years, simply due to who is (and is not) making babies.
Russia couldn’t take anyone over, even if they tried really hard.
It sounds like the Euro Elite is as demented as the US Elite – as I’m not part of the Elite, never desired to be part of it and would enjoy greatly bringing most of the Elite down, its staggering that its the Elite itself that’s the greatest danger to the average Joe across Europe, the USA and many other places. Lets face it, if you can’t be arsed to look after your own fellow nationals, why worry about Russia or blame Russia for matters it itself has no control over.
Of course, when Communism was still deemed as a threat, measures were undertaken to look after the demos, once the threat was removed the Elite took all the gains and then some more from those who could least afford it, the process continues and the EU, as much as Westminster and DC are to blame for this sorry debacle. In a nutshell, its not the Russian’s who have pauperised and stigmatised my class, its the Elite and those who service them.
And then people wonder why those with nothing to lose voted to exit a neoliberal club, a club that does nothing for them, the same as Westminster does nothing for them!
Thankfully I’ve managed to never live within the Bubble World our Elites inhabit, and I’m smart enough to understand, as Marx correctly predicted, that the Elite capitalist class digs its own grave. It don’t need no assistance from Russia, but needs Russian fear and scaremongering to retain its own position, lest the demos awakens to the fact they are being screwed royally by those who protest too much.
Here we sit, spied upon to such an extent that ‘they’ know our cursor movements, our words typed, even if erased before pressing enter. All while we are not allowed to know matters of the greatest import. Not even the President or Joint Chiefs. Not only do we not have democracy, we don’t even have civilian control.
I can’t help but wonder just how many computer programs could set off a nuclear war at this point in time? Code is war?
It’s well known that the nuclear target mania of those days included cross-roads and police stations in certain places, and that in the USSR, the most massive country in the world.
Oh well, better to be safe than sorry in doggie-patch DC, and in the five-sided bughouse nearby!
NC, still the best comments section anywhere! thanks so much for your hardwork……..
I see the concept of ‘Thanatos’ defined as a “conflicted drive towards self-oblivion.” Is there a word or concept for this drive when it thrusts outward to encompass oblivion of the world? The concept of ‘Global Terrorism’ isn’t large enough to characterize the horror of targeting every city and town of an enemy with nuclear weapons. And placing the trigger for such an attack into one hand is beyond horrifying. But there are no words with which to fully characterize scattering the trigger around to the hands of so many.
Before this post I was unaware of how insane those who rule us truly are. Climate Disruption most concerned me. I put the risk of Nuclear Armageddon aside as the lesser of the two. Now this. I grow afraid nearing the point of freezing in hopeless inaction as I regard the coupling of these two risks moving into the future.
The reason fleeing a large city is prohibited is because all the roads leading into and out of cities would becpme completely gridlocked with immobile traffic. These refugees would
be stuck bumper to bumper for many miles, without food water or medical care and wost of all, unprotected against the ooncoming nuclear attack. After that, the highway s would remain blocked with dcorpses and destroyed cars, preventing outside help from reaching the city. Much better to stay put and underground where it’s safer.
This was supposed to be my response to Rev Kev about the 50s CD film which instructed people to remain in the city during a presumed or actual nuclear attack.
Most Civil Defense advice is for people to remain in place rather than evacuate. If you look at the 1970’s British Protect and Survive films (also on YouTube), they too recommend shelter-in-place.
1. Panic evacuation would create even more chaos, as Sean Oliver noted.
2. Large numbers of people exposed or stranded en route are even more vulnerable than people in makeshift shelters.
3. The fallout pattern is hard to predict. A untargeted remote area might end up more radioactive than the ruins of a bombed city, if that’s how the plume goes. So evacuate where?
Note also that the 1951 US film is assuming the use of low-yield weapons against a small number of cities, i.e. anticipating the sort of attack which the USSR was capable of making against the USA at that time. In that scenario, if people fled from many cities because of the fear of attack, when the enemy is actually only capable of attacking a few places, the panic could prove costlier than the attacks themselves. Also, it could be expected that aid would be promptly forthcoming to the stricken cities, because most parts of the USA would not have come under attack.
That’s not to say that any of this Civil Defense advice necessarily made sense. I’m just trying to understand it in its own context.