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Nuclear Weapons of the United States: An Illustrated History (Schiffer Military History)
By James N. Gibson
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing Ltd 1996 240 Pages
PDF 155 MB
On 16 July, 1945, an event occurred that changed the world forever. At 5:29 AM Mountain War Time (4:49 AM standard time), on an empty stretch of desert 60 miles from Alamogordo New Mexico, a gigantic explosion occurred.
So powerful was this blast that the earth noticeably shook for 30 miles around. So brilliant was the light, it was visible 200 miles away at Los Alamos. In all a blast equal to 20 thousand tons of TNT. And yet all this destructive power came from a spherical device about six feet in diameter and weighing only 5 tons.
This device was the Gadget, the test device for the Fat Man bomb. Twenty-one days later the Little Boy bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. In a few seconds this beautiful city was reduced to ashes and 70,000 of its citizens were dead or dying. Three days later, on 9 August 1945, Nagasaki was destroyed by the Fat Man at the cost of an additional 35,000 people. These events effectively mark the end of the Second World War, the bloodiest war in human history. They also mark the beginning of the atomic age that many of us have grown up in.
Last year we marked the fiftieth anniversary of the use of these bombs to end that war. This use has become controversial, primarily because most people were not even born until after the war ended. It is impossible to judge the actions of those involved in these events, however, when the only information you have is your high school history class lecture on the war.
The same can be said about the whole history of U.S. nuclear weapons. Of the fifty year period between today and the Fat Man, few Americans even know how many nuclear weapons this country has produced or what they were for. Many Americans, in fact, believe many previous U.S. systems never existed, believing this because of previous books and articles written by "informed people."
In the beginning, the United States was the world's only nuclear force. It had the bomb and it had a bomber that could drop it. That was about all one could say about the force, however, since the B-29 bomber was completely vulnerable to interception and limited in range. As for the bombs they were crude and only partially reliable. In truth the force existed more on paper then in fact.
In the fifty years between the U.S. arsenal has seen many weapons come and go. Intercontinental cruise missiles, nuclear artillery, nuclear torpedoes, ICBMs and MIRVed missiles. The force grew to well over 10,000 nuclear devices and had the power to destroy the earth more than three times.
Today, the U.S. nuclear arsenal has not been this small since the early 1950s. Because of recent agreements, there are no tactical nuclear weapons in the force today, with the exception of some B-61 bombs. The Navy's fighters have lost their nuclear capability and Army field units no longer have nuclear artillery or SRBMs. In the future MIRVed missiles will be restricted to submarines and the ICBM may be phased out. It is a new era, an era in which few people know what happened in between.
Within the pages of this book are every nuclear device this nation has ever deployed. Every bomb, rocket, and missile that ever carried a nuclear warhead. Also inside is every bomber and ballistic submarine we have operated.
To understand where we are now and how drastically the arsenal has changed in the last five years, you need to know about the previous fifty years. Then and only then, as we remember the end of that terrible war, can we fully appreciate this new era we are now entering. An era without Mutually Assured Destruction.