To The Editor,
Below is an in-depth story of what happens when The Bomb goes off,
called The Effects of Nuclear Weapons. I hope you will reprint it in
your paper some time in the next few days, in commemoration of
Hiroshima Day (August 6th) and Nagasaki Day (August 9th).
THIS YEAR, we are far too close to seeing nuclear war as a reality
(again). A presidential candidate who denounced the use of nuclear
weapons was VILIFIED last week -- THAT'S BACKWARDS.
Nuclear weapons are the ultimate UNCONVENTIONAL WMDs. Nuclear
weapons are poison gas attacks on humanity. Nuclear weapons kill
civilians and ruin their land. Nuclear weapons can be used by small,
angry, ideological groups (even while representing the heads of
countries) against massive population centers. One person with a
jittery finger can kill millions. Nuclear weapons can be used to
cause tsunamis and to destroy nuclear power plants. Just a few dozen
nuclear weapons can cause extinction of all large mammals --
including humans. Nuclear weapons produce radioactive poisons which
hurt and mutate our children, infants, fetuses, zygotes and so on,
much more than they harm adults. Nuclear weapons kill and damage
people (and all other living creatures) well beyond the borders of
any country, long after any war.
For these and other reasons the use of nuclear weapons is beyond
illegal, irrational, and immoral. It is, in a word, INHUMAN. ANY
nuclear retaliation, even against a nuclear attack, is OVERKILL.
There are, sadly, not many articles like the one shown below, but
recalling the pain it took to write it, and having heard of the pain
it takes to read it, I can understand why not. However, what it says
has to be said, and has to be well-known, especially by our
presidential candidates! The essay shown below has been reprinted
dozens of times, including a version in the largest English-language
newspaper in Pakistan, and a version in a large-circulation magazine
in Brazil, and also in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, several
European countries, and elsewhere, including viral circulation on the Internet.
But that was then. Every year nearly 100 million new people are
born. TODAY there are young people who need to hear this message and
know what this "final option" is really like.
Recently, I met a Swedish "Au Pair" while riding the "Coaster" train
home from Comic-Con International, held every summer in San
Diego. When she sat down, I was reading a terrifying book called
Ecological Disaster: Cleaning up the Hidden Legacy of the Soviet
Regime, by Murray Feshbach (20th Century Press, 1995). Talking to
her, I realized that, although she was clearly smart, well-educated,
and thoughtful (fluent in at least two languages, skilled in child
care, etc.), she was apparently unaware of Chernobyl, which had
poisoned her country just when she was physiologically most vulnerable!
The younger generation -- those most at risk -- need the information
given below, so they can participate in the discussion and help to
decide their own fate. Please help "pick up the bag" and continue
the conversation. Help educate the potential victims of nuclear
war. Please share this essay with your readers, old and young, who
need to understand exactly what the military planners have in store
for them. Share it with your children -- and their au pairs, their
teachers, their nannies, their other parents, and everyone who loves children.
Russell "Ace" Hoffman
THE EFFECTS OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS:
By Russell "Ace" Hoffman
Copyright (c) 1999
A year ago this month (May, 1999), India surprised the CIA -- and
nearly everyone else except, perhaps, Pakistan, who seems to have
been nearly ready -- by setting off several underground nuclear
explosions. Then Pakistan, claiming self-defense, followed suit. But
what would actually happen if India and Pakistan had a nuclear exchange?
Most people in India and in Pakistan (and in the U.S.) probably do
not know that as many as 9 out of 10 people -- or more -- who die
from a nuclear blast, do not die in the explosion itself. Most people
probably think that if they die from a nuclear blast, they will
simply see a flash and get quickly cooked.
Those within approximately a six square mile area (for a 1 megaton
blast) will indeed be close enough to "ground zero" to be killed by
the gamma rays emitting from the blast itself. Ghostly shadows of
these people will be formed on any concrete or stone that lies behind
them, and they will be no more. They literally won't know what hit
them, since they will be vaporized before the electrical signals from
their sense organs can reach their brains.
Of the many victims of a nuclear war, these are the luckiest ones, of course.
Outside the circle where people will be instantly vaporized from the
initial gamma radiation blast, the light from the explosion (which is
many times hotter than the sun) is so bright that it will immediately
and permanently blind every living thing, including farm animals
(including cows, sacred or otherwise), pets, birds while in flight
and not to mention peasants, Maharajah's, and Government officials --
and soldiers, of course. Whether their eyes are opened or closed.
This will happen for perhaps 10 miles around in every direction (for
a 1 megaton bomb) -- further for those who happen to be looking
towards the blast at the moment of detonation. Even from fifty miles
away, a 1 megaton blast will be many times brighter than the noonday
sun. Those looking directly at the blast will have a large spot
permanently burned into their retinas, where the light receptor cells
will have been destroyed. The huge bright cloud being nearly
instantly formed in front of them (made in part from those closer to
the blast, who have already "become death"), will be the last clear
image these people will see.
Most people who will die from the nuclear explosion will not die in
the initial gamma ray burst, nor in the multi-spectral heat blast
(mostly X-ray and ultraviolet wavelengths) which will come about a
tenth of a second after the gamma burst. Nor will the pressure wave
which follows over the next few seconds do most of them in, though it
will cause bleeding from every orifice. Nor even will most people be
killed by the momentary high winds which accompany the pressure wave.
These winds will reach velocities of hundreds of miles an hour near
the epicenter of the blast, and will reach velocities of 70 miles per
hour as far as 6 miles from the blast (for a 1 megaton bomb). The
high winds and flying debris will cause shrapnel-type wounds and
Together, the pressure wave and the accompanying winds will do in
quite a few, and damage most of the rest of the people (and animals,
and structures) in a huge circle -- perhaps hundreds of square miles in area.
Later, these people will begin to suffer from vomiting, skin rashes,
and an intense unquenchable thirst as their hair falls out in clumps.
Their skin will begin to peel off. This is because the internal
molecular structure of the living cells within their bodies is
breaking down, a result of the disruptive effects of the high
radiation dose they received. All the animals will be similarly
suffering. Since they have already received the dose, these effects
will show up even if the people are immediately evacuated from the
area -- hardly likely, since everything around will be destroyed and
the country would be at war.
But this will not concern them at this time: Their immediate threat
after the gamma blast, heat blast, pressure wave and sudden fierce
wind (first going in the direction of the pressure wave -- outwardly
from the blast -- then a moment later, a somewhat weaker wind in the
opposite direction), will be the firestorm which will quickly follow,
with its intense heat and hurricane-force winds, all driving towards
the center where the radioactive mushroom-shaped cloud will be
rising, feeding it, enlarging it, and pushing it miles up into the sky.
The cloud from a 1 megaton blast will reach nearly 10 miles across
and equally high. Soon after forming, it will turn white because of
water condensation around it and within it. In an hour or so, it will
have largely dissipated, which means that its cargo of death can no
longer be tracked visually. People will need to be evacuated from
under the fallout, but they will have a hard time knowing where to
go. Only for the first day or so will visible pieces of fallout
appear on the ground, such as marble-sized chunks of radioactive
debris and flea-sized dots of blackened particles. After that the
descending debris from the radioactive cloud will become invisible
and harder to track; the fallout will only be detectable with Geiger
counters carried by people in "moon suits". But all the moon suits
will already be in use in the known affected area. Probably, no one
will be tracking the cloud. One U.S. test in the South Pacific
resulted in a cigar-shaped contamination area 340 miles long and up
to 60 miles wide. It spread 20 miles *upwind* from the test site, and
320 miles downwind. Where exactly it goes all depends on the winds
and the rains at the time. It is difficult to predict where the cloud
will travel before it happens, and it is likewise difficult to track
the cloud as it moves and dissipates around the globe. While
underground testing is bad enough for the environment, a single large
above-ground explosion is likely to result in measurable global
increases of a whole spectrum of health effects. India or Pakistan
will deny culpability for these deaths, of course. The responsible
nations, including my own, always do.
But the people who were affected by the blast itself will not be
worrying about the fallout just yet.
A 1 megaton nuclear bomb creates a firestorm that can cover 100
square miles. A 20 megaton blast's firestorm can cover nearly 2500
square miles. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were small cities, and by
today's standards the bombs dropped on them were small bombs.
The Allied firebombing of nearly 150 cities during World War Two in
Germany and Japan seldom destroyed more than 25 square miles at a
time, and each of those raids required upwards of 400 planes, and
thousands of crewmembers going into harm's way. It was not done
lightly. And, they did not leave a lingering legacy of lethal
In the span of a lunch hour, one multi-warhead nuclear missile can
destroy more cities than all the incendiary raids in history, and the
only thing the combatant needs to do to carry off such a horror is to
sit in air-conditioned comfort hundreds or even thousands of miles
away, and push a button. He would barely have to interrupt his lunch.
With automation, he wouldn't even have to do that! The perpetrator of
this crime against humanity may never have seen his adversary. He
only needs to be good at following the simplest of orders. A robot
could do it. One would think, that ONLY a robot WOULD do it.
Nuclear war is never anything less than genocide.
The developing firestorm is what the survivors of the initial blast
will be worrying about -- if they can think straight at all. Many
will have become instantly "shell-shocked" -- incapacitated and
unable to proceed. Many will simply go mad. Perhaps they are among
the "lucky" ones, as well.
The firestorm produces hurricane-force winds in a matter of minutes.
The fire burns so hot that the asphalt in the streets begins to melt
and then burn, even as people are trying to run across it, literally
melting into the pavement themselves as they run. Victims, on fire,
jump into rivers, only to catch fire again when they surface for air.
Yet it is hard to see even these pitiable souls as the least lucky
ones in a nuclear attack.
For the survivors of the initial blast who do not then die in the
firestorm that follows, many will die painfully over the next few
weeks, often after a brief, hopeful period where they appear to be
getting better. It might begin as a tingling sensation on the skin,
or an itching, which starts shortly after the blast. These symptoms
are signs that the body is starting to break down internally, at the
molecular level. The insides of those who get a severe dose of gamma
radiation, but manage to survive the other traumas, whose organs had
once been well defined as lungs, liver, heart, intestines, etc.,
begin to resemble an undefined mass of bloody pulp. Within days, or
perhaps weeks, the victim, usually bleeding painfully from every hole
and pore in their body, at last dies and receives their final mercy.
But this too will probably not be how most victims of a nuclear
attack will die.
A significant percentage, probably most, of the people who die from a
nuclear attack will die much later, from the widespread release of
radioactive material into the environment. These deaths will occur
all over the world, for centuries to come. Scattered deaths, and
pockets of higher mortality rates, will continue from cancer,
leukemia, and other health effects, especially genetic damage to
Nuclear weapons do not recognize the end of a war, or signed peace
treaties, or even the deaths of all the combatants. They simply keep
on killing a percentage of whoever happens to inhale or ingest their
Some deaths will occur hundreds and even thousands of miles away,
because low levels of ionizing radiation are capable of causing the
full spectrum of health effects, albeit at a lower rate within the
population. Not to mention the radioactive runoff from the rivers and
streams that flow through the blast area and the area under the
radioactive mushroom cloud's drift. It may carry its deadly cargo for
thousands of miles, raining a fallout of death only on some cities,
and not on others. It will land upon nations which had not been
involved in any way in India's dispute with Pakistan. These nations
will be mighty hurt and mighty upset.
Nuclear weapons do not recognize international borders.
Finally, an atmospheric blast of a nuclear "device" creates an EMP
(Electro-Magnetic Pulse) which can be as large as Pakistan or even
India -- perhaps even larger than India and Pakistan together. The
higher the altitude of the blast, the bigger the circle of damage
will be from the EMP. This is a very serious concern for those of us
in the high-tech industries, such as myself.
The Electro-Magnetic Pulse will electrify all sorts of metallic
structures that are not normally electrified except by the occasional
short circuit or lightening strike. This will be a lot like the whole
country getting struck by lightening all at the same time.
As computer chips make better and better use of "real estate", using
more and more delicate electronic circuits, the more tightly-packed
transistors, capacitors, diodes and resistors become more and more
vulnerable to the EMP which will be carried into the chips via the
connecting wires. The Electro-Magnetic Pulse is one of the reasons
above-ground testing was stopped. (The other reason was that it
became impossible to deny that the radiation dispersed by the tests
was killing people.)
Pacemakers, for example, may stop working because of the "hit" from
the EMP. It will be quite something to see people in a thousand mile
radius of the epicenter of the blast (or further) who are using
pacemakers, suddenly drop dead, and all the computers permanently go
down and all the lights go out, all at the same time. And commercial
and private aircraft will drop out of the sky, since their sensitive
electronics and fly-by-wire systems are not very well shielded from
the EMP. These planes will then not be available for evacuation
purposes, nor will they be available to air-drop food, water,
morphine and cyanide, all of which will be in great demand throughout
A year ago people were dancing in the streets over this in both India
and Pakistan. Why?
Home plumbing systems and most other plumbing systems are good
examples of large metallic structures that will suddenly become
electrified, destroying the motors, gauges, electronics, etc. which
are attached to the plumbing systems. More and more pumping equipment
is computer controlled nowadays for efficiency. Imbedded controllers
are becoming prevalent but as they do, the potential damage from the
Electro-Magnetic Pulse increases dramatically.
Train tracks will also carry the charge, as well as telephone wiring.
All these things will have a nearly simultaneous surge of energy sent
through them, igniting gas containers such as fuel storage tanks,
propane tanks, and so on. Whatever doesn't blow up will at least stop working.
My country has lived under the Russian and Chinese threat of nuclear
war for many decades now, and it is not a pleasant thought. This is
nothing to dance about. There is no benefit to having, or using,
I think the world would be a better place if we all stopped and said,
"I will not be a part of this. I do not need these weapons, for I
would never commit this sin against my own children, nor against my
neighbor's children, nor against my enemy's children, nor even
against my enemy. I choose not to be a part of this madness."
There is a greater battle mankind must fight than against each other.
Humanity's fight right now, is for humanity's general survival
despite depleted and poorly used resources, environmental degradation
(there is none greater than that from a nuclear explosion), dwindling
effectiveness of antibiotics and other wonder drugs, an uneven
distribution of available food, knowledge and wealth, and against
weapons of mass destruction.
America had three excuses for her previous use of nuclear weapons in
war, which we plead every time it is mentioned. First, we claim that
we did not understand back then (over 50 years ago) all the ways
nuclear weapons damage the Earth and her living inhabitants. Second,
we claim that there was a war going on, and that had we not used
these weapons, perhaps a million soldiers would have died invading
Japan instead. But this second excuse is weakened by the knowledge
that Japan was at that time very near collapse anyway. She was
without an air defense, a sea defense, she did not have advanced
radar, she had lost all her good pilots, millions of soldiers were
either dead, wounded, captured, or uselessly stuck on nameless
islands in the middle of the Pacific, and towns in her homeland were
being firebombed on almost a nightly basis.
Our third excuse was that both Japan (and definitely Germany) were
building their own nuclear weapons, and DEFINITELY would have used
them against us had they succeeded in developing "the bomb" before
the war ended. The war could not go on forever. We were, indeed,
running out of time.
Perhaps these excuses are insufficient, but India and Pakistan
haven't even got them. India can, and therefore should, along with
Pakistan, renounce nuclear weapons and the nuclear option. Perhaps
her populace does not understand the full nature of the threat of
nuclear weapons, and thus they are dancing in the streets, but I hope
that her leaders do. However, I strongly suspect most of them are
unaware of the things I have written about in this newsletter.
Perhaps you, dear reader, will help me to educate them in this matter.
Russell "Ace" Hoffman
The author is grateful for the assistance of Pamela Blockey-O'Brien
and others in the research and preparation of this statement.