Emergency War Plan


Emergency War Plan

The American Doomsday Machine, 1945–1960

Sean M. Maloney

544 pages
18 photographs, 38 maps, 6 tables, 2 appendixes, index


February 2021


$50.00 Pre-order

About the Book

Emergency War Plan examines the theory and practice of American nuclear deterrence and its evolution during the Cold War. Previous examinations of nuclear strategy during this time have, for the most part, categorized American efforts as “massive retaliation” and “mutually assured destruction,” blunt instruments to be casually dismissed in favor of more flexible approaches or summed up in inflammatory and judgmental terms like “MAD.” These descriptors evolved into slogans, and any nuanced discussion of the efficacy of the actual strategies withered due to a variety of political and social factors.

Drawing on newly released weapons effects information along with new information about Soviet capabilities as well as risky and covert espionage missions, Emergency War Plan provides a completely new examination of American nuclear deterrence strategy during the first fifteen years of the Cold War, the first such study since the 1980s. Ultimately what emerges is a picture of a gargantuan and potentially devastating enterprise that was understood at the time by the public in only the vaguest terms but that was not as out of control as has been alleged and was more nuanced than previously understood.


Author Bio

Sean M. Maloney is a professor of history at the Royal Military College of Canada and served as the Canadian Army’s historian for the war in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2014. He is the author of several books, including Learning to Love the Bomb: Canada’s Nuclear Weapons during the Cold War (Potomac Books, 2007) and Deconstructing Dr. Strangelove: The Secret History of Nuclear War Films (Potomac Books, 2020).


“This is an outstanding book. Sean Maloney has written an extremely detailed, prodigiously researched, and highly readable account of the U.S. nuclear war plans of the 1950s. . . . [Maloney] offers the term ‘massive deterrence’ to describe the effect of these [nuclear] forces, their demonstrated ability to deliver their weapons on target, and the iron will of American leaders to respond to a Soviet or Chinese attack if necessary. Deterrence worked. This is a definitive work on a complicated and arcane subject.”—Phillip S. Meilinger, former dean of the School of Advanced Airpower Studies at Air University

“[This] is the Rosetta Stone compendium and most comprehensive body of work I have ever read on the development of the United States’ nuclear war plan. In exacting detail this book unravels the mystery behind the planning and operations of America’s nascent nuclear capability during the early years of the Cold War.”—Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, USAF (Ret.), former commander of the Twentieth Air Force and former deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration at the Pentagon


Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
1. Kami no itte: Nuclear Targeting and Japan, 1945
2. Per Ardua ad Atomica: Ur-Nuclear Targeting, 1946–49
3. Imminence of War I: Targeting the Soviet Union, 1950–53
4. Imminence of War II: Targeting Europe and the Far East, 1950–53
5. Four Horsemen I: Targeting the Soviet Union, 1954–56
6. Four Horsemen II: Targeting Europe and the Far East, 1954–56
7. Increasing the Deterrent Margin: Strategic Air Command and the Soviet Union, 1956–58
8. Prosteishiy Sputnik: Midcourse Corrections, 1957–59
9. Coming Together: The Basic War Plan, 1958–60
10. Megadeath Musings: Alternative Undertaking and Deterrence, 1958–60
11. The Acme of Skill: The Basic War Plan, the General Emergency Operations Plan, and the Far East, 1957–60
Appendix A: SAC Emergency War Plan 1-49 and 1-51 Targets
Appendix B: Soviet Cities and Population, 1960 Estimates

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