World War III, The 36-Hour War of 1948

HIST: Discussions about the last 4000 years of history, give or take a few days.

Moderators: Thanas, K. A. Pital

lordroel
Redshirt
Posts: 36
Joined: 2011-10-16 01:51pm
Location: Tegelen,Netherlands
Contact:

World War III, The 36-Hour War of 1948

Postby lordroel » 2016-07-08 06:02pm

I present you World War III, The 36-Hour War of 1948.

From Life magazine published on November 19th 1945 comes a article with nine illustrations (six illustrations in this thread) about a future atomic war which depicts of what nuclear war in the future will look like. It was based on a report by General “Hap” Arnold, the chief of the Army Air Forces during World War II and the later founder of Project RAND.

"The 36-Hour War" - part I

CAPTION: The 36-Hour War begins with the atomic bombardment of key United States cities. Here a shower of white-hot enemy rockets falls on Washington, DC.

This week General Henry H. Arnold, commanding officer of the Army Air Forces, published his third formal report to the Secretary of War. The report was not only a history of Air Forces activities at the end of the late war but a warning of future wars. Said the general: "In the past, the United States has shown a dangerous willingness to be caught in a position of having to start a war with equipment and doctrines used at the end of a preceding war.... Military Air Power should...be measured to a large extent by the ability of the existing Air Force to absorb in time of emergency...new ideas and techniques."

The Army Air Forces, said General Arnold, were fully prepared to absorb new ideas: "We can run a large air operation for the sole purpose of delivering one or two atomic bombs....When improved antiaircraft defenses make this impracticable, we should be ready with a weapon of the general type of the German V-2 rocket, having greatly improved range and precision...."

Such weapons as these, in the hands of other nations as well as the United States, would make possible the ghastliest of all wars. Hostilities would begin with the explosion of atomic bombs in cities like London, Paris, Moscow or Washington (below). The destruction caused by the bombs would be so swift and terrible that the war might well be decided in 36 hours. The illustrations on these pages show how such a war might be fought if it came.

But General Arnold did not suggest that improved weapons were the only safeguard of the United States. it would be better, he said, to use bombs for peace now rather than for war later, possibly by using them as a power to enforce decisions of the United Nations Organization's Security Council.
Image

"The 36-Hour War" - part II

The start of another war, said General Arnold, might come with shattering speed: "With present equipment an enemy air power can, without warning, pass over all formerly visualized barriers and can deliver devastating blows at our population centers and our industrial, economic or governmental heart even before surface forces can be deployed."

In the panorama posted below, looking eastward from 3,000 miles above the Pacific, the United States is shown as it might appear a very few years from now, with a great shower of enemy rockets falling on 13 key United States centers. Within a few seconds atomic bombs have exploded over New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boulder Dam, New Orleans, Denver, Washington, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Kansas City and Knoxville. One bomb (second from left) has been exploded high above the earth by a United States defensive rocket. In the cities more than 10,000,000 people have been instantly killed by the bombs. The enemy's purpose is not to destroy industry, which is an objective only in long old-fashioned wars like the last one, but to paralyze the United States by destroying its people.

The rockets above, white-hot from traveling part of their journey through the atmosphere at three miles a second, have in a little more than an hour soared 1,800 miles up and some 8,000 miles around the earth from equatorial Africa. There an enemy of the United States has built its rocket-launching sites quickly and secretly in the jungle to escape detection by the UNO Security Council. In their flight the rockets coast most of the way through empty space, where the stars are out at noon. The thin luminous band on the horizon is the earth's atmosphere.

Image

"The 36-Hour War" - part III

"Radar," said General Arnold, "is an outstanding contribution to the effectiveness of an air force. It is a device which enormously extends...human vision." In the picture above, radar has been applied to the war of the rockets. A radar beam of enormous power sweeps the sky so that even objects thousands of miles in space send back radio echoes. The echoes are then translated into images on the luminous screen. If such a radar were in use, it would give the United States about 30 minutes to get ready for the attack shown on these pages.

But even 30 minutes is too little time for men to control the weapons of an atomic war. Radar would detect enemy rockets, plot their course and feed data to electronic calculators in defensive rockets. These would then be launched in a matter of seconds to intercept the attackers.

Radar, however would at best be a spotty defense in future wars. Like human sight, it extends only to the horizon. Low-flying robot planes like the German buzz-bomb might evade it more effectively than high-flying rockets. And radar would be no proof at all against time bombs of atomic explosive which enemy agents might assemble in the United States.
Image

"The 36-Hour War" - part IV

Said General Arnold: "Although there now appear to be insurmountable difficulties in an active defense against future atomic projectiles similar to the German V-2 but armed with atomic explosives, this condition should only intensify our efforts to discover an effective means of defense." The only defense now conceivable against a rocket, once it is in flight, is illustrated above. It is another rocket, fired like an antiaircraft shell at a point where it will meet its enemy. Once it had been launched, such a rocket might detect the attacking machine with radar and make its own corrections. When it came near the enemy rocket, it could be exploded by radio proximity fuse, a development of World War II. But inevitably it would miss some of the time.

Shown below is the instant before the two rockets meet. The enemy rocket, coasting through space with its fuel exhausted, is beginning to fall toward the United States. The defensive rocket, racing upwards under full power, is incandescent from the friction of its short passage through the earth's atmosphere. When the two collide, the atomic explosion will appear to observers on the earth as a brilliant new star.

Image

"The 36-Hour War" - part V

Concerning other possible defenses in an atomic war, General Arnold said: "Three types of defense against an atomic bomb can be conceived: First, we should attempt to make sure that nowhere in the world are atomic bombs being made clandestinely; second, we should devise every possible active defense against an atomic bomb attack, once launched, and third, we might redesign our country for minimum vulnerability...." But the United States , he continued, "...must recognize that real security against atomic weapons in the visible future will rest on our ability to take immediate offensive action with overwhelming force. It must be apparent to a potential aggressor than an attack on the United States would be immediately followed by an immensely devastating air-atomic attack on him."

On these two pages is a combination of two of General Arnold's ideas: decentralization and counterattack. This cross section shows an underground rocket-launching site and atomic bomb factory. It is completely self-contained except for raw materials, which are assembled in big stockpiles. Its workers live underground near their machines, secure against anything except a direct atomic bomb hit or an airborne invasion. Altogether the United States might have several dozen such units, all independent so that the destruction or capture of one would not affect the others. At the beginning of the 36-hour war the US has not yet decentralized its entire population, an operation which might cost $250,000,000,000, but only the absolute essentials of national defense.

At the moment illustrated, the United States has sent its first offensive rocket of the war toward an enemy city, just one hour after the enemy attack.

Image

"The 36-Hour War" - part VI

Said General Arnold: "Airborne troops have become one of the most effective units of a modern fighting force....Fully equipped airborne task forces will be able to strike at far distant points and will be totally supplied by air."

In spite of the apocalyptic destruction caused by its atomic bombs, an enemy nation would have to invade the United States to win the war. The enemy's airborne troops would be equipped with light rocket weapons of great destructive power (above, rear) and devices such as goggles which make troop-directing infrared signals visible. The enemy soldier above is repairing a telephone line in a small United States town.

By the time enemy troops have landed, the United States has suffered terrifying damage. Some 40,000,000 people have been killed and all cities of more than 50,000 population have been leveled. San Francisco's Market Street, Chicago's Michigan Boulevard and New York's Fifth Avenue are merely lanes through the debris. But as it is destroyed the United States is fighting back. The enemy airborne troops are wiped out. United States rockets lay waste the enemy's cities. United States airborne troops successfully occupy his country. The United States wins the atomic war.
Image
My own little Forum

User avatar
SpottedKitty
Jedi Knight
Posts: 761
Joined: 2014-08-22 08:24pm
Location: UK

Re: World War III, The 36-Hour War of 1948

Postby SpottedKitty » 2016-07-09 12:34am

Heh, I'm trying to figure out if this is more a foreshadowing of the World War 3 segment of Doc Smith's Triplanetary, or of Morcedai Roshwald's Level 7, both written several years after 1945.
“Despite rumor, Death isn't cruel — merely terribly, terribly good at his job.”
Terry Pratchett, Sourcery

lordroel
Redshirt
Posts: 36
Joined: 2011-10-16 01:51pm
Location: Tegelen,Netherlands
Contact:

Re: World War III, The 36-Hour War of 1948

Postby lordroel » 2016-07-09 04:07am

SpottedKitty wrote:Heh, I'm trying to figure out if this is more a foreshadowing of the World War 3 segment of Doc Smith's Triplanetary, or of Morcedai Roshwald's Level 7, both written several years after 1945.

Well then you check this out, its called Amazing 1950s Illustrations of American Cities Destroyed by A-Bombs and could have easly fitted right in the 36-Hour War article despite having been written 6 years latter.
My own little Forum

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 28652
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: World War III, The 36-Hour War of 1948

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-07-09 12:45pm

There is an interesting combination of imagination and lack of imagination involved in "Part V." On the one hand, the idea of decentralizing the country (not very practical since it guts the peacetime economy) and the idea of fortified centers for launching a nuclear retaliation... But at the same time, those facilities are envisioned as a descendant of ancient notions of a fortress, supplied with sizeable garrisons and the facilities to assemble the weapons they use, as opposed to being something more like a real ballistic missile silo.
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

lordroel
Redshirt
Posts: 36
Joined: 2011-10-16 01:51pm
Location: Tegelen,Netherlands
Contact:

Re: World War III, The 36-Hour War of 1948

Postby lordroel » 2016-07-09 02:28pm

Simon_Jester wrote:There is an interesting combination of imagination and lack of imagination involved in "Part V." On the one hand, the idea of decentralizing the country (not very practical since it guts the peacetime economy) and the idea of fortified centers for launching a nuclear retaliation... But at the same time, those facilities are envisioned as a descendant of ancient notions of a fortress, supplied with sizeable garrisons and the facilities to assemble the weapons they use, as opposed to being something more like a real ballistic missile silo.

Those underground rocket-launching site and atomic bomb factory designed to build and launch atomic rockets could be the last things that that will be left of the United States who still fulfill their function at the end of the 36 Hour War.
My own little Forum

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 28652
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: World War III, The 36-Hour War of 1948

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-07-09 04:28pm

There is an obvious problem with this- the underground bomb factories would be top priority targets in the event of a nuclear war. It is unthinkable that an enemy with so many nuclear weapons would somehow spare those facilities.

Or that, having devastated the surface of the continental US so thoroughly that "those underground sites..." are "the last things that will be left of the United States..." a hypothetical enemy wouldn't commit aerial reconnaissance (this was before satellites so I'll give them a pass on that) to the task of locating the launch sites for the weapons attacking them.

One of the reasons nuclear war is so predictably devastating is that nuclear weapons aimed at military targets tend to have the side effect of destroying things that are not military targets. You can't blow up the major highway interchange that is a key piece of the enemy's ability to move war materiel, without also blowing up all the suburbs and towns within a radius of several miles. You can't target major government offices associated with the military, without also blowing up the city they occupy.

For this very reason, it is highly unlikely that any powerful military assets can survive a nuclear war with a well-equipped enemy, unless those assets cannot be found and targeted. This is the unique strength of ballistic missile submarines, of course- they and they alone represent a form of nuclear deterrent capable of outliving an enemy first strike.

Airbases, and dug-in facilities for launching missiles, do not have that kind of survivability. And the larger and more centralized those facilities become, the lower their odds of survival become.
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

Channel72
Jedi Council Member
Posts: 2068
Joined: 2010-02-03 05:28pm
Location: New York

Re: World War III, The 36-Hour War of 1948

Postby Channel72 » 2016-07-10 12:25pm

What's funny is how imminently realistic this must have all seemed following World War 2 and perhaps throughout most of the Cold War. Atomic weapons were such a game-changing technology, and human nation-states were so unstable and hostile that it probably seemed like an absolute miracle would be required to prevent the inevitable nuclear holocaust. And of course that idea had been so ingrained in the cultural psyche that countless science fiction stories pretty much took it as a given that an atomic holocaust was the only possible outcome.

It really puts our current problems in perspective - these days, the idea of a nuclear WW3 seems pretty far-fetched, to say the least, and millennials, unlike their baby-boomer/gen-X parents/grand-parents who grew up hiding under their desks, probably don't see nuclear war as some kind of given in the near (or far) future.

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 28652
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: World War III, The 36-Hour War of 1948

Postby Simon_Jester » 2016-07-10 12:51pm

For most people alive at this time, it was the combination of World War II and World War I.

World War II 'proved' that there was an ongoing threat to the peace of the world from ambitious and treacherous dictators who would use sneak attacks and brutality against people they desired to conquer.

World War I, meanwhile, was what really convinced people that wars don't necessarily happen for good reasons, and that they are potentially all-consuming, all-destroying, which is very different than the usual experience most people had of warfare in the 20th century.

Adults alive in 1945 had experienced both wars, or were extremely close to others who had (friends, older siblings, parents). For Americans, they'd experienced Pearl Harbor, an attack that came seemingly 'out of nowhere' from the point of view of the average American citizen, without warning, and as the prelude to a massive campaign of conquest by Japan. That combination made it very easy to take for granted that at some future time, someone would try a 'Pearl Harbor' against the US with atomic weapons.
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

User avatar
FedRebel
Jedi Master
Posts: 1042
Joined: 2004-10-12 12:38am

Re: World War III, The 36-Hour War of 1948

Postby FedRebel » 2017-05-09 09:21am

Interesting propaganda

Of course we know today that until the 70's WW3 would've been a curbstomp in America's favor...and 36 hours nothing, US war plans involved a 30 DAY SUSTAINED NUCLEAR BOMBARDMENT of Eurasia

User avatar
Sea Skimmer
Yankee Capitalist Air Pirate
Posts: 36993
Joined: 2002-07-03 11:49pm
Location: Passchendaele City, HAB
Contact:

Re: World War III, The 36-Hour War of 1948

Postby Sea Skimmer » 2017-05-09 12:56pm

Simon_Jester wrote:There is an obvious problem with this- the underground bomb factories would be top priority targets in the event of a nuclear war. It is unthinkable that an enemy with so many nuclear weapons would somehow spare those facilities.


But its 1945, thinking of 1948. Not even boosted fission bombs exist or are known to be possible to the general public. In the era of the pathetic pure fission bomb you could just build the facilities to be near immune to even multiple direct hits, and only require hundreds instead of thousands of feet of overhead cover to do so. That's why for example Raven Rock got built with only about 600ft of overhead cover.

Also this is why at an early point the original Atlas ICBM was supposed to have a throw weight of 65 tons so it could lob a fisson bomb powerful enough to destroy hard targets and whole cities. But even had such a missile worked it would have been so expensive that only a few of them could ever have rationally been kept in service. And same deal with a bomber, a big enough bomber can carry a big enough fission bomb for most jobs, but its only going to be a single weapon per plane. Not twenty of them. So while it will be hard to protect any one city, if the enemy does want to take out lots of dispersed industry they'll need some epic sized bomber fleet, which is how you get the Lamp Light Studies and eventually SAGE and the plan for 4,600 Bomarc missiles, as defense against 1,000 commie bombers all at once.


Or that, having devastated the surface of the continental US so thoroughly that "those underground sites..." are "the last things that will be left of the United States..." a hypothetical enemy wouldn't commit aerial reconnaissance (this was before satellites so I'll give them a pass on that) to the task of locating the launch sites for the weapons attacking them.


But the point is to increase the enemy attack price, making it much less likely that they can mount an offensive in the first place, and to make it impossible to do so covertly. In real life the H-bomb plus the accurate ICBM, mounted both ashore and on submarines, negated any reasonable chance of passive hardening being useful, but that was basically a 1950s thing. If you had to fight a nuclear war in the 1940s then hardened facilities made lots and lots of sense. The US was very impressed with the various Nazi projects and European prewar hardened in general, such as the UK system of hardened oil bases, the problem was the shear size of the US meant a useful hardening project was going to be a huge amount of money.

IIRC other then hardened communcations, which actually got built, the only other serious US interest for a while was hardening certain oil refineries because that kind of equipment was already highly resistant to nuclear effects. So moderate improvements, like building bunkers on top of key valve manifolds, could really increase protection without entombing every last piece. But active defenses really just made more sense, and thus Nike-Ajax was much spammed. In the case of the USSR this line of thought turned into the cartoonish pile of S-200 batteries they built, aimed at giving complete SAM coverage to the USSR heartland and all industrial targets within. Also they seriously built around 700 SA-2 sites. I've wondered before just how many of those just got dismantled and sent to Vietnam vs being built new.
"This cult of special forces is as sensible as to form a Royal Corps of Tree Climbers and say that no soldier who does not wear its green hat with a bunch of oak leaves stuck in it should be expected to climb a tree"
— Field Marshal William Slim 1956


Return to “History”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests