Pentagon Reveals Weapons Locations
Oct. 20, 1999
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Pentagon for the first time has revealed where it stored nuclear weapons abroad during the Cold War, including unarmed submarine-seeking depth bombs in Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis with the Soviet Union.
The names of nine places where bombs or bomb components minus their nuclear charges were located between 1951 and 1977 are revealed in a newly declassified official Pentagon history. The names of 18 other locations were blacked out by government censors before the document was released to Robert S. Norris, a private specialist on nuclear weapons and author of numerous books on the topic.
Using other documents, Norris and two colleagues said they could identify 17 of the 18 unnamed locations, ringing the globe from Canada to Iceland to Morocco and Japan.
The nine nuclear weapon locations named in the Pentagon document are Cuba, Puerto Rico, Britain, West Germany, the U.S. territories of Guam, Johnston Island and Midway, and Alaska and Hawaii, both U.S. territories in the early years of the Cold War.
Even with material blacked out, the ``History of the Custody and Deployment of Nuclear Weapons,'' published in February 1978 as a top secret document, ``shows a huge expanse of nuclear weapons around the globe,'' Norris said in an interview Tuesday.
The narrative portion of the Pentagon history makes no reference to U.S. nuclear weapons in Cuba, but an appendix listing locations outside the continental United States says an unspecified number of ``non-nuclear depth bombs'' were stored in Cuba between December 1961 and July-September 1963. The crisis over the Soviet Union trying to put surface-to-air nuclear missiles in Cuba was in October 1962.
The term ``non-nuclear'' referred to components, such as bomb casings or assemblies, for nuclear weapons, the report said. At that time, bomb design technology required that the actual nuclear charge, or capsule, be kept separate from the non-nuclear assembly. In the event of war, capsules could be flown to bases where they would be inserted into the assemblies to make complete bombs.
Depth bombs were weapons dropped from airplanes or helicopters to dive into the sea to kill submarines.
Graham Allison, a former Pentagon official and expert on the Cuban missile crisis, said in a telephone interview he was not aware that nuclear weapon components had been stored in Cuba. He said they probably were at Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. Navy base on the eastern tip of the island. During the Cuban missile crisis the Navy searched intensively for Soviet submarines in the Atlantic, he said.
Details about locations of American nuclear weapons abroad are among the most closely protected Pentagon secrets. Today the only remaining full-time U.S. nuclear deployments outside the United States are in Europe, where bombs are stored for potential use by U.S. Air Force planes based there. The Pentagon also has U.S.-based submarines, aircraft and missiles armed with nuclear warheads.
Norris, who wrote an article about the nuclear weapons history to be published this week in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists with co-authors William Arkin and William Burr, said the three used publicly available documentation to determine the names of 17 of the 18 censored locations.
The 17 were Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Japan, Kwajalein Island, Morocco, Okinawa, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. It has been known that U.S. nuclear weapons were in some of these countries, even if not officially acknowledged.
The one country that Norris, Arkin and Burr could not identified falls, alphabetically, between Canada and Cuba.
With the onset in 1950 of the Korean War, the Truman administration approved the movement of non-nuclear bomb components to Britain, and later that year to Guam, according to the Pentagon history.
``By having non-nuclear components readily available to these units, the initial strikes against their assigned targets could be mounted in a much shorter time, and the time schedule for subsequent attacks could be advanced,'' the document said.
The first overseas movement of nuclear capsules _ the bomb's plutonium or uranium core _ came in 1951 when President Truman authorized the shipment of nuclear capsules to the Pacific island of Guam. Starting in 1956 a wide variety of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems were sent to the Pacific.