You know what’s scary these days? The New England Patriots. Actually, scratch that. They’re always scary. You know what else is scary? Nukes. I feel like somehow we don’t talk about that enough these days. Some people remember back when there were fallout drills and stuff in school. Today’s kids don’t get that, you know. Just not tough enough – those active shooter drills just aren’t getting the job done to produce the same calibre of football players and world leaders. That said, nukes are still pretty damn wild – and looking back on them, scientists seemed to be full of crazy ideas on what to do with warheads in the ’50s and ’60s. Check out one of the most absurd ones I’ve ever seen this week!
PROJECT BLUE PEACOCK
Country of origin: United Kingdom
Purpose built: To keep those pesky Commies out of Germany, dammit!
Years used: 1957
What is it? With the Cold War fully dominating the global political landscape by the mid-1950s, much of Western Europe looked on nervously as country after country in the East came onboard with the Warsaw Pact, the threat of Communism inching ever closer towards democratic societies. While the United Kingdom is, of course, an island, the advent of global air travel, and later, the Space Race, meant that the world was becoming much smaller, and they were no longer as geographically isolated as they once had been. Looking to find ways to deter the threat of the Soviet Union invading territory in Western Europe, the UK sought to develop a deterrent weapon that would catch the advancing Red Army completely by surprise… or, at least, to deter them from occupying the land and advancing any further westward.
Enter Project Blue Peacock. Not content with regular bombs or missiles, the British Army designed a series of gigantic nuclear landmines, which were intended to be buried all over West Germany. Resembling a giant boiler, these eight-ton monsters could be buried in the earth, underwater, or left on the surface. They could also be operated by either a remote detonator, or by an eight-day self-timer, either of which were designed to give the operator plenty of advance notice. The Army did actually design two prototypes of the giant landmines, but shut down the project permanently in 1958, believing it to be a waste of time in the end.
Why didn’t it work? Well, even when you get past the political ramifications of storing multiple nuclear weapons in a friendly country’s landscape during peacetime (or whatever passed for such during this time), this was a completely insane project right from the get-go:
- The bombs were, naturally, very difficult to transport due to their immense size and weight, not to mention the issues that would go along with disguising them accordingly.
- When buried deep in the ground, munitions experts found it extremely difficult to keep the bomb’s temperature warm enough in order to keep all the electronics operating properly.
- To keep the bomb’s temperature regulated, it was buried with a large set of live chickens living inside it. Yes. For real. The chickens were buried in the bomb, along with a supply of seed and water – enough to keep them alive for several weeks, hopefully – while the electronics were wrapped with chicken wire to prevent the birds from pecking at them and potentially short-circuiting and/or detonating the landmine. With the chickens living inside the bomb, their body heat was expected to be enough to keep the bomb at a stable, usable temperature. Every few weeks, the chickens would need to be swapped out in order to ensure long-term viability of the weapon.
- Because of the high-maintenance nature of having to keep the chickens alive for extended period of time – not to mention the ethical concerns of burying animals with a fucking nuclear warhead – a later design used a ton of fancy fiberglass pillows to help preserve the internal temperature of the bomb in order to keep the electrical systems working.
- When the British Army actually did the math on what would happen if one of the bombs was ever to go off – specifically, blowing open a 375-foot crater with a 10-kiloton blast, and immeasurable nuclear fallout – they realized that they’d be skinned alive by global enemies and allies alike were the weapon ever to be used, even as a deterrence against global Communism.
What could make it better? Honestly, this is a no-win situation. Nukes are just too much to handle – even relatively tiny ones like these (when compared to modern-day ICBMs, etc.). If you’re really determined to use a nuke as a deterrent… maybe go with something a lot more sensible instead. Maybe something like the Davy Crockett!
Honestly, this thing was so crazy, it was even too ludicrous for the English… and that’s an impressively high threshold to hit, all things considered. The general public had no idea this top-secret project even existed until the files were finally de-classified on April 1st, 2004. Due to the date, so many people were convinced it was an April Fool’s hoax that the National Archives actually had to put out a public statement, assuring that the files were, indeed, completely legitimate. According to Tom O’Leary, then head of education and interpretation, “It does seem like an April Fool but it most certainly is not. The Civil Service does not do jokes.”
Take it from me, a former NFL head coach (and hopefully soon-to-be one as well, if I’m patient): you always want to go with the sure thing. That’s why the read-option is like a nuclear weapon; once everyone does it, it’s not going to work. Always go with the safe bet when it comes to your weapons and your play-calling – always run it up the gut, or better yet, take the wind instead of the ball. That way, you never have to worry about nuclear fallout.