What would have happened if we’d dropped the atomic bomb during the Korean War?
In 1950, as U.S. forces retreated from China’s onslaught across the Yalu River, General Douglas MacArthur called for strategic air attacks against China. Many believed that this would necessarily include the atomic bomb, America’s “asymmetric advantage” of the time.
America’s large arsenal of atomic weapons, and the fleet of strategic bombers necessary to deliver those weapons, was the central military advantage that the US enjoyed over the Soviet Union in 1950. The large, battle tested Red Army remained in Eastern Europe, capable of moving west on short notice. Many believed that only America’s ability to destroy the Soviet heartland with nuclear weapons held the Russians back. Many also believed that Moscow had orchestrated the war on the Korean Peninsula.
So why didn’t the United States use the bomb in Korea? What if it had?