/* */

06 June 2007

Remembering D-Day

Given the occasion, we would pause to reflect on the critically important accomplishments of our predecessors in the past global conflict.

Specifically, we are reminded of the men of the ALSOS mission, who came ashore on D-Day in order to face not only the dangers of the conventional military ranks arrayed against them, but to confront the unknown threats of what was then an entirely new weapon.

ALSOS was concerned that the Nazi German nuclear program, too primitive to produce a viable fission weapon, could be diverted to the production of large scale radiological dispersal devices to contaminate large areas, either at the beachhead or blocking the advance of forces deeper into the countryside.

Radiological weapons were very poorly understood given the science of the day, and likewise detection systems were large, clumsy, and inefficient. The operational implications, and long term health effects of radiation threats were entirely unknown in the military environment. Thus, technical intelligence teams were absolutely critical to collecting initial information about this unknown threat – but essentially worked with limited (or no) weapons, and with little ability to communicate their concerns or missions to those around them.

ALSOS members would later go on to perform a role much like that of the latter-day Iraqi Survey Group – assessing German special weapons programs and capabilities. They faced many of the same controversies – but their mission was not revealed until decades later.

Their story is told far better, and in more detail, in Spying on the Bomb.

Spare a thought for the veterans – both of WWII and more recent service - on this day, once the Day of Days.

Labels: , , ,