As a child growing up in the late 1950's and early 1960's this period was one of the happiest and scariest times of my life. I can't remember exactly when I became conscious of the threat of nuclear war but I just remember holding my ears whenever the grown-ups would talk about it. Starting in the late 1950's I can remember duck and cover drills. Sometimes we would do them out on the playground or inside our class rooms. Then there were the movies like On The Beach, Fail Safe and Dr.Strangelove. Or: How I learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. I never grew to love the bomb but I did learn to stop worrying. That would come years later when I was stationed at NORAD.
My grandparents lived behind Eastland Baptist Church and there was one of those yellow Civil Defense air raid sirens on top of the building that you would see on the roof tops all over Nashville. They would usually test it once a week at noon. If I was doing something when it went off, and had lost track of the time, my heart would stop until I realized it was just a test. Then in the early 1960's the war rhetoric between the the Soviet Union and the United States intensified to the point that the Kennedy administration began encouraging citizens to build fallout shelters. Fallout shelter contractors would advertise various types of shelters. My best friend's parents built one in their basement. One day my dad and I started digging one in our backyard. His plan was to save money by digging the hole and then have a contractor finish the work but it never happened. We ended up with a big hole in our back yard that we eventually had fill in. I always wondered what would happen in the event of a war. Would the neighbors with shelters allow us in or lock us out? The thought wasn't pleasant to contemplate.
|Civil Defense siren of the 1960's|
I will never forget the look on my fathers face the night that he learned about the Cuban missile crisis. Not until years later did I learn how close that we came to nuclear war. We went to a DEFCON 2. This mean't Defense Condition 2 or as we called it in the Air Force, (Cocked Pistol). DEFCON 5 was normal status and DEFCON 1 was war. When I was in the Air Force at Kingsley Field Oregon I had just gotten home from a midnight shift when I got a call to return to base. We were on actual alert status when I arrived.and at DEFCON 3. This was a worldwide alert and we were never told the reason. There were twenty aircraft and all of them were supposed to be uploaded with tactical nukes by midnight. This alert lasted about ten days straight and we were on twelve hour shifts. To this day I don't know what this alert was about.
|Kennedy's fallout shelter in Palm Beach Florida|
The Cuban Missile crisis from a military standpoint occurred in a similar fashion from what I have gathered from talking to veterans over the years. They were not told anything but were all loaded on aircraft and transported to bases in Florida. In the end the Soviet Union backed down because America had a 16 to 1 nuclear superiority. The American's also negotiated a secret deal to remove American missiles from Turkey. We didn't know it at the time but the Soviets had tactical nukes and they were under the control of Russian generals. Khrushschev was terrified that one of these generals would use the nukes if the American army invaded which would make war inevitable. After this crisis I was never again as scared as I was in the years prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis. The baby boom generation has been the most blessed generation that America has ever produced. I don't think that there will ever be another generation that has had the blessings and opportunities that we have had. But the Cold War was a tense time in American history that I never want my children or grandchildren ever to have to experience. The fear of nuclear annihilation My biggest fear today is that the policies of Obama and other liberal politicians will produce dangers for my children and grandchildren that will make the Cold War look like child's play.