- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 1, 2002

LONDON Britain considered using the atom bomb against Germany in retaliation for Hitler's deployment of V2 rockets against London, according to newly declassified documents.
The diaries of Guy Liddell, the head of the espionage "B" Branch of MI5 between 1939-1945, reveal that concern about the Nazis' V2 program was so great that the possibility of using the nuclear bomb as a deterrent was discussed with Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
It was even suggested that Churchill would raise the idea of using the bomb, which had been in development in the United States since 1942, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The proposal was discussed in August 1944, when British agents were reporting that Hitler was poised to launch the supersonic V2 rockets, armed with 2,000-pound warheads, at London.
Britain had no effective countermeasures against the 46-foot-long rocket-propelled V2s, and because they traveled faster than the speed of sound, they detonated without warning.
An alarmed Mr. Liddell asked Stewart Menzies, the head of MI6, if a nuclear threat could be used against Hitler. Mr. Liddell and Mr. Menzies referred to as "C" were among the few people in Britain who knew that the Allies were developing an atomic weapon.
"I saw 'C' today about the uranium bomb and put to him the suggestion that it should be used as a threat of retaliation to the Germans if they used V2," Mr. Liddell recorded in his diary. "He felt that there was nothing to be lost and said that he would put the suggestion to the [prime minister], who might take it up on his visit to Roosevelt, which is to take place early next month. On the other hand, he might decide to act more quickly."
Less than two weeks later, on Sept. 7, 1944, Hitler began Operation Penguin, raining hundreds of V2 rockets down on Britain. During the seven months leading up to the end of the war in Europe, more than 3,000 were launched, killing 2,274 persons in London alone.
The documents do not record the result of Mr. Menzie's discussion with Churchill; however, the suggestion came at a time when Britain was already engaged in a campaign of destruction "area bombing" against German cities. The campaign was so devastating that some German historians now argue that Churchill should be seen as a war criminal.
Churchill also stoutly defended the Americans' use of the atom bomb against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, supporting its deployment on military, political and moral grounds. On Aug. 10, the day after the Nagasaki bombing, Churchill argued that the horrific death toll was militarily justified if it helped to bring the war to an early close. He also reportedly complained to a friend that the Americans had failed to make sufficient political use of their new-found power, saying he would have threatened Russia with the device to make Stalin "behave reasonably and decently in Europe."
Andrew Roberts, a military historian, agreed that Mr. Liddell's suggestion would have been taken seriously due to the scale of the threat posed to Britain by the V2.
"I think the way contemporaries felt about the V2 was not that different from the way they felt about nuclear weapons: the V2 rocket was Hitler's deadliest weapon," he said.
He said that if the Allies had had the nuclear bomb a year earlier, "the war in Europe would have ended there and then."
The Manhattan Project established in 1942 in response to warnings that the Nazis were trying to develop a nuclear weapon was far from complete.
The first successful test of an atomic device would not take place until almost a year later at Los Alamos, N.M., on July 16, 1945 after the war in Europe had ended.
The first use of the atom bomb was at Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, when 200,000 Japanese were killed. A second bomb of a different type was exploded above Nagasaki on Aug. 9. Five days later the Japanese surrendered.


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