Talk:W56

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Development[edit]

Is this the warhead Samuel T. Cohen discusses in his Autobiography?

"In the way of predictions of things to come, that I’d never see Los Alamos again after the Albuquerque fiasco turned out to be dead wrong. Several years later, when I still was working with Bennie, he called me into his office one day. He had a problem. The Minuteman ICBM was in its final stages of development and, sitting atop the program, he had to make a decision on what kind of thermonuclear warhead to put into it. By “what kind”, I’m referring to the choice he had to make as to whether to put in a warhead being developed by Los Alamos or by the Livermore lab, that had matured considerably by then and was in hot competition with Los Alamos. He wanted me to go to both labs, size up their proposals, and report back to him with a recommendation. He was aware that I was still banned from Los Alamos and on the best of possible terms with Livermore, but thought I was capable of reaching an objective conclusion on the matter. I reluctantly accepted Bennie’s request; Los Alamos reluctantly accepted my visit despite Bradbury’s feelings toward me (he had no choice since this time it was Bennie who was sitting in the catbird seat); and Livermore was delighted no end to be able to push their product to their pal Sam. Off I went to the labs. At Livermore I was personally hosted by the director, Harold Brown, who later on became Jimmy Carter’s Defense Secretary. At Los Alamos, Bradbury refused to see me and put me in the hands of his deputy, an old friend of mine from wartime days. I listened as best I could to both sides (which wasn’t easy for me), took copious notes (far less easy), went back home and mulled over the matter. Pretty exhaustively, I might say, for my emotions were, to put it mildly, pretty torn. Finally, I came down on the side of the Los Alamos proposal, for reasons I won’t bother to explain here. I went to seeThe Commies Are Coming 83 Bennie and told him of my preference and why. He thanked me but gave no indication of what his decision might be. If you’re holding your breath waiting to find out which lab got the warhead you can start breathing again. Los Alamos. If you think, in telling you this tale, I’m trying to gain some credit for the decision, forget it. It’s possible I may have influenced Bennie with my analysis of the problem. However, as for the decision itself, I’ll requote the Joint Chiefs colonel: “Because it seemed like a good idea at the time.” Except in this case it wasn’t. Having gotten the bid, Los Alamos now set about to test the warhead. It was a miserable failure, going off, as I recall, at like about half the predicted yield. Which sure said a lot about my technical judgment. In the meantime, Livermore, having put in so much time and effort on the warhead, was determined to test it. It went off at about twice the predicted bang. There were a lot of red faces around, including mine. However the decision had been made and Los Alamos was now put to work, with help from Livermore, which really had to be humiliating, to bring the bang up to the promised level. They finally did, after a couple more tests."