Leitura para o fim-de-semana: os suicidas nucleares

Conceitos como a Mutual Assured Destruction tornaram-se familiares durante a Guerra Fria. No entanto, poucos sabem que, nessa época, o exército norte-americano desenvolveu engenhos nucleares portáteis, para serem utilizados em caso de uma ofensiva das forças soviéticas. Supostamente, deviam ter ficado nos territórios dos países aliados. Mas, na verdade, os soldados estavam prontos a usá-los por detrás das linhas do Pacto de Varsóvia. Para ler na Foreign Policy.

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The Littlest Boy

By Adam Rawnsley,
The 1950s and ’60s were a golden age of nuclear weapons design.Scientists and technicians at the Los Alamos and Sandia nuclear weapons laboratories succeeded in miniaturizing the so-called “physics packages” at the core of atomic bombs from the nearly 10,000-plus-pound behemoth used in the first-ever nuclear test to smaller warheads that could fit atop a missile. And their colleagues in rocketry surged ahead in developing land- and submarine-launched ballistic missiles that, together with bombers, soon made up the nuclear “triad” supporting strategic deterrence against the Soviets.

From the Army’s perspective, the problem was that bombers and missiles were managed by the Air Force and the Navy, leaving the ground force out of arguably the most significant development in the history of war, even as its soldiers would be chiefly responsible for stopping a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. Fortunately for the Army, many U.S. strategists still saw nukes simply as bigger conventional bombs, and America’s post-Hiroshima mastery of the cutting-edge science of atomic destruction had filled weapons designers more with a sense of the possible than the prudent. The result was a series of odd creations that made their way into the Army’s arsenal, from atomic artillery to nuclear-tipped air-defense missiles.

The Army began rolling out atomic demolition munitions (ADMs) in 1954. The early iterations were cumbersome weapons, weighing hundreds of pounds and requiring several men to carry them with the help of trucks and helicopters. They were intended mostly for what you might call nuclear landscaping — to create irradiated, impassible craters or to collapse mountainsides into narrow passes in order to obstruct likely invasion routes and bottleneck enemy forces. One engineer recalls setting up an ADM in the middle of a forest: “The idea was to blow these trees across a valley to create a radioactive physical obstacle for vehicles and troops to get by,” he said.

The Army’s countermobility field manual taught soldiers to use ADMs for “stream cratering,” in which atomic explosions near small waterways would “form a temporary dam, create a lake, cause overbank flooding, and produce an effective water obstacle” for enemy forces.

If worst came to worst, the Army’s atomic engineers planned to deny advancing forces the use of friendly infrastructure by destroying allied bridges, tunnels, and dams. Railroad yards, power plants, airports — all were ripe targets for preemptive nuclear destruction.

But the Army wanted a more proactive nuclear role as well. Army partisans argued that the doctrine of massive retaliation left America unprepared for the full spectrum of conflict. Documents from the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) show that America’s nuclear weapons developers were happy to support the Army’s quest for tactical nukes. In 1957, according to an AEC history, Sandia Corporation President James McRae lamented that “indiscriminate use of high-yield nuclear weapons inevitably created adverse public opinion.” Since the future of war lay in an “unending succession of brushfire wars, rather than large-scale conflicts,” McRae recommended that “greater emphasis should be placed on small atomic weapons,” which could be used in “local ground combat.”

McRae’s urgings paved the way for the development of the Davy Crockett, a sub-kiloton-yield nuclear rocket that could fit on the back of a jeep. In 1958, when the Army came knocking for an atomic demolition munition that could be carried by a single soldier, the AEC looked to the Crockett’s lightweight Mark 54 warhead for its solution. The resulting weapon would be a smaller, more mobile version of the ADMs. The Army, though, would have to share the device with the Navy and Marine Corps.

The AEC’s final product — the B-54 Special Atomic Demolition Munition — entered the U.S. arsenal in 1964. It stood 18 inches tall, encased in an aluminum and fiberglass frame. It rounded to a bullet shape on one end and had a 12-inch-diameter control panel on the other. According to an Army manual, the weapon’s maximum explosive yield was less than 1 kiloton — that is, the equivalent of a thousand tons of TNT. To protect the bomb from unauthorized use, the SADM’s control panel was sealed by a cover plate secured by a combination lock. Glow-in-the-dark paint applied to the lock allowed troops to unlock the bomb at night.

As Soviet forces advanced into such countries as West Germany, theSADM would allow Special Forces units (dubbed “Green Light” teams) to deploy behind enemy lines to destroy infrastructure and matériel. But their mission wouldn’t have been limited to NATO countries alone. What many nuclear historians don’t realize is that Special Forces Green Light teams were also prepared to use SADMs on territory of the Warsaw Pact itself in order to thwart an invasion. The teams prepared to destroy enemy airfields, tank depots, nodes in the anti-aircraft grid, and any potentially useful transportation infrastructure in order to mitigate the flood of enemy armor and to allow allied air power to punch through. According to an internal report, the Army also considered burying SADMs next to enemy bunkers “to destroy critical field command and communications installations.”

O artigo completo pode ser lido aqui.

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