Declassified effects of nuclear weapons and other threats: minimizing weapons effects on civilians

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Castle-Bravo nuclear test fallout cover-up: Walmer E. Strope of USNRDL predicted that Rongelap Islanders would be contaminated if it was detonated

“In most of the observations made at the Eniwetok Proving Ground [which included Bikini Atoll and Eniwetok Atoll], the winds aloft were not in a steady state. ... proper firing conditions, which required winds that would deposit the fallout north of the proving ground, occurred only during an unstable synoptic situation of rather short duration.”

- Edward A. Schuert, A Fallout Forecasting Technique with Results Obtained at the Eniwetok Proving Ground (U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory report USNRDL-TR-139, 1957).

“... the winds at both the Pacific Proving Grounds and the Nevada Proving Grounds were a problem. The prevailing winds at both were from west to east and eastward lay inhabited areas. The safest wind direction was from south to north in both locations. This only happened when a front was passing through. ... Because of the passage of a front, the wind direction at various altitudes tended to change almost by the hour. ... the direction and speed of winds aloft to 100,000 feet was measured by radiosonde tracking of balloons released at a station some distance from shot point. ... Shot Bravo was scheduled for early in March. About a week before, I started plotting the winds at both Eniwetok and Bikini every day. ... The night before the shot time, I plotted the most recent winds and discussed them with Kearns, Armstrong, and Captain Molumphy, comparing them to the wind data from 12 hours earlier. The vectors were curving from east to north and the summation lines had moved more easterly. There were Marshallese natives on ... Rongelap ... east of Bikini. I didn’t think the pattern would miss them to the north, especially if the winds moved more easterly overnight. Woody and I attended the 10 pm weather briefing and voiced our concern. The Air Force meteorologists poopooed our analysis and the decision was made to proceed in the countdown.”

- Walmer E. Strope (1918-2010), Autobiography, Chapter 10: The Little Red Worcester And The YAG, pp. 123-4.

Above: Rongelap's people were contaminated by the fallout carried east from Bikini Atoll on the prevailing winds: tests had to be fired during unstable conditions when a front was passing, deflecting winds towards the north. Strope reveals that he predicted the contamination of the Marshallese by fallout the evening before the Bravo test due to the wind structure, but was over-ruled since he was just there to test the U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory ship washdown system for decontamination. Dr Alvin C. Graves, himself a radiation accident survivor of Dr Slotin's fatal Los Alamos criticality accident, took the decision to fire Bravo on 1 March 1954, which yielded 15 Mt not the predicted 6 Mt. The data were used in the 1962/1964 edition of The Effects of Nuclear Weapons to estimate the fallout pattern from a 1 Mt fission bomb. Notice that the fallout dose contours expand more slowly than the wind speed due to the fact that fallout deposition at any location takes several hours in a megaton explosion because of the large size of the cloud (it takes time to be blown past a given location), and the dose due to decaying fission products is received over a long time period, giving time for improvised countermeasures or evacuation which can avert the hazard.

Walmer Elton (Jerry) Strope (b. 9 April 1918), WWII ship designer and Cold War nuclear test fallout radiation protection researcher of the U. S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory and 1960s Pentagon director of research for the Office of Civil Defense (then part of the U. S. Department of Defense), passed away on 15 August 2010; his extremely candid and shocking revelations on fallout predictions made with Dr Carl F. Miller and other scientists from USNRDL at Bikini Atoll before the Castle-Bravo disaster of 1 March 1954 in his 2003 Autobiography have now finally been published online. They debunk the lie for once and for all that the contamination of the people on Ailinginae, Rongelap, Rongerik, and Utirik was due to an unpredicted wind shift, or that fallout is inherently unpredictable, preventing you from evacuating the area in the hours you have between the detonation and the subsequent wind-carried fallout arrival at downwind hotline locations.

As explained in a previous post (recently updated with a relevant quotation from Strope's Autobiography), Walmer E. Strope was the first person to fully analyze and reconcile all of the (initially very confusing) radiation dose and dose rate records data from the 25 July 1946 Crossroads-Baker underwater nuclear test at Bikini Atoll in his classic 1948 Bureau of Ships report, Investigation of the Gamma Radiation Hazard Incident to an Underwater Atomic Explosion (reissued by the U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory, Hunters Point, California, in November 1963 as report USNRDL-TR-687). His report was able to discriminate between radiation exposure from the fallout and that of the passing base surge, and his results were incorporated into the 1950 Effects of Atomic Weapons; he found that over 90% of the residual contamination from Baker was due to fallout from the collapsing mushroom cloud, and under 10% was deposited from the passing "base surge" (the base surge only irradiated the ships while it passed over them without leaving behind any significant fallout).

Strope's Autobiography confirms that the fallout experts of USNRDL did predict at 10 pm the day before the test that Castle-Bravo would contaminate the people on Rongelap Atoll, a hundred miles to the east of ground zero:

“... the winds at both the Pacific Proving Grounds and the Nevada Proving Grounds were a problem. The prevailing winds at both were from west to east and eastward lay inhabited areas. The safest wind direction was from south to north in both locations. This only happened when a front was passing through. ... Because of the passage of a front, the wind direction at various altitudes tended to change almost by the hour. [This peculiar difficulty behind fallout predictions at nuclear tests, when testing had to be deliberately postponed for weeks of stable wind patterns and done only during unstable weather conditions, was responsible for the contamintion of St George due east of the 1953 Harry test and for the Pacific it can be confirmed by Edward A. Schuert's discussion of the highly unstable and rare wind structure contradicting the prevailing winds which was rather stupidly needed to keep fallout away from inhabited areas - which were directly downwind of the prevailing winds - in his 1957 paper describing the application of Strope's fallout forecasting method, submitted in testimony to Congress, A Fallout Forecasting Method with Results Obtained at the Eniwetok Proving Grounds, USNRDL-TR-139.] ... the direction and speed of winds aloft to 100,000 feet was measured by radiosonde tracking of balloons released at a station some distance from shot point. ...

“Shot Bravo was scheduled for early in March. About a week before, I started plotting the winds at both Eniwetok and Bikini every day. ... The usual way to plot the winds was to draw an arrow in the direction of the lowest wind measurement (surface to 1,000 feet) and with length proportional to the wind speed. Then, another arrow, called a vector, was drawn beginning at the point of the first vector in the direction of the wind in the next altitude layer and with length proportional to its wind speed, and so on. The series of vectors would curve around like a snake, sometimes back on itself when there was much wind shear. After all were plotted, a straight line from the beginning to end point would indicate the direction from shot point to where the fallout from the highest altitude should fall. Of course, what really would happen depended on how much radioactivity had been lifted to each altitude, how powerful the explosion was, and how stable the wind pattern was.

“Most analyses assumed that the radioactive cloud was collocated with the visible cloud formed by the explosion at least until it stabilized and began to drift. I had consulted with people at NRDL who were the experts, particularly Dr. Carl F. Miller of the Chemical Technology Division. He taught me that not all the radioactivity was boosted into the nuclear cloud. Some was in the stem and some would start to rain out while the cloud was still rising and expanding. I also believed that the fallout would fall faster at very high altitudes where the air was thinnest and thus spend less time in the winds of those altitudes. Needless to say, we had had little experience, especially with the huge megaton explosions with which we were now dealing. So, I tended to draw several summation lines to various upper wind levels and note the curvature of the whole plot, which could indicate the potential width of the fallout pattern.

“The night before the shot time, I plotted the most recent winds and discussed them with Kearns, Armstrong, and Captain Molumphy, comparing them to the wind data from 12 hours earlier. The vectors were curving from east to north and the summation lines had moved more easterly. There were Marshallese natives on ... Rongelap ... east of Bikini. I didn’t think the pattern would miss them to the north, especially if the winds moved more easterly overnight. Woody and I attended the 10 pm weather briefing and voiced our concern. The Air Force meteorologists poopooed our analysis and the decision was made to proceed in the countdown.”

- Walmer E. Strope (1918-2010), Autobiography, Chapter 10: The Little Red Worcester And The YAG, pp. 123-4.

The point is, Castle-Bravo is still today repeatedly used to claim that winds and fallout are "unpredictable", so that civil defense cannot safely evacuate people from downwind areas in advance of waiting hours for the fallout to actually arrive and then measure it with specialized instruments. All of this is rubbish: winds, rain and fallout are predictable, even where the bomb yield turns out to be 15 not 6 Mt as was wrongly predicted for Bravo. The winds deliberately selected for Nevada and Marshall Islands nuclear tests were inherently instable because they were not the prevailing winds, and the prevailing winds were towards inhabited places like St George in Nevada and Rongelap Atoll in the Pacific. You wouldn't believe this if it was a comedy.

They were testing an expected 6 megaton bomb (actually 15 megatons, because they couldn't find the time to check out the cross-section for tritium production by high energy neutron fission of lithium-7 in the lab), 100 miles upwind (for the prevailing winds) of unwarned inhabited areas. They knew that winds at some low altitudes, particularly around 20,000 feet (where fallout suffers more drag and so spends longer falling than in the less dense air at higher altitudes, where it falls faster) were blowing towards inhabited islands, the day before they detonated the bomb, but they waited until two days after the bomb before they properly surveyed the downwind islands and evacuated the people. True, they didn't have weather satellites or computers to predict the weather in 1954, but despite this, Strope and others did predict the fallout hazard using simple techniques like those in USNRDL-TR-139 which successfully predicted fallout hotlines two years later at Redwing. The arrogant incompetence of the Bravo radsafe team bears out some of the claims made in the 1985 film Half-Life, which explains that fallout wasn't as unpredictable as U. S. Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Lewis Strauss claimed later. The anti-civil defense lobby have grasped Strauss's misleading excuse of an unpredicted wind shift ever since in an effort to prevent civil defence from working on the fact that it takes hours for fallout to arrive downwind and this time can be used for people to be evacuated on the basis of fallout forecasts.

The declassified secret story of Castle-Bravo test decision, fallout and evacuation delay reasons is told in Operation Castle, Radiological Safety, Final Report, volume II (ADA995409, 1985, pages K3-K7):

“At the midnight weather briefing, the forecast offered a less favorable condition in the lower levels (10,000 to 25,000 feet). Resultant winds at about 20,000 feet were forecast in the direction of Rongelap and Rongerik; however, it was considered that the speeds and altitudes did not warrant a conclusion that significant quantities and levels of debris would be carried out so far. The decision to shoot was confirmed subject to a further weather/radsafe check at 0430M Bravo day. ...

“At the 0430M briefing, no significant change had been observed ... The resultant winds pointing at Rongerik and Rongelap were light and were not forecast to transport significant debris to these atolls. ...

“At 0645M, 1 March 1954, Bravo was detonated on the surface of a small sand spit ... The bunker firing party reported in safe, but by 0715M the radiation levels were reported rising at the bunker [on Enyu Island, Bikini Atoll]. These levels continued to rise to about 25 R/hr. The firing party was considered to be in a reasonably safe position since the personnel were able to get into a well protected area deep in the bunker, reading approximately 35 mR/hr.

“A report was received about 2100M on Bravo day that the [radiation measuring] instrument in the hands of the weather detachment on Rongerik had gone ‘off scale’. These instruments had a full scale reading of 100 mR/hr. ... The off-scale report was not viewed with concern since task force ships were experiencing readings of more than 100 mR/hr (the Bairoko going as high as 500 mR/hr on the flight deck).”

The full extent of the radioactive contamination of Rongerik Atoll was only discovered at 9:45 am on 2 March when an aircraft surveyed the islands. They were evacuated after further communicative and administrative delays, but it led to the eventual decision to measure the radiation levels on other nearby inhabited Atolls, as pages K8-K9 state:

“In the decision to authorize the Rongerik evacuation, consideration was given to the fact that only U. S. troops were being removed whereas native populated atolls were also undoubtedly contaminated to the same or higher degree. The informal decision to remove only Rongerik personnel was made on the basis of urgency and incontrovertible necessity and because it was the only atoll on which there was positive evidence of the exact ground contamination. It was decided that the inference of similar contamination on other atolls in the vicinity should be considered by the Task Force Commander. Accordingly, the Task Force Radsafe Officer, in conference with the Task Force and Task Group Commanders, and the Scientific Director, presented the fall-out situation as it was known at that time (approximately 1330M, 2 March). The twenty thousand foot forecast trajectory (modified post-shot) was believed to be the primary factor in the movement of contamination south of the predicted fall-out area. ...

“An average reading of 1.4 R/hr at approximately 1700M made in the living area of Rongelap Island [in Rongelap Atoll] ... was used in the decision the same night to order the destroyer to commence evacuation operations at dawn. Evacuation operations began about 0730M, 3 March and were completed by 1030M, the same date. It developed that all of the natives away from the living area had returned home in order to discuss the unusual phenomena ...”

The real reason why Strope, Dr Carl F. Miller, and other U. S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory (NRDL) fallout experts like Edward A. Schuert and Captain Molumphy were attending the Operation Castle thermonuclear tests in 1954 was unfortunately not to protect the people living downwind (which they would clearly have done, unlike the confused radsafe and meteorological "experts" of the Scientific Director of Operation Castle, Dr Alvin C. Graves), but just to document the fallout and to check out the U. S. Navy's "washdown system" that successfully kept fallout off ships by continuously spraying the decks with water using the fire-sprinkler system (washed overboard into the ocean, the fallout is quickly mixed with a large volume of sea water which absorbs over 99% of the gamma radiation, so the radiation hazard is on the ship is terminated except for a little transient exposure while the airborne fallout cloud is passing overhead). Therefore, they had to predict the fallout areas in order to collect fallout samples and to ensure that the washdown ships YAG39 and YAG40 were positioned before the detonation in potential fallout areas, but they had no authority to actually postpone the Bravo nuclear test, even though they were the ones who investigated fallout predictions in detail at the previous land surface bursts Sugar (Nevada, 1951, 1.2 kt: weapon test report WT-414) and Mike (Elugelab, 1952, 10.4 Mt: weapon test report WT-615).

On page 126, Strope states that on 3 March 1954 he had a meeting with Dr Herbert Peter Scoville, the then Technical Director of the AFSWP or U.S. Armed Forces Special Weapons Project (the job that Dr Frank H. Shelton, author of “Reflections of a Nuclear Weaponeer”, had later in the late 1950s), the organization responsible for preparing TM 23-200, Capabilities of Atomic Weapons. Strope describes how Dr Scoville explained the cover-up of fallout disaster in Chapter 11: The Unfortunate Dragon, pages 127-132:

“This has to be very closely held,” said Pete Scoville, when he had me alone. By that he meant that whatever he was about to tell me was highly classified; higher than Top Secret even.

“What is it?” I asked.

“You were right to recommend postponement the other night. The fallout from the shot did go east and dumped on the occupied atolls,” said Pete.

“My God,” I cried, “Are they all right?”

“All the natives have been evacuated to Kwajalein where the Navy medics are taking care of them,” answered Pete. “But let’s get on with it. Our job is to survey those islands carefully so the medics have a good estimate of what exposures the natives got. There are some Americans involved also. We had a weather station on Rongerik. They had a radiation meter and sounded the alarm. I’ve got someone getting together the gear we will need. But we need two more people who can handle a survey meter. I’ll get one from the Army and you get one from your group. Pack your toothbrush and underwear and meet me at the boat ramp in a half hour.”

... As we got under way, I noted another civilian aboard. He was a clean-cut type with dark hair and a rather grim attitude. I was introduced to him as a State Department employee, the Trust Territory representative. It was only then that I realized the true enormity of the situation. ... No wonder the catastrophe was being closely held. Eventually, however, the government would have to own up. ...

“Hold on,” said Pete, “The natives weren’t taken off the islands until this morning, two days after the shot.”

“My Lord,” I exclaimed, “Why on earth did they wait that long?” ...

Rongelap was a big atoll, bigger than Bikini and at least as big as Eniwetok. ... We moved into the village. The shacks here were far more substantial than those on Ailinginae. Several even had peaked roofs made of corrugated metal. These may have been communal buildings where the natives met and ate. The buildings with tin roofs had eave troughs, which we traced back to a half buried tank — a cistern.

We took samples of the cistern water. The TT representative explained that there were no wells on these atolls and no streams or waterfalls. The natives were dependent on rainfall for all their water. ...

We also took soil and leaf samples. To obtain soil samples, we were provided with Navy ice cream scoops straight from the mess hall, not the kind that roll up a ball of ice cream but big aluminum ones like miniature coal scoops. The mess hall did not want them back after we had used them, so I brought one home and still use it—to scoop ice cream, not soil samples. My wife and kiddies knew how it had been used but I have learned not to regale guests with its history. ...

(These fallout samples mixed in soil and water from Ailinginae, Rongelap, Rongerik and Utirik were analyzed carefully by USNRDL and the results were included in weapon test report WT-915.)

Strope ends this chapter (page 134) stating:

Operation Castle had started out with a disaster. ... the weapons test people became convinced that fallout was a real threat, not only to their test operations but also if nuclear weapons should ever be used in warfare. Indeed, the measurements we took on Ailinginae, Rongelap, Rongerik, Utirik, and Bikar became the primary data on which projections of the fallout threat have been made even to this date. And, last but perhaps not least, I became convinced that, although radiation cannot be detected by the human senses, the fallout [carrier grit or water] itself can be seen and smelled [as grit in the nostrils; also as fine grit in the eyes, between the teeth, etc.] if it is present in lethal quantities.”

Describing the development of the washdown protection of ships during brainstorming sessions in 1951, Strope states that it was motivated by the problem of decontaminating the ships contaminated by liquid fallout after the 25 July 1946 Crossroads-Baker underwater test, like the Independence which was taken back (while still contaminated) to the USNRDL at Hunters Point in San Francisco for decontamination research using chemicals and sandblasting to try to remove contaminated rust and paint:

“Once the liquid fallout from an atomic burst had dried, it was locked in the paint. ... All we had to do was wash off the paint before the contaminant had dried. Washing down a whole ship was easier said than done. It could not be done with fire hoses because the unprotected crew would be incapacitated or killed by the high levels of radiation existing during the fallout event. Our sponsor within the Bureau of Ships was the Ship Protection Section in my old stomping grounds, the Preliminary Design Branch. In particular, my contact was Woody Armstrong. He had been joined by another senior engineer, Mike Kearns. ... It was during one of our routine discussions of progress that the idea of automatically washing down the ship took hold. Mike Kearns was a prime mover in the conceptual development of the shipboard washdown system. The first impediment to progress was the firehose analogy. It wasn’t until we abandoned the automated firehose idea and turned to the rainstorm analogy that a practical system began to emerge. The topsides of a ship are designed to readily drain rainstorms and sea spray in heavy weather. What we needed to do was create a rainstorm on demand. The ship’s seawater pumps could deliver enough water. The spray devices could be similar to those used to sprinkle lawns. In fact, lawn sprinklers were used initially in our experimental chamber. They worked great. But now we would need full-scale tests at sea. ... It was done in the summer of 1951 on the USS Dortch, a Fletcher-class destroyer, off Charleston SC. ...

“The July 23, 1954 issue of Collier’s weekly magazine, which at the time had a tremendous national readership, had on its cover an artist’s rendition of an aircraft carrier under full washdown steaming away from a huge nuclear cloud. Across the picture was a banner saying NAVY VS. THE H-BOMB: How Shower Baths Saved Our Ships. Yes, you guessed it. The Navy had believed the Air Force meteorologists and an hour or two after the Castle Bravo explosion fallout began to fall on the task force support ships. The cover story by Bill Stapleton shows a full-page picture of the Worcester under full washdown from the starboard quarter. I swear it was the last picture we took before the helicopter conked out! Superposed on the picture were the words: The heretofore secret story of 10 warships that were unexpectedly trapped in deadly radioactive dust—but saved themselves with a shower of seawater. The ensuing story told how the support ships, which included the command ship Estes, the jeep aircraft carrier Bairoko, and the transport Ainsworth, were caught in the fallout area, sent their crews below, and turned on their temporarily installed washdown systems. After 10 to 12 hours of button-up, they were out of the fallout area and back in operation with radiation exposure well within the strict limit for the test operation. The washdown system had proved itself and the YAG was not really needed.)”

- Walmer E. Strope (1918-2010), Autobiography, Chapter 10: The Little Red Worcester And The YAG, pp. 117-126.

Describing his research on the fallout from the 1946 Baker underwater test, Strope states (Autobiography, Chapter 6: At the Crossroads, pp. 86-88):

“During the spring of 1947, some of the results of the radiological measurements on the ships at Bikini began to come in. ... I laid out a plot of the target array on my drafting board and began to plot the raw measurement data. ... We needed the film badge data from the target ships, which would give us the total radiation exposure to compare with the contamination measurements. The film badge data ... were Top Secret. So we applied for a Top Secret clearance. Meanwhile, I began to refine the contamination data by adjusting to a common measurement time. ... All that summer I worked on the contamination patterns from the Crossroads underwater shot. I obtained dozens of photographs of ... the base surge at the foot of the collapsing column and the pendulous plumes dropping down from the cloud onto the ships in the target array. ... the location of these plumes matched the areas of high contamination measurements. I was convinced that most of the contamination came from the cloud fallout and not from the base surge. (I liked the word ‘fallout’ and was one of the first to use it.) ... The film badge data arrived. It confirmed my analysis of the contamination measurements. Moreover, by analyzing those target ships that were not under a fallout plume but were enveloped by the base surge, I concluded that over 90 percent of the radioactivity had come from cloud fallout and less than 10 percent from the base surge. We put the report to bed in January of 1948 and it was distributed as a Bureau of Ships classified report in March of that year. It bore one of my typical grandiose titles: Investigation of the Gamma Radiation Hazard Incident to an Underwater Atomic Explosion [reissued by the U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory, Hunters Point, California, in November 1963 as report USNRDL-TR-687].”

In Chapter 8: The Nerd in NRDL, p. 101, he describes a wacky spin-off from a USNRDL 1950s irradiation of rats (seeking to find an anti-radiation sickness drug):

“It was generally recognized that gamma radiation knocked off electrons from various compounds as it passed through the body forming oxidized “free radicals,” which then caused the injury. Accordingly, the biologists were testing various anti-oxidants in the hopes of finding a useful protective agent. ... I remember one set of experiments involving Vitamin E ["Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that stops the production of reactive oxygen species formed when fat undergoes oxidation" - Wikipedia]. ... Vitamin E, it turned out, did not offer significant protection but what impressed me was that the group of rats that received Vitamin E but little or no radiation outlived the control group by quite a bit. I started taking 400 units of Vitamin E every day in 1950 and have continued to the present. At 85 [in 2003 AD], my hair is just starting to turn gray in the sideburns. My father and grandfathers were gray in their 50s.”

Strope's Autobiography also describes the USNRDL shelter experiment at the 17 kt Diablo nuclear test on a 500 foot tower: Stropes was leader of 17 scientists (including Richard Laurino and Dr Carl F. Miller, who measured the initial radiation flash - they were that close! - and then the subsequent fallout with survey meters) located inside a simple USNRDL earth-covered corrugated steel culvert shelter just 1 mile from ground zero. The radiation survey meters went off-scale even on the highest range during the brief pulse of initial nuclear radiation. Stropes described the blast wave effect on the shelter as sounding like being inside a metal garbage can when someone slams the cover on. As predicted, the shelter was directly downwind and received the maximum levels of fallout, allowing the protection factor to be directly measured for real fallout.

Strope's review of Eden's pseudoscientific, Cold War style anti-civil defense propaganda thesis Whole World on Fire is online here, "Whole World on Fire—And All Wet". Eden's commonplace "errors" or gross deceptions on the possibility of mass fires being ignited by the thermal radiation from a nuclear explosion, have been discussed in previous posts, e.g. this one on thermal ignition. E.g., Eden ignores the facts on fires declassified from Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the six secret volumes of the U. S. Strategic Bombing Survey reports on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which disclose by extensive objective questioning of survivors that almost the fires were started in overturned charcoal cooking braziers in paper screen and bamboo furnishing filled wooden houses at breakfast time (8:15am Hiroshima) or lunch preparation time (12:01 pm Nagasaki), and the small remainder of the fires were started in black coloured air-raid "blackout curtains" used by law in windows to stop building lights being seen by bomber aircraft after dark.

In other words, no fires were started by thermal radiation under circumstances relevant to modern cities today. Thermal radiation falling on exterior wooden surfaces of wooden houses did not start fires because the outer 0.1 mm or so of surface wood just ablated into a "smoke screen" of black smoke which then screened and protected the underlying wood from the rest of the thermal radiation pulse. In addition, even the firestorm which did occur in Hiroshima, due to the blast wave overturning thousands of charcoal cooking braziers on to paper screens, bamboo furnishings, etc., in Hiroshima, had peak winds only one third of those in Hamburg. This lower intensity of firestorm phenomena was due to the reduced wood loading in Hiroshima compared to the medieval wooden area of Hamburg which caught fire. The average height of the medieval Hamburg wooden houses was 5 stories, compared to just 2 stories in earthquake-zone Hiroshima; this accounts for the difference in flammable material loading per unit area of ground and thus the greater intensity and windspeed in the Hamburg firestorm over that caused by the nuclear explosion in Hiroshima. In modern cities, charcoal cooking braziers and dark window curtains are not used in wooden houses full of paper screens and bamboo furniture, and the buildings are generally concrete or brick, which doesn't burn. This eliminates the firestorm and "nuclear winter" hype, as Dr Carl Sagan recognised in 1989 when sneakily changing all of the nuclear targets from cities to oil refineries in a last ditch effort to save the nuclear winter theory (Saddam disproved Sagan's prediction of a nuclear winter when Sagan's prediction of global climate catastrophe failed when the ignition of all of Kuwait's oilfields led to rapidly dispersed smoke). In Hiroshima long-term climate effects were averted when the soot was simply precipitated in "black rain" a few hours after the explosion, when the radioactive mushroom cloud was safely hundreds of miles downwind).

The only way rooms burst into flame due to thermal radiation is the 1953 Encore effect, i.e. they have large windows with an unobstructed (no trees, vehicles, buildings, etc. to block out the skyline) direct line-of-sight to the fireball, which doesn't happen in any cities today (the thermal radiation is received before the blast arrives at great distances so the blast cannot remove obstructions to thermal radiation in time) and a room full of inflammable junk like old magazines, newspapers, etc. This fire hazard must be placed in a direct line-of-sight of the fireball via the window. At Encore, two wood frame houses were produced with big windows facing the fireball across the flat, unobstructed desert. One was clean and tidy and the other was filled with dangerously inflammable furnishings and junk. The latter burst into flame, but not the former.

All of these civil defense lessons and facts about the exaggerations of thermal radiation ignition "firestorms" is simply ignored by Eden and the other anti-civil defense fanatics who believe that spreading ignorant propaganda to falsely "discredit" civil defense by exaggerating nuclear weapons effects is sensible.

The reason may be political: they want a continuation of Cold War exaggerations. We have gone into the detailed shameful history of 1930s civil defence in Britain when exaggerations of weapons effects, exaggerations of attack bombing size and speed, and hand waving ignorant dismissals of the ability of ordinary people to fight incendiary bombs with improvised equipment, and to be prepared for poison gas attacks, led Prime Minister Chamberlain to "appease" Hitler until it was too late to avoid a second World War. It was only just before war broke out, in 1939, that Anderson shelters were first tested with high explosives! Later they flooded with ground water and people stopped using them due to the cold and inconvenience dueing night time Nazi bombing raids (the black out also made it more difficult to travel to shelters during air raids), so the government had to develop and distribute Morrison indoor shelters based on John Fleetwood Baker's theory of plastic deformation which was basically the idea that you allow the shelter to deform to within a permissible limit (about 12 inches) while absorbing the energy of the collapsing house debris, to keep production costs down (the car bumper crush zone principle), which proved to save lives even when houses were completely collapsed on top of them (600,000 indoor Morrison shelters - usually used as dinner tables or desks between air raids - were distributed in the U.K. between 1941 and 1944; a Government survey of 44 "heavily damaged" houses containing Morrison shelters showed that only 2% or 3 out of 136 occupants were killed, 10% or 13 were seriously injured and 12% or 16 were lightly injured). These facts about the survival from ducking and covering under a cheap, strong table even when your house is demolished, are of relevance to surviving blast and radiation effects on houses caused by nuclear weapons as well as from WWII conventional weapons, so they are being censored out today, in favour of fashionably ignorant opinion and politically motivated "peace" lies which claim falsely that being unprotected will send out a "peace message" to help prevent terrorist threats and attacks. These people have no idea about human nature or history: sending out a message of vulnerability encourages potential terrorists as it did Hitler. The first step in keeping the peace is to be clear on the facts, not to be fellow travelers of the "politically correct" exaggerations and lies in the disproved theory that increasing vulnerability will make a world safe from terrorism and dictatorship.

Britain, unlike America, was best able to establish the effects of nuclear weapons and the countermeasures against them based on World War II high explosive blast and incendiary bombing experience, in addition to nuclear tests on shelters in Monte Bello. American nuclear weapons civil defence manuals have always taken the unwarned average survival data from Hiroshima where people went outdoors to watch the B-29 drop the bomb (receiving full facial exposure to the heat and blast) instead of ducking and covering, and used propaganda which ignored the “secret” data obtained at Hiroshima and in WWII for the 120 times higher survival rates attainable by simple countermeasures. Because Britain failed to publish its “secret” data on the enhanced survival rates with simple countermeasures but just used the pseudo-scientific concept of apparently “patronising” and absurd sounding “authority” (i.e., the officialdom line, “trust us, we know best, we’re the dictatorial wheels of secret government and you must do as we say, don’t ask any questions”) to tell people to duck and cover without substantiating this advice to the public with detailed scientific evidence, the advice was ridiculed and treated as silly propaganda. This proves the danger of secrecy on weapons effects and countermeasure evaluations when such evidence is vital to convince the public of the reliability of civil defence, as evidenced in the article by Dr Melissa Smith, Architects of Armageddon: the Home Office Scientific Advisers’ Branch and civil defence in Britain, 1945–68, British journal for the history of science, 2010, vol. 43 (2), pp. 149-180:

Abstract. In 1948, in response to the perceived threat of atomic war, the British government embarked on a new civil defence programme ... issuing apparently absurd pamphlets advising the public on how they could protect themselves from nuclear attack. Historians have thus far sought to explain this response with reference to high-level decisions taken by policymakers, and have tended to dismiss civil defence advice as mere propaganda. This paper challenges this interpretation by considering the little-known role of the Home Office Scientific Advisers’ Branch ... showing that detailed research programmes lay behind the much-mocked government civil defence pamphlets of the 1950s and 1960s.”

The title of her article is a pun on the 1983 Fred Kaplan book, “The Wizards of Armageddon,” which examined the public relations disasters of American scientists who studied nuclear weapons effects and civil defence, such as Herman Kahn (author the widely attacked civil defence report “On Thermonuclear War”) of the RAND Corporation and other strategists recruited by the Pentagon in the Kennedy Administration. Smith in her article cites the example of British Civil Defence Handbook No. 10, Advising the Householder on Protection against Nuclear Attack (edited in a hurry for publication in 1963, following the October 1962 Cuban Missiles Crisis), which was so stupidly edited as to give not the slightest clue that there was any scientific foundation at all for any of the absurd sounding advice it offered, and was completely unconvincing and incredible to the public and the media. Smith quotes Hartley-Brewer in the 27 December 1974 (p. 12) Guardian newspaper commenting that: “Thanks to the attention of David Frost and other megaton range satirists, the pamphlet was buried in scorn ... Following this public relations disaster, the Government has shown little inclination to upset an electorate which long ago learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.”

Smith then explains that the British Civil Defence advice was based on the Scientific Advisory Branch research, headed by Chief Scientific Adviser to the Home Office from 1948-54, physicist Sir Edward Paris (1889–1985), and later by his successors including physical chemist Dr Ronald Purcell (1904–69; Chief Scientific Adviser from 1954-62), and Dr Henry Sargeaunt (1907–97; Chief Scientific Adviser 1962–7). She notes that the Deputy Chief Scientific Officer for civil defence public sheltering against nuclear weapons effects from 1948–65 was the engineer Edward Leader-Williams (1909–74), who had been Professor Sir John Baker’s assistant during World War II in developing the highly successful indoor table shelter issued to 600,000 homes (the “Morrison shelter” named after the wartime Minister of Home Security Herbert Morrison who commissioned it after most people complained about the coldness, discomfort and ground water flooding of the 1939 “Anderson” outdoor shelters). Leader-Williams adapted the Morrison shelter idea for duck and cover protection against nuclear weapons effects: people could simply take shelter under a strong table piled with items to absorb the gamma radiation, so that considerable protection against all of the effects (including flying debris and possible collapse of the building) was provided. (Cresson Kearny later suggested simply covering the table with boxes containing plastic bags which could be filled with water to attenuate the radiation.) Other Scientific Advisory Branch scientists such as chemist Dr John McAuley and the physicists George R. Stanbury, and Frank H. Pavry worked out the radiation dose rates of the fallout which could be safely absorbed by these improvised “inner refuge” shelters in different kinds of houses and the shelter times required to avoid radiation sickness for each fallout contour (this table was published in the Manual of Civil Defence, Vol. 1, Pamphlet No. 2, Radioactive fallout: Provisional Scheme of Public Control, 1956), as well as summarizing American data on the effectiveness and speed of different types of fallout decontamination procedure (street sweepers, hosing roads and roofs, etc.); Stanbury and Pavry (who had surveyed the damage in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as part of the British Mission to Japan) went to Monte Bello, Australia, in 1952 to successfully expose WWII shelters to the first British nuclear weapon test, Hurricane. These stood up far better than expected, even when sandbags were used instead of packed earth (sandbags are more vulnerable to thermal radiation and blast displacement). Smith also notes:

“... the branch had considerable experience of Second World War civil defence planning: Leader-Williams, Stanbury and Pavry had all been wartime members of the Research and Experiments Department of the Ministry of Home Security, and Pavry had accompanied the British Mission to Japan in 1946. ... Many ... research programmes were carried out by the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) at Aldermaston. An AWRE report on civil defence research for the years 1952 and 1953, for example, reveals an extensive programme of tests at a Ministry of Defence testing range at Shoeburyness to determine the effects of blast on buildings and other structures. This included subjecting one-eightieth-scale models of various structures to the blast from a conventional explosion, to simulate the effect of a roughly Nagasaki-sized atomic bomb on full-size structures. The AWRE research programme for that year also investigated the effects of shock waves in tunnels, made a mathematical study of the effects of blast on tall chimneys, and calculated the dose of initial gamma radiation likely to be received by someone sheltering in a slit trench. [Reference: ‘Research relating to Civil Defence against Atomic Warfare: report for the period 30 June 1952 to 30 June 1953’, Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, 1953, U.K. National Archives document ES 1/89; this report reference number is evidently mis-quoted by Smith's article.] This cooperation with the AWRE continued after 1954, when the formation of the new UK Atomic Energy Authority took atomic weapons, and hence the AWRE, outside the civil service. Atomic trials were also an important way for the branch to gain information on the effects of nuclear weapons. ... starting in 1952 with Britain’s first atomic test, Hurricane. The branch sent a civil defence study team to Australia, led by Stanbury and also including Pavry, to oversee the branch’s experiments there ...

“To take just one example, in 1959 the branch organized a series of experiments with the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment at Porton Down to determine whether washing down building roofs with water could reduce the fallout dust which would settle there following an H-bomb explosion. [Reference: ‘File on Use of Water for Washdown Purposes’, Home Office Scientific Advisers Branch, 1957–61, U.K. National Archives document HO 338/82.] In 1963, Porton carried out further experiments to determine fallout distribution on roofs in windy conditions, using the fine grit emitted from the chimney of an electricity generating station in Wimbledon to simulate the fallout from a nuclear explosion, and measuring the level of ‘ fallout’ which remained on the power station roof compared to a sample in a shallow tray nearby. [Reference: ‘Report on fallout distribution experiments at Electricity Generating Station, Durnsford Road, Wimbledon, on 12 January 1963’, Porton Down Physics Research Division, 1963, U.K. National Archives document HO 338/75.]”

Smith explains that the Home Office Scientific Advisory Branch developed its own set of fact-based nuclear weapons effects predictions for estimating the effects of many different kinds of nuclear war involving nuclear weapons of yield varying from 20 kt to 10 Mt: ‘Fatal casualties likely to result from an air attack on UK cities with 20 atomic or hydrogen bombs of varying power’, May 1954, U.K. National Archives document HO 225/52; ‘Provisional estimates of the results of a hydrogen bomb explosion’, May 1954, U.K. National Archives document HO 225/55; ‘Seriously injured casualties likely to result from an attack on UK cities with 20 atomic or hydrogen bombs of varying power’, September 1954, U.K. National Archives document HO 225/58:

“The 1963 pamphlet Advising the Householder [ on Protection against Nuclear Attack] gave basic instructions to the public on how to build a fallout room in a typical house: ‘Put sandbags or earth-filled containers outside the windows. If you cannot do this, block the windows from inside with bookcases, chests of drawers or other large furniture packed tightly with earth, books or other heavy material.’ Despite the mockery which such advice often faced on the grounds of its apparent inadequacy against the destructive force of the hydrogen bomb, in fact years of research lay behind the fallout room advice. In 1955, the branch’s shelter specialist Leader-Williams was commissioned to produce a draft booklet explaining how to construct a refuge room in a typical house. [Reference: ‘Preliminary note on refuge rooms’, E. Leader-Williams, 21 May 1955, U.K. National Archives document HO 338/18.] Leader-Williams produced a paper outlining possible designs for refuge rooms in May 1955, and in August the branch tested these designs experimentally at a specially constructed brick bungalow – charmingly named ‘Rose Cottage’ – in the grounds of the Civil Defence School in Falfield, Gloucestershire. The Rose Cottage experiment used a radioactive point source, moved between different points on a grid pattern around the bungalow, to simulate a uniform radiation field from a layer of radioactive fallout on the ground outside. Measurements of the radiation dose were then taken from different positions inside the house, to simulate the dose from fallout which would be experienced by someone at various locations inside the house. ... The experiment tested the relative protection provided by different protective measures, including blocking one of the windows with sandbags and covering a Morrison shelter with a layer of sandbags ...

“Even after Advising the Householder had been published in 1963, the members of the branch continued their research. In 1964, they carried out an experiment to obtain more accurate quantitative data on the increase in fallout protection provided by constructing different designs of ‘core’ shelter, as recommended in the pamphlet. ... The branch reported that the experiments confirmed the value of the protective measures recommended in Advising the Householder, concluding that ‘protective factors could be doubled, tripled or quadrupled [assuming highly penetrating 1.25 MeV mean energy gamma rays from Co-60; unlike the more easily shielded 0.7 MeV typical gamma rays from fission products or the even softer gamma rays from Np-239 and U-237 which dominate the early fallout hazard from dirty thermonuclear weapons with U-238 jackets] by installation of a suitable core’. [Reference: ‘Experimental determination of protective factors in a semi-detached house with or without core shelters’, January 1964, U.K. National Archives document, TNA HO 225/117.]

By using Cresson H. Kearny’s 1984 modification, simple cardboard or other boxes lined with plastic bags then filled with water using a simple hose pipe or bucket, the improvised fallout shelter method could be extended even to buildings where dense furnishings or bags filled with earth were not available for shielding, particularly in view of the fact that most of the fallout gamma radiation dose from a thermonuclear weapon in the crucial sheltering period from arrival time to the first couple of weeks is not from fission products (mean 0.7 MeV gamma rays) but is from much easier to shield soft gamma rays emitted by Np-239 (56 hours half life) and U-237 (6.8 days half life), both produced by neutron capture in the U-238 pusher, which both have high cross-sections for high-energy neutrons, thus competing for 2-14 MeV neutrons with the U-238 fission process.

Above: the fallout gamma radiation in a dirty thermonuclear weapon with a U-238 jacket is of much lower energy in the first few weeks than the 1.25 MeV mean gamma rays from cobalt-60 which was used in studies to measure the protective factors of buildings and countermeasures against fallout. This makes the fallout much easier to shield. The second graph shows the attenuation of gamma radiation dosage from unfractionated fission products, not including the low energy effect of Np-239 and U-237. A detailed study of the effects of fractionation on the fission product gamma rays emitted by the fusion neutron induced fission of U-238 in a thermonuclear weapon was done by Dr Glenn R. Crocker, Radiation Properties of Fractionated Fallout; Predictions of Activities, Exposure Rates and Gamma Spectra for Selected Situations, U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory, USNRDL-TR-68-134, 27 June 1968, 287 pp. (key table of data linked here). Crocker's results show that - even for just fission product radiation (ignoring Np-239 and U-237 effects altogether) - the mean energy of the gamma rays from fractionated fission products in local fallout falls from about 0.71 MeV at 1 hour after burst to 0.44 MeV at 1 week after burst. Once the effect of Np-239 and U-237 is included, the gamma ray energy is so soft compared to the hard 1.25 MeV mean gammas from Co-60 used in radiation shielding experiments, that immensely greater protection factors can be achieved with emergency improvised protective measures!

Smith concludes her article:

“The aim of this study has been to put the Home Office Scientific Advisers’ Branch into the history of British civil defence. The role of this community of expert advisers in civil defence planning has thus far tended to be overlooked or ignored by those seeking to understand British civil defence, yet including them provides a much more nuanced picture of civil defence planning during the early Cold War. ... The implicit assumption by historians that scientific advisers were providing mere technical background to civil defence decisions has led to their important role in civil defence policy being ignored. Yet while ministers and top officials were arguing about the future of civil defence, the scientific advisers were helping define the terms on which nuclear war and civil defence would be understood. Far from being merely a group of boffins, there to be tapped by policymakers for technical data as required, the advisers played an active role in deciding how civil defence would be framed and how its problems would be solved. Policymakers and politicians took the final decisions about civil defence policy, but fundamental decisions taken by the Home Office scientists helped determine their range of options. Understanding these interactions is crucial in shedding light on the diverse ways in which science has been, and still is, used as a tool to shape policy.”

Dr Smith does not explain how the British WWII personnel casualty data for brick house collapse influenced American manuals such as the Confidential Pentagon manual of 1957 to 1960, Capabilities of Atomic Weapons, pages 6-2 and 6-4, associating 25% mortality, 20% serious injury and 10% light injury with severe damage (complete collapse) of 1-2 brick story houses in German high explosive bombing on Britain in WWII (unlike Hiroshima where people ignorantly stood behind windows in light wooden houses, or stood outdoors facing the explosion in order to watch the lone B-29 bomber dropping the bomb; these people experienced much higher mortality levels than are relevant today), and the more recent Secret - Restricted Data Pentagon manual EM-1, Capabilities of Nuclear Weapons of 1972-1981, where table 10-1 on p. 10-6 gives this British WWII data for survival in blast demolished brick houses.

The fact that this data on blast survival in demolished brick houses without shelters was included in Philip J. Dolan's secret classified data manual Capabilities of Nuclear Weapons but was excluded from the unclassified book he edited with Glasstone, Effects of Nuclear Weapons, had profound consequences for civil defence: American civil defence continued to predict exaggerated casualty rates using Japanese data and related nuclear test data for people exposed to flying glass and related debris hazards, unlike British civil defence. Because the data was kept secret, it was not possible to justify this "discrepancy", which was attacked by ignorant critics of U.K. civil defence in the 1980s, starting with the British Medical Association's 1983 report, Medical Effects of Nuclear War, leading to

What was the peak overpressure associated with 50% mortality in Hiroshima?

The 1979 U.S. Office of Technology Assessment report The Effects of Nuclear War on page 19 lied that in a "typical residence" people lying down have a 50% chance of being killed at 7 psi peak overpressure, while for people standing up in such a structure it is 3.5 psi, and then states that its calculations therefore assume: "a mean lethal overpressure of 5 to 6 psi for people in residences, meaning that more than half of those whose houses are blown down on top of them will nevertheless survive."

This lie is disproved by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where 35,099 case histories with locations of people and the effects before and after the explosion are known. In the study of 24,044 Hiroshima case histories by the Dirkwood Corporation showed that the 50% lethal peak overpressure was 12.0 psi for wood frame houses (the least protected buildings in the city), and up to 26.4 psi for some concrete buildings (see the table and graph below from L. W. Davis, William L. Baker, and Donald L. Summers, Analysis of Japanese Casualty Data, Dirkwood Corporation, report AD0653922). Because the firestorm took 2-3 hours to get going, people had time to extricate themselves and leave the city. One of the several significant defects of Glasstone and Dolan's Effects of Nuclear Weapons is ignorance of this study along with errors on thermal, blast and cratering effects, and ignoring the detailed fallout decontamination research by Dr Carl F. Miller in his 2-volume, 628 pages long Stanford Research Institute report, Fallout and Radiological Countermeasures. This is one reason why Glasstone and Dolan's Effects of Nuclear Weapons needs replacement, to educate the public with the full facts:

Contrary to the lies quoted above from the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment report The Effects of Nuclear War, in Nevada nuclear tests as well as in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no houses except those almost directly below the bomb (at ground zero) were ever "blown down on top" of people because the blast wave acts horizontally in the Mach wave stem region, which carries debris sideways instead of downwards. Debris only falls converting its own gravitational potential energy into kinetic energy, which is not a function of the size of the explosion. So it is a lie to claim that the blast wave blows buildings on top of people; the whole point of civil defence against falling debris is that the impact of debris is limited to the energy material can gain by falling under gravity. Furthermore, the winds in nuclear tests carry much of the roof and debris downrange from the structure, dumping a large mass in immediately behind a building, not on people inside the house. So the falling debris is distributed over a greater area in a blast situation than would occur if the house simply collapsed, so the load deposited per unit area is smaller and strong tables offer better protection against falling debris. (See the illustration of Nevada tests showing this effect in the earlier post linked here.)

Above: rapid equalization of shock pressure by openings in a building.

Above: unlike the simplistic treatment of an "idealized" solid block used for calculating air blast loading in the first discussion of the subject in Glasstone and Dolan's The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, modern city buildings have a relatively large area of glass, which allows the blast to enter and immediately equalize the pressure on (a) the outer walls and (b) the floors. This immediate pressure equalization while the blast wave passes through a modern building prevents it from being "blown down". There is then only a small drag loading on the structural columns of the frame. Glasstone and Dolan's first treatment of loading is only applicable for structures with less than about 5% exposed area coverage with windows (their second treatment of loading is for a building with 30% area openings; this is more realistic). The hazard then is not from a modern building being "blown down" by the blast, but from the flying glass, window frames, doors and other debris which are accelerated horizontally by the blast and then fall to the ground after the blast wave has passed by. "Duck and cover" is highly effective against such flying debris.

Furthermore, the Dirkwood report in Figure 29 gives the thermal flash burns mortality rate in Nagasaki (where there was no firestorm, unlike Hiroshima) for 11,055 case histories, correlating the body area (instantly estimated from the familiar medical "rule of nines") covered by a given type of burn (2nd degree = blistering, 3rd degree = charring) with resulting mortality. This is vitally important for assessing the effects of thermal radiation in a nuclear explosion situation where accompanying nuclear irradiation of bone marrow suppresses the WBC a month after exposure (while the burns wounds are healing), allowing fatal infections in many cases where either effect alone would not be fatal. (This is an example of "synergism", a situation where the combination of two effects together is greater than the simple sum of the effects of the individual components, if they are received separately.)

The result is 10% mortality for 20% of the body area burned (either 2nd or 3rd degree burns), with 50% mortality occurring for 37% body area subjected to 3rd degree burns or 53% body area subjected to 2nd degree burns. The shadowing effects of thermal flash in Hiroshima and Nagasaki proved that only direct radiation (not backscatter) caused burns, so the maximum body area exposed to direct thermal radiation for unclothed personnel was 50%. (However, in some cases, either people were exposed to greater areas due to fires, or there was the actual "flaming ignition" of dark clothing, followed by panic and sustained burning, instead of simply using good emergency training to extinguish the flames by rolling them out on the ground, before serious burning of skin can occur.)

Computer simulations also confirmed that high survival rate apply to modern city buildings for higher yield weapons, with longer blast wave durations than at Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

So how did the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment get away with such blatant lying about blast wave casualties in its 1979 report The effects of nuclear war?

The Dirkwood report, like Dr Miller's Fallout and Radiological Countermeasures, was sponsored by the Walmer E. Strope at the Pentagon's Office of Civil Defense, which during the 1960s was part of the U.S. Department of Defense. They "limited" the distribution of even the unclassified research reports to stop the civil defence data being received and used by the Soviet Union to prepare a first strike. This became a possibility in the 1970s, when Soviet missile power exceeded American, so that nuclear deterrence by America hinged crucially on the psychological belief that the retalitatory damage by the 1,000 Minutemen missiles, 54 Titan missiles, and the bomber and submarine delivered weapons would be unacceptable. Handing the Soviet Union an analysis of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which proved that the damage would be more survivable was therefore obviously unwise because it could increase the risk of the Soviet Union making a first-strike, so the detailed survival data was not included in the unclassified 1977 revised edition of Glasstone and Dolan's Effects of Nuclear Weapons, and was not used in the published 1979 Effects of Nuclear War study by the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, which instead included the lies already quoted. This deception of the public in order to reduce enemy threats was justified in the Cold War provided that the reduction in risk from a Soviet first-strike on balance exceeded the effect of better public understanding of nuclear weapons effects for civil defence preparedness in the event that deterrence failed or an enemy launched a missile by accident or in a small scale attack by rogue nations or other terrorist groups.

However, it is not justified now that the Cold War is over and the main nuclear threat is from proliferation to rogue states and related terrorist groups. Let's now examine where the lying "data" in the 1979 U.S. Office of Technology Assessment report The Effects of Nuclear War actually came from, since it is still being quoted all over the internet nuclear weapons "peace" propaganda pages today. First, as the quote we gace from page 19 of the report shows, it talks about a "typical residence" and then gives a picture of a house with brick veneer (a thin layer of brickwork on the outside of the wood or cinder blocks) that was exposed to 5 psi peak overpressure at the Teapot-Apple II Nevada nuclear test in 1955. Quite apart from falsely assuming that there is 50% mortality at 5-6 psi peak overpressure in contrast to figure of 12.0 psi from Hiroshima in the Dirkwood report, and falsely claiming that a horizontally-travelling Mach stem blast wave pushes a house vertically downwards, the report also lies by assuming taking such a house as "typical" then using the supposed casualty rate in such a house to apply to the very different buildings in cities like New York, where apartment blocks of steel and concrete are far more resistant.

Although the Twin Towers collapsed after being struck by aircraft in the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001, this was due to burning aviation fuel running down the steel frame, gradually heating it to high temperatures, where it softened, losing its structural strength, and collapsed. Because nuclear blast waves don't provide aviation fuel, this mechanism doesn't apply. Such steel and concrete buildings are very much stronger against blast than ordinary wood frame houses, but the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment report in 1979 did not even mention this. Instead it just gives a diagram (Fig. 1 on page 19) showing 5% killed at 2-5 psi peak overpressure, 50% killed at 5-12 psi, and 98% killed above 12 psi.

This abject lying is even in conflict with Dr Harold A. Knapp's 1965 data on gross casualties rates in Hiroshima (including thousands of people outdoors actually watching the B-29 drop its bomb in a direct radial line-of-sight to the explosion, while clearing fire-breaks or on the way to work or school at 8:15am) in his 1965 U.S. Institute of Defense Analysis, Weapons Systems Evaluation Group paper P-194, Magnitude and Distribution of Weapon Effects for the Design of Shelters for Protection Against Fallout, AD624370. Dr Knapp's analysis on page 11 found that the mortality for the overall population "began at an overpressure level of 3 psi ... at 5 psi there were 30 percent fatalities ... even at 16 psi, 15 percent evidently survived."

Dr Carl F. Miller's 1963 report Fallout and Radiological Countermeasures, Stanford Research Institute, vol. 2 (AD0410521) on pages 362-3 reported a more detailed breakdown: at 4-6 psi peak overpressure in Hiroshima and Nagasaki the mortality was 10-15% in wood frame buildings, 0-5% in concrete buildings, and 20-40% for the overall population (due mainly to syngerism of blast effects with thermal flash burns and nuclear radiation, because - as described in numerous eye-witness reports of the nuclear bombings, such as those interviewed in John Hersey's book Hiroshima - many people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki had actually stepped outside to watch the lone B-29 bomber drop the bomb, and then received face-on exposure to the full range of combined synergistic effects).

Dr Miller's report, although unclassified, was "limited" in distribution until 1969 when a largely unreadable (part 1 is the least readable and in many ways the most important part, which is even worse in the PDF transfer version, with many pages completely blurred) microfiche version was made available via the U.S. National Technical Information Service. An enthusiastic internal British review report of Dr Miller's Fallout and Radiological Countermeasures by the U.K. Home Office Scientific Advisory Branch in London (U.K. National Archives document HO 227/74) states Dr Miller's report was to be published as a book by Interscience publishers, but this never happened. It greatly helped to strengthen internal government civil defence preparations against nuclear attack, but it was never made widely available to directly inform the public. As a result, ignorance and lying propaganda still abound on the subject of nuclear weapons effects.

So where did the false U.S. Office of Technology Assessment 1979 blast overpressure mortality "data" come from?

The claim of 50% killed at 5-6 psi is falsified by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki data, and the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment report waffles and obfuscates in throwing such numbers around, without citing any sources, but the same blast casualty overpressure data was used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the 1970s and is displayed in its widely issued public-consumption publications like Protection in the Nuclear Age. Historically, the method of covering up the source of these blast casualty criteria began twenty years earlier, in June 1959, when the U.S. Federal Civil Defense Administration prepared casualty predictions for a hypothetical nuclear war mentioned in the Congressional Hearings that month before the Special Subcommittee on Radiation of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, The Biological and Environmental Effects of Nuclear War. Although Dr White testified at length in those hearings on the prediction of the individual mechanisms of blast injury which was later summarised in a revised edition of The Effects of Nuclear Weapons (direct overpressure effects, bodily displacement, building collapse, flying glass and flying debris), he did not present an integrated summary of use for predicting the overall mortality from blast for people in a city.

Therefore, despite 954 pages of technical testimony on the "effects of nuclear war" in those June 1959 hearings, the actual data used for predicting casualties was never examined, being relegated to footnote number 3 on page 857 which simply states the following secret-classified reference: "Vulnerability Functions for Civil Defense Damage Assessment Program. Prepared for Federal Civil Defense Administration by Stanford Research Institute, April 1956, pp. 5, 7, 16-20. Secret."

Above: Home Office "Exercise Arc" 1959 blast effects for people in brick houses from surface burst V1 or V2 warheads equivalent to 1.2 tons of TNT blast yield (i.e. 2.4 tons nuclear weapon equivalence, with 50% blast yield). For higher yields, the distances scale up by the cube-root of the yield. (For a 10 Mt nuclear bomb surface burst with 50% or 5 Mt blast, the 100 metres point becomes 10 miles. See 1959 U.K. National Archives document HO 228/23.) However, the duration of the blast also increases with increasing yield which has a significant effect above about 10 kt, increasing casualty rates. Exercise Arc data (graph above) indicated that WWII bombing on people who had taken cover in brick houses caused no fatalities, trapped persons, or serious injuries at peak overpressures at up to 1.5 psi (where there was just roof damage, windows broken and doors blown in), and only 5% of people were seriously injured in brick houses exposed to 3.5 psi. At 5 psi, nobody was killed but 10% were trapped (the percentage trapped was a maximum of about 39% at 12 psi). Fatalities began at 5 psi and reached 50% at 20 psi where 33% of people were trapped. (These data were published in the U.K. Home Office Nuclear Weapon Effects Computers Numbers 1 and 2.) In the 1980s the Home Office investigated the effects of the long blast duration on people lying prone in houses with 9 inch brick walls for high yield nuclear weapons and found that the peak overpressure for 50% killed was 7.2 psi for a 10 Mt surface burst, increasing to nearly 10 psi for 100 kt. At lower bomb yields, the blast duration is shorter for a given peak overpressure, so higher pressures are required for the same effect, reaching about 20 psi for 1 ton of TNT. (This data was included in the Nuclear Weapons Effects Computer No. 3, issued by the U.K. Home Office in 1988.)

Above: the British Medical Association in its 1983 report The Medical Effects of Nuclear War applied the 1959 Home Office "Exercise Arc" World War II blast effects data to Hiroshima (using the Hiroshima data and peak overpressures given in Glasstone and Dolan, 1977) as demonstrated above, and pointed out that it gave lower casualty predictions than the average overall casualty rates for Hiroshima determined by Grasstone and Dolan's cited source on Hiroshima and Nagasaki casualty rates, Oughterson and Warren (Medical Effects of the Atomic Bomb in Japan, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1956, p. 30), Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Eisei Ishikawa and D. L. Swain, Translators, Committee for the Compilation of Materials on Damage Caused by the Atomic Bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Physical, Medical and Social Effects of the Atomic Bombings, Hutchinson, London, 1981, p. 113), and the British Mission to Japan (The Effects of the Atomic Bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, H.M. Stationery Office, London, 1946, p. 21). However, the British Medical Association ignored the fact that the blast effects curve does not include the synergistic effects of initial nuclear radiation and thermal radiation burns casualties which occurred in Hiroshima because many people were outdoors watching the bomb fall. The blast effects curve for brick houses is not relevant to the wooden houses of Hiroshima either. Page 59 of the British Medical Association's report states:

"The standard authority on blast and indeed most other effects of nuclear weapons is Glasstone and Dolan (eds) [The Effects of Nuclear Weapons] (1977), which was prepared for the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy. Most work on the estimation of casualties is hypothetical patterns of attack relies on this source for basic weapons effects data."

However, Glasstone and Dolan do not provide composite casualty predictions for different kinds of building and distributions of people in buildings or outdoors. The British Medical Association on page 46 quotes the late Professor Joseph Rotblat's ("Captain Pugwash") false claim in his ill-informed 1981 book (which contains an error in the basic equation for specific radioactivity), Nuclear Radiation in Warfare: "... even in the only incidence in which nuclear weapons were employed against a population, an event which was subsequently investigated very thoroughly, large uncertainties remain about the absolute numbers of casualties...".

In fact, as Rotblat naturally fails to mention, the absolute numbers of fatalities in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was covered-up the Japanese because it included an immense number of Korean slave workers and prisoners of war in contravention of the Geneva Convention. This nearly doubled the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and therefore almost doubled the total casualties over those given by Oughterson and Warren in 1956, as is evident when comparing those data to Ishikawa and Swain's compilation in 1981 for casualties up to the end of October 1945 (the additional cancer deaths above the natural cancer rate since 1945 are trivial statistically): the 1956 data show 68,000 killed in Hiroshima and 38,000 in Nagasaki, while the 1981 data show 130,000 killed in Hiroshima and 65,000 in Nagasaki. Traditionally, the media and Japanese public relations experts obfuscate and aid the anti-nuclear lobby in falsely presenting the difference as being due to long-term cancer deaths. In 1996, half a century after the nuclear detonations, data on cancers from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors was published by D. A. Pierce et al. of the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, RERF (Radiation Research vol. 146 pp. 1-27; Science vol. 272, pp. 632-3), for 86,572 survivors, of whom 60% had received bomb doses of over 5 mSv (500 millirem), suffering 4,741 fatal cancers of which only 420 were above the natural cancer rate and therefore due to bomb radiation (hence the mortality figure is 0.485% of survivors killed by delated effects of radiation), consisting of 85 leukemias and 335 solid cancers.

Therefore, by proportion, out of the 350,000 population for Hiroshima and 270,000 population for Nagasaki disclosed in Ishikawa and Swain's Japanese data compilation in 1981, 130,000 were killed by direct effects in Hiroshima and 220,000 survived the direct effects, of whom about 1,067 were killed by delayed cancer over the following four decades, and in Nagasaki the 65,000 direct fatalities left 205,000 survivors of whom about 994 were killed by delayed cancer over the following four decades.

No politically inexpedient effort is made to clarify the basis for these numbers by the American government. However, this "absolute" number of casualties is irrelevant to the accurate determination of the percentage of casualties in any given building, which was simply determined by questioning survivors. The reason why the Hiroshima bomb caused nearly twice the casualties is simply because the population density is more important than the weapon yield in determining casualties. The casualty rate is directly proportional to the population density, but only proportional to the two-thirds power of the explosion's energy yield.

As early as 1950, the U.K. Home Office was well aware of the lying propaganda exaggerating the effects of nuclear weapons and attacking civil defence countermeasures for communist appeasement:

Above: the 1950 U.K. Home Office Scientific Adviser's Branch report The Number of Atomic Bombs Equivalent to the Last War Air Attacks on Great Britain and Germany, CD/SA 16 (National Archives document reference HO 225/16) was written by the scientists of the British Mission to Japan who in 1945 surveyed the damage in Hiroshima and Nagasaki from nuclear weapons and compared that damage to what they had surveyed from conventional bombing in England during World War II. It was Top Secret until 1958, and then only degraded to Restricted (for another 22 years). It was never published, but formed the backdrop to British civil defence planning. It found that due to the non-linear scaling of blast damage areas and casualties from bombs, the effects are not directly proportional to the energy of the explosives (casualties and areas scale as the two-thirds power of blast energy): it estimated that the 60,670 civilians killed by bombing England in World War II was equivalent to the effects from 52 nuclear bombs, while the damage to Germany was equivalent to 330. The few megatons of TNT equivalent dropped in World War II in the form of many small bombs was equivalent to a far greater amount of explosive equivalent in the form of a few hundred nuclear weapons. It notes:

"This figure for the weight of high explosive equivalent to the atomic bomb for causing casualties increases as the amount of protection of the population increases. Thus for the night raiding conditions on London in the last war, where something like 60% of the population were in houses, 35% in shelter and 5% in the open [Home Guard, air raid wardens, fire watchers, police, etc.], the number killed in inner London per ton of bombs was 4."

Cover-up of the Hiroshima firestorm mechanism by suppression of the 1947 secret six volumes U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey report, which gives statistical evidence on the cause of the fire ignitions, contradicting the deceptions in the 1946 unclassified single volume U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey report on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and The Effects of Nuclear Weapons

“The report summarizes the results of a detailed data reduction and casualty study made on over 35,000 persons who were subjected to the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. Both graphical and tabular presentations are made of pertinent data to show that an excellent base exists for more reliable conclusions of a wider variety than have heretofore been available. Total mortality and total injury curves are given as well as injury curves by type (blast, thermal, and initial nuclear) for thirteen shielding categories ...” - L. Wayne Davis, William L. Baker and Donald L. Summers, Analysis of Japanese Nuclear Casualty Data, Dirkwood Corporation Albuquerque DC-FR-1045 (1966), Abstract.

As we have explained before, the American Government has never published the originally secret 1947 six volumes of its Strategic Bombing Surveys of the nuclear bombed cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The report on Hiroshima includes surveys of survivors (50% of people on the ground floors of concrete buildings at 0.12 mile, and a similar proportion of people outside and standing facing the aircraft at 1.3 mile range) which prove that the source of the firestorm wasn't thermal radiation (which only started a few fires in black coloured air raid “black-out curtains”, used to screen home lights from being seen by bombers above the cities), but the blast wave overturning thousands of paper screens and charcoal cooking braziers in wood frame dwelling homes.

Did Samuel Glasstone, Philip J. Dolan, and Harold L. Brode (the main compilers of the official American publications on nuclear weapons effects and capabilities, all of whom had security clearance) know this? Why didn’t they include this fact, which has massive implications not just for firestorms but also for “nuclear winter” (scare stories of climatic effects which were circulated by the friends of the Soviet Union in 1980s against President Reagan’s civil defense policies), which rely on thermal ignition over wide areas to cause fires?

There has always been a “have your cake and eat it” approach to Hiroshima data by the anti-civil defense pro-terrorism lobby, which includes big name “physicists” who have political peace agendas similar to the 1930s peace agenda of Prime Minister Chamberlain towards Hitler (the myth that loving the dictator is a “more peaceful” policy than standing up to the dictator, which just convinces the dictator that you're unprepared to defend yourself and thus are offering yourself as a carpet to be trampled over). The situation is much as it was in 1954, when popular nuclear weapons lying propaganda designed to promote unilateral disarmament and surrender of Europe to communists led to an ill-informed belief that civil defence was no use, as the following quotation shows.

Fred N. Severud and Anthony F. Merrill, The Bomb, Survival, and You: Protection for People, Buildings, Equipment, Reinhold Publishing Corp., New York, 1954 (256 pp), pages 12, 29, 68, 69, 70, 88, 89, 90:

“This book was written in the face of a general apathy toward civil defense. We think that apathy is attributable to one of two things: either people are too overwhelmed by the size of the bomb to feel capable of coping with it, or they have been so frightened by it, subconsciously, that they are afraid to look civil defense and its implications full in the eye. ...

“Make what you will of our technical suggestions, but come away from this book understanding the real threat and the real effect potentialities of atomic warfare, not the stuff that is so luridly treated in the popularizations which have been frightening the public for the last eight years. We want the reader to be able, calmly and coolly, to appraise the atomic explosion just as he would any other abnormal structural loading.

“... it is only recently that the two three-volume reports of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been removed from the ‘Secret’ classification. These two reports, prepared by the Survey’s physical damage division, contain so much of interest to the structural specialist that we feel that even at this late date they are invaluable reference works. Unfortunately, publication of these originally ‘Secret’ documents in 1947 was limited to only a few hundred issues. They are so rare that they will never be available to the average engineer unless he has access to one of the very few archives which have these reports on file. To the ordinary technician these declassified reports will remain, to all intents and purposes, ‘Secret.’ ...

“We only wish we could present a thorough digest of the reports – 2,100 pages of text, charts, plans and excellent photographs of structural details. ...

“The morning of August 6, 1945, was a fine clear one in Hiroshima, a major Japanese city lying flat around the many-fingered Osa River delta. In the early hours there had been an air-raid alert, but by 7:30 the all-clear had sounded and the three B-29’s boring high over the city some 45 minutes later gave no one cause for alarm. They were assumed to be en route to some other destination. But at 8:15 one of them dropped an atomic bomb. ...

“Three days later, August 9, found a fine clear midsummer day bright over Nagasaki, a large industrial city whose topography differs considerably from Hiroshima in that the city lies principally along two river valleys which are separated from each other by a relatively high ridge. Early in the morning there had been an air raid alert which had been cancelled by 8:30. No all-clear was given, but less than 400 persons chose to remain in the tunnel shelters, which could accommodate 70,000. At 11:00 a.m. one of the two B-29’s dropped an atomic bomb over one of the city’s main valleys. ... no actual fire storm resulted and the irregular terrain provided shielding for many areas ...

Chapter V. Fire. Among the ashes and ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the physical damage teams of the Strategic Bombing Survey found ample evidence upon which to predicate a whole set of fire protection fundamentals for urban areas vulnerable to atomic attack. Hiroshima, especially, provided what the Survey described as: ‘an excellent test target for the atomic bomb from a fire standpoint.’

“Everything about Hiroshima on August 6 seemed to contribute to the ideal conditions under which the fires caused by the bomb were able to develop … Here, on a flat plain, a densely built-up area of extremely combustible buildings … For three weeks there had been no rain. When the bomb went off, the blast damage immobilized most of the meagre fire department ...

How the fires started. A popular misconception is that the heat flash from the bomb did the trick, and this has led to the fanciful and blood-curdling illustrations of whole American cities wrapped in flame before the characteristic mushroom of the atomic blast has even begun to dissipate. This thriller approach is neither realistic nor intelligent. ...

“... In Hiroshima, the majority of fires were started by the secondary effect of the blast which collapsed upon city charcoal fires in dwellings and restaurants, caused short circuits, and brought down flammable debris upon fires already being used ...

“The Survey team questioned over a thousand persons in Hiroshima on how fires started. No more than a handful could point definitely to heat flash as a cause. One group of witnesses said that black cotton [air-raid “black-out”] curtains burst into flame at 3,200 feet from air zero (about 2,000 feet from ground zero). ... In another instance a piece of rice paper caught fire on a desk but failed to ignite heavier paper under it.”


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