Resident reflects on nuclear threats

Recently, I was surfing the channels for something of interest and ran across the meeting of the United Nations with the prime minister of Israel speaking.  He was concerned with the progress Iran is making in their effort to build a nuclear weapon, and rightly so. The president of Iran has publicly spoken of his intent to wipe Israel off the map, stating that Israel has no right to exist.

As he continued his speech, he gave a very simple, yet very effective, presentation on the process of developing a nuclear weapon. Using a simple chalkboard, he drew a shape similar to a gallon jug of milk.  On the front of the jug, he placed three lines to represent the stages of development for a nuclear weapon. At the neck of the jug, he drew a red line and explained that line represented near completion of a nuclear weapon. The final stage is when they can develop enriched uranium.

What should Israel do? This was his appeal to the United Nations as to guidance and how to handle this crisis. If Iran reaches the red line, there is not much time to take defensive action and prepare for the worst.

This brought back memories of my time in the Strategic Air Command during the early to mid-1950s. After completing my training, I was assigned to a B-36 bomber crew as an ECM (electronic countermeasures) specialist.  At that time, the B-36 was the largest warplane ever built and still holds that distinction, with a 240-foot wingspan, and length of 162 feet.

Appropriately named the Peacemaker, our mission was to be prepared at all times to counter communist aggression.

Our missions were varied, and we dealt with a variety of issues from time to time. On one particular mission, we had completed the run-up of all 10 engines, six reciprocating engines and four jets. We made our final turn to line up on the runway, the brakes are locked, and all engines are set to 100 percent power and the breaks released.

This is quite a surge of power. Once in the air and having retracted the landing gear, one crewmember from the front cabin and one crewmember from the rear cabin enter the bomb bay area with high-powered searchlights to check for any problems. The particular concern is with possible hydraulic leaks or gas fumes.

Although this was not my standard duty, I did from time to time relieve one of the regular crewmembers. When I opened the hatch to enter the bomb bay, I was confronted with a huge bomb! I knew that SAC often had planes carrying nuclear weapons, but we were never told in advance whether we would or would not be armed with a nuclear weapon. This is the type information that should not be made public. The bomb was about 25 feet long and 6 feet tall.

I later learned that this particular weapon was about 20 times more powerful than the ones that had been dropped on Japan. None of the crew in our compartment had any knowledge that this weapon had been loaded onto the plane. No one ever spoke much about this, if so it was done quietly.

As the mission continued, the crew settled into its routine responsibilities. At this point, we did not know the exact nature of this particular mission. Obviously, the aircraft commander, flight engineers and radar observer knew where we were headed.

Hours into the flight we heard the radar navigator announce “we are approaching the IP, and I will take over the steering.” The IP is the initial point on a bomb run and allows the radar navigator to line up the plane for the final run to the target. Several minutes later, the aircraft commander gave the command to put up the curtains. After a few more minutes came the command “bomb doors open.”

Finally, we heard we were approaching Denver. We were at high altitude and the next sequence of commands was “bomb away.” The aircraft made a sharp left turn, followed by the announcement of a direct hit. The thought that came to my mind was Denver is gone! Fortunately, this was practice, but there has always been a red line.  I can understand the genuine concern of the prime minister of Israel and the safety of his people. Civilization could not survive a nuclear war.

– Richard Lynch, Charlotte

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