A Most Special Relationship: The Origins of Anglo-American Nuclear Strike Planning

This article examines a hitherto unexplored aspect of the Anglo-American "special relationship," the development of arrangements to coordinate U.S. and British forces in a joint nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. During the early Cold War, British political leaders and military officers struggled for a closer relationship with the U.S. Air Force in the hope of gaining greater insight into U.S. war plans, predicated as they were on nuclear strikes launched from bases in England. U.S. willingness to supply nuclear (and later thermonuclear) bombs for delivery by British bombers prompted bilateral talks from 1956 about their deployment in a joint air offensive. This prospective partnership raised difficult issues for the UK Air Staff, which was committed to the maintenance of an independent nuclear deterrent and countervalue rather than counterforce targeting. Nevertheless, the advantages of joint strike planning were such that by 1962 Bomber Command's planning had become fully integrated with that of Strategic Air Command.