Cold War Craziness: How America Nearly Built a Nuclear-Powered Tank

Michael Peck

Key point: A nuclear tank was a terrible idea that not only would not have worked well but would have been an environmental disaster. However, Cold War America was willing to try all kinds of wonder weapons.

In the 1950s, America was enthralled by the atom. There were plans for atomic-powered cars, atomic-powered aircraft and atomic-powered spaceships.

So why not an atomic-powered tank?

Even by the standards of the 1950s, with its visions of Jetsons-style technology, the Chrysler TV-8 was strange. Almost monstrous, like some mutated mushroom creature out of a 1980s post-apocalyptic nuclear horror flick.

Chrysler's design was essentially a giant pod-shaped turret mounted on a lightweight tank chassis, like a big head stuck on top a small body. The crew, weapons and power plant would have been housed in the turret, according to tank historian R.P. Hunnicut's authoritative "A History of the Main American Battle Tank Vol. 2".

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