Thursday, May 13, 2010

Growing Up with Nuclear War Fears Part One: The Home Show


Part One: The Home Show


I have lived in fear of nuclear holocaust my entire life.

When I was six years old, in 1956, my parents took me to a “home show,” which is one of those convention center kinds of affairs where all things new and fantastic, for the modern home, are demonstrated and sold. There was a family sized fallout shelter on display there that we took a salesman’s demonstration tour of. It was a cement block, above ground model of an underground bunker that was smaller inside than my bedroom. It had a little hand crank air intake filter that I thought was really neat. There were suggested supplies, in there, that should be stored in one, like board games, books, food and water.

I was a modest child, I saw that there was no place to pee and poop in private, so I asked the salesman about that. He said that you would have to use a bucket to pee in and have a small, lidded barrel to pour it into, and that you had to take a dump in the corner.

I blurted out, “Right in front of everybody!?”

My father laughed and asked the salesman, “Yeah, well then what do you do with it.”

The salesman showed us a tin container of chemicals that would cut down on the - offensive to humans but attractive to flies - fragrance from the feces and help to decompose that solid human waste.

That created a fearful, indelible impression upon my maturing young psyche.

During my elementary school days, we had monthly air raid drills in school. The first few years, we students had to craw up into a ball under our desks. That was the best protection if bombs and roofs began falling down all around you.

Then a new directive came down through guv'ment channels. This is what we children of the 1950s were taught:

The United States Government had realized that it wouldn’t be plane loads of traditional bombs that our enemies would drop on us anymore; it would be one, modern, muti-megaton nuclear bomb per wide geographic area. There would be no danger of multiples of bombs falling and crashing in school roofs down upon students and teachers any more. If a nuclear bomb fell in our area, it would be a giant horizontal shock wave blast with super heated gasses that got us. So instead of hiding under desks during monthly air raid drills, we went out into the hallway to "duck and cover."

If a nuclear bomb detonated real close to us, then we all instantly fried and died - in a mighty, mighty intense flash - right there sitting in our schoolroom seats. There would not be enough time to run out into the hallway to duck and cover.

If the nuke detonated far enough away, and we kids had time to run out into the hallway to duck and cover, the bomb blast's horrific shock wave would blow in all of the windows on the side of the building that the blast came from, pass over and around the school, and then deadly shattering glass of the windows on the other side of the building would blast back into the schoolrooms when the shock wave came back through on its return trip that is caused by a vacuum effect sucking it back towards the point of where the nuclear bomb detonated.

If we schoolkids survived that by being out in the hallway, we had to head for the basement, where fallout shelter supplies were stored. There are still fallout shelter signs on the elementary school building where I attended first through sixth grade.

We were all taught the new air raid response technique and the reasons for it in a school assembly one day. After that, during air raid drills, everyone went out into the hallway to duck and cover.

Eventually, schools stopped having air raid drills; people figured out that it was useless to try to survive a nuclear blast, due to the deadly nuclear contamination of everything and everyone anywhere near the where the blast had occurred. Everyone was probably going to be dead within two weeks, anyway.

Copyright 2010 David Robert Crews {a.k.a. ursusdave}

Growing Up with Nuclear War Fears Part Two: Better Dead Than Red


Part Two: Better Dead Than Red


I have been prepared to defend my country, my family and every American’s freedom ever since I got a grasp on what it all meant.

That was way back when I was in elementary school.

The Cuban Missile Crisis, of October 1962, occurred while I was twelve years of age and in the sixth grade in elementary school.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, I remember very clearly watching my father watch TV way more intensely than ever before. It was in the olden days, before TV remote controls were popular. So when my dad was changing the station dial on the TV, to choose which show to watch, he often sat on a foot stool right there in front of the TV. But, during the terrifying Cuban Missile Crisis, he stayed there sitting on that stool instead of getting up and going to sit on the sofa and watch the TV show, that he had chosen to watch, as was his normal habit. He sat there all zeroed in on the TV like a cat watching a mouse hole.

He wouldn’t move.

It got weird to me, so I asked my Dad what all that stuff on TV about the underwater missiles being pointed at us and the Communist Cubans and Russians and Khrushchev vs. Kennedy really meant. I had always known that for my entire twelve years on earth we had had Communist Nuclear Missiles pointed at us every split-second of the day, from somewhere; so I was wondering what was so important about these new missiles being found only ninety miles from the southern shores of America.

My Father turned on his stool, looked me square in my eyes, his face never before and never again had such a soul draining seriousness about it, and he said to me, “It means that we may be going to war.”

Dad knew that it wasn’t going to be like World War Two, when he had spent so many harrowing moments, months and years at sea fighting in the US Navy, over in the South Pacific. This new kind of 1962 war was comin’ right there to him on that stool he was sitting on, with his family all around him, in the form of nuclear fire and brimstone raining down hell on earth.

When I was attending elementary school - Merritt Elementary School in Dundalk, Maryland - I had a male sixth grade teacher who was a twenty-six year old, recently discharged Air Force Veteran. He was the first male classroom teacher that we had ever had in my school. He had done his four years of college, then four years in the Boy Scouts, I mean Air Force (sorry, accidental slip on inter-service rivalry from an old soldier), then he came to teach at our elementary school. We children in the class liked the teacher a lot.

Sometime shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis ended, one day during class, in the sixth grade, our male teacher gave us a lecture on capitalism vs. communism.

He went up to the black board and started writing:

Capitalism vs. Communism

Better Dead Than Red (this is still my favorite)

It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees. (I have always admired this sentiment)

Kill or be Killed (then as now, you betcha)

Meat Eaters vs. Rice Eaters (I fell for this one)

And maybe a few others, that I can’t remember.

I don’t know if he had been lectured on or brain washed with this subject in the Air Force, or else he had been enamored with the ideals when once spealled out during a lecture, when he had heard it in the military or somewhere, or it had come from his favorite American capitalistic propaganda pamphlet.

When my classmates and I had been about three years younger, we had had that air raid drill change of tactics school assembly, when American schools changed from practicing reacting to the threat of conventional bombs being dropped on them to the threat of one humongously powerful nuclear bomb being dropped near them.

Then we had three more years of worsening nuclear fears, as we read more about nuke warfare in magazines and newspapers and also saw TV news stories about America’s nuclear war race with Russia and China.

When that male teacher started in on that capitalism vs. commie-ism lecture, we were ready to listen to that man. We students sat straight up in our chairs, then sat still, silent and serious the entire time he spoke to us.

Most of the capitalism vs. commie-ism lecture points, that the teacher spoke of that day, have fairly well stood the test of time. He had read the entire English language version of the Russian Commie Hand Book On How To Overthrow Capitalist Governments, and he pulled his copy of it out and showed us some of the written propaganda that is in it. He declared that it was all commie crap, and, basically, it was. I think? I don’t know. Was it a true translation of an actual Russian Commie pamphlet?

Even back then, I suspected that it may not have been a true translation or even a genuine copy of commie crap. It was written in the forceful style of all hard core propaganda that was a natural turn off to me back then and makes me laugh today.

I remember him showing us one page in it that had instructions for commie infiltrators and agitators. It instructed them to lie, cheat, steal, murder, commit acts of sabotage, disrupt the economy anyway that they could and do what ever else that they had to do to destroy capitalism in America and forcibly install a communist government on us here. Considering all that I have learned in my adult life about communist societies, that book definitely had some realistic facts in it. Not only are communist governing tactics miserable to have imposed on you, the gross national products of communist countries are dismal failures.

There was a part in the commie hand book that said that the best way to have a top notch nation is:

“From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs. If one person drives a garbage truck, and another person is a doctor, as long as they both do their jobs the best that they can, then they each deserve the same rate of pay and to live in the same kind of houses.”

But the teacher said that life doesn’t work very well that way.

As a kid, that was confusing, because I thought that that meant that if everyone worked hard and shared everything equally, like we were taught to do all through elementary school, then the whole world would get along just peachy keen.

Oh my goodness!

That shows the juvenile truth about communism!

Well dog my cats!

You are a capitalist like me. You know that we humans need to be inspired by our food-clothing-shelter basic needs plus a desire to better ourselves and live finer lives, with our loved ones, in order for us to have the inner drive to be able to establish and maintain a good, safe, secure, prosperous society. That set of facts was in the pro-capitalist section of our teacher’s lecture.

“It’s better to live on your feet or die on your knees” (not according to that old guy in the hotel in Catch 22), and “better dead than red” are debatable ideals, and each has its time and place, but that all laid some heavy thoughts upon the minds of us sixth graders.

Although “kill or be killed” is always right in any situation that absolutely is a kill or be killed situation, it is not something that most twelve year old minds can think through to the point of knowing when to do what to whom.

That “rice eater vs. meat eater” bit in his lecture certainly fell short of its declarations, though.

That teacher assured all of us young Euro-American children, in our little segregated school house, that: we would always win wars against Asians; they are smaller in stature than us, and they live off of a diet that often consists mainly of rice, so therefore they are weaker than us; we are big, muscular, strong, healthy meat eaters; we will always beat little rice eaters in war.

That sure as hell ain’t so! Ask any Nam Vet. Before their first one year tour in Vietnam was over, many of them were calling that little lifetime rice eater called Charlie Cong: Mr. Charles or Sir Charles.

All in all though, on that day in 1962, my sixth grade teacher effectively instilled in me an already growing firm conviction to kill commies for American Mommies, until I was fed to the worms.

Copyright 2010 David Robert Crews {a.k.a. ursusdave}

Growing Up with Nuclear War Fears Part Three: The Blue Room


Part Three: The Blue Room


From as far back as I can recall - in my near-60-years of living on God's Good Earth - I have been aware of the hard, cold, brutal fact that communist controlled missiles are pointed at me anywhere I may be in the United States of America. Though the Cold War of American freedom loving countries verses freedom mangling communist countries has been declared to be over, there are still communist and other missiles that have their guidance systems programed to strike targets all over the USA.

When I was in the eighth grade, during 1963-64, at Dundalk Junior High School in Baltimore County Maryland, one of our teachers took our one class on a field trip to "The Blue Room" in Fort Meade, Maryland - where her husband was a captain in the US Army. He served as officer in charge of The Blue Room. It was a pleasantly lit room with all blue lights, no white lights, lots of radar screens with Army operators steadily watching them, and a clear, thick glass wall with a soldier on the other side very quickly and deftly - quite amazingly - writing backwards on his side of the glass - words which were frontwards on our side - then very quickly erasing some of the words and then deftly writing some more stuff backwards that we could all read frontwards from where we were standing.

First, it was explained to us schoolkids that blue lights are the easiest artificial light on the eyes and that is best for the army guys spending long hours everyday carefully watching the radar screens. Those soldiers were keeping track of the radar blips of every airplane flying in the Baltimore Washington flight corridor.

Then we were told about the guy writing backwards. It was then that we noticed several soldiers seated behind the backwards-writing soldier and the seated soldiers were talking on telephones. The captain said that the guys on the phones were talking to air traffic controllers at (what was then) Friendship Airport. The air traffic controllers were steadily telling the men on the phones the flight numbers and other pertinent info of planes that the air traffic controllers were in contact with. The men on the phones were telling the man writing backwards what the info was, so that he could write it on the glass wall for the radar operators on the other side of the clear wall to see and compare with what they saw as blips on their radar screens. Hence, any flying plane not double checked like that would be considered to be possible enemy aircraft sneaking around up there either spying on or ready to attack Americans.

It was right about then that I noticed right next to the closest radar operator man's hand there was a four inch wide, red, translucent, plastic, double hinged, safety cover over top of a three inch wide, solid black plastic button
that had FIRE written in white on it. It was obvious that all the radar operator had to do was to move his hand a few short inches, flip that double hinged red, translucent, plastic, safety cover off of the top of that black plastic button with FIRE written in white on it and he could push the FIRE button down with the heel of his hand and shoot a missile up into the air. It was obvious, but I was so stunned at seeing it - THEE! BUTTON! (one that could begin a war) - there so readily accessible (I could have reached over and very easily had FIRED the missile me-own-young-self) that I blurted out, "You can push down on that button right now and shoot off a missile!?!?!"

The radar guy sitting there in a chair at the radar screen looked up into my quite animate, adolescent face, he smiled rather sheepishly, and with an ever-so-slight nod of his young-American-man's head and in a restrained, mild voice he said, "Yes."

I knew right then and there that he did not want to ever have to flip that red safety button off and push down on that black FIRE button. Everyone in that room was feeling the exact, precise, same train of thought as the young soldier by THE BUTTON.

Then the captain told us young, adolescent, eighth graders something that I could never forget. He told us that the missiles controlled by THE BUTTONS in the Blue Room were all located in hidden, buried underground missile bunkers all over Maryland. The captain said that at that very minute a farmer may be may be riding on his tractor, whilst plowing his farm field that is located over top of one of those buried bunkers, and if the missile in it had to be fired then the two feet or so of topsoil on top of the bunker would begin to quake and shake and slide off the bunker doors as the thick, heavy, steel, bomb blast proof doors spread open upwards and flipped the farmer and his tractor off to the side as the missile raised up and shot off into the wild blue yonder - at enemy aircraft that wasn't crafty enough to fool our radar systems and the dedicated soldier radar operators.

But that is not the most unforgettable aspect of the day.

The most unforgettable information we junior high school kids were given privy to, that afternoon in Ft. Meade, was that the US Army had missiles pointed at Fort Holabird in my great American hometown of Dundalk, Md. and some where also pointed at the Bethlehem Steel Mills in Sparrows Point, Md. a few easy miles from Dundalk and where I went several times a month during my entire growing up years, because my grandparents lived in the small American mill town there and my family went to church in that wonderful, family friendly mill town named Sparrows Point.

On that 1963-64 day in Ft. Meade's Blue Room, we junior high school children from Dundalk, Maryland were hit with the brutal realization that we not only lived 'under the gun' of commie-rat missiles - as we had always known - we lived with the very real possibility that American missiles would one final day wipe us and our families, friends and neighbors right off the face of the earth.

I accepted then, and still do, as completely reasonable and sensible why our own missiles had been pointed at me and mine during the entire time that I was growing up in Dundalk and Sparrows Point.

Fort Holabird contained the - top secretive and also positively pertinent to America's well being - U.S. Army Intelligence School. Bethlehem Steel was known for producing war armaments for America and our allies. If the United States' enemies were to set off one of the newest modern war terrors - The Neutron Bomb - over the Dundalk and Sparrows Point areas - the effects of a Neutron Bomb is to kill all life below its detonation area but not break a single twig on a tree - the enemy would capture Ft. Holabird and Beth Steel intact. They'd only have to conquer a small section of the East Coast of the USA in and around Maryland at first, then get the intel files, fact books, spy equipment and other Top Secret stuff from Holabird to know a whole lot more about how to conquer the rest of the United States, along with the entire world; in-depth intel files on America's friends as well as our enemies were maintained and stored at Fort Holabird; and the enemy would also have been able to produce fresh armaments made at Beth Steel to do the rest of the conquering with.

The enemy could not be allowed to capture Fort Holabird and the Bethlehem Steel Mills. I preferred, and still do prefer, death over the losses of such supremely valuable assets to my enemies.

Fug it. When ya gotta go, ya gotta go.

Copyright 2010 David Robert Crews {a.k.a. ursusdave}