Sunday, December 01, 2013

Dr Not-So-Strangelove

While the BBC screens a season on the Cold War, it's worth knowing that, for reasons of speed and just in case higher authority was uncontactable, all the ballistic nuclear missile silos in the USA had the same launch code for a period of 20 years: 00000000.

And never mind Dr Strangelove's General Jack D. Ripper, here is the real Commander-in-Chief of Strategic Air Command, General Thomas Power, talking in 1960 to a nuclear war strategist from the Rand Corporation: "Restraint! Why are you so concerned with saving their lives? The whole idea is to kill the bastards! At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win!"

And here's Power's boss, who was in charge of the whole Air Force: "At a Georgetown dinner party recently, the wife of a leading senator sat next to Gen. Curtis LeMay, chief of staff of the Air Force. He told her a nuclear war was inevitable. It would begin in December and be all over by the first of the year. In that interval, every major American city -- Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles -- would be reduced to rubble. Similarly, the principal cities of the Soviet Union would be destroyed. The lady, as she tells it, asked if there were any place where she could take her children and grandchildren to safety; the general would, of course, at the first alert be inside the top-secret underground hideout near Washington from which the retaliatory strike would be directed. He told her that certain unpopulated areas in the far west would be safest."

When I was in my teens at a Welsh boarding school, I studied the map to see where in Wales might be best to head for if the balloon went up - somewhere central, but avoiding the vicinity of military bases and any of the valleys leading away from target cities on the southern coast, I decided.

I should have been better prepared; I never had a bag and a bike ready. All over now? Are we now run by sane and sensible people?

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