JF Ptak Science Books Post 1358
I've written many times1 on the technical and political end of the creation and deployment of the atomic bomb, along with some posts on the use and manipulation of language in controlling the sense impressions of nuclear war and survivability. What I have found so extraordinary about this second part is the creation of ordinariness, or mechanization, or acceptance, of the aftermath of nuclear warfare--and what we're talking about here is the
"exchange" of not just a few 20 kiloton Hiroshima-type weapons, but thousands of megatons of explosives and massive amounts of radiation.
[The image above, a U.S. government position description of the job described below, is clickable to 200%.]
Yes. Well. All things being equal, such things as an Afterlife in the United States needed to be contemplated because that is what we do--we make the situation possible for end-of-the-world stuff to happen, and so we have to plan for building things up again with radioactive detritus once all of the keys get turned and buttons pushed, as it is just a natural course of that historical river. That the bomb would be built was a given; that the Soviets would develop the a bomb and delivery capacities was just a matter of time, and that they would be our sworn death-enemies was also a fait accompli. To develop a way to somehow survive a nuclear war may have been a major deterrent to not launching an attack, especially when linked with a Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) arms build up (where everyone and everything would be obliterated if there was a nuclear war, or at least so by 1965 (and probably earlier than that). All this insane stuff may have worked, and somehow we managed not to ignite the world, because (to paraphrase Frank Zappa) there would be no real estate left.
On the other hand, building all of these weapon systems and planning for attack and the post attack world could have pushed us into a final confrontation, making all of this sound "winable", "doable" somehow, that once the bombs had all exploded and nothing worked anymore, that there would be enough to pull together of our civilization to declare that we had indeed "won'".
And the only way to declare a winner was to have something to stand on besides pieces of green glass and Earth, and so plans for communications and a military, police force, fire brigades, medical care, food distribution, banking, and all the rest--the pieces of a recognizable backbone of American society--would have to be undertaken. All of this could very well accomplish the creation of an illusion in the mind of the adversary that you are capable of surviving a nuclear war, and so there would be no great gain in attacking; or it could send the message that by doing this preparation that you were preparing a first strike scenario, and so the adversary would attack while the odds were still not horribly out of balance. And on and--it all looks like a lose-lose endgame to me, which is hardly a "game" at all when all players are losers.
But still there was a need to staff the thousands of positions that went into the theoretical end of figuring out the non-weapon-end world after nuclear war, and the above "position description" is an example of that, a necessarily pro forma form, just another job in a ea of jobs. This one's job descriptions read like any other, except of course that the content was much different. Form the same, setence structure the same, vocabulary basically invariable.
This position description was for "Chief, Damage Assessment Division", was was the part of the Office of Emergency Preparedness (which operated under the auspices of the Executive Office of the President, and then under the Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM), and then under the Production Area, and then, finally, the Damage Assessment Division DMA). The job of the DMA was to identify what would happen to the essential production facilities that would keep the country going--industrial, technical, medical, biological, and so on--how they would be targeted, and how they might survive an attack. This also applied to the people who would be required to be in charge of all of this. Damage assessment.
It was also the job of this person to coordinate the estimation of damage and assessment business post-attack.
So, one "perk" of this job was that they would be expected to survive a nuclear attack, which means that the added benefits to this employment would be a special trip to a safe place to wait out the destruction of the world. I assume that this person would have a leverage like the one I wrote about in my Get-Out-of-Hell-Free Card post (pictured just here, and clickable to 250%).
The position description clearly makes distinctions between pre- and post-attack responsibilities of the Chief of the Damage Assessment Division: under "Nature of Purpose of Work", part 1, section A (1) it reads "a pre-attack capability for translating likely patterns of attacks into losses of manpower, industrial capacity, and weapon systems output'. In Section A (2) we see"a post-attack capability for assessing actual losses, for alternating alternate levels of output consistent with surviving resources and for testing feasibility of proposed new mobilization programs". Or in other words, sifting the rubble to see who and what was left and to see where they could be actually plugged into whatever scenarios had already been planned, and alter as necessary. And also on page two, part (3) "development and maintenance of capabilities for both rapid and deliberate damage assessments in event of actual attack..."
Continuing on page two, the Damage Assessment Division would create damage estimates, "disseminate ...estimates of indirect effects including effects...on government, financial and credit systems, and production..." which of course is, well, everything. Except overall assessments of total numbers of people killed, which isn't a necessary statistic for most of the stuff we're talking about here.
There was much else in this job description, which is five pages long. It is quite fascinating, seeing all of this spelled out so clearly, written on the endpages of our national book of life.
On the other hand, I'm not exactly sure what else everybody else could've done, all other things being equal.
[The original document is available from our blog boosktore.]
1. Related posts and a long series (75+ posts) on the history of atomic and nuclear weapons, Armageddon, and fat thinking about survivability, a good example of which is Ueber-Spectacular Understatement Dept.: the Happy Post-Apocalyptic America and the "Awkwardness" of Holocaust, 1962 )
The rest of the document: