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.”