Surviving a Nuclear Blast

Look, I don't have the manual in front of me, but I remember the following like it was yesterday. During basic training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina in the summer of 1981 I had the pleasure of getting some instruction on nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare. I'll regale you with my tear gas training later. Right now I want to tell you about what we were told to do in the event of a nuclear attack. So here goes. When the blast first happens, we were told, assuming you aren't instantly vaporized you are supposed to fall down, face first covering your M-16 (the standard issue weapon in those days) with your body. I think the purpose of this was to protect the taxpayer's investment in the weapon, the assumption being a supply sergeant could put on a pair of rubber gloves, pull your nuked body off the M-16, and issue the weapon to some sap who survived the blast. Okay, so you're face down on your weapon, now you're supposed to count to get some idea of how far away the blast was. What you're looking for is flash to bang time. You're allowed to stop counting when you actually heard the nuclear explosion and roughly calculate how far away the detonation was. Again, this all assumes you aren't just scattered atoms at this point. Now a wave of destroyed garbage is going to fly overhead: dirt, rocks, concrete, cows, etc. Stay down so you don't get clobbered. Once the debris wave stops you have to stay down, because it's all coming back and will clobber you from behind if you stand up too soon. Turns out the blast creates a huge vacuum that will suck all that stuff it just sent your way back towards ground zero, as they say. Once that second debris wave passes, the manual instructs you to "remain calm; continue mission." That's right, you've just witnessed a nuclear explosion and you're supposed to remain calm. It may go without saying that I'm glad I never had to find out just how I'd react to a nuclear blast. I'm pretty sure that remaining calm would not have been high on my list.