New Jersey was one of the original 13 states of the former United States of America. Nestled between the two biggest cities of 18th century America, the state saw much of the fighting of the American War for Independence. With this location, the state would play a prominent part in much of history of the nation.
However, being wedged between New York City and Philadelphia, both of which were hit by Soviet missiles, the state's most densely populated areas suffered the fallout from the explosions and much of the state's infrastructure in these areas was ruined.
The area was inhabited by Native Americans for more than 2,800 years, with historical tribes such as the Lenape along the coast. In the early 17th century, the Dutch and the Swedes made the first European settlements. The English later seized control of the region, naming it the Province of New Jersey. It was granted as a colony to Sir George Carteret and John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton. At this time, it was named after the largest of the British Channel Islands, Jersey, where Carteret had been born. New Jersey was the site of several decisive battles during the American Revolutionary War.
In the 19th century, factories in cities such as Elizabeth, Paterson and Trenton helped to drive the Industrial Revolution. New Jersey's position at the center of the Northeast megalopolis, between Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C., fueled its rapid growth through the suburban boom of the 1950s and beyond.
Soviet Nuclear Strikes
Based on the data which has been gathered since Doomsday, it is now believed the United States was struck by at least two waves of Soviet nuclear missiles. The first, in the form of sea launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and sea launched cruise missiles (SLCM) from Soviet submarines in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. The second wave, came in the form of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) launched from missile silos in the USSR. The first wave targeted mainly first priority targets, likely to incapacitate them, with the second wave hitting primary (including those already struck) targets as well as most secondary and some tertiary.
During the attacks of the evening of September 25, 1983, the state of New Jersey was among those areas struck by both waves. The first at approximately 9:05 PM EDT, with the second wave beginning at about 9:35 PM EDT. Based on available data, the following is known about the areas hit:
Primary Strike Zones
It is believed McGuire Air Force Base, Fort Dix, and the Lakehurst Naval Air Station were each struck by at least one 800 kiloton warhead in the first wave. When the second wave struck, at least three more warheads, two estimated in the one megaton range, exploded. This essentially devastated a region east from Route 206 to the Garden State Parkway.
The Fort Monmouth military installation and the nearby Naval Weapons Station Earle were each struck by at least two 200 kiloton warheads in the initial attack, and possibility 550 kiloton warheads in the second wave. This resulted in extensive destruction and fallout over northern and central Monmouth County.
A single warhead exploded over the city of Perth Amboy, with a second detonation just off-shore over Raritan Bay. The shockwave from the second explosion struck the nearby city of South Amboy, followed immediately by a massive tidal wave. The explosions set off numerous fires in both cites and nearby areas of Staten Island. Several spans belonging to the Garden State Parkway, Route 35, and Route 440 were all severed preventing people from evacuating. It is unknown how many strikes hit this area in the second wave. The strength of these weapons are unclear.
Northeastern New Jersey was devastated by numerous strikes directed against it and the nearby New York City metropolitan area in the form of both high and low yield weapons. The total strength of these attacks is unknown. These attacks produced thousands of fires which merged into massive firestorms that swept thorough the region. Fires from burning petroleum and chemical plants, facilities, and storage areas produced massive toxic clouds of poisonous gases which innudated the region as well. The destruction radius ranged from 25-35 miles from the east coast inward, including the cities of Newark, Union City, Elizabeth, Paterson, and Hackensack.
Southwestern New Jersey, primarily those areas in the Delaware River Valley running from the capital of Trenton south to approximately Penn's Grove was devastated as well by a combination of low and high yield devices. As in the case of northeastern New Jersey, the region suffered greatly because of its proximity to a major urban area, in this case Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia. The destruction stretched ten to fifteen miles east from the Delaware River as far inland as Interstate 295 and in some cases the New Jersey Turnpike. The region suffered greatly as well because of strike generated firestorms and toxic clouds of burning or escaping gases. The cities lost inclued Trenton, Camden, Woodbury, and Chery Hill.
On the evening of September 25, 1983, temperatures were in the 53-57 degree range with winds blowing in a southwesterly direction at 10-15 miles an hour. This same wind pattern would continue for the next several days, with winds decreasing to the 5-10 mile range.
As a result of this pattern, winds blew heavy radioactive fallout from the strike zones of northeastern New Jersey and the New York City metropolitan area as well as Fort Monmouth across the central part of the state. Additionally, toxic gas clouds, including ammonia, phosgene, and cynanide, released from scores of burning or wrecked chemical manufacturing and storage facilities, were carried by these same winds delivering a lethal one-two punch to survivors of the attacks. Those who made it out of these regions, would testify of many people literally asphixiated as they tried to flee or make a stand where they lived. As a result, much of central New Jersey would be transformed into a virtual dead zone.
To the south, winds pushed fallout from the strikes in the McGuire AFB-Fort Dix-Lakehurst NAS zone across Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester Counties, where it merged with that of the strikes of the Delaware River Valley from Trenton south towards Penn's Grove. This resulted in refugees trying to escape the Delaware Valley strikes being exposed to lethal doses of radioactivity, which would result in death for many within one to two weeks.
The one good aspect, if one could be said, was these winds resulted in the fallout from the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania strike zones being carried in such a way that it spared much of the coastal and extreme southern areas of the state.
The exact death toll as a result of the nuclear strikes and the resulting aftermath of September 25, 1983, will never fully be known. In 1983, the state had a total population of 7.4-7.5 million people, the heaviest concentrations being in those areas adjacent to New York City and Philadelphia as well as the capital of Trenton and the central regions of the state. The counties closest to New York City alone, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Union, constituted some 2.8 million residents by themselves. The most conservative figures place the death toll of Doomsday and the first week after at just over 70% or 5.5 million.
Mayor Michael Matthews of Atlantic City, assuming the worst in Washington and New York (where he knew Bush and Reagan had been), sought contact instead with nearby surviving counties in Delaware. Within weeks, contact had been made with authorities in Salisbury, Maryland, who had been organizing survivors all over the Delmarva Peninsula. Soon Atlantic and Cape May Counties had been incorporated with the new provisional state of "Delmarva" (officially the "United Counties of Delmarva"). After some time had passed neighboring counties, which had been evacuated towards into the coastal counties, were repopulated in order to reclaim the resources of the farms found there.
Up in sparsely-populated northern Jersey, though, there were few who cared to venture into the ruins of New York or Philadelphia. Most survivors found the survivor city-state of Reading, Pennsylvania as their safe haven in the years following doomsday.
Over the years, as attempts have continued to reclaim the resources of the state, there have been some in Atlantic City that have petitioned Salisbury for independence in order to re-establish the state of New Jersey which would rejoin the United States of America if and when it would be reborn. This movement has picked up steam as news of the reconstituted United States in the plains states. Official word from the counties of the former state, though, is that a united Delmarva would be the one to make that move.
Conditions in most of the state, though, a far from salvageable even twenty-seven years after it was cut in half by numerous nuclear detonations along the DC to Philadelphia corridor. The upstate having been abandoned as survivors fled, only the bravest (or foolhardy) explorers have ventured there. No accurate assessment has been made as to the resources available in the largely urban areas in north Jersey. Auto travel is still an oddity along the coast as delivery of refined fuel oils are rare. Delmarva government aircraft (only small prop-jets and airplanes) make monthly flights into Atlantic City to assist in reconstruction of the industry there. Once a resort, Atlantic City has become a port city from which Delmarva has contact with the rest of the Atlantic communities - From Florida to Canada, as well as the Caribbean (especially Bermuda). The gambling industry, which had been used by criminal elements, had failed to thrive as travel to the area had dried up.