I had started a different essay for this post when my wife informed me that our 43-year-old daughter asked this question. “How can these people talk so calmly about nuclear war?” Calmly? I needed to get caught up on the news. Who is calm?
As we discussed our distant past, Yolonda said, “You know, when you would go for a week of nuclear alert, I never thought much about it. It was your job. Nuclear war was simply your job.” She’s right. I was the Radar Navigator (bombardier) on a nuclear armed B-52D either at Carswell Air Force Base (AFB), Texas, or later at Andersen AFB, Guam (and at other “satellite” locations).
At that time, we were in the midst of the “Cold War.” If Russia (or any country) launched a nuclear attack against the United States, my crew would be in the air within minutes, turning north to strike pre-determined targets in the Soviet Union. Basically, WWIII.
I told her, “I know exactly what damage nuclear bombs (or missiles) can do.” For eight years, it was my profession. For one week each month, it was my life: 24/7. The concept of nuclear war was real, possible, conceivable, but even then, somehow unthinkable. We did not believe it would happen because we would retaliate in kind. That was called second strike and we had plans for a third. The strategy was called mutually assure destruction (MAD). It was real. It was then.
Through my elementary and high school years (Cuban Missile Crises), through Viet Nam, and on up until my first day of pre-flighting and “cocking” a loaded B-52, the threat of nuclear war was impressed upon me repeatedly. Doomsday was both a reality and a joke.
Today I read that Vlad P. has threatened the world with nukes if anyone interferes with his war on Ukraine. The no love lost between Russia and Ukraine goes way back, but the point is the threat. He could nuke any nation in the world—and certainly in Europe.
I’ve also read that Russia may use nukes against Ukrainian resistance. These people are fighting for their right to exist. The only thing Ukrainians want from Russia is to be left alone and to live in peace. But Russia does not care. Their excuse? The Ukrainians don’t like them. Dah?
While it would be unprecedented for nukes to be used in such a limited conflict/war, Ukraine lacks the wherewithal to assure Russia’s destruction. We, on the other hand, in conjunction with our allies could provide such assurance. I would like them all, especially Vlad P., to believe we would.
On the lighter side, in 1964 (age 18), I sat in a theater on a Strategic Air Command base, and I watched this movie (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb). Little did I know my future would not be so funny, although I confess, I did my best to make it so.
Look both ways and take a side.
Mind the gaps between the wars and push for peace.
Morality is not a spectator sport.
These four clips from he movie are short.