Weapons of Mass Destruction
Editor: Matthew M. Aid
At its peak in 1967, the U.S. nuclear arsenal consisted of 31,255 nuclear weapons with an aggregate destructive power of 12,786 megatons – more than sufficient to wipe out all of humanity several hundred times over. Much less known is that hidden away in earth-covered bunkers spread throughout the U.S., Europe and Japan, over 40,000 tons of American chemical weapons were stored, as well as thousands of specially designed bombs that could be filled with even deadlier biological warfare agents.
The American WMD programs remain cloaked in secrecy, yet a substantial number of revealing documents have been quietly declassified since the late 1970s. Put together, they tell the story of how America secretly built up the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. The documents explain the role these weapons played in a series of world crises, how they shaped U.S. and NATO defense and foreign policy during the Cold War, and what incidents and nearly averted disasters happened. Moreover, they shed a light on the dreadful human and ecological legacy left by decades of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons manufacturing and testing in the U.S. and overseas.
This collection contains more than 2,300 formerly classified U.S. government documents, most of them classified Top Secret or higher. Covering the period from the end of World War II to the present day, it provides unique access to previously unpublished reports, memoranda, cables, intelligence briefs, classified articles, PowerPoint presentations, military manuals and directives, and other declassified documents. Following years of archival research and careful selection, they were brought together from the U.S. National Archives, ten U.S. presidential libraries, the NATO Archives in Brussels, the National Archives of the UK, the National Archives of Canada, and the National Archives of the Netherlands. In addition, a sizeable number of documents in this collection were obtained from the U.S. government and the Pentagon using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) requests.
This collection comes with several auxiliary aids, including a chronology and a historiographical essay with links to the documents themselves, providing context and allowing for easy navigation for both students and scholars.
• The papers in this collection detail how America’s stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons were developed, the staggering costs that were involved, the network of laboratories where the bombs and their components were designed and developed, new details about the dozens of secret factories spread across the U.S. where these lethal bombs and warheads were built, the sites where they were tested, and even newly released information about some of the storage depots where the weapons were deployed in the U.S. and overseas.
• This collection contains for the first time ever a comprehensive set of declassified documents which quantify the size and destructive power of the American nuclear, chemical and biological weapons stockpile throughout the Cold War era, including new details about the many different types of weapons in these arsenals, such as nuclear landmines (Atomic Demolition Munitions) and even a nuclear-capable recoilless rifle system.
• This collection contains hundreds of pages of declassified Defense Department and State Department documents concerning the secret negotiations between the U.S. government and over fifteen foreign governments concerning the deployment of nuclear and chemical weapons to their countries (complete biological weapons were never deployed overseas), as well as the even more difficult task later in the Cold War of trying to get permission to remove these weapons after they had outlived their usefulness. In some instances, the U.S. government deliberately did not inform the host nations that they had deployed nuclear and chemical weapons to their countries, as in the case of Japan, which was shocked to learn in 1969 that the U.S. was storing large numbers of nuclear and chemical weapons on the island of Okinawa without their knowledge or consent.
• Also included are over a hundred declassified documents regarding U.S. nuclear war plans, detailing how the American nuclear, chemical and biological weapons were to be used in wartime, including lists of their targets inside the USSR and the People’s Republic of China; newly declassified documents containing the details of all known nuclear, chemical and biological weapons accidents, some of which produced fatal results; and incidents involving attempts by foreign governments (Greece, Turkey and South Korea) to pressure the U.S. government by threatening to seize American nuclear weapons stored on their soil. Finally, there are recently released files concerning an attempt by a terrorist group to penetrate a U.S. nuclear weapons storage site in West Germany.
Number of documents: 2,374
Number of pages: ca. 21,212
• Introductory essay
• Glossary of acronyms
• MARC21 catalog records
• U.S. National Archives, Legislative Archives Branch, Washington, D.C.
• U.S. National Archives. Military Records Branch, College Park, Maryland
• U.S. National Archives, Civilian Records Branch, College Park, Maryland
• North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Archives, Brussels, Belgium
• National Archives of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
• National Archives of the Netherlands, The Hague, The Netherlands
• National Archives of the UK, Kew, Great Britain
• Washington National Records Center, Suitland, Maryland
• Harry S. Truman Library, Independence, Missouri
• Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Abilene, Kansas
• John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, Massachusetts
• Lyndon B. Johnson Library, Austin, Texas
• Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library, Yorba Linda, California
• Gerald R. Ford Library, Ann Arbor, Michigan
• Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta, Georgia
• Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, California
• George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, Houston, Texas
• William J. Clinton Presidential Library, Little Rock, Arkansas
• Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Washington, D.C.
• DOD FOIA Reading Room, The Pentagon, Washington, D.C.
• U.S. Army Center for Military History, Washington, D.C.
• Naval Historical Center Operational Archives, Washington, D.C.
• U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Alabama
• Department of Energy, Office of Scientific and Technical Information, Washington, D.C.
• Douglas MacArthur Library, Norfolk, Virginia (Douglas MacArthur Papers)
• George C. Marshall Library, Lexington, Virginia (George C. Marshall Papers)
• Mudd Library, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ (George W. Ball Papers)
• National Security Archive, Washington, D.C. (Chuck Hansen Collection)
• Maryland Historical Trust, Annapolis, Maryland
See also the companion collections Cold War Intelligence, U.S. Intelligence on Asia, 1945-1991, U.S. Intelligence on Europe, 1945-1995 and U.S. Intelligence on the Middle East, 1945-2009.