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Nuclear Weapons and the Army

The Littlest Boy

The Littlest Boy


For 25 years, during the latter half of the Cold War, the United States actually did deploy man-portable nuclear destruction in the form of the B-54 Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM).

Soldiers from elite Army engineer and Special Forces units, as well as Navy SEALs and select Marines, trained to use the bombs, known as "backpack nukes," on battlefronts from Eastern Europe to Korea to Iran -- part of the U.S. military's effort to ensure the containment and, if necessary, defeat of communist forces.


The Army began rolling out atomic demolition munitions (ADMs) in 1954. The early iterations were cumbersome weapons, weighing hundreds of pounds and requiring several men to carry them with the help of trucks and helicopters. They were intended mostly for what you might call nuclear landscaping -- to create irradiated, impassible craters or to collapse mountainsides into narrow passes in order to obstruct likely invasion routes and bottleneck enemy forces. One engineer recalls setting up an ADM in the middle of a forest: "The idea was to blow these trees across a valley to create a radioactive physical obstacle for vehicles and troops to get by," he said.

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Backpack nukes don't exist in 2014, right?

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