The Nature of Nuclear War and the Need for Disarmament
By Linus Pauling
University of California, Riverside, Gymnasium, 8:15 P.M., Thursday 22 February 1962
(On 3 January I received an invitation from the Associated Students of UCR to speak on the effect of nuclear explosions upon our society. I answered saying that I might be able to accept. I sent a copy of the letter for the President of Declare, an organization that wished to be cosponsor but had not been allowed by the administration. On 12 February the President of Declare brought the local student paper and Riverside paper to me, containing articles saying that Chancellor Spieth had forbidden the Associated Students to invite me to speak on disarmament, as not in my field of competence. I immediately wrote saying that I would speak on te title given at the top of this page. I also wrote President Clark Kerr, and two days later spoke with his secretary by phone [Gloria Copeland]. On 16 February a telegram and on 17 February a letter was sent me by Fred Hayward, President, Associated Students, UCR, accepting my offer to speak on the above topic. On 22 February,at 9:30 A.M. Miss Copeland telephoned to be sure that everything was all right in Riverside.)
Ladies and Gentlemen: Ever since the first atomic bombs were exploded, in 1945, I have been greatly concerned about the danger to humanity and civilization of the increasingly great stockpiles of nuclear weapons. During the period of its existence, 1945 to 1951, I was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, of which Professor Einstein was Chairman. I have written a book and many articles about the nature of nuclear was and the need for disarmament. I have lectured on this subject in most of the states of the United States and in many foreign countries.
On the 10th of December 1954 I had a great experience. I was in Stockholm, and on the afternoon of that day four Nobel Prizes were presented to the recipients. I received one of them -- the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 1954. I can remember only one or two personal experiences -- perhaps one -- that I have had that made a greater impression on me than this one, gave me greater happiness. But I do not want to suggest that it is not a really great experience to receive a Nobel Prize, and I recommend it to all of you.
Then, that evening, there took place the Nobel banquet in the Gold Room of the Stockholm City Hall, followed by a torchlight procession held by the University Students of Sweden in the Blue Room. I had been selected to respond, as spokesman for the Nobel Laureates, to the address given by the leader of the University Students, and I did so, in the following words:
"Young men and women:
"On behalf of my colleagues, as well as myself, I thank you for your kind demonstration of friendship and respect.
"I am reminded of my own students in California. They are much like you -- I have observed that students, young people, are much the same all over the world -- and that scientists are the same. There is a world-wide brotherhood of youth and science.
"Perhaps, as one of the older generation, I should preach a little sermon to you, but I do not propose to do so. I shall, instead, give you a word of advice about how to behave toward your elders.
"When an old and distinguished person speaks to you, listen to him carefully and with respect -- but do not believe him. Never trust in anything but your own intellect. Your elder, no matter whether he has gray hair or has lost his hair, no matter whether he is a Nobel Laureate, may be wrong. The world progresses, year by year, century by century, as the members of the younger generation find out what was wrong among the things that their elders said. So you must always be skeptical -- always think for yourself. . . .
"You will have some great problems to solve -- the greatest of all is the problem of war and peace. I believe that this problem has been solved, by the hydrogen bomb -- that there will never again be a world war -- the knowledge that a world war would mean world-wide destruction, perhaps the end of civilization, will surely now lead to permanent peace. But it is your generation that will have the job of working out the means of preventing disaster, by developing safeguards against paranoiac demagogues who might make nations rabid, you will have this great job to do -- and I am confident that you can do it."
It is you -- you young people, of the younger generation, students in the University of California at Riverside, who will have this job to do. You cannot rely upon your elders. The world has been changing so rapidly that the people of the older generation have been unable to keep up with it. The politicians and diplomats have found it hard to change from the old ways, from the reliance upon war and the threat of war to settle international disputes, although the leaders of great nations well know that a nuclear war would destroy the world.
The time has now come for war to be abandoned, for diplomacy to move out of the 19th century into the real world of the 20th century, towards a world governed by justice, by international law, and not by force.
Over the years I have spoken many times at different campuses of the University of California and the various state colleges, at the invitation of the Associated Students or other student organizations; and I am glad now to have the opportunity of speaking here, at the University of California in Riverside. I hope that every one of you young men and women will be inspired to take part in the fight for sanity and morality, the fight to preserve the human race from destruction in a catastrophic nuclear war, the fight to use the resources of the world and the discoveries of scientists for the benefit of all people, rather than for death, devastation, and the end of civilization.
It is the policy of the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and all other great nations to abolish war and achieve peace and disarmament.
Two years ago Prime Minister MacMillan said "Complete and general disarmament must be the avowed goal of all nations."
On 27 October 1960 our Ambassador James J. Wadsworth told the United Nation that total world disarmament could be achieved within five or six years, with good faith and a real sense of urgency on both sides. He said "We want -- earnestly, deeply, and sincerely -- general and complete disarmament under effective international control. We want to begin progress toward our goal now."
Premier Khrushchev advocated general and complete disarmament with controls and inspection in four years.
Last September, 26 September 1961, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Kennedy said:
"As we build an international capacity to keep peace, let us join in dismantling the national capacity to wage war . . .
"The goal (of disarmament) is no longer a dream. It is a practical matter of life or death. The risks inherent in disarmament pale in comparison to the risks inherent in an unlimited arms race.
". . . It is therefore our intention to challenge the Soviet Union, not to an arms race but to a peace race; to advance together step-by-step, stage-by-stage, until general and complete disarmament has been achieved.
"(General and complete disarmament) would assure . . . true inspection . . . would cover delivery systems as well as weapons, their production as well as their testing, their transfer as well as their possession . . .
"Our new disarmament program includes . . .
"First, signing the test-ban treaty by all nations . . .
"Second, stopping production of fissionable materials and preventing their transfer to (other) nations.
"Third, prohibiting transfer of control over nuclear weapons to other nations.
"Fourth, keeping nuclear weapons from outer space.
"Fifth, gradually destroying existing nuclear weapons, and sixth, halting . . . production of nuclear delivery vehicles, and gradually destroying them."
We may ask why the great nations have determined upon this policy of achieving disarmament.
The answer is contained in the following statements. On 9 January 1960 President Eisenhower said that even if the United States were to be subjected to a great surprise nuclear attack we could still destroy Russia completely, and one week later, 14 January, Premier Khrushchev said that even if the U.S.S.R. were to be subjected to a great surprise nuclear attack the Soviet Union could still destroy the United States completely.
Both of these national leaders were telling the truth. If a nuclear war were to break out, the United States would be destroyed and the Soviet Union would be destroyed, most of the nations of Europe would be destroyed, most of the people in these countries would be killed, people throughout the world would be damaged by the worldwide fallout, civilization itself might come to an end.
It is the recognition of the existence of weapons that, if used, would lead to world destruction that forces the nations of the world to give up the immorality of war and to settle their disputes by recourse to international law, in such a way as to do justice to all of the nations and all of the people of the world.
I am glad that the development of nuclear weapons has now forced the nations of the world to accept the same principles of morality and justice that are accepted by individual human beings. I am glad that the time has now come when morality and justice will take their proper place of prime importance in the conduct of world affairs.
Is it justified to conclude that war has become impossible, irrational?
Could we not eliminate nuclear weapons and fight old fashion wars? The answer is no -- now that the knowledge exists.
Could we not settle international disputes by fighting limited wars? The answer is no.
Would the United States and the Soviet Union really be destroyed in a nuclear war?
A 20-megaton bomb could destroy any city on earth.
Pugwash estimate of world stockpile, 1960, 60,000 megatons.
This corresponds to doubling every year. 1016 is about 60,000.
In 1961 I estimated 100,000 megatons for U.S. stockpile and 50,000 for U.S.S.R.
Two thousand SAC bombers at 40 megatons each.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Gilpatrick stated that the United States has tens of thousands of vehicles to carry nuclear bombs, and more than one bomb per vehicle.
Dr. W. W. Kellogg and Mr. Charles Shafer, RAND Corporation and Federal Civil Defense Administration, 1957 -- 2500 megatons would kill 86 million of 180 million Americans, injure 26 million.
1959, Holifield Subcommittee asked for testimony on a 1446 megaton attack. It would kill 46 million, injure 15 million.
Why this, two years later, rather than a 10,000 megaton attack?
Dr. Ralph Lapp, 1959 -- American counterattack would be greater than 10,000 megatons.
1959, Drs. Hugh Everett III and George E. Pugh of Weapon Systems Evaluation Division, Institute for Defense Analysis.
We may ask, if the leaders of the great nations, the governments of the great nations, have the policy of achieving general and complete disarmament, are we in danger?
A part of the effort to increase our military activity by the construction of fallout shelters has been made by Professor Willard F. Libby.
During the month of November hundreds of newspapers in the United States published a series of articles by Professor Libby.
These articles had the title "You Can Survive Atomic Attack. A Real Shelter is a Real Lifesaver."
These articles contain many statements that are wrong or seriously misleading.
For example, the fourth article has the statement, under a photograph of a fallout shelter, "Shelters such as this can increase your chances of survival at least 10,000-fold."
I wrote to Professor Libby, saying that this statement was not true. I said that the chance of survival of Americans equipped with such shelters could not be greater than unity, and that if his statement were correct, it would mean that the chance of survival without shelters would be less than 0.0001, and I asked "Am I to assume that you think that a nuclear attack on the United States before shelters have been built would leave fewer than 18,000 Americans alive?".
In his answer to me he said that he intended to give 10,000 as the protection factor, which has been used for evaluating shelters. He meant to write that the radiation dose inside would be 10,000 times smaller than outside the shelter.
I then wrote to him, saying that, no matter what he meant to say, what he had said was the simple and straightforward statement that the shelter would increase your chances of survival at least 10,000-fold, and that this statement is untrue.
This letter was written on 28 December, and Professor Libby has not answered it.