Pentagon Reveals Weapons Locations


.c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - (October 19, 1999) The Pentagon for the first time is acknowledging Cold War locations of nuclear weapons outside the United States, including naval depth bombs, ready for arming, in Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis with the Soviet Union.

The names of nine places where bombs or bomb components minus their nuclear charges were located between 1951 and 1977 are revealed in a 332-page official Pentagon history. The names of 18 other locations were blacked out by government censors before the document was released to Robert S. Norris, a private specialist on nuclear weapons and author of numerous books on the topic.

Using other documents, Norris and his co-authors said they could identify 17 of those other locations, ringing the globe from Canada to Iceland to South Korea and Japan.

The nine nuclear weapon locations named in the Pentagon document are Cuba, Puerto Rico, Britain, West Germany, the U.S. territories of Guam, Johnston Island and Midway, and Alaska and Hawaii, which were U.S. territories in the early years of the Cold War.

Even with material blacked out, the ``History of the Custody and Deployment of Nuclear Weapons,'' published in February 1978 as a top secret document, reveals new information about the location, timing and types of U.S. nuclear weapon deployments.

``It shows a huge expanse of nuclear weapons around the globe,'' Norris said in an interview Tuesday.

The narrative portion of the Pentagon history makes no reference to U.S. nuclear weapons in Cuba, but an appendix listing locations outside the continental United States says an unspecified number of ``non-nuclear depth bombs'' were stored in Cuba between December 1961 and July-September 1963. The crisis over Moscow's stationing of surface-to-air nuclear missiles in Cuba was in October 1962.

The term ``non-nuclear'' referred to components, such as bomb casings or assemblies, for nuclear weapons, the report said. At that time, bomb design technology required that the actual nuclear charge, or capsule, be kept separate from the non-nuclear assembly. In the event of war, capsules could be flown to bases where they would be inserted into the assemblies to make complete bombs.

Depth bombs were weapons dropped from airplanes or helicopters to dive into the sea to kill submarines. The last of this kind of nuclear weapon was retired from the U.S. arsenal early in this decade.

Graham Allison, a former Pentagon official who is an expert on the Cuban missile crisis, said in a telephone interview he was not aware that nuclear weapon components had been stored in Cuba. He said they probably were at Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. Navy base on the eastern tip of the island. During the Cuban missile crisis the Navy searched intensively for Soviet submarines in the Atlantic, he said.

Details about locations of American nuclear weapons abroad are among the most closely protected Pentagon secrets. Today the only remaining full-time U.S. nuclear deployments outside the United States are in Europe, where bombs are stored for potential use by U.S. Air Force planes based there. The Pentagon also has U.S.-based submarines, aircraft and missiles armed with nuclear warheads.

Norris, who wrote an article about the nuclear weapons history to be published this week in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists with co-authors William Arkin and William Burr, said the three used publicly available documentation to determine the names of 17 of the 18 censored locations.

The 17 were Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Japan, Kwajalein Island, Morocco, Okinawa, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. It has been known that U.S. nuclear weapons were in some of these countries, even if not officially acknowledged.

With the onset in 1950 of the Korean War, which many in Washington believed was a Soviet-driven move to divert U.S. attention from its defense of Europe, the Truman administration approved the movement of non-nuclear bomb components to Britain, and later that year to Guam, according to the Pentagon history.

``By having non-nuclear components readily available to these units, the initial strikes against their assigned targets could be mounted in a much shorter time, and the time schedule for subsequent attacks could be advanced,'' the document said.

The first overseas movement of nuclear capsules - the bomb's plutonium or uranium core - came in 1951 when President Truman authorized the shipment of nuclear capsules to the Pacific island of Guam. Starting in 1956 a wide variety of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems were sent to the Pacific.

On Guam there were, for example, Regulus cruise missiles that would be launched from a ship and guided by an escort plane. There also were shipboard Talos anti-aircraft missiles and a variety of Army battlefield nuclear weapons. Similar weapons were placed in Hawaii, mostly during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In Alaska there were several types, including the Genie air-to-air nuclear missile.

AP-NY-10-19-99 1738EDT