Targeting the USSR in August 1945

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by Yusuf, Apr 28, 2012.

  1. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

    Mar 24, 2009
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    If the World War II alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom was the special relationship, what was the alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union? The especially problematic relationship? The relationship that could really have used to go to counseling? A relationship forged out of extreme crisis that later seemed like a sketchy thing? (Easily abbreviated as the sketchy relationship, of course.) My wife suggests perhaps calling it the shotgun marriage.

    Maybe special fits the bill there too, in the sense of it being odd. Case in point: by August 30, 1945 — before World War II was officially over — some part of the U.S. military force (I’m not sure what branch; the Army Air Corps are a likely suspect) had already taken the time to draw up a list of good targets for atomic bombs in the USSR… and even overlaid a map of the Soviet Union with the ranges of nuclear-capable bombers, along with “first” and “second” priority targets marked on it.1

    Click image to zoom.

    How many other war alliances end with one side explicitly plotting to nuke the heck out of the other ally? Probably not too many.

    This amazing map comes from General Groves’ files, and was sent to him in September 1945 as part of a list of estimates for how many atomic bombs Curtis LeMay thought the US ought to have. I’ll talk about that another time, but here’s a hint: it was so many that even General Groves thought it was too many. Whoa.

    A few things: the majority of these “dark” plots are B-29s (the same bombers that carried Fat Man and Little Boy), and they are going out of all kinds of “allied” bases (some currently in their possession, others labeled as “possible springboards”) around the USSR (Stavanger, Bremen, Foggia, Crete, Dhahran, Lahore, Okinawa, Shimushiru, Adak, and Nome). Which is an interesting way to quickly conceptualize the Cold War world from a military standpoint.

    The very large, empty plots are for B-36s, which didn’t exist yet. They wouldn’t get fielded until 1949, but were already in the planning stages during the war. The actual B-36s as delivered had somewhat longer ranges (6,000 miles or so, total, if Wikipedia is to believed) than the ones estimated on here.

    The target cities are a bit hard to make out (the next time I’m at NARA, I’ll try to get them to bring me the original map), but the “first priority” cities include Moscow, Sverdlovsk, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Stalinsk, Chelyabinsk, Magnitogorsk, Kazan, Molotov, and Gorki. Leningrad appears to be listed as a “second priority” target, which surprises me, but it might just be the microfilm being hard to read. All in all, it’s not the most interesting list of cities: they have literally just taken a list of the top cities in the USSR (based on population, industry, war relevance) and made those their atomic targets.

    Stalin has a well-deserved reputation as a paranoid guy. But, as the old saying goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.
  3. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

    Sep 8, 2009
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    There was no trust between the Western allies (U.S., U.K, France) and the Soviet Union even while they were officially "allied" and fighting the same enemy. The first thing the Soviets did after they defeated the Nazis was to prepare for an invasion of Western Europe, and vice versa for the Allies (see Operation Unthinkable).

    In fact, it has been suggested that one of the main reasons why the U.S. chose to use atomic weapons against Japan - even when Japan was already quite defeated - was to send a warning to the Soviets and deter them from extending their power further into Europe and East Asia. Whatever the reason, the Soviets were certainly deterred from invading Western Europe (which they could have easily won if only conventional forces were involved) and put considerable effort into acquiring their own atomic bomb, which they tested in 1947.
    The Messiah likes this.

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