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Declassified Cold War Files Show Disturbing Nuclear Targeting of Population Centers

Among the industrial infrastructure and military sites that analysts concluded would achieve “high levels of damage” for the Soviet Union is one particularly troubling type of target: “population.”

“It’s disturbing, for sure, to see the population centers targeted,” William Burr, a nuclear historian and senior analyst at the National Security Archive, told the New York Times.

The SAC [Strategic Air Command] Atomic Weapons Requirements Study for 1959 is broken into two lists: “Air Power,” referring to airfields and other military sites, and “Systematic Destruction,” which referred to targets in urban-industrial areas including “population” targets. The study lists 1,200 cities total, from East Germany to China, with established priorities.

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