218. Editorial Note

On August 10, 1962, Glenn Seaborg wrote a letter to President Kennedy advising him on the current status of the results of Operation Dominic, the atmospheric nuclear test program in the Pacific. The first phase of these tests ended on July 11, 1962. Seaborg’s letter did not discuss in detail individual shots or those that were primarily of interest to the Department of Defense, but he provided a general review and assessment of the test series.

Seaborg asserted that the “over-all objective of Operation Dominic, to increase our understanding and improve our technology in the fields of weapons effects is being achieved.” He noted, among other things, that the testing of various weapons “verified the performance of several warheads which are now or soon will constitute a critical portion of our strategic weapon stockpile” and “provided a storehouse of information leading to significant improvements in weapon efficiency and higher yield-to-weight ratios.” He singled out as “particularly significant” successes in the following two categories: development and weapons verification, and advanced concepts (e.g., improvement in yield-to-weight ratios of future devices [text not declassified] ).

At the end of his letter, Seaborg offered this evaluation:

“The current test series have produced many important successes. They have also yielded some surprises and some failures which confirm that we are indeed experimenting at the frontiers of weapons technology. The test successes vindicate, in a large measure, the elaborate computational and certification procedures which were developed during the moratorium. The surprises and failures serve to remind us that our theories and procedures are, at best, only approximate, particularly in the very important limit represented by fully optimized warhead designs.

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“Although not a stated objective of our test program, I believe that one of the most significant results is the fact that our laboratories have become revitalized to a major degree. The importance of this reawakening to our defense posture cannot be overstressed.” (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Subjects Series, Nuclear Weapons, Operation Dominic, 2/62-4/63)

In a letter to McGeorge Bundy, August 10, Seaborg supplemented his letter to the President with additional data, especially in the area of advanced concepts tested in the series. He also enclosed with this letter a detailed analysis of Atomic Energy Commission sponsored events in Operation Dominic. (Ibid.)

Seaborg also provided a summary statement of the achievements of Operation Nougat, the Nevada test series, in a letter to President Kennedy, August 15, and he provided additional details on the results in a letter to McGeorge Bundy, August 15. Both letters are in Department of State, S/S-RD Files: Lot 71 D 171, Jul.-Sept. 1962.