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U.S. Cold War Nuclear Target Lists Declassified for First Time

Published 22 December 2015

According to 1956 Plan, H-Bombs were to be Used Against Priority “Air Power” Targets in the Soviet Union, China, and Eastern Europe.

Major Cities in Soviet Bloc, Including East Berlin, Were High Priorities in “Systematic Destruction” for Atomic Bombings.

Plans to Target People (“Population”) Violated International Legal Norms.

SAC Wanted a 60 Megaton Bomb, Equivalent to over 4,000 Hiroshima Atomic Weapons

Washington, D.C., December 22, 2015 - The SAC [Strategic Air Command] Atomic Weapons Requirements Study for 1959, produced in June 1956 and published today for the first time by the National Security Archive www.nsarchive.org, provides the most comprehensive and detailed list of nuclear targets and target systems that has ever been declassified. As far as can be told, no comparable document has ever been declassified for any period of Cold War history.

The SAC study includes chilling details. According to its authors, their target priorities and nuclear bombing tactics would expose nearby civilians and “friendly forces and people” to high levels of deadly radioactive fallout. Moreover, the authors developed a plan for the “systematic destruction” of Soviet bloc urban-industrial targets that specifically and explicitly targeted “population” in all cities, including Beijing, Moscow, Leningrad, East Berlin, and Warsaw. Purposefully targeting civilian populations as such directly conflicted with the international norms of the day, which prohibited attacks on people per se (as opposed to military installations with civilians nearby).



National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 538
Edited by William Burr
Posted - December 22, 2015
For more information, contact:
William Burr: 202.994.7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu.