Samuel T. Cohen died who invented one of history’s most controversial weapons, the neutron bomb. It was in 1958 that Cohen designed the tactical nuclear weapon intended to kill people but do minimal damage to cities. Cohen studied physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and helped build the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.
According to him, the inspiration for the neutron bomb was a 1951 visit to Seoul, which had been largely destroyed in the Korean War. In his memoir, he wrote: “If we are going to go on fighting these damned fool wars in the future, shelling and bombing cities to smithereens and wrecking the lives of their inhabitants, might there be some kind of nuclear weapon that could avoid all this?” But none of the U.S. presidents in the 1960s or 70s were interested in developing Cohen’s weapon, partly out of fear it could violate the test-ban treaty and encourage further weapons proliferation.
In 1981, however, President Reagan ordered 700 neutron warheads built to oppose the massive Soviet tank force that had been strategically positioned in Eastern Europe. He viewed the bomb as the only tactical weapon that could effectively stop the tanks without also destroying much of the continent. The weapons were later dismantled in the face of widespread protests and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. France, China, Russia and Israel are also thought to have produced neutron weapons, but it is not known if they still have any.