Nevada Appeal at 150: Feb. 1, 1950: Truman edict starts arms race
President Harry S. Truman ordered the development of the hydrogen bomb, kicking off an arms race against Russia.
Atomic experts predicted this country will produce and test its first hydrogen superbomb within the year.
They asserted this country is far ahead of Russian in the atomic arms race.
Physicists said the first “crude” H-bomb will be 2-10 times as powerful as today’s best plutonium bomb, itself the equivalent of nearly 200,000 tons of TNT.
But the power of later “refined” models will be limited mostly, they said, by the capacity of the airplanes or missiles built to deliver them. Bombs of the future conceivably could “fry” the largest city on Earth in a matter of seconds.
Officials familiar with nuclear development said President Truman’s order of yesterday that H-bomb production “be carried forward” came in time to assure U.S. atomic supremacy for the present at least.
But they emphasized that Russia knows the scientific theory involved in the H-bomb and can be expected to go all out to catch up.
Mr. Truman’s order said in effect that the Atomic Energy Commission must now take the hydrogen bomb off the drawing board — where it has been perfected in theory — and put into the engineering mill at the AEC’s bomb production laboratory in Sandia, N.M.
This continues the Appeal’s review of news stories and headlines during its Sesquicentennial year.