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C O U R S E 
The Modern World: Global History since 1760
Prof. Philip Zelikow, University of Virginia
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
1950-1954: The H-Bomb and the Nuclear Revolution
Notes taken on July 7, 2014 by Edward Tanguay
at first the atom bomb was just a colossal kind of destructive force, but then they became bigger than that
from 1945 to 1949 only the United States had them
this was a reassuring monopoly
the Americans didn't feel that they had to build up the rest of their conventional forces as much
considered putting atomic bombs and this technology under international control
a Quixotic notion but intellectually important
many of these ideas remain relevant today
failed to control the fission bomb
one ton of TNT will level a typical 5-story building
the atomic bomb had the destructive power of 10,000 tons of TNT
delivered in state-of-the-art bombers such as the B-29
a B-29 crashed in the Soviet Union in 1944 and the Soviets built a copy of it
atomic bombs have their effects in three ways:
1. heat
2. blast
3. radiation
including the radiation of all the particles thrown up by the blast which drift in the prevailing winds until the lethality of that radiation dissipates (fallout)
highly deadly radius of explosion of approximately one mile
1949 United States lost the monopoly of the atomic bomb
what did this mean to the way the United States defended itself?
the need to develop much larger conventional forces, since atomic bomb is no longer a trump card
took up the possibility of developing a fusion bomb, a thermonuclear bomb
use the fission reaction to create a fusion reaction
these were fission/fusion bombs, sometimes called hydrogen bombs, were vastly more powerful
code name "The Super"
the Soviets were developing their own thermonuclear weapons as well
a year or two behind the Americans
the progress of these technical developments created windows of vulnerability and windows of opportunity
1949-1954: American window of opportunity in Cold War
both sides have nuclear weapons but Americans have more powerful conventional forces
1950 NSC 68 document
we have to spend more money on conventional forces because the Soviets have cancelled out our atomic advantage
the decisions on big defense spending doesn't come until the Korean war, but then it increases rapidly
Soviets moved too soon in supporting Korea since it caused America to begin defending Taiwan and Vietnam, something they weren't doing before
1953: Eisenhower comes into office
we now have new technology, e.g. the B-47 jet-powered bomber
some advisers were in favor of launching a preventive war against the Soviet Union
Eisenhower weighs the risks and decides on a policy of detainment plus deterrence
he was going to threaten nuclear war in order to avoid any war at all
April 1954: Hydrogen bomb
Hiroshima atomic bomb: 10,000 tons of TNT
Hydrogen bomb had 1 million tons of TNT
100 times that of the atomic bomb
lethal radius
atomic bomb: 1 mile from blast
hydrogen bomb: 7 miles from blast
150 square miles of high lethality
plus much greater radioactive fallout
hydrogen bombs don't just damage parts of cities but obliterate entire cities