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Nuclear threat

 Copyright © 1998- 2005 Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

The 1950s1950 - 51 - 52 - 53 - 54 - 55 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 59             - The 1940s

The  1950s

The Korean  War began in June 1950 with an attack by North Korean troops  on South Korea. With the Soviet Union absent after having walked  out and therefore unable to exercise its veto power, the United  Nations Security Council authorized sending troops to defend South  Korea. General MacArthur, commander of the United Nations  forces, purportedly requested discretionary authority to use atomic  weapons in December 1950. President Truman approved the use of atomic weapons on Manchuria if large numbers  of Chinese troops joined in the fighting or if bombers were launched  from Manchurian bases. Five days later, however, General MacArthur was removed from his command for repeatedly criticizing the limited  objectives of the war.

On November 1, 1952,  the U.S. raised the stakes in the nuclear arms race by detonating  the first hydrogen bomb at Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall  Islands. Less than a year later, the U.S.S.R. detonated its first  thermonuclear weapon. In January 1954 Secretary of State John  Foster Dulles announced a doctrine massive retaliation which  could entail the use of nuclear weapons against communist aggression.  Later that month the U.S. Navy launched the first nuclear-powered  ship, the Nautilus.

By the mid-1950s,  public protests of the nuclear arms race were building. In 1955,  the year in which Albert  Einstein died, he and Bertrand  Russell issued a Manifesto warning of the dangers of continuing the nuclear arms race.  Two years later in 1957 the great humanitarian Albert Schweitzer made a public "Declaration of Conscience" in which he stated  that "the end of further experiments with atom bombs would be like  early sun rays of hope which suffering humanity is longing for."  The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE), an organization  of private citizens seeking to alter official nuclear policies,  was formed in 1957.

The International  Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was established by the United Nations  in 1957 to promote "peaceful" uses of nuclear energy. The same year  saw the U.S.S.R. launch Sputnik I, the world's first artificial  satellite. Great Britain became the third country to test a thermonuclear  weapon.

In January 1958 Linus  Pauling, a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, and his wife, Ava Helen  Pauling, presented U.N. Secretary Dag Hammarskjold a Petition  to the United Nations Urging International Agreement to Stop the  Testing of Nuclear Bombs Be Made Now signed by 9,235 scientists  throughout the world. (For his efforts in organizing the world scientific  community in opposition to nuclear testing, Pauling received a second  Nobel Prize, this one for peace, in 1962.)

During the 1950s, some  4,600,000 persons died in warfare, and more than half were civillans.

The 1950s1950 - 51 - 52 - 53 - 54 - 55 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 59             - The 1940s


Senator  Brien McMahon (Connecticut) calls for an "all-out" nuclear  weapons program.
January  27
In London British physicist Klaus Fuchs confesses to being a Soviet spy.
January  31
President Harry Truman announces that United States Atomic Energy Commission will proceed  with work "on  all forms of atomic weapons, including the so-called hydrogen  or super-bombs." The development of the bomb is led by physicist Edward Teller,  who believes it is vital for the United States to develop the  hydrogen bomb before the Soviet Union does.
Joint Intelligence Committee predicts build  up of Soviet atomic arsenal and possible attack against U.S. "at  earliest possible moment."
February  5
Twelve leading U.S. physicists, including Hans Bethe,  speak out against President Truman's  decision to build the hydrogen bomb.
February  24
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff request "all out  effort to build H-bomb."
March  1 
In the United Kingdom, physicist Klaus  Fuchs is sentenced to 14 years for betraying atomic secrets  to Soviet agents; the evidence is used later to incriminate Julius  and Ethel Rosenberg, who were condemned to death.
April  7
National Security Council releases document NSC-68 that warns of surprise attack by Soviet Union once  "it has sufficient atomic capability."
April  11
A B-29 Bomber carrying a nuclear bomb crashes into a mountain  near Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. The bomb is destroyed  but the accompanying nuclear capsule, which had not been inserted  into the bomb, remains intact.
June  16
Calculations by U.S. mathematicians Stanislaw  Ulam and Cornelius Everett appear to prove that Edward  Teller's "classical super" design for hydrogen bomb does  not work.
June  25
North Korea invades South Korea.
September  30
NSC-68 becomes cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy and defense  spending is increased by more than 350%.
November  30
During press conference, President Truman confirms that U.S. government considered using nuclear weapons in  Korea.
First production of electricity from atomic fission occurs at  the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho.
December  9
General Douglas MacArthur requests discretionary authority  to use atomic weapons during the Korean War.

The 1950s1950 - 51 - 52 - 53 - 54 - 55 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 59             - The 1940s


The  second British plutonium reactor starts operation in Windscale,  Cumberland, to manufacture plutonium for nuclear weapons. In 1957  it caught fire and caused radioactive contamination of a wide  area. To help the public forget, the town was renamed Sellafield.
U.S. mathematician Stanislaw Ulam proposes radically new  design for hydrogen bomb. Edward  Teller embraces and refines the concept.
January  11
President Harry Truman approves the establishment of the Nevada Proving Grounds, later  called the Nevada Test Site (NTS).
January  27
The first atmospheric test at the Nevada Test Site, Able,  takes place 1060 feet above Frenchman Flat.
March  29
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are convicted and sentenced  to death at the Federal Courthouse in Foley Square, New York City,  for passing information on atomic weapons to the USSR.
April  4
Edward  Teller submits report on new design for hydrogen bomb.
April  5
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff order atomic retaliation against air  bases in case of "a major attack" against UN forces in Korea.¬ 
April  6
President Harry Truman approves military request to use atomic weapons in Manchuria  if large numbers of Chinese troops join the Korean War or if bombers  are launched against United Nations forces from Manchurian bases.¬ 
April  11
President Harry Truman discharges General General Douglas MacArthur for insubordination  after MacArthur repeatedly criticizes the limited objectives  of the war in Korea.
May  9
U.S. nuclear test shot "George" (Operation Greenhouse)  confirmes for the first time that a fission device can produce  the conditions needed to ignite a thermonuclear reaction.¬ 
September  17
U.S. physicist Marshall Holloway is named leader of hydrogen  bomb project. Edward  Teller leaves Los Alamos, New Mexico shortly afterwards.
September  24
Soviet Union conducts its second nuclear test, an improved plutonium  bomb.
A four-man team at RAND begins to study the likely effects of  the hydrogen bomb.

The 1950s1950 - 51 - 52 - 53 - 54 - 55 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 59             - The 1940s


January  11
The United Nations abolishes the Atomic Energy Commission and  establishes the Disarmament Commission in its place.
February  4
The United Nations Disarmament Commission holds its first meeting.
The Royal Air Force and the U.S. Strategic Air Command begin flying  photographic and radar reconnaissance missions over Soviet Union.
April  22
For the first time, the American media are permitted to cover  live, and the public witnesses by television, the detonation of  a nuclear device (a 31 kiloton atmospheric test known as Operation  Big Shot) at the Nevada Test Site.
A second U.S. nuclear weapons laboratory is established in Livermore,  California.
October  3
The United Kingdom conducts its first nuclear weapon test, Hurricane,  at Monte Bello Island, off the northwest coast of Australia.
November  1
The United States detonates the first hydrogen bomb, 10.4 megaton Mike, at Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The explosion  is 500 times more powerful than the bomb exploded at Nagasaki.
President-elect Dwight Eisenhower and staff develop "New  Look" defense policy relying primarily on power of atomic forces.

The 1950s1950 - 51 - 52 - 53 - 54 - 55 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 59             - The 1940s


J.  Robert Oppenheimer is accused of disloyalty and of communist  contacts. President Dwight Eisenhower suspends his security clearance,  and in a full hearing the following year he is not reinstated. While  many scientists defended him, Edward  Teller claimed Oppenheimer  delayed working on the hydrogen bomb. In 1958 an AEC review finds  the proceedings to be "a primitive abuse of the judicial system."
In his final State of the Union address, President Truman declares  nuclear war impossible for "rational men."
March  5
Soviet leader Joseph Stalin dies.
March  17
Scientists study the impact of a nuclear blast on a fabricated  American city during the test Annie at the Nevada Test Site.  The test is part of Operation  Cue, a series of projects conducted by the Federal Civil Defense  Administration to evaluate the effects of nuclear detonations n  civilian communities.
March  20
Nikita Khrushchev becomes first secretary of Communist  party.
June  19
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, sentenced as atomic spies in  1951, are executed by the U.S. [see March 29, 1951
June  26
Nikita Khrushchev authorizes arrest of Lavrentii Beria,  head of the secret police and the Soviet bomb project.
In a Foreign Policy article U.S. physicist Robert  Oppenheimer calls for greater openness in atomic policy debate.
July  27
Armistice is signed ending the war in Korea.
General Edmundson leads "Operation Big Stick." The mission  requires him to take twenty B-36s, armed with nuclear weapons, to  Okinawa in Japan.
August  8
Soviet Premier Georgi Malenkov announces that USSR  possesses the hydrogen bomb. The development of the hydrogen bomb  in the US and the Soviet Union is regarded as the start of the Cold  War arms race.
August  12
The Soviet Union tests its first simple fusion bomb, Joe  4, at the Semipalatinsk test site. The test is based on Andrei  Sakharov's"Layer Cake."¬ 
October 15
Great Britain explodes its second atomic bomb "Totem-1"  in Central Australia, the first British weapons test to be held  on the Australian continent.
November  7
Lawyer William L. Borden sends letter to FBI Director J.  Edgar Hoover accusing Robert  Oppenheimer [Oppenheimer Hearings] of being a Soviet spy.
December  3
President Dwight Eisenhower orders a "blank wall" be placed  between Robert Oppenheimer  [Oppenheimer Hearings] and atomic secrets.
December  8
President Dwight Eisenhower, in a United Nations address,  proposes Atoms for Peace, a program to extend American aid to other  countries for establishing nuclear reactors for peaceful research.  Eisenhower calls for the nuclear weapons states to give part of  their nuclear stockpiles to a United Nations-supervised "bank of  fissionable materials" in an attempt to strip nuclear energy of  "its military casing and adapt it to the arts of peace." Text¬ 
December  23
Atomic Energy Commission sends letter  with charges to U.S. physicist Robert  Oppenheimer [Oppenheimer Hearings].
Nikita Khrushchev  authorizes the execution of Lavrentii Beria, the former head of  Soviet secret police and the Soviet bomb project.

The 1950s1950 - 51 - 52 - 53 - 54 - 55 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 59             - The 1940s


January 7
In his State of the Union address, President Eisenhower claims  that 2,200 employees have been fired as security risks.
January 12
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles announces the policy  of massive retaliation. It states that "local defenses must be reinforced  by the further deterrent of massive retaliatory power" and "the  way to deter aggression is for free communities to be willing and  able to respond vigorously at places and with reasons of our own  choosing." Text
January 21
The USS Nautilus (SSN 571), the world's first nuclear-powered  submarine, is launched by the United States Navy.February
Soviet physicists Andrei Sakharov and Igor Tammare receive Hero of Socialist Labor and Stalin Prize for their work  on the "Layer Cake."
March 1
Bravo, a 17 megaton hydrogen bomb detonated by the United  States at Bikini Atoll, in the Pacific, contaminates a Japanese  fishing boat, Lucky Dragon, and residents of Rongelap and  Utirik.
March 4
J. Robert  Oppenheimer sends written  response to the Atomic Energy Commission charges against him.
April 10
President Dwight Eisenhower sends Secretary of State John  Foster Dulles to offer two atomic bombs to the French for use  in their war against the Vietnamese. The offer is refused.
April 12
Hearings begin at Atomic Energy Commission on J.  Robert Oppenheimer. Groves  Testimony
June 28
Atomic Energy Commissioners vote against U.S. physicist J. Robert  Oppenheimer and uphold withdrawal of security clearance.
September  12
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend using atomic bombs on China  in conflict over Chiang Kai-shek's troops on Quemoy and Matsu islands.
September  13
Soviets mass 40,000 soldiers in two formations on plains of  Kazakhstan and explode a nuclear weapon between them.
September  14
Soviet Union conducts nuclear test at the Totskoye test range in  which it purposely exposes some 45,000 military troops to the explosion  and radioactive fallout in order to examine their performance in  a mock battle.
September  23
U.S. Joint chiefs of Staff again call for nuclear attacks on China  after China sentences 13 U.S. airmen shot down over China during  the Korean War.

The 1950s1950 - 51 - 52 - 53 - 54 - 55 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 59             - The 1940s


March  15
U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles tells press  that the U.S. is seriously considering using atomic weapons over  Quemoy-Matsu dispute with China.
March  16
President Eisenhower states publicly, "A-bombs can be used...  as you would use a bullet." This causes an international uproar.  NATO foriegn ministers oppose a nuclear attack on China.
April  18
Albert Einstein dies.
May  10
The Soviet Union unexpectedly accepts UN proposal for nuclear  disarmament.
May  14
Warsaw Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance  establishes the Warsaw Pact, which provides for a unified military  command for Eastern European nations with headquarters in Moscow.
May  18
The first patent for a nuclear reactor, license number 2,708,656,  is issued by the United States Patent Office to the Atomic Energy  Commission. The patent discloses the method by which Enrico  Fermi and Leo  Szilard achieved their self-sustaining chain reaction  on December 2, 1942.
June  15
President Eisenhower evacuates the White House in Operation  Alert air raid drill.
July  18
Big Four summit begins in Geneva. President Eisenhower unveils his proposal for "open skies" and an exchange of military  secrets.
July  9
The Russell-Einstein  Manifesto is issued, which addresses the dangers of thermonuclear  weapons. The Manifesto states, "In view of the fact that in any  future world war nuclear weapons will certainly be employed, and  that such weapons threaten the continued existence of mankind,  we urge the Governments of the world to realize, and to acknowledge  publicly, that their purpose cannot be furthered by a world war,  and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful means for the  settlement of all matters of dispute between them."
August  8
An International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy  takes place in Geneva, Switzerland. Seventy-three countries send  1,428 delegates.
September  6
U.S. delegate Harold Stassen announces that America no  longer supports UN plan calling for complete nuclear disarmament.
October  25
Sadako Sasaki, a twelve-year-old Japanese student and victim  of the Hiroshima bombing, dies of leukemia. Influenced by a Japanese  legend that says if one can fold 1000 cranes, one's wish will  come true, Sadako manages to fold 646 before she dies. Her fellow  students complete the 1000 cranes to fulfill Sadako's wish of  achieving world peace. One of her poems states, "I will write  peace on your wings, and you will fly all over the world."
November  22
First Soviet thermonuclear bomb is dropped in Kazakhstan from  an aircraft in test, with a force equivalent to 1.6 megatons of  TNT.

The 1950s1950 - 51 - 52 - 53 - 54 - 55 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 59             - The 1940s


February  14
Nikita Khrushchev attacks Stalin and "cult of personality."
At UN, U.S. maintains that its opposition to nuclear disarmament  is based on belief that atomic weapons are a "powerful deterrent  to war."
July  1
World's first nuclear power station (5 megawatts) begins operation  at Obinsk in Russia.
July  27
A U.S. bomber crashes into a storage igloo containing three Mark  6 nuclear bombs at Lakenheath Royal Air Force base in the United  Kingdom. The resulting fire damages the bombs, but fails to ignite  their conventional explosive triggers.
World's first full-scale nuclear power plant (50 megawatts) begins  operation at Calder Hall in England.
October  26
Statute of International Atomic Energy Agency is signed at New  York.
The Soviet Union threatens to use rockets against London, Paris  and Israel if the three nations do not end their invasion of Egypt  during the Suez Canal crisis. Although the threats are generally  regarded as a bluff (and did not specify a nuclear attack against  the targets), the overall danger of a Cold War escalation influences  the US to pressure France and Britain to accept a cease-fire.

The 1950s1950 - 51 - 52 - 53 - 54 - 55 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 59             - The 1940s


On  the Beach by Nevil Shute, which presents a fictional  account of the devastating effects of a nuclear war, becomes an  international best-seller.
March  10
A U.S. Air Force B-47 bomber flying from Florida to Europe with  two capsules of nuclear materials for bombs fails to meet its aerial  refueling plane. No traces are ever found.
April  24
In a radio broadcast entitled Declaration of Conscience, Albert  Schweitzer states, "The end of further experiments with atom  bombs would be like early sun rays of hope which suffering humanity  is longing for."
May  15
The United Kingdom tests its first thermonuclear weapon at the Christmas  Islands in the Pacific.
May  25
The Rome Treaties establish the European Atomic Energy Community  (Euratom) and the European Economic Community (EEC).
July  2
The first conference of the Pugwash Movement is held in Pugwash,  Nova Scotia to discuss social responsibility and disarmament. Twenty-two  scientists from ten countries attend. The stimulus for the gathering  is the 1955  Manifesto issued by Bertrand  Russell and Albert  Einstein.
July  12
The first commercial use of nuclear power occurs when a test reactor  in Santa Susana, California transmits power to the Southern Californian  grid.
July  29
The United Nations establishes the International Atomic Energy  Agency (IAEA) to promote peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
August  6
The first demonstration against nuclear weapon testing, with civil  disobedience, takes place at the Nevada Test Site and results in  the arrest of 11 protesters.¬ 
The US sets off its first underground nuclear test in a mountain  tunnel in the remote desert 100 miles from Las Vegas.
September  29
A breakdown in the cooling system of a tank holding 70,000-80,000  tons of radioactive sludge causes an explosion at the Mayak complex  in the Soviet Union. A plume of radioactive fallout of over two  million curies is released.
October  1
The International Atomic Energy Agency 's first general conference  opens in Vienna.
October  4
The Soviet Union stuns Americans by launching a missile carrying  the earth's first artificial satellite, Sputnik I. If Soviet  scientists can launch a Sputnik, US analysts reason they will soon  be able to loft nuclear warheads to the US. The implications are  profound, decreasing the warning times of a nuclear launch from  hours to minutes. There is no known means of defending against a  ballistic missile attack.
November  8
The United Kingdom successfully tests its first hydrogen-fusion  weapon.
November  15
The Committee for Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) is founded.
December  2
In Shippingport, Pennsylvania, the first full scale commercial nuclear  power reactor begins operation

The 1950s1950 - 51 - 52 - 53 - 54 - 55 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 59             - The 1940s


A  statue of Sadako Sasaki holding a golden crane in outstretched  hands takes its place in Hiroshima Peace Park. Funds collected  by Sadako's friends and young people throughout Japan help build  the monument. [see October 25, 1955]
The United States constructs a special concrete and steel  bomb shelter in the hills of West Virginia for Congress to convene  in during a nuclear war.
January  15
Linus Pauling and his wife Eva Helen Pauling present  to United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold a  "Petition to the United Nations Urging the International Agreement  to Stop the Testing of Nuclear Bombs Be Made Now," signed by 11,021  scientists.
February  17
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the United Kingdom holds  its first meeting.
March  11
A B-47 bomber accidentally drops a nuclear weapon over Mars Bluff,  South Carolina. The conventional explosive trigger detonates,  leaving a crater 75-feet wide and 35-feet deep.
March  25
The German Bundestag approves deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons  in West Germany.
September  6
In the second Quemoy-Matau crisis with China, General Twining  of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff asks President Eisenhower to give the 7th Fleet Commander authority to order nuclear strikes  against China. Eisenhower refuses.
September  7
Soviet Union informs Eisenhower that they come to China's  aid in the event of a U.S. nuclear attack on China.
September  19
Soviet Union repeats its warning to the U.S. that it will  come to China's aid in the event of a U.S. nuclear attack on China.
October  31
President Dwight Eisenhower declares a moratorium on all  nuclear testing with the understanding that the Soviet Union will  also honor the moratorium. This moratorium will last until September  15, 1961.

The 1950s1950 - 51 - 52 - 53 - 54 - 55 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 59             - The 1940s


July  21
The United States launches the world's first nuclear-powered merchant  ship, the Savannah.
October  31
The United States deploys the first operational intercontinental  ballistic missile (ICBM), the Atlas D.
December  1
The Antarctic  Treaty establishes that "any nuclear explosion in Antarctica  and the disposal there of radioactive waste material shall be  prohibited."

 Copyright © 1998- 2005 Nuclear  Age Peace Foundation

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