Washington's unwitting atomic allies

KDean75206 at SPAMaol.com KDean75206 at SPAMaol.com
Thu Oct 21 18:38:03 MDT 1999

Originally posted to SocialistsUnmoderated at debs.pinko.net
Washington's unwitting atomic allies

Pentagon papers reveal extent of US deployment during cold war

Julian Borger, The Guardian
Thursday October 21, 1999

At the height of the cold war the United States secretly sited thousands
of nuclear weapons in 15 countries around the world, sometimes without
the knowledge of the governments concerned, according to a report based
on declassified Pentagon documents.

The revelation was made yesterday in the US Bulletin of the Atomic

It generated a political storm in Iceland, where nuclear bombs were
reportedly stored in a US air base from 1956 to 1959.
Reykjavik's fiercely anti-nuclear government was never informed, the
report said. The Icelandic cabinet insisted that it had received renewed
assurances from the US yesterday that the country had not been exploited
as an unwitting nuclear depot.

One of the article's three authors, Robert Norris, said that there was
strong evidence based on the defence papers that atomic weapons were
stored at the US base at Keflavik in Iceland.

He said that France was also deliberately kept in the dark when nuclear
weapons were placed in French Morocco in 1954. Mr Norris, a senior
research analyst at the Natural Resources Defence Council in Washington,
said he had come across a US official document stipulating that Paris
"should not be informed".

It is unclear whether the governments of the Philippines, South Korea and
Taiwan were told when nuclear bombs were sited on their territory in the
1950s in an attempt to confront China in the Pacific.

The chief spokesman for the Pentagon, Kenneth Bacon, said that it was US
policy neither to confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons on
foreign soil. But he said that at least one of the report's deductions
based on the government documents was incorrect.

Nevertheless, the newly-released documents reveal the extent to which the
US was ready to disregard the sensibilities of its supposed allies in its
anxiety not to be outflanked by its communist nuclear rivals.
They also show that the cold war was even more perilous than previously
"Even I was surprised by the scale of the thing - that these weapons were
all over the place," Mr Norris said. "It was pretty serious."

The worldwide dispersal of the US atomic arsenal inevitably increased the
risk of accidents and misuse. During the Eisenhower administration, for
example, West German fighter-bomber pilots had virtually complete control
over the atomic weapons in periods of heightened alert.

Soon after the outbreak of the Korean war in 1950, the US ordered the
despatch of nuclear bomb components to the Pacific island of Guam, so
that they would be ready for rapid assembly and arming with a plutonium
or uranium "core" if the conflict escalated into an atomic exchange.
On August 5 that year, a B-29 bomber carrying components to Guam crashed
in California, causing a huge blast that was felt 30 miles away. The US
air force put out a false cover story claiming that 10 conventional bombs
had all exploded at the same time.

According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the shells of nuclear
depth charges were stockpiled at the US base at Guantanamo Bay at the
eastern tip of Cuba at the time of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The
anti-submarine weapons could have been activated at short notice on the
outbreak of a conflict by flying the nuclear cores from Florida.

The central Pentagon document quoted in the report - the History of the
Custody and Deployment of Nuclear Weapons (1945-1977) - was released
under the freedom of information act after a request by the Bulletin.

The document lists a total of 27 locations (15 of them foreign sovereign
states) where nuclear weapons were stored or deployed.

They include obvious Nato allies such as Britain and West Germany as well
as American territories abroad, including Puerto Rico, Guam, Johnston
Island and Midway. But the names of 18 locations had been blacked out by
the military censor.

But the locations were listed alphabetically, so by a process of
elimination, and with the help of information from other sources, Mr
Norris said, it was possible to identify 17 of the missing locations.
He said that in the case of Iceland: "We knew that between Hawaii and
Johnston Island, there were two countries in there, and one of them was

US strategic air command bombers were diverted to the Keflavik base at
the height of the cold war in the 1950s. This provides corroborating
evidence that Iceland was one of the unnamed locations used for storing

The 18th nuclear deployment site remains a mystery. Alphabetically it
lies between Canada and Cuba, but Mr Norris said neither he nor his
co-authors had been able to narrow down the search any further.

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