FNC: At the height of the Cold War, the U.S. was testing nuclear weapons in case it needed to use them. Now, remarkable footage has been released, with more than 250 videos detailing just how extensive the testing was.
The Lawrence Livermore National Library (LLNL) in California has posted the videos to its YouTube channel, all of which are now declassified, and they show countless explosions that took place on testing grounds in the U.S., from 1945 to 1962.
LLNL’s weapon physicist Greg Spriggs said it was imperative the team restored the footage, a process which took five years.
“We know that these films are on the brink of decomposing to the point where they become useless,” Spriggs said, according to the Daily Mail.
Spriggs added that it took several years to track down the footage. Only after the footage was found, did the LLNL researchers realize that most of the data about the tests was wrong. With less sophisticated technology at their disposal than their modern counterparts, scientists reportedly struggled to estimate the explosions’ size and power.
In total, there were 210 nuclear weapons tests that took place during the 17-year period, the laboratory noted. The lab added that nearly 10,000 of the films “sat idle, scattered across the country in high-security vaults.”
“The goals are to preserve the films’ content before it’s lost forever, and provide better data to the post-testing-era scientists who use computer codes to help certify that the aging U.S. nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective,” LLNL said on its YouTube page.
“By looking at these films we found a lot of different pieces of information had not been analyzed back in the 1950s, and we’re discovering new things about these detonations that have never been seen before,” Spriggs said. “We decided to try and reanalyze the films and come up with better data to better understand nuclear weapon effects.”
There is still footage from blasts that occurred during the period that is classified, but only because the yield size has never been released to the public. Included in the footage is Operation Plumbbob, a series of tests that occurred between May 28 and Oct. 7, 1957 at the Nevada test site. Operation Plumbbob is widely considered to be the most controversial test series among experts.
The majority of the tests took place in the Pacific Ocean or in Nevada, the lab noted, but there is still significantly more footage to be analyzed, with Spriggs stating that only 6,500 films have been found and only 4,200 scanned.
“Of that number we’ve probably analyzed about 400 or 500 of these films,” Spriggs said, according to the Mail.
Meanwhile, Presidential Control of Nuclear Weapons: The ‘Football’ has also be declassified.
Declassified Documents Include Eisenhower’s Briefing to President-elect Kennedy on the “Satchel” Containing Information Needed to Conduct Nuclear War
JFK requested procedures for launching nuclear attacks without consulting Pentagon
A number of important developments made Football-type arrangements important both to the president and the Pentagon leadership. The emergence of a Soviet ICBM threat in the late 1950s greatly reduced warning time and the need for rapid decisions in a crisis made it important to establish procedures for convening emergency conferences between the president, the secretary of defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Moreover, the creation of the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) in the early 1960s, soon gave the president (or a successor) a menu of preemptive or retaliatory nuclear attack options. The Football came to include the “SIOP Execution Handbook,” with detailed information on the strike options.
Today’s posting includes documents published for the first time on the early history of the Football/Black Bag/satchel, including what may be the first declassified reference to the Football. Included in today’s materials are:
- The record of a briefing in January 1961 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and White House Staff Secretary Andrew J. Goodpaster to President-elect John F. Kennedy about the contents of the emergency “satchel”
- White House questions from January 1962 about whether the president could order a nuclear strike in an emergency without consulting the Pentagon
- A Pentagon memorandum from November 1962 on an “Emergency Actions Folder” forwarded to a White House Naval aide concerning actions that could be taken under various Defense Readiness Conditions [DEFCONs].
- Documents from 1963 on the making of the “SIOP Execution Handbook,” created expressly for the president’s use in a crisis and one of the major items in the Football.
- Documents from 1964 on the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s creation of the “Gold Book,” the renamed emergency actions folder, for inclusion in the emergency satchel.
- Memoranda from 1964 on President Johnson’s first briefing on the nuclear war plans, the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), with White House military aides among the listeners.
- A draft memorandum from early 1965 suggesting that President Johnson did not like to “be followed so closely” by a military aide carrying the Football and that he wanted other arrangements.
- A June 1965 memorandum by a White House naval aide explicitly referring to the “FOOTBALL.”
The existence of the Football embodies the presidential control of nuclear weapons that is essential to civilian direction of the military, but it points to the risks of one person having exclusive power to make fateful decisions to use nuclear weapons. President John F. Kennedy spoke to the problem in November 1962 by saying, “From the point of view of logic there was no reason why the President of the United States should have the decision on whether to use nuclear weapons,” but “ history had given him this power.” Much more detail here.