Copyright John T. Reed 2015

Virtually everyone has an incorrect notion of nuclear war. I have spent the last several years researching and writing about being the U.S. president in a novel (The Unelected President). I discovered a lot of erroneous notions.

That’s a big problem. It caused us to not win the Korean War (41,000 US dead), to lose the Vietnam War (58,000 U.S. dead), and it is enroute to causing NATO (population 906 million, 7,885,000 active and reserve military personnel) to cringe in fear before the expansionist foreign policy of Russia (population 143 million, 2,880,000 active and reserve military personnel). NATO has a combined GDP of $32 trillion in 2010—more now; Russia, $2 trillion in 2013—less now.


Yeah, and not much else.

Standing up to aggressors does not always mean war

One issue, which is not the subject of this article, is standing up to Russia does not always mean nuclear war. Kennedy did it twice in the Berlin Crisis and the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was in high school for both. I remember going to school one day during the Cuban crisis wondering if I would be alive to come home at the end of the school day.

After the Cold War ended, and before Cold War 2.0 started, China admitted it was bluffing when it told us it would intervene in the Vietnam War if we invaded North Vietnam. China had intervened in the Korean War and was able to push the border back to where it was at the beginning of that war, but it was more costly to them than they let on at the time. They were not in the mood to do a repeat.

We already had one nuclear war

World War II was a nuclear war, albeit only in its last nine days. And the reason it only lasted six days after the second bomb, in spite of having lasted 4 3/4 years before it, was because of the nuclear bombs. Honest analysts on both sides admit that far more would have died had the atomic bombs not been dropped.

The total death toll in Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the atomic bombs was 129,000 to 246,000 including those who died after the explosion. The population of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined before the bombs was 608,000; after, 362,000 to 479,000.


People are terrified of fallout. Apparently, it can cause microcephaly in fetuses. But there were less than 50 such cases in Japan after August 1945. Microcephaly also has natural causes.

Although the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were the only ones dropped in a war, many others were detonated in tests. Also, there was considerable nuclear fallout from the Chernobyl reactor disaster.

Although 40,000 deaths were predicted from Chernobyl fallout, it appears there were 7,000 cases of child thyroid cancer—a disease which more or less does not exist absent fallout. Around 12 people died from childhood thyroid cancer in the downwind area in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. There was apparently no other rise in deaths from any cause in that area.

No one died from the Fukushima reactor meltdown, nor are any expected to die from it in the future.

There is a great deal of propaganda on the Internet about large numbers of deaths from radioactive fallout, but the serious studies as opposed to the anti-nuke crowd, show a much smaller effect. My main point is we have already had many nuclear weapons detonated in Japan as well as in various other places by the various nuclear powers conducting tests before a treaty ended nuclear tests. The answer to the question how many would die or suffer injury in a future nuclear war is best answered by asking how many died after past nuclear explosions. The truth appears to be not many.

There is also the issue of where fallout falls. Downwind of targets. If cities are the target, ours on the east coast—Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, DC, Orlando, Miami—would produce fallout for the Atlantic Ocean. Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego are upwind of relative unpopulated forests, mountains, and deserts. So fallout is a problem for areas downwind of targets. If you are worried about that, you can easily move. Most of America is not down wind from a likely target.

Most people seem to believe the antidote to fallout is an underground shelter. David Batchelder, my fellow speaker on Nuclear war at the 2015 Freedom Fest says fallout hazard goes away in weeks. fallout does not have a neat decay curve because it is a mix of different radioactive elements that each have their own curve.

Batchelder says,

It follows the "7/10" rule: It looses 90% of its radioactivity for every 7-fold increase in time:

From the first to the seventh hour after detonation, loose 90%;
2 days (49 hours) loose 99% (cumulative);
2 weeks loose 99.9% (cumulative);

This is why 2 weeks is commonly cited as a reasonable time to stay "in shelter," because by then the fallout has lost almost all its potency & associated hazard.

Nuclear winter

Nuclear winter is a hypothetical—Wikipedia’s word—climate problem caused by a massive nuclear war. There was no such thing after previous nuclear explosions. There may or may not be after a future larger nuclear war. The anti-nuke people love this theory. I simply say we don’t know if it’s true. The anti-nuclear and anti-war crowds are very big on apocalyptic propaganda purportedly based on science.

A nuclear bomb is an explosive

A nuclear bomb is an explosive, so are dynamite and TNT. Nukes are extremely inefficient. The temperature at ground zero of a nuke explosion are ten to twenty million degrees Fahrenheit—overkill, don’t you think?

Which is heavier, a pound of lead or a pound of feathers?

Neither. They both weigh one pound.

Which is more destructive, a 20-kiloton nuclear bomb or 20,000 one-ton conventional bombs?

Strictly by the terminology, they are the same. But there are crucial differences.

Nukes have several bad effects

fireball (thermal)

pressure wave (explosive force)

• electromagnetic pulse (fries electronic chips connected to long antennas)

• ionizing radiation: neutrons, gamma rays, alpha particles, and electrons

With conventional explosives, only the first two are present.

But 20,000 one-ton conventional bombs are far more destructive than one 20 KT nuke bomb. How so? They have 20,000 ground zeros. They waste no energy raising the temperature to 20 million degrees. And look at the empirical evidence. The worst-hit (most casualties in a single bombing raid) cities in World War II were Dresden and Tokyo. They were hit by conventional bombs—incendiary bombs.

Hiroshima was hit by a 16KT atomic bomb. The total destruction radius was one mile and about 4.4 square miles were set on fire.

Nagasaki was hit by a 21 KT bomb. Because it landed in a valley, the radius of destruction was truncated by the mountains.

Here is a quote from Wikipedia:

The Operation Meetinghouse [Tokyo] air raid of 9–10 March 1945 was later estimated to be the single most destructive bombing raid in history.

That was a conventional bombing raid and killed 100,000 people in those two days. It used 1,665 tons of conventional explosives—1.6KT in nuclear terminolgy.

The Dresden conventional, bombing took place over four raids between 13 and 15 February 1945 and killed 25,000. It used 3,900 tons of explosive and incendiaries—3.9KT.

Megaton weapons

Weapons with explosive power in the megatons (millions of tons) of TNT have been created and tested, but they are the most inefficient size of an already inefficient weapon. As a consequence, “Weapons of yields from 100 to 475 kilotons have become the most numerous in the US and Russian nuclear arsenals, for example the warheads equipping the Russian Bulava submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) have a yield of 150 kilotons,” according to Wikipedia.

The radius of destruction is not arithmetically proportional to the size of the explosion. For example, a 100 KT bomb does not have five times the destruction radius of a 20KT bomb. According to Wikipedia, a 1MT bomb, which has 50 times the explosive power of a 20KT bomb, only has a total destruction radius of 1.5 miles compared to .37 miles for a 20KT bomb. The proportionality is the cube root of the yield, David Batchelder tells me, which is a more, precise scientific version of what I said.

Again, I am making the point that nuclear bombs are, indeed, more powerful explosives per pound of bomb weight than conventional explosives, but nukes are not infinitely powerful, doomsday weapons. But they are less destructive per pound of TNT equivalent than conventional bombs. The main military difference is conventional military bombs generally must be delivered by aircraft, which can be shot down.

Ground zero is as bad as you think

The title of this article is “What you think about nuclear war is wrong.” Not with regard to ground zero at ground level it’s not. Being at ground zero in a nuclear attack is like a combination of being in the World Trade centers as they were collapsing and being burned alive.

But in another sense, given that we all have to die, being at ground zero may be the least painful way to go. It would appear that you never knew what hit you and you suffered not a millisecond of pain. Law enforcement authorities have lately been looking for the most humane way to administer the death penalty. This may be it.

A couple of cops actually survived the World Trade Center collapse, riding down in a stairwell that never collapsed on them. Did anyone similarly survive Hiroshima?


Tsutomu Yamaguchi actually was injured in Hiroshima then caught the train back to his hometown, Nagasaki. “The trains were still running?” my wife asked. Yes. That’s part of my point in this article. A nuclear bomb hitting your city is not Armageddon or doomsday or ashes in our mouths. It is a finite explosive that does finite damage in the part of town where it lands. Although badly hurt, Yamaguchi went to work the next day after he got back to Nagasaki. He told his boss that a single bomb had destroyed Hiroshima. The boss said that was crazy just as the second atomic bomb was exploding over Nagasaki. Both were knocked flying.

In 2009, he was 93 and a little deaf in one ear from the two bombs. He died on January 4, 2010.

Wikipedia says,

Father Hubert Schiffer (1915 - March 27, 1982[1]) was one of eight German Jesuits who survived the nuclear bomb "Little Boy" dropped on Hiroshima. He was only eight blocks away from ground zero when the explosion occurred. The group of Jesuits survived not only the explosion, but also the effects of the radiation (the doctors were amazed they did not present any radiation illness). Skeptics counter that while people inside Nagasaki's Urakami Cathedral were afforded no special protection, there were non-Catholic survivors even closer to the center of the blast in Hiroshima. Eiko Taoka and nine other people survived in a streetcar which was 750 meters from ground zero.[2] One survivor, Akiko Takakura, was in a bank 300 meters away from the blast.[2] Eizo Nomura survived just 170 meters away from the blast, in the basement of the Hiroshima Prefecture Fuel Rationing Union.”

In 1976, all eight of those Jesuits were still alive.

Another Internet source says 40 people who were within 800 meters of ground zero survived at Hiroshima.

Ms. Yose Matsuo survived Nagasaki. She and other women were bucket brigading the water out of a bomb shelter. Here is what a Net article said,

The bomb shelter was dug two meters wide and 50 meters into the hill. Despite being 185 meters from the hypocenter, almost directly underneath the blast, Matsuo was miraculously saved because she was working farther back inside the shelter.

She died at age 85. She had been a young woman in 1945. Six others in that shelter also survived.

It must be pointed out that these two bombs were about 16 KT and 21 KT. The typical current military size is 100 to 475 KT as I said above. And some are lager. For example, the Russians might use a 1MT on the White House and Congress to be sure. The above close-in Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors would probably have died in 100 KT or larger attacks

Mountains and hills matter

Mountains and hills partly protect you from a nuclear blast—assuming the mountain is between you and the line of sight to the mid-air blast, not the ground-level map location below it. The Effects of Nuclear Explosions Wikipedia article I link to above assumes flat terrain to calculate destruction radiuses. If the blast is on one side of a hill or mountain and you are on the other, the blast will do less damage. Line of sight is not the only way it injures, however.

I grew up in flat-as-can-be South Jersey and Delaware. But I now live in the San Francisco area. We are close enough that my wife commutes to downtown San Francisco by the BART commuter train—just 20 miles as the crow flies.

Would a nuke detonated over the central business district building where she works kill me in my home office?

No. In between me and that building are the steel-reinforced high rise office buildings of Oakland, CA; a mountain range with no name that is penetrated by the Caldecott Tunnel, which you would go through if you drove from my house to San Francisco; after that is just mountains and more mountains. I live on the side of Mount Diablo about 600 feet up but there are mountains I can see from my home to the west that are higher than my house. Google my town name—Alamo, CA—and look at the Google maps satellite view. The last mountain between me and SF is marked East Bay Regional Park on the maps. I actually live east of Alamo center. Nuke blasts are typically in mid air to maximize the destruction radius. A high enough blast could hit me from over the mountains

I did not pick our home location to avoid nuclear blasts, but I did pick living high on a mountain for protection from earthquakes. But generally, San Francisco is an area where you could live almost anywhere and probably not suffer much from a nuclear attack centered on say, Union Square, the more or less official center of the business district. San Francisco is a city of hills. We used to live on Russian Hill at the intersection of Chestnut and Hyde right on the Hyde Street Cable Car line. Although that is pretty high on Russian Hill, it is not the top. The top probably would have protected us from a downtown nuke blast.

Would I have been killed by a nuke hitting Philadelphia during the Cuban missile crisis? My mom’s apartment, school, and walk in between were 27,000 feet from Philadelphia City Hall. All flat land east of City Hall. More than five miles. Also, there were lots of steel-reinforced high-rises in Philly. It was the third largest metro area in the U.S. then.

Had I been in school, I probably would have been okay. Nice, solid brand new, four-story high, masonry structure. Flying glass would have been a problem on the west site of the building, but that was an end with nothing but stairwells. Other glass may have gone flying too. Walking home, pretty open. Maybe danger from flying debris or from the UV rays and other line of sight inonization of the blast—see below. At home? We lived in an apartment above a beauty parlor on an old-time main street. Better than being outside. Living room window faced west. Probably would have survived.

One of my main reasons for writing this article is to take you out of the “OMG I’ll die!” fear I had then to a more informed, nukes-are-finite notion of what they actually do and don’t do.

So would I become a widower if my wife was in her office building during a nuke attack?

Buildings matter

Probably not if she was in the basement. My wife works for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco The armored cars you see on a daily basis are coming and going from the regional Federal Reserve Bank. You know what they have in the basement? Billions of dollars in cash. I’ve been down there. Are they anxious to keep it? You betcha. How is that relevant? The building is really strong. A couple of years ago when Obama came for one of his many fund raisers, they put him in the Federal Reserve building between events for safety. If it was 1 MT or more, maybe she’s dead in the basement there.

Occupy San Francisco set up right in front under their arches. They were forced to move out onto the sidewalk. Then they attacked a Wells Fargo branch across the street and occupied it.

“My God!” I thought, “I hope they don’t pull that stunt with the Fed?”

Was I concerned for my wife’s safety. Not at all. I was concerned for the safety of the nut jobs and passersby on the street. They have lots of guards there, and they are armed with AR-15s, not pistols. Furthermore, when Occupy set up there, reinforcement Federal Reserve Police from around the region were brought in. San Francisco’s politicians may suck up to the demonstrators as part of their base, but not the Fed police who would probably assume any attempt to occupy the inside of the Fed was part of a robbery. They would have mowed them down with machine guns, literally.

Being underground in a building, subway, sewer, tunnel, etc., could protect you from injury from a small nuke—even at ground zero. I’m not recommending it, but it worked for some in Hiroshima and Nagasaki where, again, bombs were 16KT and 21KT.

Steel-reniforced concrete is destroyed by pressures above 25 psi. A 1 MT bomb produces pressures of 65 psi at .9 miles radius when the bomb is 1MT. One of the Hiroshima structures still standing but gutted and badly damaged was a steel-reinforced concrete building that was hit by 30 psi at .13 miles from ground zero.

You can die inside a building that does not. Air pressure and heat high enough to kill will go through windows, doors, and other openings.

Being in the shadow of a steel-reinforced building also can protect you from the blast, albeit less so from the heat and air pressure. Many films and other accounts depict NYC as being leveled by a nuke. You would have trouble leveling Central Park with a nuke. And although the high-rises nearest the nuke would be devastated, they would also absorb some of the power thereby protecting the buildings behind them. And NYC famously has removed more rock and dirt from underneath the city for subways, water pipes, sewers, and so on than it has added in the form of buildings. That is also true to a large extent in SF although few outsiders know it. People in underground locations generally would not be hurt by a nuke even within the total destruction radius.

Flattening New York City, which is 303 square miles in area, would take about 303 ÷ 5.745 (square miles of total devastation by each 1-MT bomb) = 53 1-MT bombs. That’s a lot of huge bombs and delivery vehicles. Using that same arithmetic, Chicago would require 234 ÷  5.745 = 41 1-MT bombs and LA would require 503 ÷ 5.745 = 88 1-MT bombs.

America is an expensive nation in which to destroy all major cities.

The ideal target for nukes—if you sought max loss of life—would be a vast expanse of garden apartment buildings. Homes would be about the same albeit with lower population density.

Clothing matters

If you look at photos of Hiroshima and Nagasaki burn victims, you can tell what clothing they were wearing when the bomb went off—even the pattern printed or woven into the garment. One man’s vest protected that area. Women wearing patterned prints had the pattern burned into the backs. Part of a nuke explosion is ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the rays that cause sunburn. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki burn victims were sunburned, but by a different nuclear explosion than the sun (the sun and all other stars in the sky are undergoing continuous nuclear explosions).

Clothing won’t protect you much from high heat, but it can from flames and UV rays. If you are in the blast or heat damage zone, clothing is irrelevant.

Duck and cover

Duck and cover actually works, where it is not irrelevant. There are three zones around ground zero: ground zero, farther out, and way far out. Duck and cover will do you no good at ground zero. For one thing, you will have no time to react to the flash. But it will possibly save you from flying debris injuries farther out. Farther still, there will be nothing to protect you from. So you should always respond to the flash with duck and cover. If you are at ground zero or way far out, it won’t help. In between, it may save your life. So always do it because you do not know which zone you’re in until it’s too late.

Target list

I laugh at people with unlisted phone numbers. Unbelievable self-flattery. I have been a public figure since around 1978. I was listed in Marquis’ Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World for years. I never had an unlisted phone number during that time. Got one or two calls I would rather have avoided, but that’s 37 years. And I have a business so I have to have a phone number.

Similarly, I laugh at people who think they will die in nuke attack. Uh, pardon me, but you are a total nobody. How in the hell can you think the Kremlin or Beijing cares whether you live or die, or even knows whether you exist?

The enemy will target our nukes if they are rational. Where are they? One of my friends has a son in the Air Force. His job? To guard the nuke silos in Great Falls, MT—population 58,000.

If the enemy is mean, they will target population centers.They should target the suburbs of major cities, at night, not the central business districts on a business day.

Most countries including the U.S. have nine principles of war. We studied them at West Point. Russia has ten. Their tenth is annihilation. Lovely bunch of folks over there. Their leader in World War II, Josef Stalin, explicitly authorized them to rape German females at the end of World War II. Like I said, lovely people.

And if the enemy are terrorists, they will seek maximum publicity value: Super Bowl, Mall of America, lower Manhattan, DisneyWorld.

And they will all attack the chain of command—currently known as Barack Obama and those on the succession ladder below him—VP, speaker, Senate president pro Tem, Cabinet secretaries. West Central Washington, DC is probably the absolute worst place to be if you fear a nuclear attack on the U.S.

Rules for where to be to avoid death or injury from nuke attack in the U.S.:

• away from the president or his designated successors

• away from other likely targets like military nuke bases and major population centers

• in a valley in a mountainous area

• in a steel-reinforced concrete building

• on the side of the building away from likely ground zero

In other words, about 99% of America’s land would be safe in a big nuclear attack on America.

Delivery vehicle

Nukes are delivered by ICBMs, right? Not if the enemy is smart. You can see them coming on radar about ten to 30 minutes in advance. And you can see where they are coming from.

Another principle of war is surprise. ICBMS have no element of surprise. Plus, why let the target see who fired them?

A famous Readers Digest article back in the 1960s I think depicted China, which was then like North Korea today, setting off nukes in the U.S. by hiding the civilian shipping containers. Here is a quote from a 1/5/2008 Democrat Presidential debate in New Hampshire. Russian and Chinese airliners including cargo jets can land at many major U.S. airports. So can false flag airlines that, on a given day, might contain a Russian or Chinese nuke.

BRIAN ROSS: (From videotape.) After more than six years of trying, the United States still does not have a reliable way to spot nuclear material that terrorists might smuggle into the country. Watch as ABC News twice did in demonstrations without being caught,…

Here’s a 2012 Bloomberg story titled “U.S. backs off inspecting all-cargo scanning goal with inspections at 4%.” And here’s a quote from that story:

Aug. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Five years after Congress set a deadline for requiring all U.S.-bound shipping containers to be X-rayed overseas for nuclear weapons, customs officials have all but given up on the goal.

Customs and Border Protection officials scanned with X-ray or gamma-ray machines 473,380, or 4.1 percent, of the 11.5 million containers shipped in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, according to the agency. That’s essentially the same percentage of containers that were scanned in 2007, the year a Democratic-controlled Congress mandated that agents start vetting every container.

Screening 100 percent of incoming containers would be nearly impossible to implement now, cause huge delays and be less cost-effective than focusing only on suspicious cargo, customs officials say, even as the law’s supporters insist the mandate is the only way to ensure the safety of the shipping system.

America is the world’s best country geographically, to a large extent because of its great rivers and ports. We have 17,600 miles of navigable rivers, more than the rest of the world combined. We also have a fabulous collection of ocean ports including in the Great Lakes because of the St. Laurence Seaway. This is not good for defending against sea-borne nuclear bombs.

A nuke could be hidden in a yacht, fishing boat, container, cruise ship, inside a piece of heavy equipment like a Russian tractor or a Chinese heavy construction equipment machine. The list of major cities that could not be accessed by such a boat is shorter than the list that could: Denver, Salt Lake, Phoenix, Albuquerque. The White House is 5,000 feet from the Potomac.

Trick the biggies into killing each other

The gold ring of nuke war would be for some non-state actor like IS to trick Russia or China—with a couple of nukes—into thinking the U.S. attacked it with nukes to get Russia or China to retaliate massively against the U.S. Or to trick the U.S. into massively retaliating against Iran. Who would do that? Sunnis, if they could. Iran is Shia.

Civilian boats better than missiles

In the debate just before the Pennsylvania primary, when ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Obama if it should be U.S. policy to treat an Iranian attack on Israel as if it were an attack against the United States, Obama ducked: “The United States would take appropriate action.” But he also believed in talks with the Iranians and in using carrots and sticks.

Hillary saw her moment. Assuming a presidential posture, she warned Iranians that “an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States.”

“Against whom,” was the follow-up question that was never asked.

Several people have told me that the U.S. would know within hours who did it because of forensics.

I don’t believe that. I don’t even believe any human could get within a mile or more of ground zero within hours if it was 20 million degrees Fahrenheit at the time of the blast. And where are the fragments? They could be 20 miles away. And how do you find them. And why aren’t the fragments incinerated at those temperatures? Here’s an article if you want to follow up:

Not Armageddon

Many famous leaders have made comments about nuclear war to the effect that it would be mutual suicide. That is false. Not even close.

Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global nuclear war,…Stephen Hawking


In nuclear war all men are cremated equal.

Dexter Gordon

Cute, but it did not happen in Hiroshima or Nagasaki. About 1/3 of the people in those two medium size towns were killed. Part of that was caused by extremely flimsy construction. Some was caused by the starvation of the population in general before the bombs exploded.

“In our new age of terrifying, lethal gadgets, which supplanted so swiftly the old one, the first great aggressive war, if it should come, will be launched by suicidal little madmen pressing an electronic button. Such a war will not last long and none will ever follow it. There will be no conquerors and no conquests, but only the charred bones of the dead on and uninhabited planet.”
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

That’s not an accurate description of what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones”. Albert Einstein

No war since 1945 has been foufht with sticks and stones. Japan is not armed with sticks and stones.

“The living will envy the dead.” Nikita Khrushchev leader of Soviet Union about nuclear war

Not true. Some of the wounded may envy the dead but, again, we have the examples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was not even true within the city limits of those two cities, let alone throughout Japan.

“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used.”

Ronald Reagan, Third State of the Union Address, (1984).

A nuclear war can be won against a small nuclear power like North Korea or Israel. Between major nuclear powers like China, Russia, and the U.S., a full-on nuclear war would weaken each country greatly and kill maybe a third of the populations of each. None would be able to do much to the other after the first hour of the war. Each would have to save some nukes to defend against other nuclear powers like China, India, Pakistan, France, U.K.

Continuing the war conventionally would take a World War II level of effort and expense—a draft, 10% of the population in unform, massive defense expenditures. Russia simply does not have the people or the money to do it. Their great victory in World War II would not have happened without massive gifts of fuel and materiel from the U.S., not to mention the Western Front and what would we get for winning? Russia? America bought Alaska from Russia in the Civil War era. We’re good now. Got all the frozen tundra we need.

A nuclear war would be a very expensive bridge to nowhere. But we cannot run up the white flag every time Putin rattles his nuclear sabers. Nuclear war, to an extent, is a two-way street. Whatever it does to us, it generally also does to the ohter guy.

World War III

All talk of the use of nuclear weapons seems to instantly assume it would be “World War III.” No, it wouldn’t. It would most likely be a bilateral war. There have been two world wars. Each was a world war like the U.S. pro baseball championship is a World Series—where only U.S. and one Canadian team can play.

WW I had about two dozen combatants; WW II, about 31. Technically, one might say the NATO countries would have to join the U.S. in a war with Russia are China. But British Field Marshal Lord Vincent once called NATO “a hot bed of cold feet.” I would not recommend holding your breath waiting for NATO to jump into a nuclear war between Russia or China and the U.S.

And even a true world war—with dozens of countries—would simply mean more cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the war’s first hour, not a planet consisting only of ashes and bones.

The first hour of a nuclear war

What everybody is talking about with all these apocalyptic predictions is the first hour of a future nuclear war—which they also claim will be the last hour of mankind and civilization.

Hiroshima was not the last hour of mankind and civilization. Nor was Nagasaki.

The first hour of a massive nuclear war would be mushroom clouds and fireballs devastating a fraction of a percent of the territory of the U.S. or China or an even smaller percentage of Russia. For example, 2,000 nukes hitting America would devastate about 2,000 square miles of the U.S.’s 3.7 million square miles (2,000 ÷ 3,700,000 = .1%) In Russia, with 16.4 million square miles of territory, the percentage would be far less.

I tried to find a decent estimate of the number of U.S. people killed by a full-on nuclear war with Russia. Apparently, almost everyone who makes such estimates figures the end of preventing nuclear war justifies the means of grossly exaggerating the casualties. So I will stick with the Hiroshima/Nagasaki experience of about 1/3 dead in a densely-packed city of hundreds of thousands of people.

I experienced the Loma Prieta Earthquake during the 1989 World Series in San Francisco. That was 6.9 on the Richter Scale which an Internet site says is the equivalent of a .338 MT nuclear explosion in terms of power. Nagasaki was 21KT or .021 MT. 63 people were killed, 3,757 injured. The deaths and injuries included those in a fire started by the quake. The very low death rate is a function of building codes and structure strength. In third-world countries—as Japan was in 1945, thousands die in such quakes because of lousy construction. I seem to recall that a similar size quake happened in Southern Russia around the time of the Loma Prieta and the casualties were in the thousands and Russian media were asking why the same size quake killed almost no one in the U.S. in a densely populated city. True, the earthquake is undergruond and spends most of its energy moving tectonic plates, not destroying man-made structures on ground level.

Wars can typically be seen coming in advance. Above, I said clearly where you would want to be if you anticipated a nuclear war involving the U.S. And I noted about 99% of the U.S. would do the trick. With its transportation infrastructure, affluence, domestic tourism habit, millions of RVs and backpackers, I expect that given some warning, Americans could fairly quickly make our population a much less attractive target. That would diminish the GDP for the days it lasted, but it would save lives in the event of a nuke war.

With the Internet, which was specifically developed by the U.S. Army to enable dispersion of military assets in advance of a nuclear war, Americans in a great many occupations can now telecommute from the suburbs or a pup tent or an RV or second home or even another country. With notice, Americans can probably turn themselves into a less lucrative target more easily than any other country in the world. Create an informal contingency plan for where you would go on a quick vacation—like Canada for example. If things get too hot between Putin and the U.S., so go see Canada. Big deal if you don’t and your area becomes a ground zero. No big deal if you go and there is no war.

And if you are concerned about this, move to one of the 99% of places I said were less vulnerable because of distance from a likely target, terrain, structures, not downwind from likely target.

The main thing I am trying to end is the belief that nothing can be done. Yeah, it can. You can totally protect yourself, in the vast majority of cases without changing your life much. For example, in my area—San Francisco—you would simply prefer to live north or south of the City—better north nowadays because Silicon Valley is south and that might be a target. You can’t live west of the city. It’s the Pacific Ocean. I live east of the city which is not so great fallout-wise but probably okay blast-wise.

None of this article says war is good. It does say that overreacting to the danger of war is bad because it is simply a way of losing wars without the other side having to fire a shot. Over 100,000 Americans have died from that nonsense. What the article does say is that nuclear war is akin to flood risk. You don’t know when the flood will hit, but you have a pretty good idea of where and what the damage will be if and when it happens.

So don’t buy a home on a flood plain, or a ground-zero plain or a fallout plain.

Simple. You don’t even need to tell anyone what you are doing or why.

For a lot more of that nature, see my web articles on the military.

John T. Reed