These maps were shared on Twitter by Alex Wellerstein (NukeMap guy). Source: High Risk Areas: For Civil Preparedness Nuclear Defense Planning Purposes
First of all, these maps were made in 1975. Military bases have changed somewhat (mostly closed) and urban areas expanded during that time. The nuclear arsenals of the US and Russia have also shrunk to around 1,200 deliverable warheads only. Probably half that would be used in a nuclear exchange which means a lot of the smaller military bases and cities wouldn't be targeted. Be glad nuclear war didn't start in the '70s. Everybody would be done for.
But even these old maps tell us that counter-value targeting was a plan even then. What's counter-value? Nuking cities or killing civilians. Politicians might not be so keen on starting WWIII if they knew their constituents would be blown up. It's also helpful to maximize deterrent or destructive potential by smashing whole cities and killing hundreds of thousands with one weapon instead of causing minimal destruction nuking possibly empty missile silos (counter-force).
This is a bad sign for today. Even in the 1970s, when there was a lot more warheads to go around, even smallish cities were targeted. Bakersfield had a population of 69-105k between 1970 and 1980. Nuclear planners on both sides were willing to kill at lot of civilians. Fast forward to now and the lower warhead inventories and those shots must count. So while Bakersfield is probably off the list, Los Angeles will probably still be hit for the above counter-value purposes.
If counter-value targeting wasn't a big deal, we would expect not to see so many medium cities on the target map and symbolic single warhead strikes on major cities' downtown areas, in addition to military bases.
Yes, I know these are civilian risk maps and not actual Russian target maps, or even classified US Military risk maps, but a lot of the same thinking and assumptions that would go into the later would go into these. And who isn't to say that someone who HAD intelligence on Russian target maps wasn't quietly whispering into the planners' ears?
Each blob represents a warhead. This is easy to see for isolated targets (red blobs) but metropolitan areas have so many they blend into each other (brown). The metro areas would have been absolutely pummeled into rubble by nukes. LA would have been a wasteland. Smaller cities, like Bakersfield, get two warheads.
These red-only targets have no fallout because airbursts are used to destroy cities and produce no practical fallout. Ground (surface) bursts are intended to destroy buried facilities like bunkers or silos, or blow concrete runways, out of the ground. The earth, debris, rock, and concrete that gets sucked up into the mushroom cloud then becomes fallout.
Notice that the green areas (fallout) are all around metro areas with large ports. That probably means that ground burst weapons were targeted on the port facilities. This would kick up a lot of fallout producing materials. Due to the reaction between seawater and radionuclides, fallout from marine targets tends to adhere to metal surfaces better making the fallout a bit "hotter" and persistent. Alternatively there may have been bunkers or other ground targets that the planner thought the Russians might want to be blown out of the ground, rather than stomped from above. Interestingly, the above doesn't hold true everywhere, such as in South Carolina.
Maps from the Midwest show huge areas of prairie getting nuked and covered in fallout around the missile fields in those areas. Plotting is imprecise because everything is shaded on roughly a county/township level and going silo-by-silo probably wasn't feasible.
Anyhow, follow the link to the scanned version of the book and check out your area but take it all with a grain of salt if you live away from a military base or metro area. As I said, there probably aren't enough nukes anymore to hit places like Bakersfield. Check out my nuclear survival page and buy a copy of my nuclear survival book.
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Author Don Shift
Don Shift is a veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office and avid fan of post-apocalyptic literature and film who has pushed a black and white for a mile or two. He is a student of disasters, history, and current events.