The Associated Press obtained copies of newly released documents from the early stages of the Cold War in the 1940s which reveal American armed forces were considering use of radioactive materials to assassinate unnamed “important individuals” in opposing nations. The documents reveal extensive discussion of a “new concept of warfare’ using radioactive materials from atomic bombs to contaminate large swaths of enemy land or to target airfields, factories and other facilities. The AP says the released documents were heavily censored to block out references to many aspects of the assassination plan, supposedly to prevent contemporary individuals from using the information. The project investigated the possibility of dropping bombs on enemy targets that had radioactive materials in order to render large sections of an opposing land uninhabitable. The project was run under jurisdiction of the Army Chemical Corps, and it was uncertain whether or not aspects of the program were turned over to the newly created CIA in 1947.
Perhaps, modern day people should not be shocked by such Cold War thinking. Leaders in the 1940s had just emerged from the devastating effects of World War II which witnessed the use of violent weapons ranging from atomic bombs to devastating fire bomb raids. Fear and anxiety were common as leadership struggled with the beginning of a new war– one that would be fought as much with military weapons as weapons of the mind. Perhaps, there is a lesson for contemporary leadership, in the end, it is not bombs, but minds which win wars.