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'Charlottesville': A Government-Commissioned Story About Nuclear War

A fictional 1979 account of how the small Virginia city would weather an all-out nuclear exchange between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.

Most did not see the attacks on Richmond and on Washington as they huddled in their shelters. But the sky to the east and north of Charlottesville glowed brilliant in the noonday sun. At first no one knew how extensive the damage was.

Communication nationwide was interrupted as the Earth’s atmosphere shivered with the assault of the explosions. Each town, city, village, or farm was an island, forced to suffer its selected fate of death or salvation alone. (Some time later it was learned that more than 4,000 megatons (Mt) had destroyed military and industrial targets, killing close to 100 million people in the United States. The U.S. counterattack on the Soviet Union had had a similar, devastating effect. Destruction ranged from the large industrial centers on the coasts and Great Lakes to small farming communities that had the misfortune to be close to the great missile silos and military bases.)

Areas of the country such as the northeast corridor were reduced to a swath of burning rubble from north of Boston to south of Norfolk. Still, there were some sections of the nation that were spared the direct effects of blast and fire. Inland in Virginia, only the town of Radford, west of Roanoke, received a direct hit. The farming and orchard land of the rural counties were not targets.

Charlottesville, the small but elegant center of learning, culture, and trade in central Virginia, was not hit either. This monument to the mind and manner of Jefferson retained its status as a kind of genteel sanctuary, momentarily immune to the disaster that had leveled the cities of the nation.