In November of 1975, H.C. Dudley, a professor of radiation physics at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago, published an article in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists titled ‘The Ultimate Catastrophe.’  Dudley, though perhaps on the wrong side of governmental secrecy regarding nuclear weapons thought, was challenging core assumptions that pervaded decades of simulation, modelling, and war gaming of nuclear conflict.
From a weapons standpoint, the US military initially saw Fat Man and Little Boy as big bombs—the biggest ever, a way to fit one thousand planes worth of boom into a single B-29. Officials were at first reluctant to admit to lethal contingencies. In a letter to General Groves dated August 25, 1945, one US Lt. Col said of reports that people were “doomed to die of radioactivity burns”: “I think it’s good propaganda. The thing is these people got good and burned—good thermal burns.”[2-a] The discovery of radioactive tuna sourced from Japan in 1954 was hidden from Japanese diplomats. [2-b] Simulated damage in early explosion scenarios were sometimes limited to blast effects, ignoring the possibility of fallout, firestorms, etc. These refusals of admission culminated in the design of war plans that some thinkers would go on to call ‘overkill.’ [2-d] Continue reading