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Cold War Capabilities – Special Atomic Demolition Munitions

Special Atomic Demolition Munitions, or SADM were a class of man portable nuclear weapons developed during the Cold War. They were intended to be hand emplaced and used to deny, block, and canalize the enemy. Deployed primarily in Western Europe, the thinking was that they could be used to cut off high speed avenues of approach for Warsaw Pact forces. The US Army created a Military Occupational Specialty, 12E (SADM Specialist) that’s sole function was to employ those devices along with an associated MOS 55G to maintain them. They were expected to hand emplace the XM129 and XM159 Atomic Demolition Charges with yields ranging from 10 to 1,000 tons of TNT. Although the devices could be left unattended after it was set via a timer, there was also a Field Wire Remote Control System (FWRCS) to send safe/arm and firing signals to the weapon via a wire for safe remote detonation of the weapon. But as you can imagine, thats an awful lot of wire.

12E which was an Engineer MOS was eliminated in 1986 and the Soldiers reclassified into new MOSs as the devices were removed from service. I attended DLI with quite a few of these NCOs.

Additionally, both Navy SEAL and Army Special Forces teams were trained in their emplacement in denied areas although particulars of these mission sets remain sensitive. For example, the SFOD-As were known as Green Light Teams with many of the members having the so-called “dual cool” qualification of MFF and SCUBA. Interestingly this declassified film featuring NSW personnel features Para-SCUBA operations.

7 Responses to “Cold War Capabilities – Special Atomic Demolition Munitions”

  1. dsr2675 says:

    Very fascinating bit of history. Also the MacGuffin in the awesome novel “Payback” by former MACV SOG veteran JC Pollock. Part of what inspired me to join the military back in the 80s. Highly recommend the book!

  2. Terry Baldwin says:

    Tactical nukes were more integrated into our operational plans in Germany than I think most people realized. When I was in A/1/15th Inf (75-76) we did a number of live ammo load outs to provide security for convoy deliveries of 155 and 8″ Howitzer nuke rounds. Presumably, all the rounds we delivered and then returned to storage were dummies – but we never knew for sure. It was the only time we wore Flak Vests, and the mission was taken very seriously while I was there. Lance Missile Batteries (Nuclear Capable) had organic infantry platoons to provide full time security.

    One of the missions of the 3rd Aviation Battalion was to deliver 12Es and their package(s) to the detonation site(s) in the Division’s sector. Certain aircrews had to certify for that mission. The Pathfinder Detachment (76-78) was involved at both ends and we practiced that drill with the Engineers on a regular basis. Only those with a Secret Clearance or higher were allowed to be involved. The sites we practiced on were not the actual target sites. Those were TS and only the most senior Engineers supposedly were privy to that information.


  3. Jon, OPT says:

    MFF & Combat Diver (SCUBA) “dual cool” was also known as additional skill identifier (ASI) W9 (Whiskey Niner), which is no longer in use in that context.

    W9 now = W9: Special Operations Forces Peculiar Weapons Repairer

    But if you ever hear an old school dude talking about Whiskey Niner, 99% of the time he is referring to the old Dive-Freefall ASI.

    There are still and will always be numerous dual qualified personnel within SOF and some rare finds in GPF, but they no longer have the Army ASI.

    Good write up, next step: Blue Light.

  4. Bummer says:

    My recruiter was a ADM specialist, this was in 1980

  5. tirod3 says:

    While we can account for a lot of ours, the fall of the Soviet Union found some records in disarray and IIRC about 30 Soviet man packs were reputedly unaccounted for.

    Nobody seems to talk about that much, just movie script writers fantasizing over destroying their least favorite football team.

  6. the hun says:

    Richard “Dick” Marcinko RIP (or not 😉 ) mentioned in a novel fridged-size nuke attached to parachutists. Which caused some csualities among the N.Seals back then.
    And there were camouflaged storages in W-Germany (close to bridges…) , which had mini-nukes prepared..just in case
    May be decommisioned, may be nott?!