William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Sunday, 6, March, 2011

Fifteen Minutes

Filed under: Books — williamthecoroner @ 22:05

I just finished L. Douglas Keeney’s Fifteen Minutes General Curtis LeMay and the Countdown to Nuclear Anhiliation. While it was not a particularly restful book, it was fascinating. Keeney inter-weaves several story lines, and the one about the huge “Texas Towers”, the radar early warning stations built on oil-rig platforms I think detracted from the overall story. However, it did emphasize the fact that the cold war was not without casualties-Tower 4 collapsed with the loss of all hands, and reconnaissance flights were also shot down and crews were lost.

I knew that SAC flew missions that had airplanes constantly in the air with armed nuclear weapons. I knew that two had been lost near Palomares, Spain after a mid-air with a tanker, but I did not know about the other three that were also lost. SAC war planners developed plans for many, many targets in the Soviet Union, and some cities would be hit with four thermonuclear weapons.

More worrisome was learning that the first Soviet strike was thought to occur when megaton bombs went off in the diplomatic missions to the UN and the Soviet Embassy in Washington DC. The contingencies for that involved a missile response on a dead man switch. Between this knowledge and the projected casualty figures (50-75 million Americans) you really begin to understand why the Cold War was called the “Age of Anxiety.”



  1. Thanks for posting this, I’ve been looking for that book… Having ‘participated’ in a good bit that stuff, I wonder how much made it into that book.

    Comment by Old NFO — Monday, 7, March, 2011 @ 20:49 | Reply

  2. Interesting recomendation. I Kindled it last night, and at the half way point, I must say I’m not impressed. Factual errors noticed in every chapter, some major, some minor. He fails (again, I’m only half way, so that may change)to note or explain the two major weapons labs, and what competing infuences they have. He is ignorant of the history and methods of decontamination, and health physics in general. He ascribes the same attitude to both enlisted crewmen and those in charge. He fails to mention that the first pacific test series was canceled due to health physics concerned (it was supposed to be a three shot series). The author shows no understanding of the difference between radiation dose and dose rate (a 30R dose rate does not give you ten times the allowed 3R exposure…unless you are around it for an hour).

    The author apparently has little experience in physical labor. He makes much of a tech having his “whole arm” inside a weapons casing, with his head against the weapon. Amazingly enough, technicians are on/in/around all manner of unusual and dangerous equipment every day.

    It is an interesting book, but even on a casual reading not very well done. I’d say good to read, but not one to buy and keep on your shelf.

    Oh, and Guam is not a foriegn country.

    Glen in Texas

    Comment by Glen — Tuesday, 8, March, 2011 @ 06:56 | Reply

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