China: A Morphogenetic Creation

[Author’s Note: A special word of thanks is due John Malch and the Webmaster at the Full-Spectrum-Dominance docking site for forcing the questions that needed asking.]

For 2,000 and more years China lived under imperial rule.  China’s silk, tea and the sciences

The Qing Dynasty ruled China from 1644 to 1911. (Source: Shutterstock / Hung Chung Chih )

The Qing Dynasty ruled China from 1644 to 1911. (Source: Shutterstock / Hung Chung Chih )

brought home to Europe by Western explorers donated fuel to restart the engine of Western civilization after the dark ages.  Thanks to China’s development of the compass, gunpowder, paper making, and printing,[1] we in the West  have been able to find ‘the war’, wage it, record it and get the word out to everyone else about how well it all went.  Like any other large central government, Chinese imperial rule bred massive corruption, a military turned inward on the people, a nanny-state to keep the citizenry predictable and rebels easily identifiable, and the required surveillance to calm the state’s paranoia.  And then, in 1912, the 2,000 years of imperial rule was over; ousted by a few insiders that liked the ring of the word ‘republic’.


The three-year old Pu-Yi, Emperor of China (standing); his father, Prince Chun, and his younger brother.

The three-year old Pu-Yi, Emperor of China (standing); his father, Prince Chun, and his younger brother.

The embryo of the Chinese republic was an interesting hybrid.  As the cells of the new body politic came alive, “the embryological processes of differentiation of cells, tissues, and organs and the development of organ systems according to the genetic “blueprint” of the potential organism and environmental conditions”[2] began to unfold; the morphogenetic creation that is China today was underway.  China’s imperial rule ended bathed in corruption rather than blood.  The Qing/Manchu Dynasty’s Aisin-Gioro PuYi, China’s last emperor, abdicated the Dragon Throne by proxy; the Empress Dowager Longyu, the mother who adopted him, signed the paperwork.

The Set-Up

China was up to its imperial neck in debt when the toddler, PuYi, assumed the Dragon Throne in 1908.  Foreign entanglements, particularly with Britain, had “humbled the Qing in

Sun Yat-sen (seated, second from left) and his revolutionary friends, the Four Bandits, including Yeung Hok-ling (left), Chan Siu-bak (seated, second from right), Yau Lit (right), and Guan Jingliang (關景良) (standing) at the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese.

Sun Yat-sen (seated, second from left) and his revolutionary friends, the Four Bandits, including Yeung Hok-ling (left), Chan Siu-bak (seated, second from right), Yau Lit (right), and Guan Jingliang (關景良) (standing) at the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese.

battle, carved out rich territories and extracted huge payments”[3]. The imperial goods were pawned for state income because income from other sources had slowed to a trickle. Provinces separated from the empire, citizens revolted and demanded a republic.  The revolutionaries were rewarded on October 10, 1911 in Nanjing when Sun Yat-sen was installed as the first president of the Republic of China. In a last ditch effort to regain central control, General Yuan Shikai became the court appointed prime minister.  General Yuan Shikai wasn’t overly attached to the idea of a republic but he did want the Qing dynasty gone by whatever means necessary.

General Yuan Shikai (1859-1916)

General Yuan Shikai (1859-1916)

Shikai made an offer the imperial family could not refuse.  When faced with beheading, Empress Dowager Longyu, Prince Yikuang, and the Empress Dowager’s head eunuch, Xiao Dezheng each took over $1.6 billion in silver to the bank.  The rest of the royal court was given the leave-or-lose-your-head option only.  PuYi left the Forbidden City, and as he grew into manhood ruled a Japanese controlled corner of North East China briefly.  Later, Chairman Mao allowed PuYi to work in the Botanical Gardens until his death in 1967, from complications of kidney cancer and heart disease.  We know this history through Jia Yinghua’s, The Extraordinary Life of the Last Emperor.[4]  An historian and former government official, Yinghua, compiled the fascinating history of China’s pivot point between imperial rule and a republic from the secret archives at Zhongnanhai, the Chinese leadership compound, and from interviews with relatives of the imperial courtiers. Continue reading

The Foreign Policy and FUBAR Correlation

News Year’s Eve has found its way to Arizona’s outback and, although I haven’t checked,FE_121025_globe425x283 probably to the rest of the world this side of the International Dateline.  While the celebrations wind-up, my thoughts turn to the legacy of the Cold War and what we may have learned.  A likely candidate for consideration is the U.S.’s foreign policy and the accompanying foreign relations.  I love the rich, stand-up comedy fodder the subject offers until thoughts of the millions of affected people sober the tone.  The Cold War became the test bed for ‘new’ foreign policy trials. As newly deployed policies failed and yielded to military adventures, the federal government ‘doubled-down’ rather than admit an error.  As bad foreign policy and relations are implemented they come back to haunt ordinary U.S. citizens and the citizenry is being engulfed by its own government’s fear and paranoia; FUBAR.


This post will discuss wars and some of the dumb decisions (in my opinion) that were made by policy makers who did not have the moral backbones to stand up and take the heat.  It is not about the honor and integrity of American soldiers, who fought; many of whom died or were wounded physically or emotionally.  I am grateful to you for your service. It is also not about the millions of civilians who were carried by the tide of policy into harm’s way.  And it is not about the policy decisions currently in the public debating forums.  The post is about the past that brought us to where we are today.

The Greek army opening fire on guerrilla troops during the Greek Civil War.

The Greek army opening fire on guerrilla troops during the Greek Civil War.

In Greece, the U.S. threw its policy weight and money at the Greek Civil War with the passage of The Truman Doctrine in 1946 by the Republican Congress.  Oops, the Soviet Union had already refused to assist the Greek Communists in the struggle so the Civil War was just that.  The Truman Doctrine set the tone of American interference in other countries’ business going forward, though.

The Marshall Plan in 1947 seems to have worked out well for everyone concerned, although Asia, without a ‘Marshall Plan’, did even better and faster.

The battle over Berlin took a hard turn straight into crisis on June 23, 1948 when the U.S. and

Berlin Partition

Berlin Partition

its allies, England and France, talked about forming a federation with their three slices of the Berlin pie.  The allied discussions spooked the Soviet Union so they closed the Berlin border to allied vehicle and rail traffic.  The confrontation over the closures was passive/aggressive; the Berlin airlift response kept Berlin provisioned-just barely.  The airlift was sufficient, however, for the Soviets to assess the will and capacity of the allies and they came to the table after seven months. The result was years and years of tension over the East-West German borders. Millions of American soldiers’ rite of passage to man and womanhood occurred under the constant, unrelenting threat of World War III at the German border as they stared into the eyes of their counterparts under the same pressure.

Mutually Assured Destruction

Mutually Assured Destruction

The sustained tension at the German border coupled with the assumed military strength of the Soviet Union was the genesis of the nuclear arms race and the Mutually Assured Destruction Doctrine (MADD).  It was the second plank in Eisenhower’s New Look National Security Policy in 1953: “relying on nuclear weapons to deter Communist aggression or, if necessary, to fight a war”.[1]  Both sides geared up and built tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that could be fatefully delivered on any platform.  It also spurred the unanticipated consequence of everybody wanting a nuke.  Now, twenty six nations are capable of exercising the incredible destructive force of the nucleus of an atom.

Let us not forget NATO, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the U.S. sponsored joint military that has grown in both size and strength.  NATO clung to its initial policy of not attacking


NATO Aircraft

unless attacked as long as the Soviet Union was a force to be reckoned with.  On the sidelines, those of us old enough to remember, watched helplessly and in horror as our Western governments let calls for help from East Europeans challenging the Soviet iron fist go unanswered; Czechoslovakia in 1948, Hungary in 1956, the Czechs again in the Prague spring of 1968 and the Poles in the 70’s.  After the Soviet Union fractured and retreated, NATO changed its tune and went aggressive.  NATO beat up feckless Yugoslavia in Kosovo and sent troops into Bosnia and Afghanistan.  The neighborly NATO took U.S. taxpayer money by the wheelbarrow but decided not to replace or augment U.S. troops in Iraq. NATO has also stimulated a new arms race:

“…The treaty between west European nations, inaugurated as a barrier to Soviet aggression, graduated to new prominence in 2011 with establishment of a “free fly” zone for Libyan insurgents, and aerial attacks on Libya. The spread of NATO actions to several continents redefines NATO as an arm of western political and military policies, and replaces the policy of deterrence against a defunct Soviet Union. Coupling that with the anti-missile system the U.S. and NATO allies propose to deploy in Eastern Europe, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appeared on Russian First Channel program Cold Politics (Kholodnaya Politika) and exclaimed that this anti-missile system “is undoubtedly aimed at neutralizing the nuclear rocket capability of Russia.”[2]

Russia has fought back with its recently announced initiative to place nukes along its border to defend itself from NATO.[3]  Game On. Continue reading

Cold War Intrigue: Dateline Germany, 1984

Cold War stories are wonderful. Across the digital expanse the tales are spun from Facebook pages, Web Logs (Blogs), digitally archived libraries and newspapers, Freedom of Information Requests, to electronic books. The story is there in the brick and mortar archives and libraries housing row after row of microfilm, too, but it takes longer to discover the trail. Like a hound on a ham bone, I listen, laugh, and cry with this huge multi-generational congregation of veterans; military and civilian. Be it a military veteran chatting about the triumphs and fears along the East German border or a nuclear cowboy spinning yarns about overcoming all odds in the 1970s to drill a fifty four inch diameter hole 5,875 feet deep to detonate a megaton range nuke in a cavity on Amchitka Island, Alaska, I am riveted. The tales of wonder, fear, triumph, lessons, and reflection are told by the winners; the men and women who made it through some very scary times more or less intact. There are those who did not.

Today, somewhere in Ohio, Jeffrey Carney, struggles to make ends meet by working three menial jobs. Released from prison in 2003 after serving the better part of twelve years of a twenty year

Jeffrey Carney After his release in 2004 (Courtesy of DOE Hanford)

Jeffrey Carney After his release in 2004 (Courtesy of DOE Hanford)

prison gig for espionage, he still doesn’t much like America.[1] Unfortunately, his country of choice, Germany, does not want him so he is stuck in the U.S. with only a cat for company. Growing up, Carney was a bright kid. He loved Germany and German military history and avidly consumed everything he could about the country including the language, which he spoke fluently.

Born in the mid-1960s, Carney grew up during the huge cultural shifts that were unceremoniously and brutally pushing and pulling U.S. society and culture. In 1980, at age 17, Carney enlisted in the Air Force. His flawless German landed him a dream assignment in Berlin at Marienfelde, a listening post cleverly disguised as Tempelhof Central Airport. According to Bill Price, Ex-Airman who also worked there, “…our work site, which was situated on top of a hill on the southern outskirts of the city, in a sub-district of

Marienfelde (Courtesy of Berlin 6912 Org)

Marienfelde (Courtesy of Berlin 6912 Org)

Tempelhof called Marienfelde. Just a short distance from the hill, perhaps a half-mile, was the Berlin Wall. Most of the area was empty fields. A city dump was located nearby, to the east. To the north was a field occupied by a few modern apartment buildings and a flower nursery. All of the surrounding area was flat, and so the site stood out rather prominently in the landscape, and even more so because of the odd-looking towers, domes, and antennae that sprouted from its top.”[2] Carney was assigned to the 6912th Electronic Security Group, which was part of the Electronic Security Command, an organization that belonged directly to Air Force Intelligence. According to a Hanford report, Carney’s ability to ‘hear’ the language and identify individual East German Fighter pilots increased his value to the unit.

Carney’s life began to fall apart on two levels between 1982 and 1983. First he discovered he was gay and second was the scary Able Archer 83 exercise. An August 29, 2003 article in Spiegel Online vividly describes Carney’s conversion:[3]

One night, at the age of 19, after drinking too many pints of beer at an Irish pub, filled with the confused emotions of delayed puberty, he stumbles into a GDR guard post at the Friedrichstraße/Zimmerstraße border crossing. He is prepared to take revenge on America, to do something that will “make so much noise that everyone will finally listen.” He waits for an hour and a half until the Stasi’s professionals arrive. They make a copy of his military ID card; they sense that fate has delivered a golden source into their hands, and their grip begins to tighten. They frighten him. They threaten to kill him if he tries to become a double agent, but they also encourage him. Stasi Major Ralph Dieter Lehmann flatters him by telling him that if there is anyone who can do something important, something for freedom, justice, a better world, then he is the right man in the right place. He tells Carney that he too can become a “soldier at the invisible front,” one of the few who can truly make a difference. And Carney, a boy with ambitions, is more than willing. From then on, the “Source Kid” furnishes a flood of information to the Stasi’s “Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung” (Principal Intelligence Division, or HVA). He is as unsuspicious and uninhibited as a child. Instead of photocopies, he provides the Stasi’s Department XI, which is responsible for espionage activities against the United States, with numbered originals, including documents “of maximum value,” according to a top-level Stasi report written in March 1987. And he is acknowledged for his efforts: “The appropriate recognition has been issued by Army General Chebrikov of the Committee for State Security of the U.S..” …

Understanding Able Archer 83’s contribution to Carney’s destabilization requires a step back in time. In 1981 the KGB, the Soviet security agency, pretty well convinced the leadership that the U.S. was planning a secret first strike nuclear attack and, simultaneously, President Ronald Reagan was applying all manner of pressure on the former Soviet Union to bring them to their knees. And then…and then, NATO decided to conduct the ten day Able Archer exercise in 1983. Able Archer simulated a DEFCON 1 scenario in which tensions escalated to a nuclear attack. Just for fun, the exercise incorporated new elements; a unique format of coded communication, radio silences, and participation by heads of government. The resulting unintended consequences from Able Archer[4] caused a colossal uptick in tension that frightened many, including Carney.

Carney did not just make copies of the documents he secreted to the East German authorities, he provided numbered originals; hundreds of them. While Carney was paid under $200 for each document, the U.S. estimates the damage costs in the tens of billions of dollars. Carney described the fear and exhilaration of being a spy: “I took a huge document and another huge document with me, went across the hall into an unsecured room, laid the documents out on the table, secured everything, and had my camera ready, and started photographing. . . . I was walked in on two times while I was photographing. . . . My face went red as a beet because my blood pressure was unbelievable, and the people went, ‘Oh, excuse me, I didn’t know you were busy.’ And they turned around and walked out.”[5]

1984 found Jeffrey Carney continuing his espionage work at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. He got ‘spooked’ after he was scheduled for a psych evaluation and took off for

Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth

Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth

Mexico where he reported to the East German Embassy and requested a rescue. Carney was repatriated to East Germany through Cuba where he apparently lived happily until 1991. The Air Force unit OSI, however, had not forgotten about Carney who now carried a West German ID card. According to Spiegel Online International (See Footnote 3), he was kidnapped in front of his Berlin apartment, returned to the U.S., tried, convicted and sent to Ft. Leavenworth to serve his sentence.

Jeffrey Carney considers himself a victim of the Cold War. In his advice for stopping future ‘Jeffreys’, can be found his list of grievances “If you want to do these people a favor who have problems — and I’m talking from experience — say something. If somebody had said something to me and put a block in front of me and said, ‘I think Jeff’s got a problem and I don’t think that he’s handling it very well,’ that would have been enough to stop the process….I lost everything — my dignity, my freedom, my self-respect.”

Perhaps he is right, but as I re-run the stories of the veterans in my head I do not think so. I think Carney bought into the ‘victim’ trap laid by the Stasi. His justification for selling-out his brothers-in-arms was the lie that he was saving the world. He blames others for not reaching out to him but there is no tale of his effort to reach out to others for help, except that he did try to quit military service. In Carney, the Stasi recognized an individual who needed constant reinforcement and stroked his ego.

Other service men and women found ways to ‘keep the faith’. These people lived in the long shadow of death that could strike instantaneously from the mountains, valleys or skies of East

Blackhorse Trooper Image depicts a soldier of the U.S. 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment on duty along the inter-zone German frontier during the Cold War.

Blackhorse Trooper Image depicts a soldier of the U.S. 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment on duty along the inter-zone German frontier during the Cold War.

Germany yet they made it through with help from each other. The service men manned their tanks, their aircraft, their listening posts, walked post, exercised their companies and knew on a moment-by-moment basis their world could erupt into pitched battle. Still the military kept its machine going; served three meals a day, maintained the equipment and trained. The serving military laughed, cried, thought, reflected, drank, partied, and stood their ground.

Recently I had the privilege of witnessing a conversation among a group of veterans focused whether or not each, as individuals, would have fought and died had the Russians come through the German line.  Veteran James Hanebury summed up all twenty or so comments eloquently when he said, “All enemies both Foreign and Domestic. At the point of the Fulda Gap in Bad Hersefeld we would not have much choice. But that choice was made when you raised your right hand and took that one pace forward. Always felt it was better there than on American soil…Up in Hersfeld we used to joke about learning Russian so we could say don’t shoot I know secrets or just wave them

through the TCP with a Das Verdanya Torvarich . My MP Platoon would have been chopped to the 3/11 ACR as scouts so we would have been in front of everybody. Same thing when I had the

Jay Cooley taking care of business in 1976 or 1977 around Wildflecken, Germany (Courtesy of James Hanebury)

Jay Cooley taking care of business in 1976 or 1977 around Wildflecken, Germany (Courtesy of James Hanebury)

Heavy Platoon 3rd MP Co 3rd INF Div. We would escort the Jump and Main TOC then be chopped to combat opns in the Div support area from the front back 20 klicks looking for Russian Descant Forces. Both units would have been some of the first to engage Soviet Forces. Damest thing is it never seemed to bother us. Boy, talk about young and dumb.”

And the gravel in the gut didn’t stop with the soldiers on the line, it ran right through the families who shared the dangers with their soldiers. Veteran Bill Sier was stationed in Germany with his family. He writes, “We were supposed to report Russian aircraft over the West. My wife told me once a chopper flew low over our quarters and my son, who would have been about 5, ran to her in the bedroom and said “Don’t worry, Mom, it’s one of ours.”

I pity Jeffrey Carney and the man he became. He never knew or grew to understand the value of sacrifice and service. Carney will never feel the gratitude of Americans thankful to the men and women of the Cold War who gave so that we might live free.

[1] The Washington Times; Monday, July 21, 2003; Germany denies passport to ex-spy;

[2] Berlin / Tempelhof Central Airport , 1973 – 1976; 6912th Security Squadron, USAFSS; An Ex-Airman Remembers;

[3] Spiegel Online International; Ausgabe 29/2003; Agents: No country more beautiful;

[4] Unredacted The National Security Archive Unedited and Uncensored; Nate Jones; President Reagan Meets Oleg Gordievsky, Soviet Double Agent Who Reported Danger of Able Archer 83;

[5] Department of Energy Hanford; Jeffrey M. Carney;


Haunted? Yes, I think haunted is the right word to describe the American ‘soldier’. Revered as a hero or reviled as a devil incarnate, in the end a ‘soldier’ is simply a person with all the complexity that word implies. In some philosophical circles ‘hero’ replaces ‘soldier’ and heroes must, by definition, die. One may not, after all, return to a world of peace with a skill set fit for wars alone. Lisa Guliani, whose premise is based on the ‘all volunteer’ military, recently wrote …”How can you say you support the troops when the troops are engaged in the outright murder of people who have never done a damn thing to the American people OR the U.S. government? It makes ZERO sense.”…[1] She is correct, of course, at least as far as she takes it.

At the other extreme, the Department of Veterans Affairs released a report that claims twenty-two soldiers, active and veterans, commit suicide every day.[2] The suicide note of Daniel Somers, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, gives a special meaning to the word ‘pain’. In his last effort to share his thoughts, he wrote…“To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing coverup is more than any government has the right to demand. Then, the same government has

turned around and abandoned me. They offer no help, and actively block the pursuit of gaining outside help via their corrupt agents at the DEA. Any blame rests with them.”… “I am free.”[3] Daniel’s story is recent but it is echoed at the end of WWII, when American POW’s disappeared into

Working in the Gulag.

Working in the Gulag.

the soviet gulags, and throughout the Cold War (1947-1991). It is a disturbing movement. The U.S. government abandonment of the ‘soldier’ while claiming it leaves no one behind is inconsistent with its preferred icon of the hero with the white hat riding in to save-the-day.

The white hat illusion is one the U.S. government will defend at any cost. Benghazi is a recent example of the lengths to which the players will go to preserve the image. Even with the truth that these Americans did not need to be abandoned to die horribly on full display, the deception is kept alive.

‘And’, during the first Gulf War, comes the story of Scott Speicher whose betrayal and abandonment is detailed in Amy Waters Yarsinske’s book An American in the Basement: The Betrayal of Captain Scott Speicher and the Cover-up of His Death. You may recall the clues that Speicher was still alive when the U.S. invaded Iraq. It was covered by several news sources. Speicher apparently ejected from his F/A-18 Hornet on the first night of the Persian Gulf War and was taken in by a Bedouin group.[4] New evidence suggests he was repeatedly promised a deal for his repatriation by an American intelligence asset.  Speicher fell into Saddam Hussein’s hands and spent the next eight years in a Baghdad prison. He was killed after the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003.

‘And’, from Vietnam, comes the story of Bobby Garwood, captured while on a mission for the military intelligence organization. He was declared a deserter and a Special Forces mission was deployed to assassinate him. According to Joseph D. Douglass Jr., “When informed in 1978 that Garwood was still a prisoner, the State Department discarded the message. Only when Garwood managed to get a second message out in 1979 was he released. He managed to slip a note to a Finnish executive

POW L. Hughes (center), a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, is paraded barefoot and with a bandaged face through the street by two Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War, Vietnam.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

POW L. Hughes (center), a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, is paraded barefoot and with a bandaged face through the street by two Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War, Vietnam. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

who was in Hanoi. The Finn made the note public and Garwood was released to avoid the embarrassment. Upon his return, the Marine Corps put him on trial for behavior unbecoming a prisoner of war and seized all his back pay. Then they rigged the trial and prevented those who could attest to his prisoner status, such as the former North Vietnamese official Col. Tran Van Loc, from telling the truth at the trial.”[5]

‘And’, from Korea, Colonel Phillip Corso ( US Army Ret.Dec.), testified before the Dornan subcommittee on military personnel of the House National Security Committee, held a hearing on the POW/MIA issue in which Corso stated he had personally told Eisenhower of the U.S. POWs being used for experimentation.[6]

“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” said Vladimir Lenin, Russian Communist politician & revolutionary (1870 – 1924); but it doesn’t. A lie is just a lie. Until the American people become clear about the value of a ‘soldier’ and demand the government respond truthfully about foreign affairs nothing will change. To paraphrase former Sen. Herb Kohl, a ‘soldier’ must trust the government to train and equip them, and do everything it reasonably can to protect them and care for them.  If the government fails the integrity test of doing what it is supposed to do even when no one is looking,

Government likes the idea of wearing a White Hat.

Government likes the idea of wearing a White Hat.

then why would a ‘soldier’ even leave home let alone follow orders? Why would a ‘soldier’ be a ‘soldier’? When the American public finally became incensed, Congress passed the 2002 Bring Them Home Alive Act,[7] which provides refugee status to foreign nationals of specified countries who assist in returning to U.S. control a live American POW or MIA from the Vietnam or Korean Wars. Navy Capt. Red McDaniel, who survived 6 years as a POW in North Vietnam, pretty well says it all: “I was prepared to fight, to be wounded, to be captured, and even prepared to die, but I was not prepared to be abandoned.”[8]

What then shall we teach our children? We should teach them the truth. There are great military heroes and sometimes a country needs to fight but now is not that time. I have been an advocate of the ‘soldier’ all my life. On the other hand, for that same period I have been critical of the military command structure; in particular those in the command structure that could not find a battlefield if their lives depended on it. More recently, I have become a strong critic of the use of the military as a political extension to achieve the whim of the day. Post 9/11/2001, the nation responded and the military ranks swelled with those who believed the threat to the U.S. was real. The ‘soldier’ in this military is being severely abused and our best and young people are being sacrificed for political ambition. Eventually the U.S. military may even be turned against its citizens. The dangers of a standing military are well documented throughout history and cannot be overstated; no nation can afford one for very long, it is a power tool for politicians, the best and brightest are sacrificed, and eventually it is turned against the people.

Fifty years ago, I believed we should serve to keep our great country free. Today, I still believe we should serve to keep our great country free. But the shores of our great country are not directly threatened so the military should stand down. The Cold War propaganda was excellent. We, the people, bought the standing military hook, line and sinker. It is time to shake off the hook, realize we’ve been hoodwinked, and demand accountability.

[1]; Lisa Guliani; , 22 Jun 2013; ‘Supporting the troops’ is supporting your own destruction;

[2] Forbes; Melanie Haiken; 2/05/2013; Suicide Rate Among Vets and Active Duty Military Jumps – Now 22 A Day;

[4] CNN Washington Bureau; Barbara Starr; January 10, 2003; Report suggests missing pilot alive in Iraq;

[5] The Long Goodbye, We Shall Never Forget; Joseph D. Douglass Jr.;

[6] Library of congress; United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs;


[8] This article is a condensed version of a talk given to Indiana Chapter 1 of Rolling Thunder on November 9, 2002. The material is taken from Betrayed: The Story of Missing American POWs by Joseph D. Douglass Jr., published in 2002 and available through book stores (ISBN 1-4033-0131-X)


The Cuban Missile Crisis: An October Miracle

October can be cold in Great Falls, Montana. The thermometer boasted a mercury level near freezing this Monday morning, October 22, 1962; not cold enough, however, to explain my mother’s irritability as she came upstairs to roll three kids out of bed to get ready for school. The family ran in a split shift mode six days a week. Father rose in the middle of the night for construction work on the Minuteman Missile sites and returned late at night to fall exhausted into bed. The rest of the family functioned around school schedules. It was a routine that rarely varied. This morning, however, mother was obviously jumpy and clearly irritable but she steadfastly refused to tell us why. A quick kid huddle resulted in a pact that we would be very quiet and get off to school as quickly as possible.

That evening, President Kennedy delivered a riveting address describing the unfolding Cuban Missile Crisis. I vividly remember the fear and chill I felt at the end of his address. It was the very first time I considered my own mortality:

…”My fellow citizens: let no one doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous effort on which we have set out. No one can foresee precisely what course it will take or what costs or casualties will be incurred. Many months in which both our patience and our will will be tested — months in which many threats and denunciations will keep us aware of our dangers. But the greatest danger of all would be to do nothing. …

Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right — not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.”…[1]—President John F. Kennedy, October 22, 1962

Had I known or understood the true state of affairs with the Minuteman Missiles, I would have understood my mother’s reluctance to take any steps to protect the family. Being the family know-it-all, I pushed vocally and hard to prepare; to lay in a variety of canned foods and water in the basement of the little two story house we called home at the time. She finally conceded to take some minimal steps to shut me up while muttering placebo under her breath. It never occurred to us to head out for western Montana, the land she and dad called home. The family was the family, we lived or died together. Mother was right, as she most often was, there was little that could have been done. The indoctrination I received in school became a joke in later years.

Malmstrom Air Force Base is the home base of the 341st Missile Wing[2]. Today it is one of three U.S. Air Force Bases that maintains and operates the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile. Back in October 1962, Malmstrom Air Force Base had the first and only solid fueled rocket. The

Running giant extension cords. (Photographer Unknown)

Running giant extension cords. (Photographer Unknown)

341st became alert-ready on Oct. 26, 1962—rock ‘n roll time. On the down side, the missile wing lacked the ability to launch. Missileers[3] are a can-do, proud bunch and they did not let a little thing like lack of electricity get in the way of the mission. Minuteman missiles were in farm fields and on ranches so they just trenched the shortest distance, a straight line through the fields, and ran really big extension cords.  I love these guys! Of course in a real shooting war we, in Great Falls, were dead, irrespective of preparations.

President Kennedy knew there was going to be trouble in July, 1962, when Raul Castro, Fidel’s, brother visited Moscow. In August, Senator Kenneth B. Keating claimed that he had evidence that there were Russian troops in Cuba as well as “concave metal structures supported by tubing” that appeared to be the future site of a “rocket installation”. He called on President Kennedy to ask the Organization of American States, OAS, to send an investigating team to Cuba[4]. Politics got crazy when, on September 4th, a secret message went back and forth between the Soviet leader and the President of the United States. This message basically stated that the Soviet Union would not attack before the upcoming November elections in America. On September 4, Pierre Salinger, White House Press Secretary, read the following statement by the President to the media[5]:

There is no evidence of any organized combat force in Cuba from any Soviet bloc country; of military bases provided to Russia; of a violation of the 1934 treaty relating to Guantanamo; of the presence of offensive ground-to-ground missiles; or of other significant offensive capability either in Cuban hands or under Soviet direction and guidance. Were it to be otherwise, the gravest issues would arise.

The Cuban question must be considered as a part of the worldwide challenge posed by Communist threats to the peace. It must be dealt with as a part of that larger issue as well as in the context of the special relationships which have long characterized the inter-American System.

It continues to be the policy of the United States that the Castro regime will not be allowed to export its aggressive purposes by force or the threat of force. It will be prevented by whatever means may be necessary from taking action against any part of the Western Hemisphere. The United States, in conjunction with other Hemisphere countries, will make sure that while increased Cuban armaments will be a heavy burden to the unhappy people of Cuba themselves, they will be nothing more.”

And so it went until, on October 15, 1962, Richard Heyser flew his U-2 over Cuba and snapped photos of SS-4 Nuclear missiles that were clearly offensive in nature. President Kennedy was

An EXCOMM meeting (Courtesy of the Kennedy Library)

An EXCOMM meeting (Courtesy of the Kennedy Library)

notified the next day that the rumblings were, in fact, reality. The President gathered the fourteen members of his Executive Committee, EXCOMM, to look at alternatives including: 1) No Action; 2) Diplomacy; 3) Warning; 4) Blockade; 5) Air Strike; and 6) Invasion. During this period President Kennedy kept up his regular appearances.[6]

On October 17th, Khrushchev sent Kennedy a letter pledging that “under no circumstances would surface-to-surface missiles be sent to Cuba.” EXCOMM had narrowed the options to a blockade or an air strike and on October 18th, troops were moved south under the cover of training exercises. Gromyko, the Soviet foreign minister, met the President and reassured him that the Soviet aid to Cuba was “solely [for] the purpose of contributing to the defense capabilities of Cuba, and to the development of its peaceful democracy. Don’t forget, the President had the photos of the missiles on his desk. Kennedy responded by reading the part of the September 4th statement advising the Soviet Union that the “gravest of consequences would follow” if offensive missiles were placed in Cuba. Still, the President kept his schedule until October 20th, when he returned to Washington under the pretext of an upper respiratory infection.

On October 22, 1962 President Kennedy delivered the address, which I heard. In response to this speech, Castro mobilized Cuba’s military forces and Kennedy ordered Malmstrom officials to be prepared to launch the missiles at any time. What the president didn’t know was that Khrushchev had given the Soviet field commanders in Cuba permission to launch nuclear missiles if the United States invaded.

By the next day, events were unfolding at hyper-speed; fast and furious as they say. On October 23rd, a low level reconnaissance mission brought back clear pictures of missiles prepared for launch; the OAS agreed to support the quarantine of Cuba; McNamara and Kennedy reviewed and discussed options for confrontation; and, by the end of the day, U.S. ships at the quarantine line were prepared to destroy any ship that failed to stop. The game was definitely afoot.

By Wednesday, October 24th, Soviet ships approached the quarantine line and the Executive Committee fretted that Khrushchev hadn’t told them to turn back. It must have been a relief when EXCOMM was advised that the Soviet ships had stopped. Secretary of State Dean Rusk said, “We were eyeball to eyeball and the other guy just blinked”, but the crisis was not even close to being over.

By Thursday, October 25th the game of brinksmanship was in full-swing. The Soviets weren’t talking to the U.S.and American military forces went to DEFCON 2, the highest ever in U.S. history. Kennedy sent a letter to Khrushchev blaming the Soviets for the start of this crisis and the EXCOMM discussed a backdoor proposal in which the Soviets would withdraw their missiles from Cuba if the U.S. withdrew its missiles from Turkey.

On Friday, there were fruitless searches of the Soviet ships and Khrushchev was talking again. He said the Soviet Union would remove their missiles if President Kennedy promised he would not attack Cuba. Surprise, surprise, a later U-2 flight revealed that Soviets were camouflaging their missiles. You have to love the Bear!

On Saturday, October 26th, Khrushchev formalized the backdoor offer with a letter saying that, if the U.S. removed its missiles from Turkey, they would remove theirs in Cuba. Then, a U-2 airplane, piloted by Major Rudolf Anderson was shot down over Cuba. On Sunday, October 27th, President Kennedy agreed to give assurances that the U.S. would not invade Cuba and that he’d also eliminate the quarantine in exchange for the Soviets removing the missiles[7]. The President did not mention he’d also agreed to pull the U.S. ICBMs out of Turkey. The deals had been cut although the inking of the agreements would take some time, but tensions ramped down.

During this time and for the next seventeen years, the launch code remained the same eight digit number—00000000—it was even displayed on the launch check list. Thank goodness the missileers did not have an itchy launch finger.

The worst was over and people in Great Falls, including me, and on Malmstrom Air Force Base

Home of the 341st

Home of the 341st

were relieved to know the nuclear bullet had been dodged. I recall an impotent rage grabbing my being as the realization that there was nowhere to go and nowhere to hide dawned. I wanted to do something and could not. I don’t hate much but I hate the political brinkmanship game. I told my mother I felt as helpless as a Norwegian white rat being studied to see whether it would drown faster if it had hope or if it did not

. That rage grew me a bit toward the person I would become. I suspect that week in October grew many.

[1] President Kennedy’s Address to the Nation;

[3] On the brink of war—and childbirth—in Idaho, is an excellent account by a missileer of the thirteen days in October and its aftermath. Of equal interest is the link to a Russian counterpart’s account.



[7]  Kennedy Qualified Pledge Not to Invade Cuba; Don Oberdorfer; , January 7, 1992;