Fire excluded from U.S. nuclear death estimates

2018-01-21

in Bombs and rockets, History

The fact is that the estimate of fatalities, in terms of what was calculated at that time—even before the discovery of nuclear winter—was a fantastic underestimate. More than forty years later, Dr. Lynn Eden, a scholar at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, revealed in Whole World on Fire the bizarre fact that the war planners of SAC and the Joint Chiefs—throughout the nuclear era to the present day—have deliberately omitted entirely from their estimates of the destructive effects of U.S. or Russian nuclear attacks the effects of fire.

Yet even in the sixties the firestorms caused by thermonuclear weapons were known to be predictably the largest producers of fatalities in a nuclear war. Given that for almost all strategic nuclear weapons, the damage radius of the firestorms would be two to five times the radius destroyed by the blast, a more realistic estimate of the fatalities caused directly by the planned U.S. attacks on the Sino-Soviet bloc, even in 1961, would surely have been double the summary in the graph I held in my hand, for a total death toll of a billion or more: a third of the earth’s population, then three billion.

Ellsberg, Daniel. The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Bloomsbury; New York. 2017. p. 140–1 (italics in original)

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