October 3, 1952 – The first British nuclear test, code-named Hurricane, took place near the Monte Bello Islands off the northwest coast of Australia as a 25-kiloton warhead was exploded inside of the warship HMS Plym. This nuclear test was one of 315 nuclear test explosions conducted by the U.S., France, and the U.K. in the Pacific region during a half-century, 1946-96, according to a 2014 report by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).  (Source:  Jack Mendelsohn and David Grahame, editors.  “Arms Control Chronology.” Washington, DC:  Center for Defense Information, 2002, p. 5.)

October 5, 1960 – While visiting NORAD’s underground Colorado Springs headquarters as part of a public relations campaign extolling the Pentagon’s ability to defend against a Soviet nuclear attack, Peter Peterson, the executive director of Bell and Howell, the firm’s president Charles Percy, as well as IBM president Thomas J. Watson, Jr. were flabbergasted when U.S. Air Force personnel informed them that there was a 99.9 percent certainty that the Soviet Union had just launched a salvo of ICBMs at the U.S., triggering a DefCon 1 alert.  This false alert, one of many over the nearly seventy years of the nuclear era, occurred as a result of the new Thule Air Force Base, Greenland’s Ballistic Missile Early Warning System radars mistakenly identifying the rising moon over Norway as a spread of Soviet missiles.  (Source:   Eric Schlosser.  “Command and Control:  Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety.”  New York:  Penguin Press, 2013, pp. 253-54; 542.)

October 11-12, 1986 – President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev (who later won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize) met at a strategic summit in Reykjavik, Iceland.  Although Reagan had espoused serious anti-communist rhetoric calling the Soviet Union “the focus of evil in the modern world” and joking that “we begin bombing Russia in five minutes,” by this time, even the 40th U.S. President, acknowledging the true horror of nuclear war as portrayed in the film The Day After, had actually stated that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”  In that spirit, the President surprised Gorbachev, when both men met alone with only their translators present without military and diplomatic aides in tow, by proposing that they eliminate all nuclear weapons.  Ultimately, Gorbachev’s insistence that the U.S. eliminate or curtail the space- and ground-based Strategic Defense Initiative (dubbed “Star Wars” by the press) missile defense shield caused the President to backtrack on his offer.  An agreement for limits of 1,600 on strategic nuclear delivery systems and 6,000 on ICBM and submarine-launched ballistic missiles as well as air-launched cruise missile warheads was put off until the December 1987 Washington Summit.  (Source:  Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick.  “The Untold History of the United States.” New York:  Gallery Books, 2012.)

October 16, 1964 – The People’s Republic of China exploded its first nuclear weapon, producing a yield of approximately 15 kilotons, at the Lop Nor test site on the Qinghai Plateau in Sinkiang Province.  Less than three years later, on June 17, 1967, the PRC tested their first thermonuclear device, a three megaton bomb dropped over the Lop Nor test site.  Sixteen years after their first nuclear test, China promised that their October 16, 1980 atmospheric test would be their last.  Like other members of the Nuclear Club, China’s atmospheric nuclear tests were responsible for serious negative global and regional health and environmental impacts, some of which have persisted to this day.  Thankfully, 34 years later, no other nation has exploded a nuclear weapon in Earth’s atmosphere thanks to arms control successes like the Limited Test Ban Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the latter of which the U.S. Senate (which voted to reject CTBT ratification by a vote of 51-48 on October 13, 1999) should ultimately ratify now that verification technologies have advanced to reliably detect any nuclear test cheaters.   (Source:  Jack Mendelsohn and David Grahame, editors.  “Arms Control Chronology.”  Washington, DC:  Center for Defense Information, 2002, pp.10, 12, 22.)

October 22, 2013 – GOP fundraiser and billionaire Sheldon Adelson, speaking to a crowd at New York’s Yeshiva University, advised President Barack Obama to explode a nuclear warhead in Iran’s desert region in order to coerce that nation’s leaders in Tehran to halt uranium enrichment and alleged nuclear-bomb making.  Iran continues to insist that it is not interested in building nuclear weapons, but even if these declarations aren’t credible, negotiations are a much more peaceful and reasonable means to persuade Iran to curtail these activities.   In the past, nuclear brinksmanship and threats by the Nuclear Club members have often resulted in long-term dangerous, destabilizing asymmetrical responses by smaller nations as well as delaying or even preventing nuclear agreements from reaching fruition as in the case of North Korea.   (Sources:  Press reports from mainstream media such as the Washington Post and New York Times as well as alternative media such as Democracy Now.)

October 23, 1994 – The U.S. and Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea) signed an agreed framework to freeze the North Korean nuclear program and halt that nation’s withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty.   Unfortunately, over the last 20 years, a series of setbacks have resulted in several North Korean underground nuclear tests and no end to nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula in the foreseeable future.  Comment:  A new nuclear agreement with Korea and a formal treaty ending the state of war that has existed since 1950 (that the Armistice of 1953 has not officially ended) between North and South Korea should be a paramount priority during the last two years of the Obama Administration.   (Source:  Jack Mendelsohn and David Grahame, editors.  “Arms Control Chronology.”  Washington, DC:  The Center for Defense Information, 2002, pp. 3.)

October 28, 1962 – The Cuban Missile Crisis ended on this date.  “It was perhaps the most dangerous issue which the world has had to face since the end of the Second World War” according to then British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.  Today this is still true, with the possible exception of the 1983 NATO Able Archer exercise, interpreted by Soviet leaders as a military exercise disguising a nuclear first strike by the U.S.   During the very tense thirteen days of October 1962, the world came the closest it has ever come to thermonuclear war when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev secreted 42 SS-4 nuclear-tipped medium-range ballistic missiles (range: 1,200 miles) along with approximately 100 tactical nuclear warheads including nuclear torpedoes, cruise missiles, and short-range rockets to the island of Cuba.  Several times during the crisis, unexpected events like the Russian shoot down of a U.S. U-2 spy plane over the island or the U.S. Navy’s firing of depth charges at Soviet submarines, nearly triggered World War III.  Secret diplomacy between lower-level representatives of both nations helped President John Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev agree to finally end the stalemate and remove the Cuban missiles (along with a secret quid-pro-quo promise by Kennedy to remove obsolete Jupiter missiles from Turkey at a later date).  (Sources:  Michael Mandelbaum.  “The Nuclear Question: The U.S. and Nuclear Weapons, 1946-76.”  New York:  Cambridge University Press, 1979, p. 129 and Robert L. O’Connell.  The Cuban Missile Crisis: Second Holocaust.  in  Robert Cowley, ed. “What Ifs? of American History.”  New York:  Berkley Books, 2003, pp. 251-272.)

October 30, 1949 – Led by Manhattan Project scientific director Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the General Advisory Committee to the Atomic Energy Commission (a forerunner to today’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission) voted unanimously to oppose building hydrogen bombs as those weapons constituted, “a threat to the future of the human race.”  But President Truman and other atomic scientists like Edward Teller disagreed and pushed hard to beat the Soviets in the race to build a new, significantly more powerful generation of nuclear weapons.   The U.S. exploded its first H-bomb on November 1, 1952 and the Soviets on August 12, 1953.  (Sources:  Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick.  “The Untold History of the United States.”  New York:  Gallery Books, 2012 and Jack Mendelsohn and David Grahame, editors.  “Arms Control Chronology.”  Washington, DC:  The Center for Defense Information, 2002, pp. 5-6.)