Paul Simon July 14 1962


Paul Simon July 14 1962



Paul Simon

If A-armed Bomarcs from our present bases did blow up a Russian H-bomber, the thermonuclear blast would destroy much of the population of central Canada and, an enormous fireball would trap the rest. It is time, this economist and student of defense maintains, that we told, our allies we are not expendable

IN ALL THE ARGUMENTS about the Bomarc missile, one point seems to be taken for granted by both sides — the assumption that without a nuclear warhead the Bomarc is as worthless as an unloaded gun and “we might as well use bows and arrows.”

To my mind, this is the opposite of the truth. For Canada, the Bomarc is a fairly useful defense against the manned bomber (which, experts assure us, is still a major threat and will remain one for several years) only if it is armed with conventional high explosive and based many hundred miles north of its present launching sites in central Ontario and Quebec. With a nuclear warhead and launched from its present bases, the Bomarc is worse than useless to us. It is literally and physically suicidal. We’d be far better off with bows and arrows, which might not stop the Soviets but at least wouldn’t let loose a holocaust that would destroy the population of central Canada — as a nuclear Bomarc would.

Here’s why. Carrying a nuclear warhead, a Bomarc directed against an enemy bomber

would have the effect of a trigger for the enemy H-bomb. That’s how hydrogen, or thermonuclear, bombs are triggered. An oldfashioned A-bomb, or fission bomb, goes off first and creates the sunlike heat that sets off the H-bomb, or fusion bomb. Without fail, when an A-armed Bomarc blows up an Hbomber, the result will be a thermonuclear blast.


That blast, if it is set off by an A-armed Bomarc from one of our present bases at North Bay and near Mont Laurier, will be within 400 miles of Toronto or 350 miles of Montreal — the effective range of the Bomarc is no more than 250 miles. The most likely altitude for the blast is about 40,000 feet; the Bomarc can go higher, but a manned bomber probably wouldn’t. At this altitude, according to the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission, afifty megaton bomb would create a fireball one hundred miles across, hot enough to start fires even at its outside edges. A hundred megaton

bomb exploded at the same altitude over Three Rivers — which is within range of the Bomarc base near Mont Laurier — would erupt into a fireball enveloping Quebec City on one side and Montreal on the other.

In these regions the prevailing winds are westerly. Their average speed in the upper air is sixty-five miles per hour in the autumn and winter, somewhat less in spring and summer. You can imagine the speed at which fire would travel from fiamebursts a hundred miles across and more. And of course there would be fallout as well, a rain of lethal radioactivity traveling on the wind.

Only a few H-bomb's, thus exploded above us by our own nuclear Bomarcs, would set the whole Canadian forest ablaze and rain radioactivity on any central Canadians left alive by the blast and the flames. The men and women in cities as yet undamaged would doubtless follow our present civil defense plans and evacuate. The escape routes set out in these plans run north, into the flames and the fallout.

These are the facts, and you don’t have to be a military expert to know them. They are all contained in testimony before committees of the U. S. Congress, data published by the Atomic Energy Commission, reports in such sober and careful journals as the New York Times, and similar Canadian public documents. No secret information is needed to draw, as I have here, truly alarming conclusions — not only alarming, as any conclusions about nuclear war must be, but peculiarly and needlessly alarming to Canadians in particular.

Needlessly, because our continental defense system doesn’t have to be as dangerous as nuclear warheads would CONTINUED ON PAGE 47



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“No people would have so big an investment in their own doom”

make it. Conventional warheads on Bomarcs at our present bases would reduce the danger—nothing will eliminate it—and conventional warheads on Bomarcs based in the far north would reduce it still farther.

First of all, let's get one thing straight. It is not true, though often stated, that no conventional warhead exists for the Bomarc B. It's true that the Bomarc is not a popular weapon; the U. S. is no longer relying on it very heavily, and it may well be that no more conventional warheads for it are actually in stock. But the Bomarc has been tested repeatedly with conventional warheads, and passed these tests with fairly good marks. It can shoot down targets at supersonic speeds, targets to which its guidance system directs it with a high degree of accuracy.

The Bomarc is a rifle, not a shotgun, and conventional bullets for it do exist, whether or not they are in stock

at the moment. The designs and specifications for the bullets are there, and Canada could make them herself—if the Bomarc really is to be the major component of our defense system, as it's said to be. and not a threat to our lives. Of course, it would be effective only against the obsolescent air-breathing manned bomber, but that’s all it's good for anyway, with or without a nuclear tip. We must think very carefully about just how we go about destroying an enemy bomber. We shouldn't imitate the man who killed a marauding bear by throwing a bottle of nitro-glycerine at it. He blew' out his own brains too. If he had aimed carefully w'ith a rifle and shot it between the eyes, he would have lived.

Now, what is the risk if w'e use a conventional warhead on the Bomarc? It depends on how we use it. If we persist in bringing on an indiscriminate blast altogether enveloping an enemy bomber, the blast might still conceivably pull the atomic trigger for the H-bomb. But with a controlled charge of high explosive we can strike selectively for the bomber's Achilles' heel: its engines. A direct hit on an engine with a small explosive charge would probably bring the plane down without bringing on the H-blast at all, the bombload burying itself harmless-

ly in the ground below. Accidental SAC plane crashes of recent years did not cause their H-bomb loads to explode.

The Bomarc as it stands isn't able to pick out a target as small as a jet engine with any reliability. But as early as 1955 an expert pointed out that all it takes to achieve this is to lit a conventionally armed Falcon rocket to the Bomarc's nose. The Falcon is a 120-pound rocket that moves faster than any existing bomber, and guides itself with pin-point accuracy to its target by an infrared heat-tracking system. As long as a Bomarc could carry its Falcon within five miles of an enemy bomber, the rocket could then ram itself right up the spout of the plane's hot jet engine. If it then exploded with no more force than it takes to bring down a plane, we would have a good chance of avoiding altogether the thermonuclear blast from the plane’s bombload. And even if this exploded at the surface, by bringing the blast dowm from the atmosphere w'e would have escaped as much as half the devastation to follow'.

But what if we pursued sanity a step further, and installed our Falconcarrying Bomarcs near the shore of Hudson Bay or beyond? Our defense planning seems to ignore the usefulness of Hudson Bay as a natural catch basin for nuclear rubbish. Here, even if an H-bomb did explode in the air or on the surface despite the accuracy of the Falcon's conventional charge, the prevailing winds w'ould carry the radioactivity to the far side of the Arctic roof. The blast itself would kill the fish, not us. I believe the logical sites—the only logical sites—for our Bomarc batteries are within range of the upper reaches of Hudson Bay. It would make sense to use our existing rocket range at Fort Churchill. Man., for one Bomarc base, and a site near Moosonce for the other

Fitting Falcons to our Bomarcs and installing Bomarc batteries north are both expensive undertakings. They will cost more, although not much more, than we have already spent to build batteries close to our largest cities and install missiles in readiness for the day when our planners decide the time is ripe to fit them with A-tips. As things are now. we have the heaviest investment in our own doom of any people on earth.

The Bomarc is the weapon on which the argument over nuclear arms for

Canada usually turns, but it isn't the only war engine on which we're being urged to haul nuclear freight. In every instance. I'm convinced that the case for the A-bomb suffers from the same tragic flaw that makes lethal nonsense of A-tips for the Bomarc. And in the case of our other weapon of continental defense, the F101B fighter plane —the Voodoo—A-arms have yet another flaw that doesn't even apply to the Bomarc.

Actually the Voodoo is already discredited in its country of origin, the U. S.. where the services are no longer ordering it in any quantity. Apparently it is still good enough for Canada; we have ordered sixty-six. There is nothing these planes can do against enemy bombers with A-armed weapons that they can’t do at vastly less risk to the Canadians below them with conventional weapons. In fact, weapon the Voodoo can carry is the Falcon, which was specially designed for use in the Arctic—and a conventional warhead for the Falcon not only protects the interests of the civilians below, hut the Voodoo’s pilot as well. The Falcon's range is five miles: any Voodoo pilot who hits an H-bombcarrying bomber with a nuclear-tipped Falcon will be incinerated. Even if he hits a bomber that has already dumped its bomb load, the Voodoo pilot will at best he blinded by the nuclear flash from his own weapon. The same thing applies to nuclear weapons for the other aircraft, the FI04G—the Starfighter—that our air division in Europe uses. Everybody including the pilot is better off if the Starfighter carries Bullpup or Sidewinder rockets with conventional warheads; everybody including the pilot is imperiled if the rockets carry A-tips. (The only difference is that the endangered civilians in this case are Europeans.)

So far. I’ve been arguing that all the weapons of the Royal Canadian Air Force would he better, safer, more effective with conventional rather than nuclear warheads. What about the Army’s weapon, the ground-toground missile known as the Honest John?

The Honest John has a range of 20 miles. There is no reason why we can’t fit conventional warheads to our Honest Johns, hut even then the only people we will be close enough to hit will he our Allies. Luckily, we have a graceful way out. The Honest John was intended as a divisional weapon. It is fair to ask how our brigade in Germany, which is one third of a division, got hold of the thing in the first place. But we don’t have to ask—we can turn our Honest Johns over to a unit big enough to use them. We would then escape ridicule for keeping it as an undignified Brigade mascot. with "sand” in its head, and an electric blanket to keep its rocket booster warm at night.

Diplomacy as well as common sense is against nuclear warheads for the Honest John and the Starfighter. Both weapons fall under the European command of NATO, and the NATO command, prodded by President Kennedy, is now urging European members to build up their conventional forces. Moreover, at the NATO council meeting in Athens recently, U. S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara

took a tough line about the nuclear deterrent: it should, he said, remain indivisible, by which he meant that control over American nuclear weapons is where it should stay according to the Americans, in American hands. Britain’s defense minister, Harold Watkinson. came home from this meeting and told parliament that Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, determined to follow the policy stated by Mr. McNamara, were against granting West Germany control over nuclear weapons.

In Ottawa this posed a question: "Does Her Majesty’s Government in Canada agree with Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom that no nuclear weapons should b( given to Germany?” This remained an interesting but unasked question during our election campaign. Now it leads to another question our present government must answer before it even considers taking delivery of nuclear weapons: are we ready to give Germany a case for demanding nuclear arms because Canada already has them? Are we?

The next step: U. S. H-bombers here

There is yet one more question we must answer before we base any nuclear weapon in Canada. Are we ready to open the way for a perfectly logical demand by the U. S. that we give house-room in Canada to SAC bombers with their hydrogen bombs aboard? That is the next step, and U. S. officials have made no bones about it. We already provide bases for tanker planes which refuel SAC bombers on their regular flights to the north pole. The American defense department asks us merely to make a decision in principle to store nuclear weapons here. And if we refuel SAC bombers, and if we agree in principle to storing nuclear bombs, what good reason could we possibly give for refusing hases to SAC H-bombers?

There is, to my mind, only one condition under which Canada can ever agree to storing U. S. nuclear weapons and providing bases for SAC bombers. The condition is a treaty by which we would store the bombs and provide the bases if in exchange the U. S. would pull out its nuclear weapons and close down its SAC bases in a broad corridor of Europe. This would provide a “sanitary zone” in Europe that might make the Russians, both our mother countries and eventually the rest of the world breathe easier. True, it might also put Canada on the spot in the Russians’ eyes. And. true again, Mexico is in some ways a more logical place to relocate the American weapons. But this seems to me one of the few positive moves Canada can make toward reducing the risks of war, and worth the price.

Our crucial problem right now. though, is not diplomacy but bombs: whether or not to take nuclear weapons, particularly for the Bomarc. The facts are clear enough. There’s only one thing that A-armed Bomarcs can do that conventionally armed Bomarcs can’t do. Kill Canadians. Unless we refuse nuclear weapons and move our Bomarc bases north, our enemies will be justified in considering us their accomplices. As for our friends, it is time we gave them notice that we are not expendable. ★