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Aerial view of Long Beach Island NJ at sunset Michael Ver Sprill photography

Aerial view of Long Beach Island, New Jersey

New Jersey is a territory in the former Northeastern region of the USA. New Jersey became 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 was a key location that saw many pivotal battles of the American Revolution, to the point where it was nicknamed "The Crossroads of the Revolution." 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.

New Jersey in United States (zoom)

In the years following Doomsday, Atlantic City became a regional center of order in NJ, as it was one of the few urban centers not directly hit by Soviet ICBMs. Eventually, New Jersey was claimed by the new survivor nation of Delmarva, although in practice the post-Doomsday population of NJ resides almost entirely in South Jersey and more sparsely in Central Jersey.

History

Pre-Doomsday

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 Dutch settlements emanated from New Amsterdam (later New York City) across the Hudson River and into what is now northeastern NJ. The Swedish settlements were focused along the southwestern fringe of NJ. 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.

Thomas Edison at Menlo Park NJ lab

Thomas Edison at his lab in Menlo Park, NJ.

In the 19th century, factories in cities such as Elizabeth, Paterson and Trenton helped to drive the Industrial Revolution. The burgeoning Industrial Revolution helped make New Jersey a regional economic powerhouse, and center for invention. Many inventors of the Industrial Revolution worked in NJ, including Newark native Seth Boyden and (perhaps most famously) Thomas Edison, who set up his laboratory and "invention factory" at Menlo Park, New Jersey.

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.

New Jersey also benefited from tourism to the Jersey Shore, especially picking up during the 20th century, as Atlantic City, Asbury Park, Wildwood, Long Beach Island, and many other sites on the Shore became hubs for tourism and amusement. New Jersey was also a hub of pre-Doomsday pop culture, being the birthplace of Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen, and seeing the rise of its own distinct brand of rock called the Jersey Shore Sound.

Union City NJ Cuban-American community Havana on the Hudson

The Cuban-American community in Union City. The local community had been nicknamed Havana on the Hudson. This was one example of the dazzling mix of diverse cultures in New Jersey that was visible by the early 1980's.

By the 1970's and 80's, North Jersey (particularly the Hudson County cities of Jersey City, Union City, and North Bergen) were seeing rapidly-increasing and diversifying populations as waves of immigration arrived.

New Jersey had always been one of the most diverse states in the United States. As the 1980's dawned, it was rapidly becoming more diverse than ever, and New Jersey was illuminated by a bright spectrum of cultures. North Jersey, in particular, was the primary hub of many immigrant families during this era.

Tragically, this era of growth and vibrant culture would be cut short by the Soviet attacks of Doomsday.

"Blinded by the Light": Doomsday

"Something in the Night"

Much of what is known about the attacks on New Jersey come from frantic news reports from the night of Doomsday that have been preserved in archives down in South Jersey. Further stories came from North Jersey refugees as they moved down south.
NJ 83DD

Strike zones in the Northeast, including New Jersey.

Based on these sources, as well as similar sources from elsewhere in North America, and further scientific data gathered in the decades since Doomsday, it has been determined that the United States was targeted with two waves of Soviet attacks. 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.

New Jersey's prime location between NYC, Philly, and the Atlantic Ocean had benefited it enormously throughout its history; now, on Doomsday, it would become a source of danger. The first wave of attacks on New Jersey began at approximately 9:05 PM EDT, with the second wave beginning at about 9:35 PM EDT. Using available information from archived news reports, eyewitness accounts from survivors, and scientific data, analysts have managed to piece together the following account of the attacks.

"Born to Run"

Televisions and radios across New Jersey interrupted their usual programming to broadcast the emergency alert system. As New Jerseyans learned of the imminent Soviet attack, panic ensued. Many residents' first reaction was to immediately evacuate into the less-densely populated parts of the state.

Other residents, particularly those in New Jersey's urban centers, felt that attempting to run would be futile. A few recordings of the last news reports from Jersey City and Newark describe the situations there immediately before the bombs arrived. The news reports recorded some instances of rioting. However, most residents stayed in their homes, giving each other and their neighbors tearful goodbyes. Many others went to their neighborhood churches and spent their last moments with their congregations.

Overall, the news reports captured a general feeling of deep sorrow and anguish. The reporters' own voices quaked as they bid goodbye to their families and listeners. One by one, each news report was cut short as the cities were hit by Soviet missiles. The final radio news report from Jersey City describes a scene of absolute horror: wedged between New York City and Newark, Jersey City residents had witnessed the first nuclear strikes on Manhattan, and could also see the subsequent strikes on Brooklyn and Newark, NJ. The recording of the final report from Jersey City has the reporter describing what he could see: fire everywhere, in every direction as New York, Newark, and downtown Jersey City burned. The Jersey City report, frequently crackling from interference caused by radiation, finally ends with the reporter describing an object rapidly streaking across the sky, saying "The object...[static]...coming fast..[static]...appears to be heading right over Jersey City's Journal Square, it..." before suddenly cutting short as the bomb detonated.

In the 21st century, college students and other researchers in South Jersey who have heard the archived recordings of these news reports describe them as chilling and unforgettable.

Primary Strike Zones

1983DD New Jersey Strike Zones

Areas of New Jersey destroyed by Soviet nuclear strikes on September 25, 1983 and contaminated by radioactive fallout

McGuire Air Force Base, Fort Dix, and the Lakehurst Naval Air Station were each struck by at least one 800 kiloton warhead, apparently during 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 nuclear warhead detonated just above the industrial port city of Perth Amboy, and a second warhead exploded over the Raritan Bay. Students at nearby Rutgers University-New Brunswick were terrified by the sight of the emerging mushroom clouds on the eastern horizon. The shockwave from the second explosion struck the nearby city of South Amboy, followed immediately by a massive tidal wave blown in from the Raritan Bay. The explosions set off numerous fires in both cites and nearby areas of Staten Island. Several bridge spans belonging to the Garden State Parkway, Route 35, and Route 440 were severed, preventing many people from escaping south if they hadn't already done so. It is unknown how many strikes hit this area in the second wave. The strength of these weapons are unclear.

Secondary Targets

Statue of Liberty and Manhattan ruins seen from Jersey City

An artist's imagining of how the view from Jersey City into New York Harbor might have looked after Doomsday. Later air expeditions into the area would discover that, while the burnt ruins of Jersey City still remained, Manhattan was, in reality, now partially underwater. Interestingly enough, the reconnaissance mission revealed that the artist's imaginary depiction got one thing right: the battered ruins of the Statue of Liberty had indeed ended up in the area that used to be Jersey City's Liberty State Park, possibly blown there by the shockwaves from Manhattan's destruction, or perhaps knocked down into the Hudson River by the initial shockwave and then drifting ashore with the tides.

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 inundated 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, Pennsylvania. 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 included Trenton, Camden, Woodbury, and Cherry Hill.

Weather

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 cyanide, 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 asphyxiated 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.

"My City of Ruins": The Aftermath of Doomsday

Death Toll

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 percent or 5.5 million.

"...And meet me tonight in Atlantic City."

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 North Jersey, though, there were few who cared to venture into the ruins of New York or Philadelphia. Most survivors in the most northwestern sections of the state either stayed put in farms around the northwestern Skylands. Some from the west-central parts of the state found the survivor city-state of Reading, Pennsylvania as their safe haven in the years following Doomsday. Many others in the west-central portions of the state migrated south into the now-safer South Jersey counties.

"Maybe everything that dies someday comes back": Present Day

Over the years, as attempts have continued to reclaim the resources of the state, there has been a vocal movement in Atlantic City and the rest of South Jersey 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. Nevertheless, there remains a strong and vocal sense of "Jersey Pride" among locals.

Atlantic City Airport NJ
Conditions in North Jersey and many parts of Central Jersey, though, remained very hard to physically salvage even twenty-seven years after NJ was cut in half by numerous nuclear detonations along the DC to Philadelphia corridor. Northeast Jersey had been depopulated as survivors fled, and only the bravest (or foolhardiest) explorers have ventured there. No accurate assessment has been made as to the resources available in the largely former 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.
Atlantic City boardwalk NJ

An artist's impression of modern day Atlantic City at night.

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.
Wildwood NJ boardwalk by Steve Greer Photography

The boardwalk at Wildwood

Other sites along the Jersey Shore also reoriented themselves towards fishing and shipping in the 1980's and 90's. In more recent decades, as people have begun traveling further distances up and down the East Coast, many of these shoretowns (such as Asbury Park, Wildwood, and Seaside Heights) have restarted their tourism industries in the summertime.

Culture

New Jersey had developed a vibrant cultural scene before Doomsday. After the nuclear war, this took a major hit, with most of the northeastern section NJ being destroyed. Nevertheless, South Jersey and parts of Central Jersey remained, and residents have continued the local culture.

Music

One bit of news that thrilled New Jerseyans in the immediate weeks after Doomsday was the news that local legend Frank Sinatra had survived. Sinatra had been performing at the Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City on Doomsday, along with his Rat Pack buddy Dean Martin (who had been there to appear during the final song of the night), and the pair had thus survived with the rest of AC. Sinatra was a world-renowned superstar, but had always been particularly beloved by the crowds in his native NJ. Sinatra would eventually begin performing again as the situation in South Jersey settled down, and remained active into the 1990's, before passing away in the late 1990's following a heart attack. Martin passed away from respiratory failure in 1995.

The local variant of rock music, the Jersey Shore Sound, has continued to be a popular genre in the decades since Doomsday, and various local rock acts have performed in this style in various small venues up and down the Shore. The most popular acts eventually get invited to perform at one of the larger venues in Atlantic City or Wildwood typically.

Other local artists include singer-songwriter Charlie Puth from Rumson (located in Monmouth County).

Cuisine

New Jersey had always been one of the most ethnically diverse states in the United States, and this has been reflected in its cuisine, with influences from all over the world. Atlantic City in particular had been the home of restaurants featuring many cuisines from around the world, and the cooking staff at these resorts would continue their cooking careers, eventually passing their knowledge down to younger cooks. There has also been a strong tradition of Italian cuisine in New Jersey due to the settlement of many Italian immigrant families in the region since the 1800's.

MikesSeafood Sea Isle City NJ

A local seafood restaurant in Sea Isle City. Seafood took on more importance than ever in the years after Doomsday.

One change that occurred after Doomsday was the increasing importance of seafood. While seafood had always been popular, particularly in resort towns along the Jersey Shore, seafood's importance increased dramatically in the immediate years after 1983.

Atlantic City Saltwater Taffy NJ

A box of Atlantic City's trademarked saltwater taffy, as seen in 2020, from James's a classic spot on the Boardwalk.

One local candy specialty is saltwater taffy, which had been invented in Atlantic City. Today, saltwater taffy is a popular export for New Jersey communities, and one of the most common forms of candy in the region.

Sports

The traditional American games of baseball, football, and basketball remain extremely popular in New Jersey. There are local leagues in the area for each major sport, as well as interscholastic play between high schools.

Water sports are also popular along the Jersey Shore.

Education

Shadow Lawn Mansion Woodrow Wilson West Long Branch NJ

Shadow Lawn Mansion in West Long Branch. Formerly the home of US President Woodrow Wilson, it now belongs to the campus of Monmouth University. Over the years since Doomsday, many regional political summits have been hosted at Shadow Lawn.

One major college still in operation in the region is Monmouth University in West Long Branch. Monmouth U's picturesque campus contains Shadow Lawn Mansion, formerly home to US President (and NJ Governor) Woodrow Wilson. The stunning mansion has been the site of many regional political conferences since Doomsday.

Another major college is Richard Stockton University, located in Galloway.

K-12 schools continue to be operated at the local level, along with many Catholic schools and Jewish day schools.

In a welcome surprise, the US Coast Guard Training Center at Cape May was not destroyed on Doomsday, for reasons unknown (It has been theorized that a US Navy submarine may have, by pure luck, found and destroyed the Soviet sub that would have targeted Cape May. Others have speculated that perhaps a missile may have been launched at it but went off course and landed somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean instead). As a result, the Delmarva Navy currently uses the former Coast Guard Academy site as both a training academy for naval recruits and as a naval base.

US Coast Guard Training Center Cape May NJ

Delmarva Naval personnel at the former US Coast Guard Training Center at Cape May. In the background are some of the repurposed US Coast Guard vessels, now renamed after some of the New Jersey cities that were destroyed on Doomsday, for instance: The Jersey City (left-front), The Newark (left-back), The Paterson (right-front), and the Perth Amboy (right-back).

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