The purpose of this publication is to provide medical personnel of the NATO Armed Forces with information on the biomedical effects of nuclear weapons and the impact of the use of nuclear weapons on the different aspects of medical field operations.
a. Total nuclear war with utilization of all available nuclear weapons could result in complete devastation of the involved nations' military combat and logistic systems as well as their supporting civilian social structures and economies. (See paragraphs 625 and 631.) However, situations short of total nuclear war are possible in which nuclear weapons could be employed in limited numbers or for a limited time, along with conventional weapons. Under such circumstances, effective military operations could continue and would require the continuing support of an effective medical service.
b. It is essential that medical personnel at all levels be prepared for the problems associated with limited nuclear warfare. This handbook has been prepared to provide those responsible for medical support planning, training, and field operations with specific information critical to the understanding and solution of these special problems. The subjects covered in this publication are many and varied, reflecting the complexities involved in the nuclear sciences and the varied needs of the people for whom this book was prepared. Accordingly, the subject matter presented includes discussions of atomic structure and radioactivity, characteristics of nuclear detonations, descriptions of the factors related to the diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of nuclear warfare casualties, and guidance applicable to the organization and operation of medical units on a nuclear battlefield. In addition, information has been included on the special problems associated with nuclear accidents in peacetime.