JF Ptak Science Books Post 2246 [Part of the series on Atomic Weapons]
Richard Fagley--author of Brief Guide to the Atomic Age, 1946-- took a sleepy, elementary side step through the coming decade or so in the future of atomic weaponry. The thing is, he got a bunch of it right. But where he took a wide and missed turn, where he misunderstood the power of atom weapons, was that they would provide the future us with a "Buck Rogers" style of war.
Now of course in 1946 the Soviets hadn't developed a Bomb, but anyone who knew anything knew that it would be just a matter of time before they did. Smart estimates were coming in at a decade or more--few people were prepared for the Soviet announcement in 1949 that they had achieved that goal
Fagley missed the impact of atomic warfare of the future not on his own accord--he was quoting someone who knew far more and knew better--General Hap Arnold, the Commanding General of the U.S. Air Force. But as it turns out, Arnold really didn't have the vocabulary or this discussion, and couldn't really estimate the "effectiveness" of the use of the new weapons.
So far as I know, Buck Rogers didn't have weapons like atomic bombs, at least I think in his original appeaarance as Anthony (and later "Buck") Rogers in Armageddon 2419, back in 1928, when he made his first appearance. As it turns out Buck was born in 1898, and owing to a mining disster breathed in some radioactive gas that put him to sleep until the 25th century. He wakes up in a very jaundiced post-Yellow-peril world in which America has been defeated by the "Mongols" of the East (who had beaten the "Russian Soviets" who had in turn had conquered Europe), wherein begins his mighty struggle to get America back on its feet and defeat the great menace. The idea of Rogers becomes very popular in popular culture, and he moves from this story into many other print versions, getting movies and a radio show (from 1932-1947) in the process. Somewhere in there is where he acquires his atomic pistol (called "U 235"), though the thing necessarily does not come close to what the real stuff would bring in the very near future.
In Fagley's war of the future there wouldn't be many survivors, though his vision of the massive atomic bombing outcome seems not very proximate to what the horrible coarseness of what the real thing could be--perhaps because that amount of destruction was still unimaginable when the pamphlet was being written in 1946. Buck Rogers didn't have the vocabulary for such enormous power and mass destruction, either. In any event, words to describe the coming possibility of vast annihilation just didn't seem to be at hand in 1946--the words and ideas, and the weapons, would soon (in the Ulam-Teller hydrogen bomb, 1951) be at hand to flesh out the possible true-to-life nightmares of the nuclear future. Even in a 25th century armageddon, old Buck's idea of power and devastation couldn't come close to imagining the power of the real thing.