Everyone is aware of some strange, horrifying or seemingly crazy experiment or operation that the USA security apparatus has undertaken in its history. Some of the more notable ones include Project Iceworm (under which they dug out tunnels underneath Greenland in 1958 as a nuclear missile base, which started to collapse after geological changes), Project Pigeon (under which Professor BF Skinner used behaviour modification to train pigeons to guide missiles, using screens inside of a missile cockpit), to a wide foray by the military into extra sensory perception and its possible applications.
But Daniel Ellsberg, the same Ellsberg who released the Pentagon Papers, has revealed in his 2017 book The Doomsday Machine the details of a military plan that almost defies description in its lunacy. The plan was submitted to Ellsberg for review while he was working as an analyst for RAND Corporation (an offshoot of the US Air Force) in mid-1960. It was entitled “Project Retro”.
The program was intended to be a strategic ploy that would enable the USA to dodge an incoming Soviet ICBM strike that could disarm the USA retaliation capacity. To pull this off, an air force officer had suggested that the Air Force assemble an array of one thousand first-stage Atlas type engines (then the second-most powerful rocket engine available to the military) in a horizontal formation and facing in a direction opposite that of the earth’s rotation. When the early warning systems detected a large incoming missile attack, the array would be activated simultaneously, stopping the earth’s rotation momentarily and causing the Soviet missiles to miss their targets.
It doesn’t take a genius to see the obvious flaws in this plan. Engineers quickly noted that the plan wouldn’t actually stop the earth even with that amount of engine power. This fact aside, the effects of the plan, if it were successful (if they could assemble enough rocket power) are obviously disastrous. The sudden stoppage of the earth would essentially toss all terrestrial beings into space, throw the oceans onto the land and displace many, if not all, of its inhabitants. The atmosphere would be thrown into a sudden hurricane worldwide and most, if not all, buildings would be reduced to rubble.
One physicist suggested that an attempt to stop the earth’s rotation in this way would end up ripping apart the crust of the earth.
Project Retro is just one example of the US military’s inability to see reason past its own destructive objectives. The idea is ridiculous and suicidal, but not necessarily any more so than the maintenance of an arsenal of thousands of thermonuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert all around the globe. The USA system of nuclear deterrence is delegated to a variety of military officials (a system fraught with possibility for miscalculation, error or insubordination) whilst Russia maintains an automated “Dead Hand” system under the name Project Perimeter, that ensures that their arsenal will be launched if a decapitation strike were launched against them (a system that is prone to malfunction, error and false warnings, has little human involvement and cannot be recalled once the signal to launch is sent).
By Nathan Booth