Medical Aspects of Atomic Weapons (1950)


A terrible scan but readable, Medical Aspects of Atomic Weapons was prepared for the National Security Resources Board by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the U.S Atomic Energy Commission, or AEC (Washington, DC, 1950: SuDoc Pr 33.702:At 7). Medical Aspects is an interesting doc in comparison with the almost bland Handbook Of Atomic Weapons For Medical Officers (June, 1951) authored by the U.S. Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

 Medical Aspects is noteworthy for statements made by the DOD and AEC on page 10:

It would be unrealistic to prepare for fewer than 40,0,00 to 50,000 severely burned persons from a single atomic explosion…

But the real story of Medical Aspects is the memo written by Harold L. Goodwin, Civil Defense Office, titled Corrected Copy of Medical Aspects of Atomic Weapons to AEC’s Ward Miller, Jr., Asst. to the Chief, Civil Defense Liaison Branch. The memo concerns securing clearance from DOD for the release of the publication. Note that alterations to the same page 10 where significant details mentioned in Goodwin’s memo were omitted in the public version of Medical Aspects:

This number of burn casualties, together with injuries of other types such as fractures, contusions, abrasions and radiation sickness, would demand enormous amounts of supplies to  prevent unnecessary loss of life. Ideal treatment would be impossible under such disaster conditions.

Medical Aspects represents a case of institutional censorship and information distortion –  elements of government secrecy.


*I wanted to re-scan Medical Aspects but learned the one local library that held a copy is missing the doc – so a poorly scanned copy is better than none. Worldcat claims there’s a digitized copy at googlebooks, but this is an error.

prepared for the National Security Resources Board by the Department of Defense and the United States Atomic Energy Commission.
Publisher [Washington, D.C.] : National Security Resources Board : U.S. Dept. of Defense : U.S. Atomic Energy Commission : U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1950.