US Releases 'Grim' List of Nuclear Targets

US would have targeted population centers in war with Soviet Union
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 23, 2015 2:13 PM CST
US Releases 'Grim' List of Nuclear Targets
A list of potential US targets in a nuclear war with the Soviet Union was released Tuesday.   (AP Photo/U.S. Army via Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum)

"Grim and frankly appalling." That's how one expert describes a recently declassified list of potential US targets in a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, the New York Times reports. The list titled “Atomic Weapons Requirements Study for 1959" was written by the Air Force in 1956 and released by the National Security Archive on Tuesday. According to RT, the nearly 800-page document includes more than 1,200 cities and 1,100 airfields in Russia and elsewhere. Targets in cities like Moscow, East Berlin, and Beijing include everything from industrial facilities to the ominously nonspecific "population," the Times reports. “It’s disturbing, for sure, to see the population centers targeted,” says William Burr at the National Security Archive. He says it's likely the most detailed target list ever released by the Air Force.

"It’s clear that the plan so dryly laid out by US intelligence would have resulted in death and destruction unlike anything the world had or has ever seen," Time says of the list. According to RT, the document calls for "systematic destruction" and aimed for a 60-megaton bomb—4,000 times larger than the Hiroshima bomb—to get "significant results." A nuclear weapons historian tells the Times the US had a "bomb as you go" strategy for a potential war with the Soviet Union. Bombers would fly toward major cities, dropping nuclear bombs on targets as they went. It was thought such a strategy would end the war quickly as deaths skyrocketed into the millions. The National Resources Defense Council's nuclear program director says the destruction of population centers is still "the heart of (nuclear) deterrence" today. (This dome holds tons of nuclear waste—or tries to.)

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