The next next war

It's never too early to start thinking about the shape of the next war, even if the current one is still being fought. At the end of May 1945 -- only three weeks after V-E day and over two months before V-J day -- some discussion on the subject was held in the House of Lords by interested peers. On 29 May, Lord Vansittart proposed an international commission of scientists to monitor Germany to make sure it did not develop or use 'any scientific discovery or invention considered dangerous to the safety of mankind'.1

He said we were dealing with a periodically homicidal nation, and unless we kept a firm hand on them we should have V10 in less than 10 years. There had been an insufficient answer to V 1, and no answer at all to V 2 except the old-fashioned one of conquering the sites. Science had not given the answer. The second world war had been within measuring distance of the atom bomb. Where would the third begin? We had had the very devil of a lesson, and it would be our own fault if we had another.2

He also called for something like 'a world inspectorate in order to guard against the development or over-development of secret devices',3 which could lead to 'a secret armaments race of a far more terrifying character' than any that had gone before.

Vansittart was clearly disturbed by the effects of the German V1 and V2 missiles on London. At this time, London was (along with Antwerp) the only great city in the world with experience of missile warfare -- the last one had fallen in March 1945. V2s in particular were very unsettling, as no defences and no warnings were then possible for objects travelling on a ballistic trajectory four times faster than the speed of sound.

But wait a second. Vansittart also said that 'The second world war had been within measuring distance of the atom bomb' (emphasis added). This is two months before Hiroshima, over a month before Trinity even! The Manhattan Project was extraordinarily secret (to everyone but the Soviets, that is). I doubt know if Vansittart even knew about it -- he had been permament under-secretary of the Foreign Office from 1930 to 1938, but then was kept out of the loop for the next three years until he actually retired. Even if he did know about the Manhattan Project, he shouldn't have been talking about it; and even if he did talk about it, the censors shouldn't have let the newspapers print it. So I think he must have been referring to some public revelation about the German bomb programme, the remnants of which had recently fallen into Allied hands. But if so, The Times itself doesn't seem to have reported it, and I don't know exactly what the public may have been told.

The following day, Lord Brabazon (a pioneer aviator and, more recently, Minister of Aircraft Production) further speculated on where the V1 and V2 might lead. He thought that in the immediate future, there was little danger of war, as its horrors would be fresh in everyone's minds, but

It was after 10 years that troubles would occur. The techniques of rocket propulsion would go on. It would be chased by scientists of different nations, and some would chase the subject with revenge in their hearts. He [Brabazon] could well imagine some Power roping off a few miles of their territory, sinking what were nominally mine shafts, making the parts of these instruments all over the country, and getting all ready for a really efficient V 2 attack upon their selected enemy. When they were about to attack no navy, army, or air force would be apparent, but they would have the power latent to launch an attack on the great cities of their enemy and the power to devastate the moment they declared war. Before armies could be possibly assembled, and still less march, the great cities of the enemy would be destroyed.4

So the knock-out blow is already being adapted for the missile age -- and now you don't even need an air force to deliver one! Brabazon was evidently impressed by the underground V2 factory at Dora, and worried that such a facility would enable an agressor to build a massive missile force in secret. So like Vansittart, he wanted 'some international committee with power to enter into works anywhere in the world, to see what they were up to'5 -- or else Britain and the United States had to make sure that they kept well ahead of the rest of the world in missile technology.

Another peer revisited the possibility of atomic warfare; he hoped that the big United Nations conference at San Francisco then underway might take up the matter.

The EARL of DARNLEY said that this method of warfare might not only destroy humanity but also the globe on which humanity resided. The atomic bomb, which was almost ready at the end of the war, might in a generation accomplish even that. One as big as a man's hand could have destroyed the whole of a city as large as London. The war of the future might only last a few minutes, and as it was the fashion to make war without warning the whole thing might be over before anyone was aware that it was taking place. The fighters would be a band of troglodyte alchemists who would deal out death to millions of people. From now on the chemists of the world in every country would be in a race to improve these hellish machines, and it needed little imagination to see that the end of this mad race could coincide with the end of the human race.6

Again, the knock-out blow is being redeployed for a new warfare. The old-fashioned kind, fought with bombers and high explosive and lasting days or weeks, is superceded by an atomic version, lasting only minutes, killing millions of people and possibly destroying the planet.7

So, German ballistic missiles plus (I think) German atomic bomb research equals an early, pre-Hiroshima preview of the atomic war fears that became so prevalent from the 1950s on. And this is not in America, but in Britain. (In fact, it seems almost inevitable that this should be so.) I have often speculated here on the parallels between the aerial age's knock-out blow and the atomic age's apocalyptic scenarios; it seems that this is one point at which they were not parallel but actually convergent, where the one began to turn into the other.


  1. The Times, 30 May 1945, p. 8. 

  2. Ibid. 

  3. Ibid. 

  4. The Times, 31 May 1945, p. 8. 

  5. Ibid. 

  6. Ibid. 

  7. A huge exaggeration of course, as is the claim that an atomic bomb 'as big as a man's hand' could destroy a city -- which all serves to confirm that Darnley, at least, wasn't getting his information direct from the Manhattan Project. 

29 thoughts on “The next next war

  1. I have seen newspaper reports of the same debate that mention, in a casual way, the possibility of an atom bomb. I have to assume that the speakers were in a state of complete ignorance regarding the Manhattan Project and were basing their comments on some of the speculative discussions about atomic warfare from the prewar period, plus perhaps rumors about a German program.

  2. Post author

    I agree that those talking about atomic bombs were most unlikely to have known of the Manhattan Project. But it's interesting to note that those who DIDN'T mention atomic bombs DID know of Manhattan, or at least the existence of an Allied bomb project -- Brabazon from his time at MAP, where (I think) Tube Alloys started; and Lord Cherwell AKA Frederick Lindemann, who was of course Churchill's most trusted scientific advisor (I didn't mention him in the post; he replied on behalf of the government on both occasions). See here, for example.

    Based on the phrasing used in the above quotes, it seems to me more likely that they are drawing more on some knowledge of the German bomb project, than pre-war discussions: atomic bombs are referred to quite casually, as though the listener ought to be aware of them (and while there were a few -- not many -- atomic bombs in pre-war SF, how many peers of the realm would have read about them, or remembered what they were in 1945?); and the statement is also made that they were something which were very nearly developed in the war, which is not something you could just assume from pre-war discussions. Given the context of the discussions about how to control German science and prevent revenge missile attacks, it all very strongly implies that some stories about a German bomb were floating about. But still, without seeing those stories I can't be sure.

  3. I just remembered that I posted something about this at Cliopatria ages ago. Here is the excerpt from the article in the Daily Herald, May 31, 1945:

    HRS Phillpott: Globe-Busting Bomb -- It Was Coming.

    "The 'Atomic Bomb'. You have never heard it, and you never will, because, according to Lord Darnley, if it ever drops it will destroy not only humanity but the globe itself.

    "Lord Darnley was speaking in the House of Lords last night, and declared that this 'Atomic Bomb' was 'three-quarters in preparation' at the end of the [European] war.

    "'If what we are told about the atom is true', he said, 'every atom in the world might be disintegrated and the world would disappear."

    (This would be Esme Ivo Bligh, ninth earl, and the son incidentally of Ivo Francis Walter Bligh, former president of the MCC and Kent County Cricket Club and the first English captain of an Ashes match with Australia.)

  4. Post author

    Oh neat, thanks! I found the original post here. The comments thread is also interesting -- had I been reading Cliopatria back then (just before I started I think), I could have confirmed that Meanjin is indeed an Australian journal, published by my own university in fact; and also that spring in the southern hemisphere starts in September, so the poem "Atomic Bomb" published in the Spring 1945 issue was almost certainly written after Hiroshima :)

    If you are still interested in pre-Hiroshima references to atomic bombs, Alan, the novels I know of are listed in a previous post. In the Times digital archive I found just two references prior to the Lords debate. One was from a September 1939 letter to the editor and was in relation to Hitler's threat of an unspecified secret weapon; another was from the early 1930s and was the name of a racehorse which was scratched!

  5. The secret was the Manhattan Project, not the general concept of the atomic bomb. William L. Laurence, science writer of the New York Times, who broke the story of uranium fission and neutron chain reactions on the front page in 1939, having pestered Enrico Fermi at Columbia University to predict how long atom bombs would take to be developed, gives a very detailed and actually brilliant analysis of the secrecy and censorship during WWII in his 1959 book, Men and Atoms.

    Laurence also gave away a detailed discussion of the neutron chain reaction uranium-235 fission principles for the atomic bomb in his 5 May 1940 front page New York Times article, "Vast Power Source In Atomic Energy Opened by Science," and then again in his 7 September 1940 Saturday Evening Post article, "The Atom Gives Up", which was widely discussed by the media world wide. Laurence emphasized that uranium fission had been discovered in 1938 in Germany by Hahn and others, and was a military explosive threat. he wanted America to get the bomb first.

    In Men and Atoms (1959) he explains that after he was recruited to the Manhattan Project, General Groves's security officer sternly showed him a captured Werner Heisenberg scrap book containing his articles covered with cellophane, with German translations of the text on facing pages (from the "Alsos" project to document German atomic progress).

    The bomb had also been widely discussed pre-war by H. G. Wells (The World Set Free) and even Winston Churchill in a 1925 newspaper article (reprinted in his pre-war book, Thoughts and Adventures). Laurence wrote a very detailed article on the atomic bomb based on interviews with Fermi and others. None gave away much, but he pieced the bits together from many interviews with different scientists to get an alarming picture of Germany racing for a bomb having discovered fission, while America procrastinated. Richard Rhodes in The Making of the Atomic Bomb ignores Churchill's 1925 article when discussing his apathy towards the bomb research during WWII. Churchill could see that the cost and time of making an atomic bombs exceeded that of dropping an equivalent amount of non-nuclear explosives and incendiaries. Given the equivalent megatonnage two-thirds power scaling law, there is no cost benefit to nuclear weapons over conventional weapons. Nuclear weapons just save money in requiring smaller delivery systems than an equivalent amount of conventional weapons.

  6. Post author

    Yes, you're right that the idea of the atomic bomb was already out in the public domain by 1945; I'd already discussed this in a post linked from this one. But that is not to the point here. My question was: why at this specific point in time, at the end of May 1945, were people suddenly saying that an atomic bomb was on the brink of being developed? That Wells predicted one in 1914 or Laurence wrote an article about it in 1940 does not explain this. I'm still not sure what does. A garbled press report of the German project is still my best bet (the Earl of Darnley said 'The atomic bomb, so the Press tells us, was in a state of three-quarters preparation at the end of the war'), but I haven't yet been able to locate it.

    Some of your other claims are a bit odd (leaving aside your unconventional ideas about physics). Churchill was hardly apathetic about the atomic bomb; he was the one to order the start of both British projects (the wartime atomic bomb project and the Cold War thermonuclear bomb project), and access to nuclear data and technology was a major theme of his diplomacy with the Americans. I'm not sure why you think Churchill's 1924 (not, as is sometimes reported, 1925) article 'Shall we all commit suicide?' to be significant either for Churchill's thinking on nuclear weapons or more generally. It's not even clear that he is referring to the atomic bomb: he doesn't use the term or mention radioactivity. Sandwiched in between a very brief discussion of death rays and robot bombers, he says:

    Then there are Explosives. Have we reached the end? Has Science turned its last page on them? May there not be methods of using explosive energy incomparably more intense than anything heretofore discovered? Might not a bomb no bigger than an orange be found to possess a secret power to destroy a whole block of buildings -- nay, to concentrate the force of a thousand tons of cordite and blast a township at a stroke?

    Of course, he could well be referring to atomic bombs; but I think he is hedging his bets and is talking about them as well as more powerful conventional explosives. He wasn't a scientist, after all, and he was not making a scientific prediction. (If he was, he was wrong anyway: you can't build a nuke the size of an orange.)

  7. Thanks, but you're missing the point: everybody knew that WWII in Europe was coming to an end and that physics would return to pre-war activities. This meant nuclear physics, and the application of fission, which was as big then as superstring hype is today. Laurence's articles in 1940 did not mark the end of public interest: atoms dominated sci fi throughout the war, just as superstring hype today is indistinguishable from sci fi: Sam Moskowitz, "The Atom Smashers: Fiction's Prophetic Parallel to Fact", published in Fantasy Fiction Field, no. 210, 6 October 1945; Paul Brians, Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction, 1895-1984, Kent State University press, 1987.

    "Churchill was hardly apathetic about the atomic bomb ..."

    Richard Rhodes quotes Churchill's reaction in The Making of the Atomic Bomb:

    "Although personally I am quite content with existing explosives, I feel we must not stand in the path of improvement."

    Churchill was just being realistic, and contrary to Rhodes, was proved right. It turned out to be too late to drop on Germany, and with most of the wooden medieval German city centres already burned out by firestorms, and better air-raid shelters in Germany basements than in Hiroshima, I doubt if the casualties would have been significant. Note that no historian, not even Dr Melissa Smith (Architects of Armageddon: the Home Office Scientific
    Advisers' Branch and civil defence in Britain, 1945–68
    has ever checked the Dirkwood Corporation's 1968 analysis of 35,000 Hiroshima and Nagasaki case histories with respect to survival rates outdoors or indoors, in shelter, etc. The bomb was only highly in Hiroshima against overcrowded wooden housing when most people were outdoors. There is too much prejudice to deal with this.

    Rhodes gets all his "facts" wrong on this, presenting complete drivel. The Radiation Effects Research Foundation has a database, and survivors were able to document how many colleagues were working in the buildings in each case. There is no uncertainty that people survived in the firestorms because 100% of those with serious radiation sickness were within the firestorm radius (the initial radiation drops very sharply with distance, as shown in tests and thermoluminescence dosimetry in Hiroshima). They evacuated the firestorm area before the firestorm started, which wasn't instant but took about 2-3 hours to reach its peak.

    In other words, the bomb would have been ineffective against modern (non-wood) cities in Germany or London. Terence H. O’Brien points out on pages 11-16 of the official British History of the Second World War, Civil Series, Civil Defence (1955) that in WWI, 103 air-raids (51 airship, 52 bomber) dropped 300 tons of bombs, causing 16 casualties/ton of bombs (29% of whom died), but only the worst two daylight air raids on London (June and July 1917) which caused 121 casualties/ton (26% fatal) and 16 night raids on London in 1917-18 gave 52 casualties/ton, used in civil defence planning calculations. Second, they assumed that the enemy would drop as many bombs as possible as quickly as possible. O’Brien states on page 12 that the British Committee on Imperial Defence in November 1921 predicted an air attack of 1,500 tons/month of bombs on Britain, adding on page 96 that on 28 October 1937 the Committee of Imperial Defence revised this for German rearmament to 600 tons/day or 18,000 tons/month, assuming a minimum of 50 casualties/ton, thus predicting 18,000 x 50 = 900,000 casualties/month. If that were true, Britain would have been exterminated in WWII. (A PDF of O'Brien is linked on my page.) Combining Appendices II and III on pages 677 and 680 of O'Brien gives us the WWII results for high explosive bombs (tons) and fatalities caused in Britain:

    1940: 23,767 killed by 34,970 tons, 0.68 killed/ton
    1941: 19,918 killed by 22,176 tons, 0.90 killed/ton
    1942: 3,236 killed by 3,039 tons, 1.06 killed/ton
    1943: 2,372 killed by 2,232 tons, 1.06 killed/ton
    1944: 8,475 killed by 8,081 tons, 1.05 killed/ton
    1945: 1,860 killed by 772 tons, 2.41 killed/ton

    Before 1945, most of the bombs dropped were aircraft or slow V1 cruise missiles (doodlebugs), but in 1945, 86% of the bomb tonnage was V2s (O'Brien assumes each V2 equivalent to 1 ton of explosive). The average mortality rate was lowest in 1940 because of careful sheltering, it slightly increased to about 1 killed/ton from 1941-4 because people became used to air-raids (as the official Nov 1941 Shelter Survey showed), thus often stayed in doors at night in the cupboard under the stairs or under a table shelter, instead of going out to a cold, damp shelter. In 1945 in rose dramatically because the V2 is supersonic and thus gave no audible warning: the first sound was blast wave. So people had no warning to take cover.

    O'Brien in Appendix IV (p681) states that London received 71 major raids (over 100 tons/raid) from 7 Sept 1940 to 16 May 1941, amounting to 18,291 tons of high explosive, 18.291 kilotons.

    If the damage scaling was was linear, then for 50% blast yield (Glasstone and Dolan, 1977) we have a 36.6 kt nuclear bomb equivalent.

    However, the diffraction (overpressure) damage areas (or number of buildings damaged) increases only as the 2/3rds power of yield. So bigger bombs produce a less-than-proportional increase in destruction. O'Brien states on p505 that the most common Blitz bombs dropped on London were 50 kg and 250 kg, and that Andersons survived undamaged at 6 ft and 20 ft, respectively. Let's take 100 kg as the mean bomb size for the high explosives in the London Blitz, hence 18,291 tons is equivalent to 183,000 bombs each of 0.0001 kt blast yield. Scaling up to 1 megaton blast yield bombs:

    183,000*(0.0001 kt)^{2/3} = N*(1000 kt)^{2/3}

    Thus: 394 = 100N

    hence N ~ 4 bombs of 1 megaton blast yield (or 2 megatons total yield).

    The Blitz blast overpressure effects on London were thus equivalent to 4 hydrogen bombs of 2 megatons yield each. Sure, there was no fallout, but if the Russians wanted to optimise blast and thermal effects they would have to air burst the bombs well above the fireball radius. Now, please tell me, why civil defence is supposedly not possible against nuclear weapons for all the orthodox historians? Can they calculate? :-)

  8. Since it's out of UK Government copyright and out of print, I'm put a pdf of Terence O'Brien, Civil Defence, H.M. Stationery Office, 1955 here (about 80 MB): http://nige.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/obrien-civil-defence.pdf

    The 1950 U.K. Home Office Scientific Adviser's Branch report The Number of Atomic Bombs Equivalent to the Last War Air Attacks on Great Britain and Germany (National Archives document reference HO 225/16) concluded that the whole of WWII bombing on Britain is equivalent to 52 nuclear bombs of 20 kt (Hiroshima-Nagasaki) yield.

    Since damage area and casualties scale as (yield)^{2/3} ("equivalent megatonnage" in Cold War jargon), 52 bombs of 20 kt has the same effect as 52*(20/1000)^{2/3} = 3.8 bombs of 1 megaton yield each.

    However, HO 225/16 used a higher figure for WWII casualties than O'Brien's data. HO 225/16 states:

    "This figure for the weight of high explosive equivalent to the atomic bomb for causing casualties increases as the amount of protection of the population increases. Thus for the night raiding conditions on London in the last war, where something like 60% of the population were in houses, 35% in shelter and 5% in the open, the number killed in inner London per ton of bombs was 4."

    HO 225/16 was Top Secret for 8 years then Restricted until 1980. They didn't want to undermine nuclear deterrence by debunking exaggerations.

  9. "... "leaving aside your unconventional ideas about physics) ..."

    If my ideas about physics were "conventional", then perhaps they wouldn't be my ideas. Clearly the fact that Galileos' ideas were unconventional didn't prove them to be scientifically wrong.

    There can be a drift to fashion over fact, where the novelty is dismissed simply for being innovative in an unfashionable direction, not for being scientifically incorrect! (I'm well aware that political correctness is not my forte.) :-)

  10. I'm not sure what you're trying to prove, NC, but it seems to have little or nothing to do with the topic of Brett's post, or the subsequent discussion; and everything to do with vast quantities of irrelevant information being posted here on your pet project.

    The voluminous references you provide often simply don't support your claims - such as the only comment within shouting distance of the topic; your opening statement: "The secret was the Manhattan Project, not the general concept of the atomic bomb." which the voluminous references have nothing to do with showing that as answering Brett's question. As for the rest, it's not so much a problem with 'political correctness' (a self-pat best avoided as it's usually a clue to self-aggredisment or just plain poor manners) as that the argument/s are muddled and undermined by cheap and inaccurate prejudicial adjectives. (Such as references to the V-1 as 'slow'; subsonic is accurate, slow is not; stating people as 'lying' on your opinion just looks hysterical.) Oh, and missing words voiding the statement.

    After a read through of your offerings here, and a look at your website (which needs an introduction, or summary, rather than walls of others' writing) it's as clear as mud and a lot less fun. A bit more effort structuring the argument and less bleeding chunks of others work and views might distance your efforts from the to-be-avoided fringe of internet research. Please don't be offended if I don't respond further to your views; you may have a good point to make, even be correct, but until it's comprehensibly presented I'm not interested. It's also not on the topic or the discussion here. Pity.

    Regards,

  11. "... references to the V-1 as 'slow'; subsonic is accurate, slow is not; ..."

    Thanks. Subsonic is misleading: if the V-1 had just been slightly "subsonic" they wouldn't have been heard long before it arrived. Prejudice consists of structuring an argument before the facts are in, and then fitting facts around, or beginning research by writing a summary of the proposed book, or compiling a table of contents prior to research. The blog is merely a compilation of facts and views which fashionable prejudice opposes on the basis of various delusions. :-)

  12. You mean other than nc? I doubt it. It's clear he's confused over the concept of testing a theory or concept and developing from there as against throwing up a huge random aggregation of untested material on a topic (or here, off topic) without an introduction, summary or structure.

    Sharing one's notes rather than a coherent argument is pointlessly confusing and - you might like to note, nc - just going to drive people away. Some development of ideas could be debated if there was some coherence, but there isn't, so as a colleague advised, there's just no point in attempting to engage.

  13. Sharing one's notes rather than a coherent argument is pointlessly confusing and - you might like to note, nc - just going to drive people away. Some development of ideas could be debated if there was some coherence, but there isn't, so as a colleague advised, there's just no point in attempting to engage.

    Hi JDK,

    Thanks for critical comments. My blog is as you say a collection of odds and ends, not a structured, coherent argument, or development of ideas. You'd prefer a structured summary, or refuse any discussion as pointless. Fair enough.

    Here's a summary: the popular media, disarmament activists, fashionable politicians, and the military have all, always had a duty to try to maximise the alarm over various "weapons of mass destruction". All have a duty to warn the public of the possibility of impending doom, if that helps sell newspapers, books, disarmament conferences, votes, and weapons systems.

    Yet there is no financial benefit to anyone from even publishing the efficiency of simple duck and cover type knowledge-based countermeasures. My argument is that if people know the facts, the panic is replaced by effective counteractions which greatly reduce the effects. This goes against the "consensus" today, but Glasstone's 1950 Effects of Atomic Weapons (large PDF http://nige.wordpress.com/files/2009/11/eaw.pdf ) states on pages 1 (paragraph 1.3) and 289 (paragraph 8.116):

    "{Paragraph 1.3} During World War II many large cities in England, Germany, and Japan were subjected to terrific attacks by high-explosive and incendiary bombs. Yet, when proper steps had been taken for the protection of the civilian population and for the restoration of services after the bombing, there was little, if any, evidence of panic. It is the purpose of this book to state the facts concerning the atomic bomb, and to make an objective, scientific analysis of these facts. It is hoped that as a result, although it may not be feasible completely to allay fear, it will at least be possible to avoid panic.

    {Paragraph 8.116} ... perhaps the most important application of radiological warfare would be its psychological effect as a mystery weapon, analogous to the initial use of poison gas ... The obvious method to combat radiological warfare in this case is to understand and be prepared for it.

    Since 1950, when Leo Szilard was talking about 1,000 Mt (1 Gt) cobalt-60 bombs exterminating all life on earth, better investigations of Hiroshima have shown that in Hiroshima, the effects depended on whether a person took cover or not. Glasstone 1950 was delusional, but not in the direction most people may suppose: it only gave one quantitative set of data on casualties, the graph from the Manhattan District report on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was based on 15,000 school girls mainly in the open or on roofs in Hiroshima, tearing down houses to clear fire-breaks against incendiary attacks in the blitz expected prior to the invasion of Japan.

    All of the nuclear weapons mass-destruction effects over large areas are delayed substantially longer after the explosion that the nearby effects of conventional low-yield weapons, as explained by Professor Joseph O. Hirschfelder, “The Effects of Atomic Weapons”, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, August-September 1950, vol. VI, no. 8-9, pp. 236-40 and 285-6 (quotation from page 238):

    “Because of the comparatively long duration of the thermal radiation, exposed personnel can greatly reduce their exposure by ducking behind an obstacle or dropping prone. Ducking behind an obstacle would also considerably reduce the exposure to gamma rays and place the person in a more sheltered position to withstand the flying debris which will shower the area a few seconds later when the blast wave passes. It takes the blast wave one second to reach one-half mile, three seconds to reach one mile, and seven seconds to reach two miles.”

    Further evidence of this in practice is given in Trumbull's 1957 Nine who Survived Hiroshima and Nagasaki, interviewing the double survivors who fled to Nagasaki after Hiroshima was bombed, and Dirkwood Corporation reports on survival in different buildings in Japan. Fallout radiation countermeasures are well known. My point is not that civil defence is a perfect solution, but that there is a lot of delusion based on political propaganda:

    “... before World War II, for example, many of the staffs engaged in estimating the effects of bombing over-estimated by large amounts. This was one of the main reasons that at the Munich Conference and earlier occasions the British and the French chose appeasement to standing firm or fighting. Incidentally, these staff calculations were more lurid than the worst imaginations of fiction.”

    - Herman Kahn, 1959 hearings on the Biological and Environmental Effects of Nuclear War, page 883. http://nige.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/1959-congress-nuclear-war-hearings.pdf

    Kahn failed to really drive this home, like Glasstone, because he didn't provide the facts and figures to back up his argument. Kahn omitted the evidence in his much-attacked 1960 book, pp390-1:

    “... in spite of the tremendous scale of the violations it still took the Germans five years, from January 1933 when Hitler came in to around January 1938, before they had an army capable of standing up against the French and the British. At any time during that five-year period if the British and the French had had the will, they probably could have stopped the German rearmament program. ... it is an important defect of ‘arms control’ agreements that the punishment or correction of even outright violation is not done automatically ... but takes an act of will ... one of the most important aspects of the interwar period [was] the enormous and almost uncontrollable impulse toward disarmament ... As late as 1934, after Hitler had been in power for almost a year and a half, [British Prime Minister] Ramsey McDonald still continued to urge the French that they should disarm themselves by reducing their army by 50 per cent, and their air force by 75 per cent.

    “In effect, MacDonald and his supporters urged one of the least aggressive nations in Europe to disarm itself to a level equal with their potential attackers, the Germans. ... Probably as much as any other single group I think that these men of good will can be charged with causing World War II. [Emphasis by Kahn.] ... Hitler came into power in January 1933 and almost immediately Germany began to rearm ... but it was not until October 14, 1933 [that] Germany withdrew from a disarmament conference and the League of Nations ... Hitler's advisors seem to have been greatly worried that this action might trigger off a violent counteraction - for example, a French occupation of the Ruhr. But the British and the French contented themselves with denouncing the action.”

    Kahn in both places mentions Wheeler-Bennett's Munich: Prologue to Tragedy as his major source, but it's more of a primary source than a carefully compiled secondary source, because Wheeler-Bennett went to the Sudentenland immediately after the Munich agreement to try to help the non-Aryan people and found a disaster. He could be accused of prejudice and his figures on gas masks are incorrect.

    The point of this is that, if Kahn is correct, exaggerating weapons effects to "ridicule" civil defence and to make disarmament the only credible option, helped achieve WWII. If you read published war historians, both on 1930s appeasement and Cold War history, there is no analysis of this other than O'Brien's 1955 Civil Defence and Kahn. They have nothing to gain in popularity from following up Kahn, and everything to gain socially from being economical with the truth; a well-analyzed "consensus of opinion" phenomenon which war and civil defence psychologist Irving Janis called "Groupthink" (he wrote a book of that title).

    Digging deeper, trenches and gas masks were not ridiculed as pathetic or useless on the Western Front in WWI: if simple trench effectiveness against "Dictator" mortar fire at Petersburg in the final year of the American Civil War had been well known to the Kaiser, his Chiefs of Staff 1912 short-war plan (implemented by the convenience of a sniper's bullet in 1914) would have seemed less favourable. Exaggerations of weapons effects - based on discounting countermeasures - permitted both World Wars, by first encouraging aggression, and second delaying/deterring responses.

    O'Brien on p57 of Civil Defence 1955 explains that Stanley Baldwin on 22 May 1935 suddenly flipped from denying Germany was any significant threat at all so disarmament could proceed, to saying he had made a mistake and Germany was actually at parity with Britain, so Britain couldn't intervene. There was not a second of transition in he official policy. Until 22 May 1935, there was no danger to oppose. After 22 May 1922, the danger was so big it could not be opposed safely. Under Baldwin, rearmament was stepped up instead, but at a slower rate than Germany, so Britain losing time in the arms race. Again, this is ignored by histories other than Kahn, who doesn't count in historical academia!

  14. Post author

    nc:

    Again, this is ignored by histories other than Kahn, who doesn't count in historical academia!

    What are you talking about? Plenty of historians have written about the switch from disarmament to rearmament, including (in a small way) myself.

    I don't have time to respond to your comments in detail now, but please stop spamming my blog with your walls of text. It's not your soapbox, it's mine. You've got your own blog for that.

    The thing is, I agree with you to an extent: the exaggeration of the effects of bombing by both pacifists and militarists alike was in large part responsible for the fear of the next war, and hence appeasement. That, in fact, is the core of my thesis and my forthcoming book. (It's not a new idea to me either: see eg Uri Bialer, The Shadow of the Bomber: The Fear of Air Attack and British Politics, 1932-1939 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1980).) What you are doing is not history, it's polemic, and to be honest that just drives me up the wall.

  15. Thanks and sorry for lengthy off-topic comments, but JDK opposed a blog about PDF files of declassified Cold War research.

    Thanks for the references to your paper and Bialer's book, both of which which I will read ASAP. I'm not interested in polemic, just facts. Good luck with your book.

  16. I'm not interested in polemic

    That being the case, you probably want to drop the everyone-is-stupid-but-me tone that unfortunately permeates so many of your posts - the accusations of delusion, lying, etc. It's possible to challenge the claims of historical actors without assuming that they acted out of conscious mendacity or idiocy.

  17. Thank you for the advice. I wasn't aware of a patronising tone, but will take your advice and change "delusion" and "lying", which are undiplomatic, to "incorrect groupthink" and "error asserting".

  18. Oh, boy. "You'd prefer a structured summary, or refuse any discussion as pointless."
    No, speaking personally, you lost my interest in your views some time back, because of how badly you are presenting them. I suggested you needed a summary on your blog, but not for me, now. (I agree with Brett; there seems to be some interesting ideas and facts in walls of words - who is going to wade through the junk, though? 1,400 words in a reply on another's blog is not a 'summary'.)

    If you want to achieve anything rather than tediously haranguing people, I suggested that you need to approach things fundamentally differently; and as per Alan's advice that doesn't mean euphemising insults but playing the ball (facts, topic) rather than the man (name calling).

    "JDK opposed a blog about PDF files" - No I said it was a poor way of communicating. It was a bit of advice from a writing and publishing professional. To be crystal clear, I don't care what you do, thankfully you're not an author whose writing I'm expected to sort out. You could take feedback on board and act on it, or you can classify it as 'opposition' and carry on as a 'politically incorrect' lone voice in the wilderness.

    Either way, please stick, briefly, to the topic if posting here, or don't be surprised if the material is eliminated. If that were to happen (and I don't know how Brett might handle further huge replies, though I know what I'd do) it wouldn't be due to the iconoclastic ideas being expressed, but the excess and irrelevance of the presentation.

  19. JDK: the blog is a random collection of material which is primary research, not an edited manuscript, and I merely referred you to it as the source of a PDF of a long out of print source. But thank you again for your feedback. Brett is welcome to delete all my comments. Thanks for the advice.

  20. Post author

    nc:

    Firstly, let me just say I appreciate that you have taken my request on board, and furthermore have remained polite despite some rough handling. I welcome your continued comments, as long as they are on topic (within reason); if you want to go off on a tangent you are welcome to link to your own blog. Thank you.

    Thanks, but you're missing the point: everybody knew that WWII in Europe was coming to an end and that physics would return to pre-war activities. This meant nuclear physics, and the application of fission, which was as big then as superstring hype is today. Laurence's articles in 1940 did not mark the end of public interest: atoms dominated sci fi throughout the war, just as superstring hype today is indistinguishable from sci fi: Sam Moskowitz, "The Atom Smashers: Fiction's Prophetic Parallel to Fact", published in Fantasy Fiction Field, no. 210, 6 October 1945; Paul Brians, Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction, 1895-1984, Kent State University press, 1987.

    With respect, no. This just is not relevant to what I'm talking about here.
    Once again, in this post I am talking about a very specific moment: the end of May 1945. (This is several weeks *after* the end of the war in Europe, by the way, not before.) In this post I am asking why, at this specific moment, it was possible for somebody to say that 'The second world war had been within measuring distance of the atom bomb' and for somebody else to refer to 'The atomic bomb, which was almost ready at the end of the war'. Of course the idea of the atomic bomb was public knowledge. It had been around since 1914, and used in SF novels and stories since then. But that fact alone cannot explain why, suddenly, these people started to discuss it right at this specific moment. They are not talking about the mere idea of an atomic bomb, and speculating that it might be developed soon. They are claiming that the atomic bomb had already been in development (past tense). Being aware of the general idea of atomic bombs simply cannot explain why they made these claims. As I pointed out in a previous comment, Darnley even said that 'the Press tells us' that the atomic bomb was 'three-quarters' finished by the end of the war. This, the fact that they were speaking in the past tense, and also the way that they talk as if the atomic bomb project had been interrupted by the end of the war, all suggests to me that they are referring to a specific press claim about a German atomic bomb project.

    And, just by the by, I rather doubt that members of the House of Lords were regular readers of American science fiction pulps during the war.

    Richard Rhodes quotes Churchill's reaction in The Making of the Atomic Bomb:

    "Although personally I am quite content with existing explosives, I
    feel we must not stand in the path of improvement."

    Churchill was just being realistic, and contrary to Rhodes, was proved right. It turned out to be too late to drop on Germany, and with most of the wooden medieval German city centres already burned out by firestorms, and better air-raid shelters in Germany basements than in Hiroshima, I doubt if the casualties would have been significant.

    I can't see what your point is here. Churchill could not foresee the future; he did not know how long the bomb would take to develop nor when the war would end. It was a big investment in resources and money (which could have been expended on other things) and so, given that he did not know if the bomb would be ready in time he was a bit doubtful about it. But his advisors believed it was a worthwhile risk and so he did approve it. If he had been so prescient as you seem to think he was, why would he do that? Again, he was not a scientist and he had no special understanding of nuclear physics. He was instead a war leader trying to allocate resources efficiently. That's the extent of his 'apathy' about nuclear weapons.

    Note that no historian, not even Dr Melissa Smith (Architects of Armageddon: the Home Office Scientific Advisers' Branch and civil defence in Britain, 1945–68 has ever checked the Dirkwood Corporation's 1968 analysis of 35,000 Hiroshima and Nagasaki case histories with respect to survival rates outdoors or indoors, in shelter, etc. The bomb was only highly in Hiroshima against overcrowded wooden housing when most people were outdoors. There is too much prejudice to deal with this.

    You don't seem to understand what it is that historians actually do. Why would a historian of British civil defence care particularly what an American corporation reported about Hiroshima? She might, if the subjects of her study (i.e. the Home Office Scientific Advisers' Branch) had used that study. (But since it was done right at the very end of her period, that seems unlikely.) Or perhaps she might use it in a comparative vein, to see what the Americans were thinking about civil defence in the sane period. But I don't read you as saying this. Instead you seem to be suggesting that she should have looked at it in an effort to check whether or not the Home Office Scientific Advisers' Branch was correct in its assessment of the effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. That's not history, that's science. (And I need to keep pointing out that your beliefs about the effects of nuclear weapons are heterodox.)

    The Blitz blast overpressure effects on London were thus equivalent to 4 hydrogen bombs of 2 megatons yield each. Sure, there was no fallout, but if the Russians wanted to optimise blast and thermal effects they would have to air burst the bombs well above the fireball radius.

    You're also ignoring the fact that in a nuclear attack all those megatons would been delivered in seconds, not spread out over the nine months of the Blitz. Don't you think this makes a slight difference to the civil defence problem?

    Now, please tell me, why civil defence is supposedly not possible against nuclear weapons for all the orthodox historians? Can they calculate? :-)

    Again, historians would generally accept the advice of scientists, engineers, etc, on this point. That's if they made a judgement on the question at all; more likely they would confine themselves to discussing what people (e.g. civil defence planners) thought at the time and why they thought it. Proving or disproving scientific ideas doesn't come into it.

    Here's a summary: the popular media, disarmament activists, fashionable politicians, and the military have all, always had a duty to try to maximise the alarm over various "weapons of mass destruction". All have a duty to warn the public of the possibility of impending doom, if that helps sell newspapers, books, disarmament conferences, votes, and weapons systems.

    I absolutely agree that pacifists and militarists both had an interest in promoting the fear of the bomber. I absolutely disagree that their motives were always, or even usually, venal as you imply. They were honestly-held beliefs. (And Alan's comment is spot on in this regard.) In this case they happened to be wrong, or at least, vastly exaggerated. That doesn't mean it always has to be the case. Sometimes the sky does fall in.

    Yet there is no financial benefit to anyone from even publishing the efficiency of simple duck and cover type knowledge-based countermeasures. My argument is that if people know the facts, the panic is replaced by effective counteractions which greatly reduce the effects.

    Not everything is about money. And 'knowledge-based' is a nice phrase, but the point is how is that knowledge acquired? The question is what knowledge did they have, rather than what knowledge you think they should have had? You need to look at the bomber fear from the vantage point of the 1930s, not from c. 1960 as Kahn did and not from 2012 as you are.

  21. Thanks for your patience, and I agree with your criticisms.

    You're also ignoring the fact that in a nuclear attack all those megatons would been delivered in seconds, not spread out over the nine months of the Blitz. Don't you think this makes a slight difference to the civil defence problem?

    On the issue of the 9 months time spread of the Blitz, Janis's Air War and Emotional Stress and later revisionist studies of both single mass attacks (Hamburg 1943, Tokyo 1945, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki) provide evidence which can be compared to the Blitz, i.e. protracted bombing. Spread out the same casualties and destruction over a longer time period does greatly reduces the overall intensity of the shock of the damage, but the disruption lasts longer. Disrupting the sleep of the population due to repeated night air raids for many months is a negative effect which is reduced in a single explosion. I don't precisely see what you are suggesting is gained, since we're comparing the same number of casualties and the same amount of destruction, spread over different periods of time. Rebuilding in London's heavily hit East End postwar and took many years after the war, so a the number of hours or months the damage was spread over did not affect the situation. For individuals it makes the fear, worry and stress last 9 months. There is evidence from Janis that spreading out a given amount of destruction can cause more disruption to city life than equal destruction delivered in a single raid.

    A delay in the arrival of the harmful blast winds and debris over the vast area of destruction, and the delayed thermal plus nuclear radiation pulse emission, simply does not happen with conventional explosives. At 1 mile from a 20 kt WWII nuclear explosion even without an air raid warning, you have a flash of light many times brighter than the sun which gives you a full 3 seconds to duck and cover before the blast arrives. Hence Bert the Turtle's duck and cover advice in 1950. The H-bomb makes this even more effective, since the heat comes out more slowly and the blast takes longer to arrive over vast areas, with higher yield (a full 40 seconds 10 miles from a 1 megaton burst). Apart from the Blitz comparison, there is the single air raid on Tokyo, or the air raids over one day (USAF) and the following night (RAF) on the medieval (wooden) area of Hamburg.

    I'm not interested in producing a diatribe against disarmers, certainly most were entirely genuine. Unfortunately virtually all of most outspoken "pacifists" who distorted the facts did have a political agenda and were spreading propaganda knowingly, and there is evidence to support the fact of this prejudice.

    Martin Ceadle's paper, "The First Communist 'Peace Society': The British Anti-War Movement 1932-1935", Twentieth Century British History (1990) 1 (1), pp 58-86, traces how the peace movement infiltrated back in the 1920s. Paul Mercer's 1986, 465 pages The Peace of the Dead: The Truth behind the Nuclear Disarmers documents evidence of the links of the Moscow Politburo-controlled World Peace Council, and CND. Sure it's published by a right-wing think tank (Policy Research Publications, trying to hit Labour before the Thatcher's third general election) but who else would fund such a detailed research publication (Mercer infiltrated CND to get access to their records, a right-wing Mole to balance out Duncan Campbell, albeit with far fewer sales than War plan UK).

    Dr Smith did not cover 1950s Scientific Advisory Branch blast casualty estimates, which were justified by the 1952 Hurricane nuclear test exposure of WWII Anderson shelters to various overpressures at Monte bello. Those estimates were incorporated into the Confidential 1957 Capabilities of Atomic Weapons, TM 23-200 for brick houses (that manual was given to Britain in 1958), yet they were were vigorously attacked by SANA and Duncan Campbell (War Plan UK, 1982). So there was information suggesting an exaggeration of published effects back in the 1950s, and Glasstone's 1962 edition of The Effects of Nuclear Weapons obliquely included some of the early data showing 50% survival at 0.12 mile from ground zero in concrete buildings in Hiroshima, versus 1.3 miles for 50% survival outdoors. My father who remembers the 1930s situation and the Blitz was a Civil Defence Corp instructor in the UK from 1950, attending instructor courses at the Easingwold civil defence college. Throughout the entire pre-war to Cold War period civil defence was vilified and sneered at in the press, the radio and later on TV by all manner of experts who didn't know even the facts available at the time in question.

    Again, I apologise for any errors, misunderstandings, and off-topic lengthy comments, and please feel free to delete the comments if they are unhelpful to yourself or others. The responses have been enlightening in any case.

  22. Post author

    I don't precisely see what you are suggesting is gained, since we're comparing the same number of casualties and the same amount of destruction, spread over different periods of time. Rebuilding in London's heavily hit East End postwar and took many years after the war, so a the number of hours or months the damage was spread over did not affect the situation. For individuals it makes the fear, worry and stress last 9 months. There is evidence from Janis that spreading out a given amount of destruction can cause more disruption to city life than equal destruction delivered in a single raid.

    I'm talking about civil defence, not morale. In a nuclear attack, fire services, hospitals, rescue squads, etc, would be overwhelmed, because the vast majority of damage is done in minutes. But with the damage spread over months, they have time to respond effectively and then to recoup between raids. It's a completely different problem.

    I'm not interested in producing a diatribe against disarmers, certainly most were entirely genuine. Unfortunately virtually all of most outspoken "pacifists" who distorted the facts did have a political agenda and were spreading propaganda knowingly, and there is evidence to support the fact of this prejudice.

    I can't agree with this formulation either. Some, no doubt; not 'virtually all'.

    Martin Ceadle's paper, "The First Communist 'Peace Society': The British Anti-War Movement 1932-1935", Twentieth Century British History (1990) 1 (1), pp 58-86, traces how the peace movement infiltrated back in the 1920s. Paul Mercer's 1986, 465 pages The Peace of the Dead: The Truth behind the Nuclear Disarmers documents evidence of the links of the Moscow Politburo-controlled World Peace Council, and CND. Sure it's published by a right-wing think tank (Policy Research Publications, trying to hit Labour before the Thatcher's third general election) but who else would fund such a detailed research publication (Mercer infiltrated CND to get access to their records, a right-wing Mole to balance out Duncan Campbell, albeit with far fewer sales than War plan UK).

    I don't know Mercer's book. But with such an obvious agenda I would find it very difficult to trust it as a work of history, even to the extent that it was intended as history. And I find it odd that you ask 'who else would fund such a detailed research publication'. Historians, poorly funded as we are, do this sort of thing all the time. Maybe not for the CND yet; I don't know. (I assume somebody has used the CND's extensive archives at the LSE; of course you wouldn't trust that to give the whole picture either.) But you don't need to play at being a secret agent to do serious research. It's not exactly repeatable.

    More importantly, it's one thing to compare different periods, it's another to conflate them. One minute you cite Ceadel's paper about the 1930s, the next you're talking about Mercer infiltrating the CND in the 1980s. The extent to which CND was influenced or even controlled by communists says nothing whatsoever about what was happening between the wars to the peace groups which came before CND.

    Ceadel's paper is certainly to the point; but he does not portray a peace movement dominated by communists. Clearly communists were influential, but that is not the same thing: peace activists in the 1930s came from all ideologies and none. The Peace Pledge Union, the Peace Ballot, the New Commonwealth, the League of Nations Union, these things were as important to the history of pacifism in the 1930s, if not more, than any communist front group. It's one reason why they couldn't present a united front.

    Dr Smith did not cover 1950s Scientific Advisory Branch blast casualty estimates, which were justified by the 1952 Hurricane nuclear test exposure of WWII Anderson shelters to various overpressures at Monte bello.

    See, to me that is a legitimate criticism. That sounds like something she should be discussing.

  23. "I'm talking about civil defence, not morale. In a nuclear attack, fire services, hospitals, rescue squads, etc, would be overwhelmed, because the vast majority of damage is done in minutes. But with the damage spread over months, they have time to respond effectively and then to recoup between raids. It's a completely different problem."

    Civil defence is first about prevention of casualties, precisely so you don't produce so many casualties in the first place, that you would have without civil defence. You're defining civil defence purely as first aid and other recovery functions in the aftermath. Air raids during WWII which went on for hours and included a lot of unexploded bombs with delay timers or motion sensor detonators (booby traps) severely hampered civil defence rescue efforts. Bomb disposal had to defuse unexploded bombs before civil defence could work. This is not the case with nuclear weapons. For example, after radiation exposure the white blood cell count reaches a minimum about 30 days after a sub-lethal exposure, and most of the casualties from infection are spread over a period of two months. In any case, Hamburg and Tokyo were destroyed in a matter of hours, just like Hiroshima where the firestorm wasn't instant but took hours to develop.

    The International Center of Photography in 2011 published Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945 which is extracts from the secret 1947 3-volume U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS), which America should have published in 1947, instead of the misleading 1946 report and other propaganda. On page 176, they quote the USSBS secret Hiroshima report's volume 2, pages 126-8:

    "Structural damage by blast to multistory, steel- and reinforced concrete-frame structures did not extend beyond 2,000 feet from GZ. The buildings within this radius sustained an average of 12 percent structural damage. The average for all the buildings of this type in Hiroshima was 8 percent."

    These are modern city buildings. The burned out areas in old photos are congested (a roof to ground area of over 40%) wood frame houses. On page 98, they quote the secret 1947 USSBS Hiroshima report, vol 1, pp 13-14 (typeset edition, not the typed manuscript in the UK National Archives at Kew, which I examined on visiting it - then called PRO - with my father right back in July 1990):

    ... six persons who had been in reinforced-concrete buildings within 3,200 feet of air zero stated that black cotton blackout curtains were ignited by radiant heat ... but a large proportion of over 1,000 persons questioned was in agreement that a great majority of the original fires was started by debris falling on kitchen charcoal fires, by industrial process fires, or by electric short circuits.

    I'm glad that this has finally been published, although it is hidden away on page 98 of that 2011 book of photos. If I can just make a final encouraging observation about the fickleness of public opinion: Dr David Bradley in 1948 wrote a book called No Place to Hide, claiming that an underwater burst like the 1946 Baker test at Bikini Atoll, would contaminate everything and everyone like that nuclear test which he attended as a radiation monitor. It was widely reviewed, praised, and led to Britain detonating Hurricane as a water burst in 1952 (to check the contamination data from Baker, and the effects of very shallow water in a harbour). Bradley reports that the book was a best-seller until 23 September 1949 bomb, when sales dropped off suddenly. That was the day Truman announced the first Russian nuclear test (source: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Nov 1983, p39). This is precisely what happened in the late 1930s, when the popularity of "next war" fiction was replaced with an interest in realistic civil defence (1 million ARP members signed up after the Munich crisis) because air attack was becoming a real threat, no longer escapist fiction. If only it hadn't taken so long.

  24. One minute you cite Ceadel's paper about the 1930s, the next you're talking about Mercer infiltrating the CND in the 1980s.

    Mercer reprints the reports and they show a consistent effort by the Soviet Union from the 1930s to the 1980s to infiltrate the British Government civil service and to recruit not only Marxist-leaning historians but any socialists they could get to the great cause. The Daily Worker first appeared in London on 1 January 1930. This links to Stalin and it didn't start as the Soviets trying to get secrets or preparing for WWIII, just as an effort to encourage Soviet leaning Brits to get involved in politics, hoping to use democracy to introduce socialism, which was strongly affiliated to the peace and disarmament lobby. Mercer has extensive references and documents lots of primary sources. His boss was the Director of Policy Research Associates, Dr Julian Lewis (DPhil in Strategic Studies in 1981), now MP for New Forest East.

    "Julian Lewis has a formidable reputation in the field of defence and disarmament. He led the challenge to dangerous unilateralism in the Eighties, and was proved right on this crucial issue. Julian is held in very high regard by defence experts and has brought this real experience and expertise to my Front Bench team."

    — Rt Hon David Cameron MP
    February 2010

    http://www.julianlewis.net/

    Dr Smith apparently now works in the Whitehall Civil Service, so I fear that red tape and secrecy may prevent further insights being openly published.

  25. Post author

    Civil defence is first about prevention of casualties, precisely so you don't produce so many casualties in the first place, that you would have without civil defence. You're defining civil defence purely as first aid and other recovery functions in the aftermath. Air raids during WWII which went on for hours and included a lot of unexploded bombs with delay timers or motion sensor detonators (booby traps) severely hampered civil defence rescue efforts. Bomb disposal had to defuse unexploded bombs before civil defence could work. This is not the case with nuclear weapons.

    They sometimes had to defuse unexploded bombs before civil defence could work. Unexploded ordinance was a serious problem, sure, but you are elevating it far above its actual importance. To argue that this makes conventional bombing worse than nuclear warfare is bizarre.

    In any case, Hamburg and Tokyo were destroyed in a matter of hours, just like Hiroshima where the firestorm wasn't instant but took hours to develop.

    Yes. That was effectively my point: that nuclear weapons pretty much create an automatic firestorm. Firestorms were very difficult to create intentionally with conventional weapons: the RAF and USAAF were almost at that point in 1945, but not quite, everything still had to come off perfectly. And it was the firestorms which caused the truly mass casualties and destruction, precisely because, as I said, the fires overwhelmed the emergency services: more than twice as many people were killed in the Hamburg firestorm than in London during the whole Blitz, for example. And with nuclear weapons you can do that predictably and repeatably.

    Mercer reprints the reports [...]

    There's no point in continuing to throw Mercer at me. I've already explained that, judging from your own account, Mercer fundamentally misrepresents Philip Noel Baker's position on disarmament, and, to a lesser extent, Bertrand Russell's. Let me be blunter: when it comes to the 1930s, either Mercer doesn't know what he's talking about, or you don't know what he's talking about. Either way, you're on a hiding to nothing here.

    -- Rt Hon David Cameron MP
    February 2010

    A political leader praising one of his own MPs! I'm almost positive this has never, ever happened before in the history of the world.

  26. To argue that this makes conventional bombing worse than nuclear warfare is bizarre.

    You've misrepresented me; I pointed out a factor and did not use that factor alone to argue "this makes conventional bombing worse than nuclear warfare".

    ... nuclear weapons pretty much create an automatic firestorm.

    Only one of predominantly two wooden frame cities that existed in Japan in 1945 suffered a firestorm after a nuclear explosion, and even there (Hiroshima) people in modern building in the firestorm area survived. The increase in casualties in various buildings due to the firestorm was trivial as all the detailed reports on casualties in buildings within the firestorm proved (the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey reports it took 2-3 hours to develop to maximum intensity). The Dirkwood Corporation report DC-FR-1054 compared firestorm casualties in different buildings in Hiroshima to Nagasaki (where there were fires, but no firestorm). The was a small effect, and a recent study Lawrence Livermore study shows that the thermal flash is shadowed in modern buildings, preventing ignitions in most cases. So no firestorm. EMP again is ignored in firestorm studies. It precedes the blast, and cuts off electrical power by activating circuit breakers. The fires in Hiroshima were mostly overturned charcoal braziers in wooden houses.

    And it was the firestorms which caused the truly mass casualties and destruction, precisely because, as I said, the fires overwhelmed the emergency services: more than twice as many people were killed in the Hamburg firestorm than in London during the whole Blitz, for example. And with nuclear weapons you can do that predictably and repeatably.

    Hamburg was bombed with incendiaries which burn for 15 minutes unlike the nuclear flash which can't start many fires in a city, as Stanbury explained in Fission Fragments in 1961 after "academic scientists" on TV had attacked the Home Office for discounting fire storms . You cannot start any fires in materials other than fine kindling with nuclear weapons, and you can stamp out ignited newspapers near windows before your house burns down. How many people hang Hiroshima's wartime black coloured curtains in their windows today? Even in Hiroshima, they didn't start a firestorm. There is no mechanism in Western cities for a firestorm, unless you use incendiary bombs as well as nuclear weapons.

    Mercer fundamentally misrepresents Philip Noel Baker's position on disarmament

    What position on disarmament? The fact I mentioned is the specific explanation for why disarmament in 1965 failed: fact, Noel-Baker blamed "militarists". Either it is a fact, or it isn't. I agree with your thesis on this subject. May I take this opportunity, having been well and truly humbled, to withdraw well and truly beaten and humiliated, from this discussion. Again, thanks for the lively exchange, and I agree with the free criticism, which is very enlightening.

  27. I'd just like to also acknowledge Brett's recognition of your politeness; however it does not fill the gap of the other shortfalls, which mean your research and presentation is not (in my opinion) of merit on its own account.

    The main irony is, NC, that if you apply your own type of analysis to your own work, huge problems appear. That's the issue right there; that the methodology is unsound and the material presented is poorly handled.

    I can't speak for the academic contributors, and you've not offered on what basis you have been researching this material for so long. However as a non-academic but interested editor (whose job includes evaluating the credibility and integrity of academic and non-academic writing) you are hitting too many warning notes that (as has been said) your work is polemical and partisan. Your presentation here, and your notes-style blog acts (also ironically, I think) most effectively at repelling a critical unbiased reader of what I think (it's still not clear) you are trying to say, rather than convincing the interested reader.

    Certainly it is worth discussing that there are significant issues with government advice and analysis over civil defence, bombing and nuclear war. Some of the material you've presented is of interest, and thought provoking. However your selection of the data and presentation just won't do. I cannot currently recommend your work as presented here and there as a sound source of views on the topic, however much the ideas may be debated. It is not a question of bias or political leaning, but simply unreliability of work.

    You have said the free criticism is enlightening, so with that in mind;

    - Avoid the prejudicial adjectives.

    - Get your definitions right, manage exceptions and diversity: for instance your definitions of 'prejudice' and 'civil defence' are neither accurate enough or robust.

    - Don't miss out key words.

    - Show why some evidence and statements are more worthy or less: for instance calling people or statements lies and liars says more (too much) about your analysis than them.

    - You can't attack a person in one paragraph and use the same person's other views to justify yours in another paragraph. Leave the attacks out, and instead argue why they are correct or incorrect in each case.

    - Don't write like a party political pamphlet or a politically funded think tank, unless that's how you wish to be seen. If you want your research to have credibility, put as much effort into getting the process of evaluation and presentation of the ideas as you have into selecting supporting data - and choose tighter more focused examples.

    - When you say you are being concise, be so.

    - And a summary of the argument at the start or the end will keep a lot more people interested in what you have to say; volumes of material do not make your argument or views stronger, if it is not clearly presented somewhere.

    - 'Facts' are not some silver bullet. Everyone is always selecting facts and avoiding or discarding others. The test is not to harangue others with your chosen set, but to address why they might 'better' and how others may be less appropriate. More rigor in selecting and testing rather than just waving those that suit would be another point.

    That's more than enough; Brett's blog is not the most appropriate place for research and thesis skills, or writing an analysis; and I'm not attempting to distil either or offer academic advice, so I agree the discussions better brought to a close. But I hope that the discussion may encourage a review of approach, good luck.

  28. Post author

    nc:

    What position on disarmament? The fact I mentioned is the specific explanation for why disarmament in 1965 failed: fact, Noel-Baker blamed "militarists". Either it is a fact, or it isn't.

    Just for the record, I'm not referring to that (what Noel-Baker thought in 1965 was the reason for the failure of disarmament in the 1930s isn't very interesting to me). I'm referring to this (from the other thread):

    Bertrand Russell's suggestion to simply disarm and tell Hitler to do his worst was the prevailing view of disarmers like Noel-Baker, but Kendall in 1938 lampooned this advice.

    No, unilateral disarmament was not the prevailing view of Noel Baker, as I've explained (i.e. he wanted an international air force to keep the peace; national disarmament would happen in train with or shortly after its creation). If you'd left Noel Baker's name out of it, I wouldn't have disagreed. But seeing as you claim that

    Noel-Baker is singled by Paul Mercer, in Peace of the Dead (1986) which goes into Noel-Baker's motives for trying to prevent war in the 1930s by disarming

    then I have to conclude that Mercer either doesn't understand history very well or he was making it up to fit his preconceived ideas. To be fair to Mercer, however, I have not read his book; I'm going on your account. But as I say, I'm not particularly interested in chasing it down either.

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