Military personnel after nuclear war?

I didn’t want to hijack the thread about the IRS collecting taxes after a nuclear war, so I’m posting the question here.

Assuming a nuclear war came, after the bomber, submarine and missle silo crews have launched their weapons, and assuming they survive the exchange, then what? What do they do then, or what exactly do they expect to come home to?

I would suppose that for bomber and sub crews, the standing orders would be something like the following: “If your base still exists, return to it. If not, return to any active US military base. If none such exist, land/dock at any non-hostile facility capable of accomodating your vessel. If none such exist, bail out/beach where you can and good luck.”

Also, although it might seem academic at that point, does the military have an official “mustering out” order for officers and crew in the event of the extinction of the US government and armed forces chain of command?

I’m assuming you mean total exchange. (Even in that case, reserves are supposedly kept to deal wit hunforseen survival of enely conventional forces. I know it sounds rediculous, but there’s a logic t it.) In this case I don’t know.

One thing I do know, however, is that the USAF was involved in a limited way in the layout of American highways. In the event of a nuclear attack, all airbases are assumed to be destroyed. Bombers (at the time) would need to land somewhere. The reasoning was, the Soviets weren’t going to try to nuke thousands of miles of 8 lane highway straightaways. Presumably, USAF “people” could assemble at pre-ordained stretches to knock down dividers and lamps so SAC bombers could land.

Don’t know if it ever became a part of doctrine, but it sounds reasonable enough given the circumstances.

Scallos, I have heard the highway thing is a myth. Can’t provide a link, just a suggestion to treat this with a bit of sketicism.

I believe it is a myth too. That being said though, if a pilot saw that his base AB was bombed into the stone age and he’s low on fuel, a nice, straight section of hiway 2 miles long+ might be a nice place to put down.

Can’t speak for the military. I am a run of the mill Federal worker. When we were hired, we were given paperwork that said, “In the event of a nuclear attack, you are to report to your nearest Post Office for duty”. I guess somebody has to deliver the Victoria Secret catalogues.

Snopes on the highway myth

It’s false.

Chronos, I respectfully beg to differ. . .

I am a USAF Engineer. Basically, when the missiles are launched, the only people that are sorta expected to survive a nuclear exchange are the aircrews. Base personnel, toast. Tanker and bomber aircrews are instructed to fly, execute the mission, and return to the closest friendly land that they can. Then land/crash as best they can and survive as best they can.

As far as the interstates, the system was built to handle military traffic- mainly ground traffic. However, every so often, where available, a mile or two strip was “hardened” to handle aircraft. Usually, the strip is repainted for runway operations, and Civil/Combat Engineers can clear enough brush and trees away, and bring in fueling operations to support a forward airstrip. Keep in mind that the weight of the aircraft and the number of takeoff/landings of the aircraft will dictate how long you can use that stretch of road before you have to move on.

While the legislation may not have spelled it out verbatim, someone got the bright idea that this could be done. Obviously, it can’t be one in five in mountainous regions (like the Rockies or Apalachians), but the Interstates were built as straight as they could (for economics reasons too - curves cost cash!!).

I’ll do a little more research into my books, and will find a direct source for ya. I was trained for this sorta stuff. . .

Holy cow! Something I know about!! :smiley:

I guess you and Snopes lose, Chronos.

I wouldn’t sat that. I’d say that there’s no concrete evidence. (Pun intended) :smiley:


myth or not, it sure as hell seems to be the logical doctrine.

I read the link…definitely interesting, but far from conclusive especially considering LeMAy’s (spelling?) proclivities and the governemtns willingness to “secretize” everything at the time.

But it may still be more myth than reality. Hopefully, we’ll never be in the rush hour jam that has to find out.

I would like to revise my original statement due to the lack of hard black-and-white evidence:

It can be done.

My class was trained to convert roads into runways. Basically, we drill a big hole, take a core sample, and figure out how long we can use it based on the ACN of the aircraft, and the PCN of the highway. It’s not that hard to do, and the only serious modifications are repainting the road to look like a runway, and installing a Mobile Aircraft Arresting System (BAK-12). Your only problems come from the crown of the roadway (some aircraft have very delicate landing gear), the length of the proposed stretch (B-52s don’t like STOL), and the logistics of launch and recovery (ie. gas and guns).

So, take Snopes where you will. It can be done, and if the emergency was dire enough, it would be done.

I’ll shut up and sit down now. Thanks.


Yeah. I forget what they stand for (I missed that class, and I’m an EE anyway), but the ACN is based on the “footprint” of your airplane, (ie. the psi of the landing gear on the runway), and the PCN is the structural strength of the runway (ie. how many psi the concrete can hold). If your ACN is lower than your PCN, you can land there, or something like that. Like,Prescott AZ (PRC) couldn’t support the weight of a 747. I got taught another system using flip charts and drawing lines. ACN/PCN is a quicker way of doing the math.


I served on boomers (submarines) for several years. I think the general opinion was that we wouldn’t survive long after launching the missiles.
We launch… they then know where we are at… we then get seriously and terminaly zapped by any number of different enemy weapons.
So, no need to worry about a second career after the “big one”:smiley:

OK, we’ve heard from the bombers and the subs. How about the missle crews? Assuming they survive the exchange, I can only suppose their orders would be “contact the chain of command and confirm you launched” (if possible), and “dig yourself out”. Presuming that the missle fields will be pretty heavily bombarded, do the silo crews have digging equipment to get out, and lead suits or something to wear until they can get away from the bombed area?

And if the silo guys say “no, because we don’t plan to survive an exchange”, then I would have to ask just why the hell would anyone go through with this?

Also, my question about ending crew’s official duty is because of numerous science fiction scenerios where surviving military personnel remain under the command of a colonel or general, operating under a state of emergency order (which will never be recinded, because there’s no one left to recind it) who eventually becomes a warlord or local dictator.


One of the benefits (as if there were some) of being up in Minot, is that we got bombers and missile fields. There is a tube that extends from the launch capsule (80 foot deep, give or take) to about 5 foot from the surface. There is a shovel provided, and a couple of hundred days worth of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). As far as I know, their orders are to get to the surface when they feel it’s safe to go. There was an article on this a few years back in Air & Space Smithsonian. I wish I had it laying around. . .

I’ll ask a friend tomorrow. She may think I’m crazy, but she’s a “keyturner” and would be able to give me a decent answer.

I’m just a CE guy. I’m toast.