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The Top Secret History of America’s Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Warfare Programs and Their Deployment Overseas
At its peak in 1967, the U.S. nuclear arsenal consisted of 31,255 nuclear weapons with an aggregate destructive power of 12,786 megatons – more than sufficient to wipe out all of humanity several hundred times over. Much less known is that hidden away in earth-covered bunkers spread throughout the U.S., Europe and Japan, over 40,000 tons of American chemical weapons were stored, as well as thousands of specially designed bombs that could be filled with even deadlier biological warfare agents.

The American WMD programs remain cloaked in secrecy, yet a substantial number of revealing documents have been quietly declassified since the late 1970s. Put together, they tell the story of how America secretly built up the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. The documents explain the role these weapons played in a series of world crises, how they shaped U.S. and NATO defense and foreign policy during the Cold War, and what incidents and nearly averted disasters happened. Moreover, they shed a light on the dreadful human and ecological legacy left by decades of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons manufacturing and testing in the U.S. and overseas.

This collection contains more than 2,300 formerly classified U.S. government documents, most of them classified Top Secret or higher. Covering the period from the end of World War II to the present day, it provides unique access to previously unpublished reports, memoranda, cables, intelligence briefs, classified articles, PowerPoint presentations, military manuals and directives, and other declassified documents. Following years of archival research and careful selection, they were brought together from the U.S. National Archives, ten U.S. presidential libraries, the NATO Archives in Brussels, the National Archives of the UK, the National Archives of Canada, and the National Archives of the Netherlands. In addition, a sizeable number of documents in this collection were obtained from the U.S. government and the Pentagon using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) requests.

This collection comes with several auxiliary aids, including a chronology and a historiographical essay with links to the documents themselves, providing context and allowing for easy navigation for both students and scholars.

• The papers in this collection detail how America’s stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons were developed, the staggering costs that were involved, the network of laboratories where the bombs and their components were designed and developed, new details about the dozens of secret factories spread across the U.S. where these lethal bombs and warheads were built, the sites where they were tested, and even newly released information about some of the storage depots where the weapons were deployed in the U.S. and overseas.
• This collection contains for the first time ever a comprehensive set of declassified documents which quantify the size and destructive power of the American nuclear, chemical and biological weapons stockpile throughout the Cold War era, including new details about the many different types of weapons in these arsenals, such as nuclear landmines (Atomic Demolition Munitions) and even a nuclear-capable recoilless rifle system.
• This collection contains hundreds of pages of declassified Defense Department and State Department documents concerning the secret negotiations between the U.S. government and over fifteen foreign governments concerning the deployment of nuclear and chemical weapons to their countries (complete biological weapons were never deployed overseas), as well as the even more difficult task later in the Cold War of trying to get permission to remove these weapons after they had outlived their usefulness. In some instances, the U.S. government deliberately did not inform the host nations that they had deployed nuclear and chemical weapons to their countries, as in the case of Japan, which was shocked to learn in 1969 that the U.S. was storing large numbers of nuclear and chemical weapons on the island of Okinawa without their knowledge or consent.
• Also included are over a hundred declassified documents regarding U.S. nuclear war plans, detailing how the American nuclear, chemical and biological weapons were to be used in wartime, including lists of their targets inside the USSR and the People’s Republic of China; newly declassified documents containing the details of all known nuclear, chemical and biological weapons accidents, some of which produced fatal results; and incidents involving attempts by foreign governments (Greece, Turkey and South Korea) to pressure the U.S. government by threatening to seize American nuclear weapons stored on their soil. Finally, there are recently released files concerning an attempt by a terrorist group to penetrate a U.S. nuclear weapons storage site in West Germany.

Number of documents: 2,374
Number of pages: ca. 21,212

Auxiliary aids:
• Introductory essay
• Glossary of acronyms
• Chronology
• Bibliography
• MARC21 catalog records

Sourcing archives:
• U.S. National Archives, Legislative Archives Branch, Washington, D.C.
• U.S. National Archives. Military Records Branch, College Park, Maryland
• U.S. National Archives, Civilian Records Branch, College Park, Maryland
• North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Archives, Brussels, Belgium
• National Archives of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
• National Archives of the Netherlands, The Hague, The Netherlands
• National Archives of the UK, Kew, Great Britain
• Washington National Records Center, Suitland, Maryland
• Harry S. Truman Library, Independence, Missouri
• Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Abilene, Kansas
• John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, Massachusetts
• Lyndon B. Johnson Library, Austin, Texas
• Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library, Yorba Linda, California
• Gerald R. Ford Library, Ann Arbor, Michigan
• Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta, Georgia
• Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, California
• George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, Houston, Texas
• William J. Clinton Presidential Library, Little Rock, Arkansas
• Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Washington, D.C.
• DOD FOIA Reading Room, The Pentagon, Washington, D.C.
• U.S. Army Center for Military History, Washington, D.C.
• Naval Historical Center Operational Archives, Washington, D.C.
• U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Alabama
• Department of Energy, Office of Scientific and Technical Information, Washington, D.C.
• Douglas MacArthur Library, Norfolk, Virginia (Douglas MacArthur Papers)
• George C. Marshall Library, Lexington, Virginia (George C. Marshall Papers)
• Mudd Library, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ (George W. Ball Papers)
• National Security Archive, Washington, D.C. (Chuck Hansen Collection)
• Maryland Historical Trust, Annapolis, Maryland

See also the companion collections Cold War Intelligence, U.S. Intelligence on Asia, 1945-1991, U.S. Intelligence on Europe, 1945-1995, and U.S. Intelligence on the Middle East, 1945-2009.
British Perspectives
• Unique access to over 37,000 documents, spread across over 65,000 double-spread images
• All documents drawn from The National Archives, London, offering a British view in this key period of North American history, tracking 60 years from colonialism to independence
• Supplemented with searchable index terms per document, an academic introduction, further reading list, and maps
• Includes MARC 21 catalogue records

This collection makes available a wide selection of original documents held at The National Archives, London, concerning warfare in North America from the Seven Years War (1754-1763), the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), to the War of 1812 (1812-1815). This large collection of primary source documents offers a unique perspective on the British view of the period, which saw a turbulent transition of the North American colonies from British rule to fully-fledged independence.

Many different types of document are represented in the collection. Letters are the most common, while there are also military and intelligence reports, memoranda of various kinds, petitions and memorials from civilians, order books giving insight into logistical and financial issues, newspaper extracts, and material on legal cases. Most documents are hand-written, including a few plans and maps, while some are printed. The vast majority of the texts are written in English, with some in French and some in Spanish. Some letters containing confidential information are even written in cypher. Warfare is the overarching theme of the collection.

The Seven Years War was a global conflict, and in North American history, it is a significant watershed. France was forced to cede much of its territory to Great Britain, leaving Britain as the dominant colonial power in North America. Just over a decade later, however, the American Revolutionary War broke out between the Thirteen Colonies and Great Britain, concluded by the Treaty of Paris (1783) and resulting in the independence of the United States of America. The War of 1812, some years later, is also hugely significant in North America; it achieved a more formal union of the states, gave the United States its national anthem, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, and famously also saw the burning to the ground of the White house by British forces. These three wars, so fundamental to the shaping of modern North America, have been seen as strongly interlinked by historians, even conceived of by some as ‘The Sixty Years War’; from the British perspective, all three were also part of a wider global struggle of this time.

The documents are drawn from four major collections of The National Archives, London. The Amherst Papers (WO 34) provide a wealth of detail on the Seven Years War in North America. The British Army Headquarters Papers (PRO 30/55) cover the whole of the War of Independence. Material in the Colonial Office Papers relating to Upper and Lower Canada (CO 42) illustrates the War of 1812. The material chosen from the vast collection of Admiralty Papers (ADM 1) presents rich evidence on the naval aspects of all three wars.

Warfare is a major theme of the collection, with insight offered into both terrestrial and naval military operations on the ground and up to the very highest levels of command. Topics such as campaigns, tactics, deployments, equipment, morale, finances, are covered in detail, offering fascinating glimpses of the functioning of armies in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and illustrating the particular challenges of war in North America and its impact on the population – native, enslaved, as well as settlers of European lineage. Other military themes are also covered, such as the dynamics of leadership, allegiance, and identity; patronage and promotion; intelligence and communication; prisoners of war; and the daily lives of soldiers.

The collection also affords good insight into the many aspects of society affected by the hostilities. Trade, taxation, and economic concerns rank high on this list, and feature prominently in correspondence. This theme can also be seen at a lower level, with civilians launching petitions and complaints against property damage. Relations with the native peoples is also covered, and the role of slavery is seen, most prominently in the famous ‘Book of Negroes’ (1783), which provides information on around 3,000 slaves who had joined the British. While many of the documents are formal in nature, there are also documents of great human interest, such as the ‘Book of Negroes’, memorials to fallen soldiers, and personal letters. Famous names also abound, with documents of Bernardo de Gálvez, governor of Spanish Louisiana, royal decrees of King George III, and letters of George Washington.

The material is supplemented by full metadata per document, including date of document, language of document, type of document, and author and recipient of document (where applicable). This metadata is fully searchable, and builds significantly on the item-level information currently available in The National Archives’ online catalogue. The collection is accompanied by an academic introduction, a further reading list, and maps of the three wars.