From Life magazine published on November 19th 1945 comes a article with nine illustrations (six illustrations in this thread) about a future atomic war which depicts of what nuclear war in the future will look like. It was based on a report by General “Hap” Arnold, the chief of the Army Air Forces during World War II and the later founder of Project RAND.
A good link with the illustrations can be read on this website: Restricted Data and this one: "The 36-Hour War
CAPTION: The 36-Hour War begins with the atomic bombardment of key United States cities. Here a shower of white-hot enemy rockets falls on Washington, DC.
This week General Henry H. Arnold, commanding officer of the Army Air Forces, published his third formal report to the Secretary of War. The report was not only a history of Air Forces activities at the end of the late war but a warning of future wars. Said the general: "In the past, the United States has shown a dangerous willingness to be caught in a position of having to start a war with equipment and doctrines used at the end of a preceding war.... Military Air Power should...be measured to a large extent by the ability of the existing Air Force to absorb in time of emergency...new ideas and techniques."
The Army Air Forces, said General Arnold, were fully prepared to absorb new ideas: "We can run a large air operation for the sole purpose of delivering one or two atomic bombs....When improved antiaircraft defenses make this impracticable, we should be ready with a weapon of the general type of the German V-2 rocket, having greatly improved range and precision...."
Such weapons as these, in the hands of other nations as well as the United States, would make possible the ghastliest of all wars. Hostilities would begin with the explosion of atomic bombs in cities like London, Paris, Moscow or Washington (below). The destruction caused by the bombs would be so swift and terrible that the war might well be decided in 36 hours. The illustrations on these pages show how such a war might be fought if it came.
But General Arnold did not suggest that improved weapons were the only safeguard of the United States. it would be better, he said, to use bombs for peace now rather than for war later, possibly by using them as a power to enforce decisions of the United Nations Organization's Security Council.
The start of another war, said General Arnold, might come with shattering speed: "With present equipment an enemy air power can, without warning, pass over all formerly visualized barriers and can deliver devastating blows at our population centers and our industrial, economic or governmental heart even before surface forces can be deployed."
In the panorama posted below, looking eastward from 3,000 miles above the Pacific, the United States is shown as it might appear a very few years from now, with a great shower of enemy rockets falling on 13 key United States centers. Within a few seconds atomic bombs have exploded over New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boulder Dam, New Orleans, Denver, Washington, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Kansas City and Knoxville. One bomb (second from left) has been exploded high above the earth by a United States defensive rocket. In the cities more than 10,000,000 people have been instantly killed by the bombs. The enemy's purpose is not to destroy industry, which is an objective only in long old-fashioned wars like the last one, but to paralyze the United States by destroying its people.
The rockets above, white-hot from traveling part of their journey through the atmosphere at three miles a second, have in a little more than an hour soared 1,800 miles up and some 8,000 miles around the earth from equatorial Africa. There an enemy of the United States has built its rocket-launching sites quickly and secretly in the jungle to escape detection by the UNO Security Council. In their flight the rockets coast most of the way through empty space, where the stars are out at noon. The thin luminous band on the horizon is the earth's atmosphere.
"Radar," said General Arnold, "is an outstanding contribution to the effectiveness of an air force. It is a device which enormously extends...human vision." In the picture above, radar has been applied to the war of the rockets. A radar beam of enormous power sweeps the sky so that even objects thousands of miles in space send back radio echoes. The echoes are then translated into images on the luminous screen. If such a radar were in use, it would give the United States about 30 minutes to get ready for the attack shown on these pages.
But even 30 minutes is too little time for men to control the weapons of an atomic war. Radar would detect enemy rockets, plot their course and feed data to electronic calculators in defensive rockets. These would then be launched in a matter of seconds to intercept the attackers.
Radar, however would at best be a spotty defense in future wars. Like human sight, it extends only to the horizon. Low-flying robot planes like the German buzz-bomb might evade it more effectively than high-flying rockets. And radar would be no proof at all against time bombs of atomic explosive which enemy agents might assemble in the United States.
Said General Arnold: "Although there now appear to be insurmountable difficulties in an active defense against future atomic projectiles similar to the German V-2 but armed with atomic explosives, this condition should only intensify our efforts to discover an effective means of defense." The only defense now conceivable against a rocket, once it is in flight, is illustrated above. It is another rocket, fired like an antiaircraft shell at a point where it will meet its enemy. Once it had been launched, such a rocket might detect the attacking machine with radar and make its own corrections. When it came near the enemy rocket, it could be exploded by radio proximity fuse, a development of World War II. But inevitably it would miss some of the time.
Shown below is the instant before the two rockets meet. The enemy rocket, coasting through space with its fuel exhausted, is beginning to fall toward the United States. The defensive rocket, racing upwards under full power, is incandescent from the friction of its short passage through the earth's atmosphere. When the two collide, the atomic explosion will appear to observers on the earth as a brilliant new star.
Concerning other possible defenses in an atomic war, General Arnold said: "Three types of defense against an atomic bomb can be conceived: First, we should attempt to make sure that nowhere in the world are atomic bombs being made clandestinely; second, we should devise every possible active defense against an atomic bomb attack, once launched, and third, we might redesign our country for minimum vulnerability...." But the United States , he continued, "...must recognize that real security against atomic weapons in the visible future will rest on our ability to take immediate offensive action with overwhelming force. It must be apparent to a potential aggressor than an attack on the United States would be immediately followed by an immensely devastating air-atomic attack on him."
On these two pages is a combination of two of General Arnold's ideas: decentralization and counterattack. This cross section shows an underground rocket-launching site and atomic bomb factory. It is completely self-contained except for raw materials, which are assembled in big stockpiles. Its workers live underground near their machines, secure against anything except a direct atomic bomb hit or an airborne invasion. Altogether the United States might have several dozen such units, all independent so that the destruction or capture of one would not affect the others. At the beginning of the 36-hour war the US has not yet decentralized its entire population, an operation which might cost $250,000,000,000, but only the absolute essentials of national defense.
At the moment illustrated, the United States has sent its first offensive rocket of the war toward an enemy city, just one hour after the enemy attack.
Said General Arnold: "Airborne troops have become one of the most effective units of a modern fighting force....Fully equipped airborne task forces will be able to strike at far distant points and will be totally supplied by air."
In spite of the apocalyptic destruction caused by its atomic bombs, an enemy nation would have to invade the United States to win the war. The enemy's airborne troops would be equipped with light rocket weapons of great destructive power (above, rear) and devices such as goggles which make troop-directing infrared signals visible. The enemy soldier above is repairing a telephone line in a small United States town.
By the time enemy troops have landed, the United States has suffered terrifying damage. Some 40,000,000 people have been killed and all cities of more than 50,000 population have been leveled. San Francisco's Market Street, Chicago's Michigan Boulevard and New York's Fifth Avenue are merely lanes through the debris. But as it is destroyed the United States is fighting back. The enemy airborne troops are wiped out. United States rockets lay waste the enemy's cities. United States airborne troops successfully occupy his country. The United States wins the atomic war.