Glasstone's errors in The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, and the strategic implication for deterrence. Realistic effects and credible nuclear weapon capabilities for deterring or stopping aggressive invasions and attacks which could escalate into major conventional or nuclear wars.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dr Harold L. Brode’s new book, Nuclear Weapons in the Cold War

‘Why is it that many of those who mourn for the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki seldom exhibit the same compassion for victims of the fire raids on the other 63 Japanese cities and the many others who suffered from massive bombing in Europe and elsewhere during World War II?  The same level of grieving does not seem to be extended to those many citizens destroyed by the vast number of conventional high explosive and incendiary bombs.  Why is it an often-ignored fact that, in both Germany and Japan, vastly more people were killed or injured by non-nuclear means? ... What of the more than 100,000 ... lost in that firebombing raid on Tokyo, that took place five months before the atomic bombings?  What about the horrible losses of life in Hamburg, Deseden, Kassel, or Darmstadt in Germany, or in Coventry or London in England, all due to conventional, not nuclear, bombing? ... The Holocaust carried out by Hitler’s Germany did not use nuclear weapons to kill millions.  Nor did Stalin’s Soviet Union use atomic bombs to destroy another 20 million lives.  And even today, millions continue to suffer at the hands of other despots, none of whom need to, or have chosen to, resort to nuclear weaponry.. ... Rather, should we not focus on ways to avoid the misery, greed and perceived needs that propel nations (or radical groups, or even individuals) to commit acts of violence or to wage war - regardless of the particular tools they use for destruction?’

– Dr Harold Brode, Nuclear Weapons in the Cold War, pages 346-347.

‘During the critical period 8-15 February [1968], the U.S. command realized [conventional] bombing was not sufficiently effective. ... The air campaign dropped over 110,000 tons of bombs and napalm on the area around Khe Sanh during the 77-day siege ... the most heavily bombed target in the history of conventional warfare.’

– report DSWA-TR-97-25 quoted by Dr Harold Brode, Nuclear Weapons in the Cold War, page 287.

Despite the most extensive use of napalm, Agent Orange and high explosives in the history of warfare in Vietnam, America lost.  Conventional weapons proved insufficient for a clean victory against crazy fanatics.

‘After World War II ended, the western allies rapidly demobilized and disbanded their wartime forces [unlike the USSR].’ – Dr Harold Brode on the reason behind the American nuclear deterrent, Nuclear Weapons in the Cold War, page 263.

‘General Westmoreland [head of the U.S. Army in Vietnam and former commander of West Point military Academy] had earlier [before 1968] recommended that tactical nuclear weapons be deployed to South Vietnam in preparation for the defense of Khe Sanh [a U.S. Marine base in the demilitarized zone between north and south Vietnam, which in January 1968 came under seige from the communist Vietcong, a siege lasting 77 days and resulting the use of over 60 kilotons of napalm and over 50 kilotons of conventional explosives]. ... by 9 February 1968, the situation had become so critical that the use of nuclear weapons to save Khe Sanh was being seriously considered.  However, a decision was eventually made by the administration that no nuclear weapons were to be deployed. ... President Johnson’s advisors, including McNamara, told him that we could not win the war in Vietnam, and that invading North Vietnam, or using nuclear weapons, ran the risk of drawing the Chinese - and perhaps even the Soviets - into more active participation. ... In the end, Khe Sanh was successfully defended without nuclear weapons, and the North Vietnamese Army withdrew. ... Such careful tit-for-tat tactics resulted most often in plans for only minimal responses, and led to the repeated objection of possible employment of nuclear weapons. ... Public support for use of nuclear weapons seems to be restricted to responses to any nuclear attack on the U.S.’

– Dr Harold Brode, Nuclear Weapons in the Cold War, pages 287-8.

The tragedy here is that conventional weapons were more expensive and less demoralizing and thus ultimately failed in Vietnam, leaving the country devastated with tremendous effects on American deterrence.  Some indication of the relative importance given to tactical nuclear weapons for deterrence of invasions by military aggressors, rather than strategic nuclear weapons to threaten innocent civilian cities, is given by the average yields of nations in Brode's Table 11-1: Pakistan's nuclear weapons have an average yield of only 68 kt, Russia's are 106 kt, America's are 131 kt, France's are 134 kt, Israel's are 141 kt, Britain's are 234 kt, India's are a substantial 448 kt, and China's are a whopping 1.365 megatons. At least for American and British nuclear weapons, the higher average yields are misleading; individual weapons have flexible yields since the insertion of boost gas into the weapon core can be omitted from the arming sequence to prevent ignition of the secondary stage and thus to lower the yield of a strategic weapon to a small tactical weapon.  (In some weapons, the precise time delay between the detonation of the explosive implosion system and the firing of the neutron initiator is variable, altering the fission primary stage yield to give even more control.)

According to Brode's Table 15-3, the number of tactical nuclear weapons (nuclear cannon shells, Davy Crockett Army bazookas, depth charges, torpedoes, and ADMs) in America's stockpile peaked at 22,723 in 1964, when America had 8,028 strategic weapons (warheads in ICBMs, SLBMs, and bomber aircraft).  The total number of American tactical and strategic nuclear bombs and warheads is shown to peak in 1966 at 31,700 (11,232 strategic warheads and bombs, and 20,468 tactical weapons).  Finally, the peak number of American strategic nuclear weapons peaked in 1975, at 15,748, when America also had 11,305 tactical nuclear weapons, a total of 27,052 American nuclear weapons.  The number of American SLBMs peaked at 6,720 in 1978, while the number of American ICBM warheads finally peaked at 2,593 in 1988.

Dr Harold L. Brode, Nuclear Weapons in the Cold War, Montgomery Publishing, 2014, 544 pages
After the unpleasantness of the previous post about the EU policy to allow war refugees no protection or adequate search and rescue so that thousands drown, here's some good news, our review of Dr Harold L. Brode, Nuclear Weapons in the Cold War, Montgomery Publishing, 2014, 544 pages:

“In the 1950s, at the RAND Corporation, Leon Goure, a political scientist who was born in Russia and was particularly familiar with the USSR, proposed an idea his professional peers considered ridiculous.  He pointed out that the Soviet Union was actually a union of many disparate peoples and made up of numerous distinct ethnic groups.  In his mind, it was conceivable that this union would quickly fail if the iron fist of Stalin was ever relaxed.” 
– Dr Harold L. Brode, Nuclear Weapons in Cold War, page 16.
As editor of the 1992 Capabilities of Nuclear Weapons, Dr Brode uses and cites many of his and his associates generally unavailable technical reports, for example Nuclear weapons effects relevant to surface ships (by H. L. Brode, Richard D. Small and L. Schlessinger, Pacific-Sierra Research Corporation, PSR Note 477, DNA-TR-81-237), Nuclear Radiation Influences on Military Effectiveness, PSR Report 1317, June 1982 AD-B089109, Brode's RAND Corporation report RM-1831 on Sam Cohen's early neutron bomb high altitude burst concept, and repeatedly quotes from Nuclear Weapons that went to War (W. C. Yengst, S. J. Lukasik, and M. A. Jensen, SAID report DSWA-TR-97-25, September 1998).

“At Los Alamos during World War II, there was no moral issue with respect to working on the atomic bomb. Everyone was agreed on the necessity of stopping Hitler and the Japanese from destroying the free world.  It was not an academic question; our friends and relatives were being killed and we, ourselves, were desperately afraid.”

- Joseph Otto Hirshfelder (editor with Glasstone of the 1950 Effects of Atomic Weapons), quoted by Brode, Nuclear Weapons in Cold War, page 348

The key problem for the anti-nuclear or disarmament agenda lobby is that, as Dr Brode explains on page 263:  “After World War II ended, the Western allies rapidly demobilized and disbanded their wartime forces.  As a consequence, the Soviet’s conventional forces soon vastly outnumbered and outgunned those of the U.S. and its European allies.”  Truman tried to deter Soviet expansion across Europe by the threat of nuclear weapons, but it partly failed until the standoff of the Berlin Airlift, because spies had told Stalin that America did not have the means at that time to build up an immense stockpile of nuclear weapons.  Then Russia tested a nuclear weapon in 1949 and Truman authorized hydrogen bomb research in response.

The point is that nuclear weapons stockpiles are tailored to suit objectives which would simply need a larger stockpile of conventional weapons. The idea that a nuclear weapon is immensely more destructive than conventional weapons is debunked by the fact that, if our nuclear stockpile were more than adequate, we could easily cut the yields and numbers of weapons.  Suppose that a single 1 kiloton bomb hidden aboard a Trident submarine was all we need.  Well, why do we have anything more?  The controversy of disarmament stems entirely from ignorance of the effects of nuclear weapons, and thus their deterrent capabilities.  The smaller the stockpile we have, the greater the risk of an enemy being undeterred by it.  Dr Brode begins by discussing the paradox that ever since Hiroshima, a vast number of apparent geniuses predicted that the Cold War would certainly end with a bang and not a whimper, at least unless we disarmed or at least accommodate the expansionist needs of Joe Stalin!  Violet Bonham-Carter, daughter of the Liberal British Prime Minister who declared war against Germany in 1914, in a speech on 20 October 1938 attacked a populist war terror-mongering appeasement dogma as being “peace at any price.”

Harold L. Brode, author of Nuclear Weapons in the Cold War and editor of the classified 1992 edition of effects manual EM1, “Capabilities of Nuclear Weapons”

Hal Brode, RAND Corporation’s legendary nuclear effects expert and editor of the 1992 edition of effects manual EM1, “Capabilities of Nuclear Weapons”, has cut no corners and omitted no gripping controversy in the entire field of nuclear weapons and cold warfare.  Topics covered, in entertaining style and great depth of research, span from nuclear bomb effects during tests and combat use in Japan, to the failure of deterrence in the different wars since 1945, and from nuclear accidents and beneficial effects of low dose rate radiation. He discloses new facts about secret research at RAND Corporation by people like neutron bomb inventor Sam Cohen.

The illustration of the French nuclear test Licorne on the front cover is appropriate, since Dr Brode deals with nuclear weapons and accidents by all countries, not just the USA.  The book includes 19 pages of references, including this blog, which is quoted on pages 242-5. In a nutshell, Brode has produced a more logical, better organized, better researched textbook on nuclear weapons and cold war history than the populist, “politically correct” books by Richard Rhodes and renowned academic historians.  There are some interesting technical points, for example it is well known that the 15 megaton Bravo nuclear test was connected to an island 1.4 miles away by 12 vacuum tubes, and that these tubes carried about 1 kt of explosive energy from the explosion, as discovered from the filmed sequence below by the neutron time of arrival experiment officer, Sterling Colgate, in his discussion (Los Alamos Science issue 28, 2003, page 39):

Brode explains in Nuclear Weapons in the Cold War that the secondary 1 kt explosion of the 12 vacuum pipes combined with the strong updraft from main 15 megaton explosion to throw out the concrete foundations of the pipelines with such force that they produced secondary craters when they fell back.  (The 15 megaton explosion about 2.25 km from Station 1200 caused a peak overpressure of 130 psi; by the cube-root scaling law 15 megatons produces the same pressure at 25 times the distance for 1 kt, so you get a similar 130 psi peak overpressure at 90 m from 1 kiloton and at 2.25 km from 15 megatons.)

Dr Brode explains on pages 27-8 that his first involvement with the arms industry was as a sheet metal machinist with North American Aviation at Mines Field in Los Angeles in 1941, assembling the B-25 bombers used in the very first American air strike on Tokyo, Japan, April 18, 1942.  Brode explains on page 30 that 250,000 Chinese civilians were “assassinated” by Japan in retaliation for that air raid.  He remembers the announcement that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941 (page 28):

“I was listening to the Sunday morning radio broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in my parent’s living room when the broadcast was interrupted with the news of that attack. At the time, I had been working nights, building bombers and fighters at North American Aviation and was attending junior college during the day.  The next day, Monday, the United States declared war on Japan.  Then four days later, Germany declared war on the United States.”

Brode spent the year 1943-4 at the University of Minnesota cramming two years of maths and physics into one, before serving in the US Army Air Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant.  On page 44 he lists the 52 million casualties of World War II by country, dividing the mortality into civilian and military deaths.  Poland, the country whose invasion triggered off Britain’s declaration of war on Germany, lost 17.2% of its population, many in concentration camps, with only 2% of the fatalities being military deaths.  The USSR lost 20.6 million, 10.4% of its population, half of which were civilians.  Germany lost 6.85 million or 9.5% of its population, with again about half of the deaths civilian.  By using nuclear weapons, America kept its casualties to half a million, 0.4% of the population, all military personnel.

He quotes Nagasaki nuclear bomber pilot Major General Charles W. Sweeny’s testimony (page 45):

“Today, millions of people in America and Japan are alive because we ended the war when we did. This is not to celebrate the use of atomic weapons.  Quite the contrary.  It is my fervent hope that my mission is the last such mission ever flown.  But that does not mean that back in 1945, given the events of war and the recalcitrance of the enemy, President Truman was not obliged to use all the weapons at his disposal to end the war.”

Harold Brode thanks Hiroshima and Nagasaki and resulting rapid surrender (the offensive war was by then over for Japan regardless of the nuclear air bursts, but a massive defensive war in the home islands of Japan was still on the cards for Prime Minister Hideki Tojo) for maybe sparing his life as a 22-year-old scheduled for the second D-Day of World War II, planned for 1 November 1945 (pages 84-5):

“Invasion of the Japanese home islands … had been estimated to lead to the probable deaths of between 400,000 and one million U.S. soldiers and sailors. In addition, as many as half a million British troops would have been at risk … 800,000 Japanese defenders and civilians were expected to be casualties. I personally have always been grateful that the war in the Pacific was brought to a conclusion when it was.  At the time that the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, I was … a 22-year-old second lieutenant in the Army Air Forces … in charge of a small detachment of 18-year-old draftees who were destined (but ill-prepared and totally inexperienced) to join the invasion … We were scheduled to land on D-day-plus-one and immediately scatter into the interior of that likely hostile country ... Those two nuclear weapons destroyed many lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki – but, by ending the war, they saved a great many others … possibly including my own.”
Prime Minister Hideki Tojo who planned the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 that started the war was, as Brode explains at page 340, fiercely opposed to surrender even after two nuclear weapons had burned down many of the wooden houses of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and killed about a quarter of their populations.

As Glasstone and Dolan tabulate, however, for people exposed without any protection in Hiroshima the 50% lethal radius was about 1.3 miles, compared to just 0.12 mile for people protected by modern style concrete buildings.  Therefore, modern city buildings reduced the area for 50% killed by a factor of almost 120, so the Hiroshima firestorm, which took 2-3 hours to reach its peak intensity according to Glasstone and Dolan, clearly did not kill everyone over a large area irrespective of the kind of building they were in.  Brode on page 426 cites inaccurate unclassified summary U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey reports on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, apparently published with deliberate omissions of vital data in an effort to coerce Stalin with nuclear fear-based deterrence.  The secret (now declassified) full version of the report contains the detailed truth about the firestorm origin in Hiroshima being due to blast-overturned charcoal braziers in wooden houses, showing that even black colored curtains rarely caught fire due to the thermal flash even near ground zero, and survivors were easily able to extinguish the fires in a modern concrete Bank of Japan building near ground zero in Hiroshima using buckets of water.  These vital civil defense findings on fire in Hiroshima by the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey investigation in Hiroshima were omitted from the brief propaganda report Truman published, and are only included in the full three volume secret Pacific Theatre USSBS report number 92.  Secrecy has thus led to tragic disinformation campaigns.

After a detailed review of German nuclear weapons research, Brode details the science of implosion type nuclear weapons during the American Manhattan Project of World War II.  Gun type assembly (used at Hiroshima) was not feasible for the heavy plutonium isotope 239 contaminated by isotope Pu-240 which has a high spontaneous fission rate because (page 69):

“To get the plutonium to a super-critical state before it blew itself apart required a critical mass assembly at speeds of more than 6 miles/sec (~ 31,700 ft/sec) – much faster than simple howitzer devices could have managed.”

He adds that John von Neumann’s Mach wave reflection theory (pages 70-1):

“… convinced his fellow scientists at Los Alamos that the blast from a nuclear burst would be greatly enhanced if its shock wave were to reflect off the ground from a burst height high above the target … the four radars in each weapon were wired in pairs, so either one pair of the other could trigger the weapon when both radars in one pair or the other agreed that the right altitude had been reached, so they would not detonate prematurely.  In addition … a barometric fuse, set to go off at a somewhat lower altitude, was included as a further backup.” (The detail about the radar fuses comes because his uncle, Robert B. Brode, was on the Manhattan Project and developed the bomb’s radar fuse systems.)

John von Neumann’s second contribution, after selecting the air burst altitude, was to apply mathematics to Seth Neddermeyer’s implosion theory for the Trinity and Nagasaki weapons (pages 71-2):

“In fact, von Neumann and Robert Richtmyer invented (and later published) a numerical scheme that proved essential to many such subsequent calculations, and has been in wide use at weapons laboratories and elsewhere ever since.  Subsequently, in doing my own calculations of both nuclear and high explosive blast waves, I employed von Neumann’s and Richtmyer’s ingenious ‘artificial viscosity’ scheme.  Their technique allowed computer programs to numerically integrate right through shock wave discontinuities, and still accurately represented the physics and hydrodynamics of explosive phenomena.”

Brode points out that the Neumann-Richtymer technique for computing implosion system behavior (with smothing over discontinuities by the use of artificial viscosity) was published openly by Pergamon Press of New York under the heading “The point source solution” in volume 6 of a compilation of von Neumann’s works edited by A. J. Taub in 1963.  So much for the secrecy of  computer models of implosion bomb physics.  Anyone can numerically integrate the Neumann-Richtymer equations for any implosion system in Fortran on any modern computer!

The major British contribution to the Manhattan Project was James Tuck’s argument in April 1944 to use high explosive “lenses” to focus point source detonation waves by modifying the speed of the detonation wave by the use of shaped charges of fast and slow-burning explosive.  The effect is exactly the same as the way light is refracted by the effect of a shaped lens of glass slowing down light relative to its speed through the air. (Being denser, glass has a higher electron charge density than air, thus “loading” the photons passing through glass with more electromagnetic field interactions, which slows down light.)  Explosive lenses reduce the number of detonators needed for implosion and make the compression of the core more uniform (page 82): “… X-ray images showed successful compressions of the heavy metal cores without any of the devastating jetting that had been feared and was so important to avoid.”


Dr Brode begins this with a review of the Russian spying in the Manhattan Project.  He explains that, apart from the well-known spies like Alan Nunn May, Klaus Fuchs, David Greenglass, and the Rosenbergs, who sold the principles of bomb design, others like George Koval – finally recognised by Putin in 2002 for stealing American secrets – gave Stalin the vital U235 gaseous diffusion barrier design used at Oak Ridge (pages 92-3):

“In recent times, Russian President Putin awarded posthumously the highest Russian award to George Koval … Koval was born in Iowa in 1913 … his parents emigrated to a Siberian establishment … he was then trained by the GRU for his role as a spy.  And he returned to the US in 1940.  As an American citizen, with no trace of a foreign accent, he was subsequently drafted … Koval was sent back to school at the City College of New York in the Army Specialized Training Program … Later … assigned … to support the Manhattan Project.  While in that assignment, he also learned details of the Oak Ridge operations … Koval continued to spy in the US from 1940 to 1948 … Only years later did his spying activity become known in the United States.”

Dr Brode points out on page 119 that 63% of the total cost of the Manhattan Project ($1.89 billion in 1944 dollars, or $27.3 billion in 2006 dollars, allowing for inflation) was spent on the massive Oak Ridge plants for U235 separation by the gaseous diffusion process, pumping acidic UF6 gas at high pressure through porous nickel barriers.  The plant was the first wide scale use of teflon, which coated all the compressor pumps to avoid corrosive destruction from UF6.  The barriers themselves were acid etched from a tin-nickel alloy, and later by fusing powdered nickel together, developed to optimally withstand the gas pressure while allowing the lighter and faster U-235F6 molecules to diffuse through, without dissolving due to the acidity over a 6 month operational life.  (There are some minor typographical errors in the book like commas out of place occasionally, and on page 129 the error occurs that 5% of natural uranium is U235; of course 0.71% of natural uranium is U-235, unless it has been depleted as in the natural nuclear reactors of Oklo, Gabon, whose waste has been safely confined for 1.7 billion years, to the annoyance of the anti-nuclear folk.)

After discussing the spies, Brode moves on to secrecy during the hydrogen bomb program, and his personal interactions with Robert Oppenheimer, Director of wartime Los Alamos, who was a personal friend of Brode’s uncle, the Manhattan Project physicist Robert B. Brode, 1900-86 (page 134):

“I first met Robert Oppenheimer and his wife Kitty at my Uncle’s home in Berkeley.  My aunt and uncle were close friends of the Oppenheimers and the Fermis, and, of course, with the many other scientists who had been a part of that wartime effort.  In 1948 I attended Oppenheimer’s graduate seminar on nuclear physics … I found him impatient and even rather sarcastic, especially with students who dared to ask questions.”

Dr Brode did his PhD in Theoretical Nuclear Physics at Cornell from 1948-51 under supervision of his thesis advisor and PhD Committee Chairman, the celebrated Nobel Laureate Hans A. Bethe.  It was Bethe who first tried to calculate the nuclear fusion rates in stars prior to WWII, and who with Freeman Dyson in 1947 persuaded Oppenheimer of the validity of Feynman’s path integral approach to calculating the Lamb shift in the hydrogen atom’s ground state energy level.  Brode points out that Bethe had been the theoretical group leader at Los Alamos (leading to lifelong friction between Teller and Bethe, stemming from the low priority of H- bomb research during WWII).  While minimising H-bomb research during WWII to the irritation of Teller, Bethe did some early studies of nuclear weapons effects while at Los Alamos, e.g. fireballs, blast wave pressures, and thermal radiation pulses (see Bethe’s Los Alamos report LA-2000, or LA-1020 for fuller details).  Brode explains on page 338 that prior to the Teller-Ulam hydrogen bomb design of March 1951 which employed X-ray coupling between separate stages, Bethe opposed the H bomb on three arguments in his seminar on the subject:

“In the first part, he explained why a thermonuclear weapon was physically impossible, a view that turned out to be spectacularly wrong.  In the second part, he hypothesized that even if they were feasible, there was no need … In his concluding section (in case audiences were not convinced by the first two points), he spoke of the immorality ... they were not persuasive enough to lead President Truman [who authorized the H bomb development program before the Teller-Ulam discovery, much to the fury of many orthodox scientists who wanted a plan to implement instead of a program that begins with fumbling for ideas in the dark] or the U.S. Congress to forego post-war funding for thermonuclear research. ”

Bethe, states Brode on page 339, was a complex man, opposing the further development of nuclear weapons in the united states, despite the failure of the small postwar nuclear stockpile to prevent the Berlin Blockade of 1948, the Red revolution in Czechoslovakia, the Korean War outbreak in 1950, etc.


During Brode’s PhD research at Cornell, he had a job as a graduate assistant, grading papers from students of Bethe, Richard Feynman, and others (page 142):

“In my job as a graduate assistant … I seldom got much guidance from Professor Feynman.  For him, I had to define the ‘correct’ answers for myself and then defend them with no help from him.  My problem was that his exam questions were often a bit obtuse and seldom led to simple answers.”


After discussing Edward Teller’s testimony to the 1954 Oppenheimer security hearings, in which Teller cast doubt on Oppenheimer’s motivations because of his resistance to the H-bomb even after Russian exploded a nuclear weapon in 1949, Brode suggests (pages 145-6):

“… Dr Teller was credited with influencing then-President Reagan to sponsor research into advanced technology for shooting down Soviet ICBMs [Strategic Defense Initiative, SDI; or “Star Wars” in President Reagan’s language] … So, perhaps the world should also give some credit to Edward Teller for his contribution to the successful end to the Cold War, because that SDI or Star Wars effort did force the USSR to pursue vastly more expansive and expensive research …  These efforts placed inordinate demands on the Soviet defenses and further strained their already overburdened military budgets. … 
“Edward Teller was a frequent consultant at RAND … Teller would hold daily marathon seminars, where he probed ideas for new thermonuclear weapons designs. These were rather informal gatherings that frequently went on all day long … He would often suggest as many as half a dozen or more ideas during the course of a single day, and one or more of us would inevitably be designated to go off and more thoroughly investigate his suggested innovations. … this man was a true genius, and some of his ideas proved invaluable.  Unfortunately, out of his plethora of concepts and suggested avenues of research, only a few proved worth further pursuit, but, as that old hand put it: ‘Who among us has even one good idea per day, or per week, for that matter?’”


Brode describes on how he at RAND Corporation beat computer innovator John von Neumann in 1955 publish (Journal of Applied Physics, v26, n6, pp766-75) the first full electronic computer solutions to point source, free air blast waves, using von Neumann’s own artificial viscosity equation (page 147):

“… with excellent support at RAND, I managed to produce results that von Neumann was still trying to squeeze out of an early electronic computer at Princeton for the Institute for Advanced Studies.  I had scooped the one true expert!”


After the Cuban Missiles Crisis of 1962, Harold Brode was recruited by Nobel Laureate Eugene Wigner to determine the efficiency of civil defence countermeasures against nuclear weapons effects, in Project Harbor, which was ignored by people like Bethe, and was opposed by Isador Rabi (page 148):

“After the war, Rabi was appointed to the General Advisory Council for the first Atomic Energy Commission, and subsequently served as a member of The Presidential Science Advisory Committee (PSAC). In 1963, during a review of the National Civil Defense Program before the PSAC … in a conference room in the White House Executive Office Building … right after the Cuban Missile Crisis, when many citizens felt the imminent threat of nuclear war … Dr Rabi did not favor the Civil Defense findings that Wigner, Teller and others of us were espousing.  Thus, while Wigner made his presentation, Rabi sat at the opposite end of that great PSAC conference table and read a newspaper, loudly turning pages while he held the paper up in front of himself, thereby making certain everybody could see … Wigner was deeply offended by Rabi’s obvious scorn.”


Brode deals with permissive action links to physically prevent unauthorised use of nuclear weapons, and the safety of nuclear weapons in accidents.  He begins with a detailed discussion of the safety of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki weapons, both of which used special radar circuits and a backup barometric circuit developed by a team led by his uncle, Robert B. Brode (pages 153-4):

“… it is not surprising that the fusing of each weapon was designed with a succession of safety and redundancy measures: First, a safety tape was pulled out when the bomb was released from the bomb bay, and that started a timer set for fifteen seconds.  That was to avoid premature detonation … That mechanism also turned on the power to each bomb’s radar fuses. Secondly, a barometric sensor delayed the functioning of the radar sensors … Thirdly, a set of four radar fuses were set to sense the appropriate distance to the ground … Each pair was wired in series so both radars in either pair had to agree that the selected altitude had been reached before the weapon would detonate, thus assuring a high probability … There was, of course, also a non-radar backup, another barometric fuse …”


Brode explains how hydrogen bomb improvements financed early computer development (page 163):

“In a kind of synergism, the development of high-speed computers had been stimulated by the computational needs of the nuclear weapons developers.  The ability to carry out complex and repetitive numerical calculators was vital to their weapon research.  Consequently, for some years, nearly all the first new electronic computers went directly to the Los Alamos Laboratory …”

The space race of course was driven by the fear of the Russian ICBM, which Russia successful tested first (in adition to the first satellite in orbit, Sputnik).  Brode explains how carbon-based plastic ablation shields proved vital to protect ICBM warheads during re-entry.  These plastics were used by Edward Teller as sheet type “radiation mirrors” to protect the inside of the casing of a nuclear weapon from destruction by X-rays, while reflecting X-rays from the fission stage to the fusion stage.  The surface of the plastic is an insulator so it absorbs X-ray or heat, re-radiates from the surface layer, and ablates, without transmitting heat or the recoil pressure that a dense metal produces in ablation (pages 190-1):

“Only after years of experimentation did the missile designers develop lightweight ablative carbon phenolic heat shields.  These light plastics, being poor conductors of heat, i.e., good insulators, protected the inner workings of the missiles, even while getting so hot on their surfaces as to vaporize.  Their outer surfaces would evaporate and blow away, thus effectively carrying off the heat generated by re-entry.”

As noted, Teflon was first manufactured for the Oak Ridge UF6 gas pumps, high-speed computers for H-bomb design and military code breaking, internet to RAND’s Arpanet to allow communications after an EMP in nuclear war by routing messages by any available cables (without a single central hub).  Microchips and GPS were first funded to develop miniature guidance systems for accurate missiles (pages 195-6):

“Our first true ICBM, the ATLAS, became operational in 1959 … In the beginning, this long-range missile was unreliable, inaccurate, and extremely vulnerable. … In October of 1959 the first ATLAS missiles went on combat alert, armed with its 3.8-MT nuclear warhead. … IRBMS were added to our Armed Forces to augment the shrinking roles and diminished capabilities of the tactical bombers. … submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) such as Polaris and Poseidon missiles also became operational.”

Brode explains on page 197 that ATLAS-D and –E missiles were hardened to 25 psi peak overpressure by simply storing them “horizontally in covered underground pits” before launch.  (This caused delays because ATLAS was liquid fuelled, but all modern missiles use solid fuel and can easily be stored sideways.)  The first unlined vertical silos gave the ATLAS an impressive 100 psi peak overpressure protection (roughly survival at the fireball radius and near the crater edge for wet soil and small yields).  Later silo development using linings of shock absorbers gave really large increases to missile hardness.  This increasing hardness meant that to destroy the missile in the silo by a first strike, you needed either a much higher yield or a much more accurate missile delivery system, thus driving the development of satellite GPS missile guidance and tiny high-speed computers, employing integrated circuits.  By 1963, Brode reports on page 198, TITAN-II missile silos were capable of surviving inside a nuclear fireball, at a peak overpressure of 300 psi.  The silo would be sited in rock to minimize crater shock effects.  Finally, MINUTEMAN missiles arrived which were designed to take 1,000 psi peak overpressure.

It was this survivability of close-in nuclear weapons effects, as calculated by Brode, that guaranteed American retaliation capability and so deterred Russia, in the event that the submarines were tailed and torpedoed.  As the Russians surged ahead in the arms race, the thousand MINUTEMAN missiles were upgraded with additional shock absorbers in the silos and multiple independently targetable (MIRV) and decoy warheads like chaff wire and metal foil balloons shaped like warheads to statistically saturate Russia’s Galosh ABM system around Moscow.


Dr Brode gives a personal account of his own accidental over-exposure to 200 rads of dental X-rays to his head, which stopped his beard growing for a month.  Personal experiences too of attending nuclear weapons tests in the Nevada desert helped to motivate his studies of fellow RAND Corporation physicist Sam Cohen’s neutron bomb and high altitude bursts for defensive shields without blast damage (pages 220-221):

“But Sam was an ever-imaginative contributor to the nuclear weapons business.  And later, when thermonuclear weapons of megaton yields became a reality, he also envisioned the use of very large-yield weapons … high above the atmosphere … He reasoned correctly that the blast from such a space burst, detonated at such a high altitude, would cause little or no blast damage on the ground.”

Sam Cohen was arguing for space burst nuclear weapons to shoot down Russian bombers or missiles while they were still airborne, a question that ultimately led to the Starfish test and the high altitude EMP discovery, and to Edward Teller’s Star Wars project that precipitated the end of the USSR.

Brode also includes numerous summary tables of nuclear weapons data, listing nuclear crises, nuclear accidents, nuclear tests, etc.  For example, Brode explains on pages 291-2 that the CIA assessed the risk of a Syrian-Egyptian invasion of Israel as non-existent when they attacked on 6 October 1973.  Israel responded to the attack by assembling 13 nuclear weapons in an tunnel under the Negev desert and as Syrian tanks swept in across the Golan Heights, on 8 October 1973, Israeli Prime Minister Mrs Golda Meir authorized Defense Minister Moshe Dayan to activate the 13 Israeli nuclear warheads and distribute them to air force units.  Brode comments on page 292:

"The fact that Israel was known to have nuclear weapons, and would likely use them against attacking countries if it was about to be overrun, must have weighed heavily on the Syrian and Eygptian planners and may have influenced the limited nature of their objectives. ... The existence today of perhaps hundreds of nuclear weapons in the Israeli arsenal may be serving currently as a sobering deterrent to any such possible further aggression in the region.  This Israeli nuclear arsenal poses a definite obstacle for neighboring countries (such as Iran) that might otherwise contemplate attacks aimed at the destruction of Israel.  But, it is also quite possible that the early existence of an Israeli nuclear capability had served as a motivation in Iran's apparent interest in developing its own nuclear weapons arsenal."
The crisis escalated further on 24 October 1973 when President Nixon, preoccupied with Watergate, left Henry Kissinger to order a DEFCON-3 alert which prepared American B-52 nuclear bombers for war, after intelligence reports indicated that Russia was preparing to defend Egypt in its war with Israel.  Thus, if Israel had dropped nuclear weapons on Egypt and Syria, as it prepared to do, then Russia would have retaliated against Israel, and America would have gone to Israel's assistance, possibly escalating to a general nuclear war (Henry Kissinger's early view on tactical nuclear war in his controversial 1957 book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy was that any nuclear weapon below 500 kilotons yield or air burst averts serious fallout, and may be more decisive and less costly in human lives than a protracted conventional war).

The Quemoy and Matsu crisis of the 1950s is analogous in some respects to the crisis of the China versus Japan today over the Senkaku Islands.  Chiang Kai-Shek moved 78,000 Taiwanese troops to the Taiwan Islands of Quemoy and Matsu to protect those islands from a threat of Chinese invasion.  China then shelled the islands and shot down an American military aircraft in the vicinity, capturing the crew.  The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff then recommended to President Eisenhower than Secretary of States John Foster Dulles the use of nuclear weapons to retaliate against China.  The threat of nuclear attack caused China to stop shelling the islands and release the captured Americans.  Brode also discusses the Suez crisis of 1956, although from a biased American point of view whereby Egypt closed the Suez Canal and then Israel, France and Britain invaded Egypt illegally in revenge, before Eisenhower forced them to withdraw and leave Egypt alone.  In fact, Eisenhower had pre-empted the nationalizing of the Canal, by first offering Egypt a loan for the building of the Aswan Dam, and then withdrawing the offer of the loan when Egypt refused to side with America in the Cold War.  Egypt nationalized the British Suez Canal to pay for the Dam because America tied the loan to political considerations.  Brode correctly concludes on page 268 that after Eisenhower intervened: “the winner was the Soviet Union. The French and British backed down under U.S. pressure. And France felt the onus of being without its own nuclear cards to play.”

It is clear that such events cause nuclear proliferation, as in the case of France.  The leading French H-bomb designer Robert Dautray was a holocaust survivor who in 2007 explained his work in terms of the holocaust: “Their non-violence led them to death.”  (The father of the bomb finally reveals his secrets, by Bernard Le Solleu, Ouest-France, March 17, 2007, p. 42.)

There is no mathematical physics included, but you can find Dr Brode’s reports online at RAND Corp., the Annual Review of Nuclear Science v18, and by searching the DTIC database for Harold Brode.

Links to some newly-released declassified nuclear weapons effects reports vital for civil defense:

Louis Costrell, Operation JANGLE: Nevada Proving Grounds, October-November 1951, Gamma Radiation Measurements, Jangle Sugar (1.2 kt surface burst) and Jangle Uncle (1.2 kt shallow earth penetrator type underground burst), weapon test report: WT 329, ADA078575 (PDF of document downloadable from the DTIC page is linked here):

Gamma ray dosage rates were determined as a function of time and distance. The method of measurement and the equipment used is described. Dose rates as a function of time were obtained for 27 stations on the surface burst and for 29 stations on the underground burst. Total dose data was obtained by integration of the dose rates. Dose rate and integrated dose as a function of time are presented for all of the stations. One hour dose rate contours are presented as well as 10 minute, 1 hour, and 10 hour integrated dose contours. All of the above mentioned data is presented in the form of curves. In addition 10 second dose versus distance curves for the surface and underground bursts are presented on a single graph for ready comparison.
Jangle Sugar 1 hr dose pattern graph WT 329

Jangle Sugar dose rate graphs WT 329

Jangle Uncle 1 hr dose pattern graph WT 329

Jangle Uncle dose rate graphs WT 329

 John S. Malik, Operation Buster-Jangle: Project 10.6. The Measurement of Gamma-Ray Intensity vs Time, ADA995063 (PDF of document downloadable from the DTIC page is linked here):

Gamma-ray intensity vs. time data in the range from a few milliseconds to about 20 sec were obtained on tests C and E of Operation Buster and the underground test (Shot F) of Operation Jangle. The equipment consisted of a detector consisting of a solution of terphenyl in toluene surrounding a coaxial phototube, the output of which was fed into a 5.5-decade pseudo-log circuit which in turn was direct-coupled to the plates of a 3-in. battery-operated scope tube. The face of the scope was photographed with a 16-mm strip-film camera. The data seem to indicate that the source of the gamma radiation for these times is due to neutron capture in the nitrogen of the air, followed in about 0.2 sec by gamma rays from the decay of fission fragments, the latter modified by shock hydrodynamics and rise of the fireball.

Richard K. Laurino and I. G. Poppoff, Contamination Patterns at Operation JANGLE, ADA078578 (PDF of document downloadable from the DTIC page is linked here):

The distributions of contamination resulting from bursts at Operation JANGLE have previously been represented on maps as iso-intensity contours. This report uses the data and maps of three projects, and combines this information. The result is two modified iso-intensity maps-one for the surface burst at Operation JANGLE, and one for the underground burst. These modified iso-intensity patterns are believed to be more useful than the maps which were previously made because a wider range of intensities is presented.
Boeing Corporation, Nuclear Weapons Effects Seminar Document Number D500-11659-1 April 10, 1987, ADA211928.  Edited by Tom Hewlett and Bob Haney:

The purpose of the seminar is to provide the following information to newly assigned MMEAS survivability engineers: a. An awareness of the magnitude and complexity of the varied nuclear threats. b. An overview of general and specific Air Force policies and procedures in these areas: 1. A.F. Tech Order system 2. Maintenance Data Collection system 3. Hardness Maintenance/Hardness Surveillance 4. Configuration control. c. A detailed look at the electronic threat, Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP), and how to safeguard against it. d. Methods of detecting degradations in the hardness of a system or sub-system through testing and inspection.

There are also some declassified British documents on nuclear weapons at the U.K. National Archives.  For example ES 1/495 gives high quality Trinity nuclear test photos sent to AWRE at Aldermaston by Los Alamos, which are not always easy to obtain elsewhere, and there is an interesting declassified Top Secret paper called The Rationale for the United Kingdom Strategic Nuclear Deterrent Force, DEFE 5/192:

The Rationale for the United Kingdom Strategic Nuclear Deterrent Force, DEFE 5/192

The Rationale for the United Kingdom Strategic Nuclear Deterrent Force, DEFE 5/192
For some of the British nuclear weapons test data debunking American exaggerations of test effects, click here.

Britain's first H-bomb, 300 kt radiation imploded Alarm Clock design called Short Granite, seen on 15 May 1957 off Malden Island, from the deck of HMS Warrior (UK National Archives, reference ADM 1/26765). Taylor instability mixed many thin shells of U and Li6D in the Alarm Clock, reducing yield.
The Rationale for the United Kingdom Strategic Nuclear Deterrent Force, DEFE 5/192, Top Secret - UK eyes only, makes it clear in paragraphs 12-13 that Britain's nuclear deterrent is there to prevent conventional wars, not just nuclear war. For one thing, conventional war with Russia could escalate into nuclear war with Russia, because it has nuclear weapons.  Therefore, deterring conventional war is part of the package for deterring nuclear war, if the adversary has nuclear weapons.  The more countries have nuclear weapons, the further this deterrence of conventional war must extend, leading to a more peaceful world.  Seeing that even Hitler - who had 12,000 tons of tabun nerve gas ready by 1945 - was prevented from using nerve gas, it is clear that even the craziest dictators can be restrained from using weapons of mass destruction by deterrence; fear of retaliation.

Rationale for UK strategic nuclear deterrent, 1972 top secret report

Maintenance of the UK Independent Strategic Nuclear Capability, UK National Archives document DEFE 5/197.  Note that UK definition of assured destruction is detonating warheads over five enemy cities, rather than stopping a military attack by detonating a neutron bomb over a tank column.  There are very serious problems with trying to stop a megalomaniac dictator by attacking his civilian cities.  First, it does not stop his tanks, ships, or missiles. Second, he may have ABM and civil defense. Third, he may be happy to sit safe in his well protected Führerbunker during the attack, knowing that for an enemy to bomb his cities will strengthen his standing with his own people as a propaganda exercise (this is what occurred in Germany, Vietnam, Iraq, etc.).  It is a stronger, more credible deterrent to bomb concentrated enemy tank columns, making them disperse by the threat of the neutron bomb, so that the dispersed force can be taken out with handheld anti-tank rockets and conventional air strikes.  The advantage of the neutron bomb, then, is that it is a credible deterrent against conventional dictatorial invasions of the Blitzkrieg sort.  It upsets dictatorships. 

The British declassified report has deleted sections justified by the comment: Retained under section 3(4) of the Public Records Act of 1958, which is the British equivalent to the use of sub-section (b)(3) of the title 5 of the U.S. Code, Section 552, which defines matters exempt from disclosure in America, presumably because of the continuing secrecy concerning what target damage to enemies is judged to be adequate deterrence.  How that secrecy of the details of the deterrent threat is supposed to be compatible with a credible deterrent to a potential adversary is not explained, but judging by President Putin's invasion of Ukraine last year despite the Budapest Memorandum guaranteeing Ukraine's security by the UK and USA, it is clear that it's not a very strong deterrent.  If the basis of the UK's deterrence is causing relatively minor destruction to soft civilian targets (in 1962 Britain in secret defined effective deterrence as the credible ability to detonate nuclear weapons over five enemy cities), rather than debunking hard targets under the Kremlin or at least military bases, tank depots, etc., it is not adequate to deter a Vietcong style megalomaniac (who does not mind losing windows in five cities); we need tactical nuclear deterrence for military targets.

The best deterrent, judging from the opposition to it generated by the USSR during the Cold War, is the neutron bomb.  If you deter massed invasions and troop or tank concentrations by the neutron bomb, then you force the enemy to disperse and that in itself prevents Blitzkrieg.  It completely destroys the credibility of their plans for invasions, thus making the world safer.

According to Figures 6.41a and 3.94a in Glasstone's 1957 Effects of Nuclear Weapons, it takes a peak overpressure of 70 psi to demolish (i.e. severe or type A damage) a British WWII type reinforced concrete surface shelter, regardless of bomb yield.  According to Figures 6.41b and 3.94a in the same book, it takes a peak overpressure of 50 psi for 1 kiloton (terrorist or neutron bomb) yield or 15 psi for 1 megaton yield to collapse a typical modern city-type multistory reinforced concrete frame building with light walls.  These figures are justified by the survival of multistory concrete buildings with typical large window areas, near ground zero in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But when you look at chapter 11, Damage to Structures, in the declassified 1972 Secret American effects manual EM1, Capabilities of Nuclear Weapons (which is the basis for the 1977 edition of Glasstone and Dolan's Effects of Nuclear Weapons), severe damage to reinforced concrete building (building type 11-3) is predicted at only 17 psi peak overpressure for 1 kt, and 11 psi for 1 megaton (above 1 megaton, peak overpressures are independent of the yield: a wall isn't pushed over regardless of the impulse or how long you push for, if the peak overpressure is too low to cause it to crack).  It turns out that the difference is due to the fact that the 1972 EM1 book absurdly assumes small window areas, which is defined by Glasstone as 5% window area, which maximises the loading on the building.  In reality, modern city concrete buildings tend to have much larger areas of glass which breaks easily, reducing the blast loading.

In the earlier 1962 edition of the Capabilities of Nuclear Weapons (then designated TM 23-200, and just renamed from Capabilities of Atomic Weapons), reinforced concrete buildings are severely damaged at a peak overpressure of 24.5 psi for 10 kt and 14 psi for 1 Mt. The November 1957 edition of Capabilities of Atomic Weapons, Figure 7-20 shows that simple US Army field command posts with 4 feet of earth cover require a peak overpressure of 80 psi for fail, for surface bursts; Figure 7-22 shows that simple unrevetted open foxholes and trenches (similar to the standard protection against shelling in the American Civil War, in WWII and in England during the 1938 Munich crisis) in the dry soil of Nevada resists 20 psi.

The shameful thing is that the application of such effective, simple, cheap field-tested countermeasure effectiveness data remained secret for so long, and remains obscured from discussions of nuclear weapons.  Modern concrete city buildings and simple trenches for rural areas offer immense, low cost protection:
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Secret classified report by British H-bomb casualty expert Edward Leader-Williams, National Archives document CAB 21/4053, proving that cheap civil defence shelters even without any evacuation of the central area can reduce casualties from a 2 megaton H-bomb on London to 59,000 people, and a combination of evacuating the central area plus shelter for people on the outskirts can reduce casualties to absolutely zero! Of course, the enemy could try to re-target the missiles on shelters, but there is still an immense saving of life and a reduction in the incentive for an enemy attack.  The cost is far cheaper in both lives and in the effect on our trillion-plus national debt, to deal with nuclear proliferation risks, than launching a preventative war abroad.  We could have built proper civil defence for all our cities at a fraction of the immense foreign wars of the last 15 years, and the shelters could double up as peacetime emergency accommodation to deal with the immigration of war refugees.  But scare-mongering by CND (of which Prime Minister Tony Blair was a former member) who attacked the civil defence option and their lying exaggerations of WMD threats ensured that as many people were killed as could be by spending money on offensive actions leading today to IS, and that the objective choices were not made by politicians.  By making civil defense taboo, deterrence becomes incredible and appeasement is followed by war.  

Above: London's eight large WWII 16.5 ft internal diameter tube shelters were tested and found to offer excellent blast and radiation protection.  Their cost is dirt cheap compared to preventative wars like Iraq, 2003.  Although, as proved at Nagasaki, these shelters are useless in a surprise attack if normally unoccupied, they are useful if they are used as normal accommodation for central city workers in a period of international crisis (as in WWII blitz).  Furthermore, in peace time they could be used to offer emergency accommodation to the flood of war refugees and EU immigrants who are causing a massive housing crisis in London.  At a cost of £35-£42 per person in WWII, even allowing for inflation, this is cheap accommodation compared to traditional London housing today.  In addition, civil defense training in the UK would produce large rescue teams for emergency use like flooding, overseas earthquake damage rescue, etc.  Harold Wilson only abolished the Civil Defence Corps in 1968 because of pressure from extremists who supported Marxism and wanted to appease Brezhnev, and also to save a paltry sum of money for squandering on steel industry nationalization, subsidies, etc.

The radiation scare-mongering fanatics ignore the fact that nearly all the cancers in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were natural as proved by the incidence in unexposed groups.  They simply lie that all cancers are due to radiation.  This is a deliberate piece of misinformation, and the media aid spreading anti-nuclear propaganda.


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