5 Places We Almost Nuked During The Cold War

There were thousands of sites once targeted by the United States, if not by actual nukes by those who controlled said nukes.

Most of the strategic sites you’d have agreed with at the time, even if you didn’t agree with the Cold War or the use of nuclear weapons.

Russia was at the top of the bad guy’s list, so one could assume obvious targets such Moscow, but did you know we once considered aiming a warhead at the moon? We weren’t just gonna aim, we were gonna nuke the moon, sorta.

That target wasn’t on the official list from the NSA. It was more of a conversation piece in the war room. Hold that thought…

Thankfully, the Cold War never went hot, not in our universe, not yet anyway. In a parallel existence out there somewhere, these are five of the places we considered bombing in the name of freedom.


Tokyo 1945 | bongorama.com

Before we dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many non-scientists, including Churchill and Stalin, were ignorant of the devastation from dropping a nuke. From A-bomb, many military experts only heard “bigger bomb.”

When the allies plotted to bomb Japan, there were twelve potential sites. We were prepared to drop atomic bombs on Japan until they surrendered. The next on the list after the first two was Tokyo.

The city was already in ruins from massive fire bombing, so nuking Toyko would have been silly, but still devastating. Japan surrendered before this took place.

North Vietnam

North Vietnamese girl and her father in a bunker. | flickr.com

Despite what we saw happen in Japan, for a hot minute in 1965 Lyndon B. Johnson considered an a-bomb campaign in North Vietnam. The allied plan was to hit the border to the north, near China.

Johnson declined to execute, but in 1973 Nixon reconsidered it as a tactic to end the war. He was bluffing, a strategy to move Hanoi and the Kremlin faster in the peace talks.

We don’t know if Nixon’s bluff worked or not. The Paris Peace Talks ended the conflict in Vietnam.

Had we dropped a-bombs, it may have ended the Conflict, but it would have also inflated the historic value of Vietnam on both sides, the anti-war movement and the war effort itself. China may have never trusted us again. For better or worse, the world may not have either.


Moscow, 1950 | forum.xcitefun.net

Unlike Vietnam, we had more than plans and threats for Moscow. We had actual guidance systems aimed at the famous Soviet city.

That we had plans to nuke Moscow is no jaw-dropper, but the logic may surprise you. The goal with Moscow was more a population target than a military target.

We would have crippled the actual people with that blow, not their arsenal or military. Moscow was only the tip of the iceberg for that strategy.

Don’t think we were alone. We’d have found the same thing on the Soviet side. As the saying goes, it’s all fair in war.


Beijing, 1950 | Pinterest

China was no threat to Western Europe or the United States, but we had plans to level Beijing if the nukes ever started flying.

During the Cold War, China was all about the Soviets, which made them enough of a threat.

The goal with Beijing was the same as Moscow. This was a population target. We were aiming to hurt the people.

The Moon

In 1958, project A119 was a top-secret plan by the Air Force with designs to blow up a nuke on the moon. The Russians had beat us into space and we were green with envy, threatened with their accomplishments.

Had we carried out the plan, the U.S. would have looked like sore losers. We also would’ve looked like the reckless neighborhood bully, torturing the wildlife.

The goal was a show of force, not the destruction of our natural satellite. (It would take more than a nuke to actually destroy the moon.) From the Earth, a flash of light would illuminate the world to the might of the United States.

We decided that the negative blowback from weaponizing space wasn’t worth the investment. Instead, we sent Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the surface. The Soviets beat us into space, but we beat them to the lunar surface. No bombs required.

Source: NSA Archive