To the Editors:
Several months ago I had the privilege of reading an excellent article in your tabloid by Isaiah Berlin on his, and other, interpretations of the thoughts and writings of Machiavelli. This induced me to subscribe to the Review.
I have just read my first copy, March 9, 1972, and I am rather puzzled by both the focus and empathy expressed in many of the articles. But, perhaps, this issue is slanted with a purpose. I am, myself, the editorial director of a small historical quarterly, and we occasionally do the same thing.
First, there is an enormous empathy for the unsuccessful members of our society rather than for the successful members of it. This seems peculiar to me, even with my Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago. Why do you believe the well-educated and intelligent members of United States society should be concerned with convicted criminals, both Russian and American, and poor whites and minority group members? It seems like devoting an issue of Iron Age to house paints. I did enjoy very much the Heilbroner and Auden articles.
As for Mr. Jacobs’s article, I can shed some light on the subject. Most, if not all, of the atomic tests in Nevada in which soldiers were used can be seen on newsreel film of the times. The experiments did not seem cruel or untoward at the time, and in the “special weapons” courses taken by all of us who have dealt with or been responsible for atomic and hydrogen weapons, the dangers as well as humorous and tragic snafus are both explained and demonstrated. The events referred to by Mr. Jacobs which occurred between 1955 and 1958, and with which I was vaguely associated, most likely refer to desert survival training provided for SAC and RDC crew members. There may well have been, however, maneuvers with atomic weapons by army troops. But this was SOP with SAC and other military units for years. There have been no above ground detonations of either atomic or hydrogen weapons by the United States since the 1956 “Operation Red Wing” was completed in the Pacific.
Second, I am surprised at the enormous amounts of fine intellectual energy used in pointing out the various shortcomings of President Nixon, though, again, I recognize this is prepared for a special audience of subscribers. Personally, I have been pleasantly surprised by Mr. Nixon’s performance as President. He may well be one of the most competent Presidents of the century. If you could occasionally use the same intellectual talents to show how his programs could be improved, an effective contrast would be provided by the Review.
Robert M. Bartlow
Paul Jacobs replies:
Mr. Bartlow is wrong when he states there have been no above-ground tests of nuclear weapons by the United States since 1956: twenty-two weapons were fired above-ground during Operation Plumbob in 1957, fifteen above-ground tests took place during Operation Hardtack in 1958, and four surface or near-surface tests were detonated in July, 1962, just before the above-ground test ban took effect.
Mr. Bartlow is wrong, also, when he states that “most, if not all’ of the tests involving military personnel can be seen on newsreel film: only small parts of the tests were shown on newsreels and the Department of Defense has refused, repeatedly, to allow public release of its own films about these tests, although it admits they contain no classified material.
Finally, Mr. Bartlow is wrong in his statement that “most likely” the troop maneuvers were designed for desert survival training: most of the maneuvers were designed to train military personnel in the use of nuclear weapons and to observe their behavior before, during, and after the weapons were fired.
I would like to correct an error in the article. The woman who administers the psychological tests is named Carolyn Winget, not Caroline Winsheild. The error was in a transcript of an interview with her. Sorry.