Special Atomic Demolition Munition

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H-912 transport container for Mk-54 SADM
A 1958 test of the XW-54 warhead

The Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM) was a family of man-portable nuclear weapons fielded by the US military in the 1960s, but never used in combat. US Army Green Light Teams or Engineer Atomic Demolition Munitions Specialists, planned to use the weapon to destroy, irradiate and deny key routes of communication through limited terrain such as the Fulda Gap in the event of a Soviet invasion.[1] Troops were trained to parachute into Soviet-occupied western Europe with the SADM and destroy power plants, bridges, and dams.

Coastal targets[edit]

It was also intended that the munition could be used against targets in coastal and near-coastal locations. One person carrying the weapon package would parachute from an aircraft and place the device in a harbor or other strategic location that was accessible from the sea. Another parachutist without a weapon package would follow the first to provide support as needed. The two-man team would place the weapon package in the target location, set the timer, and swim out into the ocean, where they would be retrieved by a submarine or a high-speed surface water craft.

Other lightweight nuclear devices[edit]

In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States developed several different types of lightweight nuclear devices. The smallest of these was the W54 warhead, which had a 10.75 inches (273 mm) diameter, was about 15.7 inches (400 mm) long, and weighed approximately 51 lb (23 kg). It was fired by a mechanical timer and had a TNT equivalent between 0.010 and 1 kt (0.042 and 4.184 TJ). The W54 nuclear device was also used in the Davy Crockett Weapon System and in the AIM-26 Falcon.

Atomic Demolitions Munitions School[edit]

The Atomic Demolitions Munitions School was located at the US Army Engineer Center on Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, until it was closed in 1985.[citation needed]

Suicide attack allegations[edit]

A weapon training film for the bomb

On December 27, 2018, the Green Bay Press-Gazette interviewed veteran Mark Bentley, who had trained for the Special Atomic Demolition Munition program to manually place and detonate a modified version of the W54 nuclear bomb. The report stated that he and other soldiers training for the program knew this was a suicide mission because either it would be unrealistic to outrun the timer on the bomb, or that soldiers would be obligated to secure the site before the timer went off. However, in theory the timer could be set long enough to give the team a chance to escape. Specifically, he stated, "We all knew it was a one-way mission, a suicide mission."[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sinai, Tamir (8 December 2020). "Eyes on target: 'Stay-behind' forces during the Cold War". War in History: 0968344520914345. doi:10.1177/0968344520914345 – via SAGE Journals. p.17
  2. ^ Paul Srubas, Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette via the AP (January 7, 2019). "His job was to place atomic bombs. Place them, not drop them. Set the timer. Run like hell". Green Bay Press-Gazette.

External links[edit]