Emergency War Plan

The American Doomsday Machine, 1945-1960

Sean M Maloney

Emergency War Plan examines the theory and practice of nuclear deterrence and its emergence during the Cold War using military nuclear war strategies and plans that have only become declassified recently.
Publication date:
May 2021
Publisher :
Potomac Books, Inc.
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781640122345

Dimensions : 229 X 152 mm
In Stock


• Emergency War Plan presents the first comprehensive reconstruction of the U.S. nuclear war plan in detail
• Sean Maloney offers a detailed and deeply researched book about the status and placement of nuclear weapons in Cold War history, which has, until now, been a highly secret and misunderstood field subject to rumor, rhetoric, half-truths, and propaganda
• Emergency War Plan straddles the past and present through the Cold War's continued relevance in current politics

Emergency War Plan examines the theory and practice of nuclear deterrence and its emergence during the Cold War. The language that evolved around deterrence in the 1940s and 1950s was not diplomatic-speak. It was technological and operational and carefully chosen to establish and maintain credibility. The opposition had to see that a threat was credible. That meant aircraft, bombs, missiles, command and control facilities, planning, and exercises. Yet examinations of nuclear strategy during this time were, for the most part, pigeonholed as "Massive Retaliation” and "Mutually Assured Destruction,” conveniently summed up as "MAD.” These declaratory descriptors themselves evolved into slogans, and any serious discussion of them faded. Slogans mask the complex nature of concepts and situations and allow dismissal or mockery, as in the film Dr. Strangelove. It's possible that the secret elements of the deterrence enterprise made public understanding difficult, if not impossible. The whole picture was not available then, but now, with the declassification of nuclear war strategies, it may be discernible.

Emergency War Plan draws on and even challenges the prevailing view on what intelligence was available so that Strategic Air Command could carry out its mission. Sean Maloney examines the relationship of nuclear weapons to their targets and even draws on newly released weapons effects information along with new information about Soviet capabilities. He highlights how the process was supposed to work and where it might not have worked. Ultimately what emerges is a gargantuan and potentially devastating enterprise that was only understood by the public at the time in very general terms.