Furtherance: The Cold War Plan to Launch a Full-On Nuclear Assault If the President Were Killed

The United States was going to launch an automatic and all-out nuclear attack on both the Soviet Union and China, in the event that the President was killed in an attack, a newly released document reveals. The plan was in place until 1968, when the plan was revised by President Johnson. It went by the name "Furtherance." Here's how William Burr of the National Security Archive at George Washington University described the state of play before the changes


Prior to President Johnson's decision, instructions for the emergency use of nuclear weapons that both he and his predecessors had previously approved stipulated a full-scale nuclear counter-attack even if the initial strike were conventional, or the result of an accident, and both Communist giants would be targeted regardless of whether either of them had launched the first strike.

This predelegation of nuclear launch authority was real. And terrifying. It's no wonder that a generation grew up terrified of nuclear holocaust: The U.S. government had plans to wipe out Communist countries, even if they hadn't launched a nuclear attack on America.
Doc-5A-Furtherance-document-Oct-1968-(1).jpg

Presented by

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

More in Technology

Just In