Encyclopedia > World War III

  Article Content

World War III

World War III is the name given to a hypothetical world war, initially supposed to be fought between superpowers with weapons of mass destruction. This was presumed most likely to result in the utter extermination or technological impoverishment of humanity, due both to loss of infrastructure and fear of employing new technologies.

Other scenarios of a global war, separate from those involving ideological superpower confrontation, are discussed in the article Gigadeath War. This article describes the more narrow concept as understood in the 20th century, when superpower confrontation was deemed to be the major threat.

Historical scenarios

Albert Einstein is reputed to have said, "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

However, not all scenarios for World War III have begun with the use of nuclear weapons. Operation DROPSHOT, a declassified U.S. plan, written in 1947, assumed a long period of conventional war between NATO and the Soviet Union before any nuclear weapons would be employed by both sides. The standard NATO war planning scenario assumed a Soviet attack on West Germany, in which tactical nuclear weapons would be used only if NATO forces were losing. In most war games, NATO conventional forces faced extreme difficulty defending West Germany without nuclear weapons.

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War, an apocalyptic war between the United States and USSR was considered likely. The Cuban missile crisis is generally thought to be the historical point at which the risk of World War III was closest.

OPLAN (Operations Plan) 1000 was the standard U.S. military plan for the first hours or days of a national emergency such as World War III. Unclassified annexes included grounding all civil aircraft in the United States and controlling all navigation beacons. In the 1950s and 1960s, this included CONELRAD (Control of Electronic Radiation), in which all radio stations broadcasting in the U.S. would operate on low power on two frequencies.

World War III was almost started by accident on January 25, 1995 when Russia almost launched a nuclear attack after a Norwegian missile launch for scientific research was detected and thought to be an attack on Russia. Norway had notified the world that it would be making the launch, but the Russian Defense Ministry had neglected to notify those monitoring Russia's nuclear defense systems.

Fictional treatments

The genre of post-apocalyptic science fiction often uses post-World War III scenarios[?]. However, these stories were found only in Western science fiction publications; Soviet writers were discouraged from writing them.

Several notable movies have been made based on World War III, including the following:

Notable novels dealing with World War III include:

See also: Doomsday clock, Nuclear war, Nuclear disarmament, Gigadeath War

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

... in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. See: List of Supreme Court of Canada cases. The inclusion of a charter of rights in the constitution was a much debated ...

This page was created in 23.3 ms