The Debate on Nuclear Strategy
The H-bomb and the lethal potentialities of fallout sparked a new debate on nuclear strategy, and Winston Churchill was among the first to be heard. In a speech in Parliament on March 1, 1955, he argued that there was "an immense gulf between the atomic and the hydrogen bomb."
What inspired Churchill was probably the work of P. M. S. Blackett, who had been a pioneer in "operations research" that had led to the successful convoy system of World War II. Suppose, Blackett reasoned, a defending country put substantial resources into antiaircraft equipment, such as jet fighters, antiaircraft missiles, and so on (this was before the development of ICBMs and other longrange missiles). If so, the attacking force would have to be a fleet of bombers, along the lines of those in World War II. To equal the damage done to Germany by air attack in World War II, Blackett estimated that 400 Hiroshima-type bombs would be needed, and to make sure that 400 bombs arrived on target the attacking fleet would have to start out with 1 thousand. 1
Vannevar Bush seemed to agree; he argued that at least for the immediate future the atomic bomb was not an absolute weapon, in the sense that it was not "so overpowering as to make all other methods of waging war obsolete." 2
The atomic bomb, Churchill went on to say, "with all its terrors," did not carry us beyond the scope of human control. But the H-bomb, he argued, had revolutionized the entire foundation of human affairs and placed mankind "in a situation both measureless and laden with doom." 3
The point was that the same destruction wrought by 400 atomic bombs could be accomplished by about forty H-bombs. And even in the face of an air defense system, rather than 1 thousand bombers, only one hundred would be needed.