Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
E-Mail: Enter 'Beacon' in subject box. Send to: Minnekota@Referencedesk.org
I am a Cold Warrior. At the time I served, there was not much hot combat taking place, except within some U.S. military installations. At that time, some hard-line segregationists were still in great discomfort about the desegregation of the U.S. military. They often got violent. I was a guided missile crewman in Germany.
The most dangerous thing we confronted directly was a second lieutenant who came strutting into the launching area, swagger stick tucked under his arm, puffing a cigar while he purported to be inspecting the area. The missile boosters were fueled by solidified nitro-glycerin. Master Sergeant Jack Bradley spotted the lieutenant and shouted, "Someone get that mother-f***cking idiot away from here. " A private ran up to the 2nd Lt., snatched away his cigar, and ran off to deposit it in a sand-filled butt can in the only area where smoking was permitted. It took a few days for the lieutenant to realize that Sgt. Bradley's words were directed at him, but by the time he went to the battery commander about a court martial for insubordination and disrespect to a superior officer, the missile crewmen had filed a "hazardous incident" report which made liberal mention of the lieutenant's pompous foolery. He was soon transferred.
The jobs of Cold Warriors, most of whom, like me, were draftees, were assembling missiles with their guidance units and warheads and keeping them operational. The surveillance of potential targets was constant. Every four days, unless there was a heightened state of alert, each battery was on 5-minute alert, which meant everyone was on the equipment and it was ready to fire so that the warhead would reach its target in five minutes from the initial alert. This alert status lasted 24 hours. Subsequent 24-hour periods involved us in 15-minute alerts, and 1-hour alerts, and then a fourth period when the battery shut down and did the maintenance and fine-tuning of the system. We spent a lot of time looking at lights and meters and scopes on consoles and talking over headsets.
That was our primary job. But the Cold War was fought on another front. I often comment that what really brought the Iron Curtain down was Levi jeans, jazz, rock and roll, and the fact that America existed. By the time I was in Germany, the occupation was over and our troops were part of NATO forces. However, it was made very clear to us that we were under scrutiny by all of Europe and every thing we did made a difference in the Cold War. Most of the men in the missile batteries had been to college. Most of our parents were lucky to have graduated from the eighth grade. Europeans, who still lived in rigid class systems, were envious of the levels of freedoms and opportunities open to us.
When on pass in the villages and towns, the people made attempts to befriend us. Many of these people were just German citizens getting reconciled to Americans, but many were foreign agents from countries both hostile and friendly. About half of the men from the missile outfit could speak German passably. We were not required to do so, but we were constantly harrangued about maintaining a friendly and circumspect presence. We were escorts for German students who wanted to come on post and see American movies in an old barracks that some of us reclaimed for the purpose. During holidays, we visited orphanages to bring toys and play with children who had GIs for fathers and mothers too disgraced to keep the children.
Perhaps, the most menacing thing we encountered during our times on pass were the representatives of a growing Marxist group around Karlsruhe. When they weren't trying to question us about missiles and such, they were engaging in hostile actions, like running over the feet of a GI with a motorcylce when he was about to cross a street. But for the most part, the GIs were on their best behavior and showed the people an aspect of America that grew into a tremendous dissatisfaction with Communism and any form of dictatorship.
There is currently a resurgence in socialism and Communism, and very noticeably in our hemisphere. Venezuela and Bolivia have elected Marxist presidents. Other countries, such as Chile, are swinging far to the left. But what is most troubling is that what drives these movements and unites them is anti-Americanism. To them, America represents big corporations who exist only to exploit their countries and their poor, it represents a super power that wages war on false pretexts and snubs their regimes. Mexico may well fall into the anti-American category in its next election if Vincente Fox's likely opponent wins. He is running on an anti-American platform.
When people vote, they sometimes do not vote for what seems like the obvious democratic choice to us. Palestine swept Hamas into power with a landslide. Some of the more cerebral blogs are suggesting that this signals the likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons within the next decade.
Americans voted for George Bush. The anti-Americanism has increased greatly during his presidency because he presents us as a threat and an enemy to other people in the world. In South Dakota, John Thune won an election with one of most dishonest and malicious campaigns in contemporary American history. That campaign brands him as someone of the low moral and intellectual character that disables him from representing many of us. But the people voted for him.
The way we vote sends a signal to the rest of the world. We have signaled that we are the major threat to many parts of the world. We wonder how many voters understand that.
It may not make much difference. The war we are in is expanding and it is not a cold war. We do not have one major enemy concentrated behind an Iron Curtain. We have a renewal of the Crusades against us and we are the infidels who must be exterminated. But we also have former friends and neighbors who see us as betrayers and are turning back to communism and socialism to protect them from has happened in America.
And the Homeland Security Dept. is ordering only 100,000 doses of medication to treat nuclear illness. This is what we voted for.