Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

A history of near hit nukes

Wick's World


Looking back to the 1950s, what our government was telling us about atomic bombs almost seems laughable. The downplaying of Japanese casualties is not the laughable part. It was the instructions to the American people (read propaganda) that were fanatical. Families in America were told they needed to build a bomb shelter in their home so they would be safe from nuclear war. My parents spoke about this and decided against it, willing to take their chances like most of Americans. I recall very few bomb shelters ever built, at least not in our small town.

At school, we were instructed to bend over, crawl under a desk and tuck your head under your arms. We were told that after a few minutes, there would be a minimal amount of radiation in the air and we could then go outside and help fight fires, etc. We know today none of this was true. While researching the history of nuclear devices, I surprisingly discovered there is much more to this story besides Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Although no major cities have been destroyed since the end of World War II, the United States, the Soviet Union and China have politically used the threat of dropping the bomb. For America, this has not been a partisan issue. In 1950, Democratic President Harry S. Truman threatened to use nuclear weapons in Korea. A full year before the nuclear scare from the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy threatened China with the nuclear option if they were to interfere with an American invasion in Laos (which never happened). General Westmoreland, while serving under Democratic President Lyndon Baines Johnson, pushed for the idea of nuking Vietnam.

On the Republican side, in 1958 President Dwight David Eisenhower had a plan to use nuclear weapons against China if it tried to occupy some islands off its coast. Shortly after President Richard Milhous Nixon took office, he began posturing with China and the Soviet Union that he was prepared to nuke Hanoi and the Ho Chi Min Trail.

President Ronald Wilson Reagan had the mindset that our country was on the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. He believed, rather terrifyingly, that America was playing out Biblical prophecy and that Armageddon was at hand. Following nuclear destruction, Jesus would then come down from heaven and return to earth. Lord, help us all. What an upside down world we have endured and it seems to be continuing to this day.

Following Gulf War One, General Norman Schwarzkopf revealed to a Senate committee that we were prepared to nuke Iraq if it used chemical weapons. The United States is far from being the only country threatening nuclear warfare. Even in the seemingly small Falklands War of 1982, Great Britain considered firing nuclear missiles at Argentina.

Not only have there been threats of “dropping the bomb,” several bombs have been dropped accidently. In 1966, an Air Force bomber crashed with a fuel plane in mid-air and dropped three hydrogen bombs near a village in the south of Spain. Luckily, built-in safety devices saved the bottom half of that country from destruction. It wasn’t until 1981 that the Air Force finally admitted it had accidently dropped a hydrogen bomb that had 625 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. It landed near Albuquerque, New Mexico, and created a 12-foot deep crater that was 25-feet across. Fortunately, the nuclear part did not explode or HBO would have had to find a different city for their highly acclaimed television series “Breaking Bad.”

There have also been several incidents of false alarms indicating imminent nuclear attack. Malfunctions were often the culprit, such as the NORAD computer that indicated the United States was under attack by Soviet nuclear submarines. An investigation that followed showed 151 computer errors at NORAD in an 18-month period alone.

Even weather in space has the ability to interfere with relations on Earth. In 1983, solar storms set off an early-warning satellite that falsely told the Soviet Union it was under a massive nuclear attack by the United States.

Feeling nervous? Maybe you will feel safer if you heed this advice from a Department of Energy official named David Miller. (In case of nuclear attack) “All you have to do is go down to the bottom of your swimming pool and hold your breath.”

Although attitudes such as President Reagan’s biblical prophecy of a nuclear Armageddon make me very nervous, I certainly appreciate his humorous bent toward world behavior. He once did a sound check that preceded a live radio show aimed at the American public with this quip. “My fellow Americans. I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation that outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five minutes.”

Why did I give you all the American presidents full middle names and only used "S." for Harry S. Truman? His parents wanted to please both of his grandfathers so they simply used "S." for Solomon Young and Andrew Shipp Truman.


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