This is one of those times when are are all really going to miss Hognose more than usual. I ran across this picture the other day and I recalled Kevin talked about it a few times. This is the back pack carrying system for the “suitcase nuke” that US Special Forces Green Berets like Kevin would have used during the cold war. You can see it is strapped and buckled to an ALICE pack frame.
Though massive retaliation was economical, it allowed the United States almost no flexibility in how it responded to enemy aggression. In the event that communist forces launched a limited, non-nuclear attack, the president would have to choose between defeat at the hands of a superior conventional force or a staggeringly disproportionate (and potentially suicidal) strategic nuclear exchange that would kill hundreds of millions of people.
To fill in the gap in military options between a full nuclear assault and engaging in a lopsided war, says Foreign Policy, U.S. special forces started packing miniature nuclear bombs, devices known as the B-54 Special Atomic Demoliniton Munition (SADM), which they could carry in a backpack. The plan was to build something a little smaller than the devastating bombs that had been designed after the end of the Second World War.
“Soldiers from elite Army engineer and Special Forces units, as well as Navy SEALs and select Marines, trained to use the bombs, known as “backpack nukes,” on battlefronts from Eastern Europe to Korea to Iran,” they write. The troops were trained to parachute or SCUBA dive behind enemy lines with their little nukes, to using them to take out strategic installations or render vast tracts of land uninhabitable. According to Rawnsley and Brown, “These “small” weapons, many of them more powerful than the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, would have obliterated any battlefield and irradiated much of the surrounding area.”
Above is a detonation of the munition from a 1958 test.
According to a former soldier whose job it was to place one of these babies-
“We all knew it was a one-way mission, a suicide mission.”
“You set your timer, and it would click when it went off, or it went ding or I forget what, but you knew you were toast,” he said. “Ding! Your toast is ready, and it’s you.”
“In theory, you could set the timer to give you enough time to flee properly, but somebody would have to stay behind and secure the site, Bentley said.”
“The Army is not going to set a bomb like that and run away and leave it, because they don’t know if someone else would get ahold of it,” he said. “They have to leave troops there to make sure it’s not stolen or compromised, and that would just be collateral damage. You didn’t go out with the thought that it was anything other than a one-way mission. If you’re Bruce Willis, you get away, but I ain’t Bruce Willis.”