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Weapons of mass destruction

Posted by ESC on July 14, 2000

In Reply to: Query: weapons of mass destruction posted by Nina on July 13, 2000

: To readers of this list:

: I am interested in the origins of the phrase
: "weapons of mass destruction." Does anyone
: have any idea of its earliest usage, or
: where I might look for info?

: Thanks very much.
: Nina

I haven't been able to find that particular phrase. But here's a lead. It was probably a Cold War term.

"Speaking Freely: A Guided Tour of American English from Plymouth Rock to Silicon Valley" by Stuart Berg Flexner and Anne H. Soukhanov (Oxford University Press, New York, 1997) says: "The U.S. and USSR had emerged from the war (World War II) as the planet's two 'superpowers,' leading the 'Free World' and 'Communist Bloc' in the 'Cold War' , a struggle that featured such things as the doctrine of 'mass retaliation' (1954, the threat to meet foreign military aggression with a nuclear response), and the research and diplomacy aimed to give one side an advantage in the 'nuclear arms race.'"