"This is a test." Beethoven had stopped abruptly on the cab driver's radio, giving way to different rhythmic tones. "This station is conducting a test of the Emergency Broadcast System."
The taxi then filled with a 20-second whine. The driver stared passively ahead, the whine, at best, touching something deep in his subconscious.
"This has been a test," the voice soothingly repeated as the whine ended.
Thank God for that. Within hours you will be aboard a B-52 on a night nuclear mission. Off to "nuke" Bangor, Maine, and Watertown, N.Y. This is just a test. Otherwise, it would be a night flight to Armageddon. A one-way flight. Kamikaze-style. Yankee kamikaze.
Larry (Dino) Crenshaw's visor is down briefly, his white moon-man's helmet reflecting eerily off the red filter of the little television screen in front of him. Everything is red inside the cramped cockpit of the B-52 bomber, spooky red, haunted-house red, end-of-the-world red. Better for night vision. It is approaching midnight. Crenshaw measures the hours in Zulu time, Greenwich mean time. But most clocks on the East Coast say it is nearing midnight. Takeoff time, for Crenshaw, is midnight sharp.
Dino Crenshaw is 28, a big, powerful man from Indianapolis, an Air Force captain, considered one of the best B-52 pilots in the Strategic Air Command. In the right seat, the copilot's seat, is a major. Crenshaw is good. He has to be good.
In front of him, three of four yellow lights are on. The lights that are on say: Bomb Doors Not Latched, Bomb Doors Open, and Bomb Doors Not Closed and Locked. The other light, third in the sequence of four, is not on. It says: Bombs Released. To Crenshaw's left is a red switch, as simple in its form as the latch on a tackle box. The red switch turns on the third yellow light.
It is sweaty, very sweaty, inside the tight dark crew compartment of the B-52. For a crew of six, there is less space in this huge bomber than there is inside a small efficiency apartment.
Crenshaw is going through his final preflight checks. He talks, through the crackle of his radio, in a language as mystifying to the outsider as street talk is to a suburbanite. It is a language of Sinc, Sinc, SRAM, of racetracks that have nothing to do with horses, of mountaintops at 12 o'clock high, of bad guys and incognitos and occasionally, very occasionally, friendlies. Now Crenshaw is checking off the readiness of his crew--his copilot, the major on his right; the Electronics Warfare officer, known as the EWO; the gunner, the crew's only noncom and a bit of an anachronism, operating a tailgun in an age of air-to-air missiles; two navigators, the Nav-N and the Nav-E; and a couple of passengers, coded IP.
"Okay, offense?" Crenshaw asks.
"Okay, defense?" he continues.
Then his right hand moves over eight numbered throttles in the center of the cockpit, manipulating the eight powerful jet engines that are beginning to devour 180,000 pounds of fuel, about 30,000 gallons, a light load. The B-52, the Buff he calls it, begins to roll. The huge wings, half again longer than the wings of a Boeing 707, begin to flap like a bird's under the stress. The strain is so great, the up-and-down motion of the wings so sweeping, that there are little wheels at the wingtips so they won't hit the runway. Training wheels, like those on a kid's bike, Crenshaw's friends in the aerial refueling tankers josh him. Better than flying around, lying on your back passing gas all day, Crenshaw bites back at the refuelers.
"Any questions?" the pilot asks one last time.
Then the roar of the eight engines, Accu-Fit ear-plug loud, blots out everything else, blots out the world, and the spooky red capsule inside the Buff is enveloped in midnight black.
There are about 350 B-52s in the Strategic Air Command. The basic airplane, built in 1952, is older than Dino Crenshaw. In a real war, a nuclear war, they would fly at extremely low altitudes--300 feet or lower --to avoid radar. They would fly into the heart of the Soviet Union. But would they get through? "Are you kidding?" an Air Force colonel replied. "Not a one." They are there because the Air Force likes to fly airplanes, he said, and to force the Russians to spend billions on defense against manned penetrators.
Frank Ayers isn't flying tonight. Nice to know that. Crenshaw's flight is one thing, spooky, dangerous, refueling twice at 30,000 feet with a tanker plane, racing across the coast of Maine at 600 feet, snaking through the mountains of New England at 500 feet--and less--with only radar and Dino's good hands guiding him around the looming dark masses of mountain tops. If Ayers were flying, however, it would be a night flight to Armageddon.
Ayers also is 28, a slender SAC jet jockey from Falls Church. He also is good. He also has to be. He lives daily with more firepower at his fingertips than Eisenhower commanded in World War II.
Ayers is sitting now in the hardened Alert Facility at Griffiss Air Force Base in upstate New York. His Strategic Air Command flight suit, fireproofed and emblazoned with arm patches of lightning bolts and olive branches, is partly unzipped. It is a hot summer night, muggy in the Buff, muggy in the Alert Facility. This is the first of the seven days and nights Ayers will spend here. Until the prisoner exchange, as Ayers and his buddies call it, at 0800 the following Thursday.
Two weeks out of three, SAC crews make "proficiency" flights, like the Crenshaw flight, running low-level simulated nuclear bombing raids to keep them ready for The Big One. The third week they pull alert duty--"Our 168-hour work week," Ayers says sardonically, waiting for The Big One.
The Alert Facility is a half-buried, two-floor, reinforced-concrete building at the edge of one of Griffiss' most obscure runways. SAC tries to give it all the comforts of home, but the good intentions don't quite work. The cinder-block inner walls are sick-green. The wall art is Holiday Inn school of landscapes. It has barbells for those who are so inclined, billiard and poker tables for others. The game room has two electronic computer games --Asteroids and Battlezone. Battlezone stands silently blinking. Asteroids is very busy, a cluster of airmen watching a fellow nuclear warrior deftly bring down flying missile after flying missile.
The cafeteria offers doughnuts for a penny, mashed potatoes for a nickel, chicken cacciatore for 55 cents. It is empty. In the hallway is a little locator sign with an arrow and words that read: You Are Here. Beneath the words someone has scrawled: But I LOVE New York.
Outside, the Alert Facility is surrounded by sensors, snooper cameras, alarms and double-strand, interwoven barbed wire that was developed, a colonel said, after the military found the Viet Cong could "slip through barbed wire without a scratch -- in a loincloth." None of that here, please.
The gate is a pen, with a back door that locks behind a visitor in an automobile before the front door opens. It has a sign that says starkly: "Deadly Force Authorized." That means an intruder may be shot on sight, no questions asked until later. The guard sports a beret, a pearl-handled pistol and an automatic rifle that sprays deadly force. He asks for two pieces of identification, bank cards acceptable.
Off to the left stand four camouflaged battle-ready B-52s, wings drooping, bomb bays filled with a mix of nuclear-tipped SRAMs (Short Range Attack Missiles) and gravity bombs, hbites back at the refuelers.
"Anydrogen-style, a megaton each. The planes are holding enough explosive power to take out every major city in Russia, if they possibly could make the grand tour.
Off to the right stands a small auxiliary building where families can make brief visits to the men on alert. It has swings and a jungle gym.
"This is hard on kids," Ayers explains. "It's really tough on little kids." He means dad being away from home for a week.
"Do we think we'd survive a mission?" Ayers, the B-52 commander, repeats the question, his face thoughtful, his voice nonchalant. "It depends on who you talk to, on how they feel that day and whether they are asking themselves what there would be to come back to." That last part is the real agonizer. B-52 bases are prime Soviet targets. If it all really happened, and if the B-52s could get off the ground before Soviet missiles arrived, the base would be obliterated behind the departing nuclear warriors. The jungle gyms, the kids, the wives, the families--all fried.
Like the cab driver, for almost 20 years now, we have placed all this deep in our subconscious, safely blanketed by what the shrinks call psychic numbing. Too much to handle, Armageddon. But it's coming back, the nuclear nightmares, the new weapons, the ban-the-bombers, the "winnable" nuclear war. All the front-page talk about new missiles, new bombers, new submarines, new warheads, a new cold war, the Second Cold War, is forcing it back to the surface.
Not that it ever really was gone. For years, young Americans have dealt unnoticed with the trauma of an underground life, their hands on launch keys to city-killing Minuteman missiles, roaming silently and unwatched beneath the seas every day in submarines loaded with doomsday weapons. They have quietly kept the B-52's ready for one-way rides into the Soviet Union. The doomsday curse never left, just retreated into the recesses of the public mind.
It has been years since "On the Beach" and "Dr. Strangelove" and "Fail- Safe" were box-office hits. Kids no longer are taught the nuclear crouch beneath elementary school desks. Who in this new generation, their soft rock interrupted by the 20-second this-is-a-test whine of the Emergency Broadcast Network, thinks nuke? Who flashes to the '50s fantasy of an escape to the mountains?
Psychologists speculate that nuclear fears went underground with nuclear testing in the 1960s. That took care of the strontium-90 problem, which had mothers marching because nuclear fallout was polluting milk. It was a nice, definable, resolvable problem the psyche could handle. Vaporized kids was a bit much. Better to bury that kind of psychic stress, the way President Kennedy buried the missiles in the wheatfields of the Great Plains.
Vietnam, with American boys actually dying in faraway jungles, helped push The Bomb into the mind's nether regions, too. Not as many Americans died in Vietnam as the number of Japanese killed by the single, crude bomb at Hiroshima. Not one-tenth the number of Russians that would die if Ayers' one-megaton package landed on Leningrad. But Vietnam was real, live, if that's the right word, on American television. You could handle that, go out in the streets and get that kind of problem resolved. Like strontium-90.
Nice little aid to the psyche, Vietnam. Like the strategic arms limitation talks. We were doing something there. In 1970, at the beginning of the first SALT talks, America had 400 nuclear warheads. In 1979, by the time SALT II bombed, pardon the expression, the United States had 9,000 warheads. By 1985, the total will be 18,000.
Prepare thyself, psyche. The nuclear debate--over The Big One--is building again. It's coming back to the surface now--for all of us, not just the young men with their hands on the keys --and the 20-second whine isn't going to sound the same again.
The B-52s are one leg of what the Pentagon calls America's strategic nuclear triad. The other two legs are the Air Force's land-avity bombs, hbites back at the refuelers.
"Anbased missiles, mainly the Minuteman, and the Navy's nuclear submarines, mainly Poseidens and the Tridents just coming on line.
Ninety percent of the Minuteman force would be vulnerable to a Soviet attack by 1985, the Pentagon says. This causes all sorts of problems, the kind that have caused the troublesome debate over the MX missile, and go to the core of established American nuclear doctrine. In the beginning, the rationale for the Minuteman was that enough of the hardened-- reinforced--silos could survive a first strike by the Soviets and still respond. If, indeed, the Minutemen can be destroyed in a first strike, the president would be faced with a decision over whether to launch the missiles in the 30 minutes before the Soviet assault hit. Use 'em or lose 'em, the Air Force calls that rather undigestible choice.
Other problems multiply the dilemmas. The Minuteman is touted for its reliability and accuracy. But it never has been successfully tested out of an operational silo. The Air Force tried four times and the missile failed each time. Since then all the tests have been made out of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on a test range over the Pacific to the island of Kwajalein.
Early on, the testers learned something about a phenomenon known as missile bias. The missiles are accurate. On their suborbital flights, however, they run into a variety of uncharted forces, primarily gravitational pull, that tend to take them slightly off course. In testing on a familiar range, the Air Force can hone the accuracy down to about two-tenths of a mile-- but only after several flights in which the trajectories are adjusted for the bias, much as a World War II mortar crew honed in on a target. No one knows for sure what the bias is on a flight from Great Falls, Mont., to Moscow and no one is going to get a chance for honing.
The Soviets have the same problem, bringing into some doubt just how vulnerable the hardened Minuteman silos are to the increasingly accurate Soviet missiles. Even with large warheads, almost a direct hit is required to destroy a hardened silo. They literally have to be carved out in the bomb's crater.
Some say the third leg of the triad, the Navy's subs roaming unseen throughout two-thirds of the world beneath the ocean surface, could handle the job by themselves. But that would leave everything nuclear to the Navy. Bad Pentagon politics, that. Additionally, communications with the submarines, especially after a nuclear exchange, are extremely fragile. Under some circumstances, nuclear-submarine commanders may be able to launch missiles without final approval by other authorities, another rather unidgestible option. Life will not be simple in the Second Cold War.
In about a year, the Cruise missile will be added to the B-52s' armaments. The Cruise, a drone missile with a range of about 1,500 miles, will allow the B-52s to "stand off" from their targets, stand off from the Soviet Union, and serve as missile launching platforms. The first Cruise missiles will become operational at Griffiss. But only some of the B-52s will get them. The Air Force does not intend to give up the plane's role as a manned penetrator carrying SRAMs and gravity bombs into the heart of the Soviet Union. Better to keep the Russians on their toes, spending billions on air defense.
Inside the black womb of Dino Crenshaw's B-52, the first sign of the rendezvous is a small white ghost on his red television screen. The second sign, far above, has you thinking of an engagement with the spacecraft in Close Encounters, the piercing white lights of a huge platform descending out of the night sky at 30,000 feet. The third sign, hovering hypnotically like a cobra's head just inches in front of the windshield of the Buff, is the immense refueling probe. It is illuminated by a pea-green light.
The head seems to hover at Crenshaw's eye level forever, weaving left, bobbing right, as it tries to find the opening just behind the pihbites back at the refuelers.
"Scared, isn't he?" the co- pilot, Maj. Arthur E. Fournier, 34, of White Plains, N.Y., says of the KC-135 tanker pilot. It is not a macho putdown. Pilots break into cold sweats during refueling, two immense fuel- laden jets mating at 500 miles an hour.
During one of these matings a dozen years ago, the two craft collided and exploded off the coast of Spain, killing both crews and creating an international incident when three H-bombs contaminated the Spanish mainland and a fourth landed in the ocean off the coast. Russian and American subs jockeyed in search of the fourth for days before the Americans finally recovered it.
Clunk. The probe has found the womb, the two great airplanes undulating together now as in some strange spring ritual of giant birds. Both Crenshaw and Fournier are grasping their controls in vice- like grips. These midair refuelings allow the B-52s to take off with a full bomb and missile load, then take on the extra fuel for the long journeys over the pole to the Soviet Union. On proficiency runs such as this, no bombs or missiles are carried in the plane.
Not much radio chatter now, as the JP-4 jet fuel surges into the Buff's tanks. Five minutes, 10 minutes. Clunk. Your belly is falling up. The crews are practicing an emergency breakaway, the kind that might have avoided the collision over Spain. The Buff sinks 1,000 feet; the tanker rises 1,000. The illusion, from the B-52, makes Close Encounters seem tame--both craft appearing to stand still at 500 miles an hour but the surreal white platform of the KC- 135 taking off straight up, escape-velocity rapid, toward inky space.
Now the B-52 is heading toward Maine and its real mission, the low-level nuking of Bangor.
Outside the cockpit window, the Big Dipper glitters, just as small towns glitter below. In a real attack, a blast curtain would be drawn across all windows, making the two little television screens the pilot's only tie to the physical world just a few hundred feet below. At night, a nuclear explosion as far as 50 miles away would blind the pilots. On practice runs the curtain is open, light aircraft being greater risks. Bug-squishers, the crews call the Buffs because of what they would do to a Piper. The B-52 would not do too well in a collision, either.
"Battle stations," drones Crenshaw at 8,000 feet. "Zebra One-Four, Alpha Hotel," he adds, taking his plane down further and further over the ocean. Near the coast of Maine, the sea looms darkly, little wisps of fog appearing out of nowhere, silently colliding with the windshield and disappearing. Crossing the coastline, at 600 feet, at 500 miles an hour, the ride gets very bumpy. The Buff is flying lower than the top of the Washington Monument. In the daytime, on practice runs throughout the United States, they go down to 300 feet. In the Soviet Union, they would go still lower.
"On the racetrack," the voice of Capt. Peter A. Kippie, the 3l-year-old senior navigator from Tacoma, Wash., crackles from his tiny cubicle one level down in the six-man crew compartment. "Ten miles ... nine miles ... eight miles. Okay, you have some high terrain coming up 15 miles. Okay, you have an incognito lower than your altitude at 12 o'clock."
Crenshaw is following the racetrack toward his target. On the ground, the Air Force is simulating an attack on the B-52. Computer-simulated, heat- seeking Russian surface-to-air missiles coming up. The B-52s' defenses are limited. The Electronics Warfare Officer, the EWO, 2nd Lt. David Maldonado, 27, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, dumps decoy flares to attract the SAMs, jams radar and uses radar-confusing chaff, a modern version of old- fashioned tinfoil, to clutter enemy screens. Dumping gum-wrappers out of the plane, the crew calls it.
Crenshaw can use limited evasive maneuvers. The plane has a single 50- caliber machine gun in its tail, operated by remote control by the gunner up front. For the most part, surprise and hugging the ground are the pls back at the refuelers.
"Stand by. Sixty seconds. Ready. Ready. Now."
The yellow lights begin to blink back on. Bomb Doors Not Latched. Blip. Bomb Doors Open. Blip.
"Stand by. Twenty seconds. Ready. Ready. Now."
At 20 seconds, a target-tracking whine cuts into all the plane's radio circuits, a skull-piercing sound that conjures memories of Beethoven interrupted in the cab. This is a test. This is just a test.
The whine stops. The third yellow light flashes. Bombs Released. Blip.
"Bombs away," Crenshaw says serenely, one megaton of bombs away.
Bye-bye, Bangor. Bye-bye, Leningrad.
The theory about surviving the blast from a one-megaton bomb, dropped from 300 feet, is twofold: one, the weapon is dropped with a drogue parachute; two, the B-52 races away at low level, allowing the mushroom to curl up over it. Getting to the target might be tougher than getting away from the explosion. The B-52s must elude incoming missiles, get past a Russian defense of fighter aircraft and then wriggle past ground defenses including at least 4,000 surface-to-air missiles and still other antiaircraft installations.
"You have to make certain assumptions," says Maj. Karl Kauffman. "I mean, at 500 miles an hour we are going to get there hours after the land-based missiles. It's going to be a mess over there. Who is going to be looking around for a B-52?"
The resurfacing of the fear, the beginning of the Second Cold War, started with the fall of the SALT II symbolism, escalated with Iran, Afghanistan and the problems in the Persian Gulf, exploded in the election of 1980, became institutionalized in the postelection rush of new arms proposals and now stands ready to make you think again.
It was some time during the Carter administration that the nature of nuclear policy began to change, guaranteeing that the psyche could rest no longer, if ever it could. Nice irony there, Carter being the candidate who said we couldn't trust Ronald Reagan with nukes. Like Johnson saying Goldwater would send American boys into a land war in Asia. But nuclear policy seems to transcend partisan politics. No one seems to know a way out, except to build more, get better, escalate.
In the late '70s, the idea of survivable, limited and "theater" nuclear wars became openly debated. The change was subtle, at first. But it altered the most basic precept of the American strategic nuclear posture which had been a policy of deterrence. The old deterrence policy was simple if blood-curdling. It held that nuclear war was unthinkable and that, if each side had enough weaponry to totally destroy the other, neither side would ever use it. The policy even had a name, Mutually Assured Destruction, with an acronym: MAD.
In his last State of the Union address in January 1980, shortly after the Russians went into Afghanistan, Carter told Congress and the world that the United States would defend the Persian Gulf against the Soviets. In effect, he drew a line in the sand in the Middle East. Within days the Pentagon confirmed that such an action might require the use of American nuclear weapons. At about the same time, a Pentagon study said the Persian Gulf could not be defended without nuclear weapons.
Carter never amended that statement. He rattled sabers at the Soviets through most of the campaign year, causing Teddy Kennedy to warn that the United States was playing with a nuclear hair-trigger. But most of the political debate went the other way. Early in the primary campaigns, George Bush took heat, briefly, for saying the United States could survive a nuclear war.
Carter turned more dovish in the final showdown with Reagan. But Reagan already had his cue: a resurgence of American patriotism, anger over Iran, frustration over being kicked around first by Vietnam and afterward by a series of two-bit nations, a Pentagon warning that America was outmanned and outgunned.
The assumption that the United States needed virtually an entire new nuclear arsenal, from MX missiles k at the refuelers.
"Anto B-1 bombers to neutron bombs, became a routine element of the Reagan campaign rhetoric. Occasionally, reporters added up the cost, stumbled around the half-trillion-dollar figure, and wrote off such a staggering figure as campaign hyperbole.
Half a year into the new administration, Reagan's secretary of defense estimated that the five-year Pentagon budget should be $1.5 trillion. If the country moved onto a war footing, he said, it should be ready to spend $1.5 trillion in one year.
Prepare thyself, psyche, because your rest is over. Nukes, the bomb kind, are forcing their way back into the national consciousness.
You've had your 20 years of relief with the simplicity of Red Dye No. 2, asbestos poisoning, acid rain, even Three-Mile Islands. You've had your 20 years of forcing it all underground, down where the Minuteman missilemen have had their fingers on the nuclear trigger unseen every moment every day; inside the hollowed-out mountains where young men and women monitor spy satellites trained on Russian silos and submarines, where the computers have set off five false nuclear alerts in the past two years; down beneath Omaha in the buried Strategic Air Command headquarters where the general has a map to plot the incoming missiles and a phone, yellow not red, to call the president.
Two years ago, in the West, I talked with a different B-52 crew who stressed that their mission was survivable.
Good for the morale, essential to the deterrent, to believe that. They started the argument by listing their chances of surviving each part of the mission--the percentage of chance that Russian missiles would catch them on the ground, the odds on making it through combat refueling, the computer-calculated percentage on penetrating the first Russian defense perimeter, etc. The crew lapsed off into silence when the percentage against survival became greater than 100 long before they reached their target.
In the Alert Facility at Griffiss, klaxons jut out of almost every wall. During an alert, the klaxons wail. SAC crews can expect an average of two alerts during their 168-hour work week. They come at any time. Crew members have raced out of showers, pulling their flight suits over soaked bodies, for the dash to the B-52s during freezing winter nights. Night alerts become so routine, some say, that they often wake up in the airplane, having dressed and dashed subconsciously.
"During an alert," Ayers says, "the most dangerous place around here is the hallways."
A surprise submarine-launched missile attack could reach a base like Griffiss in less than 10 minutes. Crews move fast, not always with the same motivations.
"Every time that klaxon goes off, some men tell themselves it's the real thing just to keep their speed up," Ayers says. "Others, to protect their sanity, think every alert is a practice."
On occasion, alert crews can leave the facility to go to the PX, even an on-base movie. Then they travel in special alert trucks, sit only in special moviehouse seats. Even then, they are aboard their B-52s, ready to go, well within 10 minutes. The actual times are kept secret.
Inside the craft, at the top of a stairwell connecting the navigators' "basement" with the cockpit, a locked box sits on a jump seat. Two crew members have separate combinations to separate locks. Inside the box are the orders and codes, go or don't go.
These days, and for more than a decade now, the planes start engines but do not take off on practice alerts. That policy came shortly after the embarassment of losing those H-bombs in Spain. It also developed because the B-52s are getting old and flying time wears them out. It developed, mostly, the Air Force maintains, because fuel is so expensive. Nice little twist there: We're committed to defending the oil in the Persian Gulf, even if it requires nuclear weapons; gas is so expensive we don't keep alert planes aloft.
The humor gets a little black inside an Alert Facility, especially on a hot night when the air conditioning isn't working too well and the newspapers talk about escalating defense budgets for super-weapons. The crews call these places the First Good-Bye. And when the talk turns to the kamikaze part of it all, and whether these young men are suicidal enough to carry on all the way to Russia, Steve Kolit, a tanker pilot, breaks into a wry grin. "Each crew has its own island picked out," Kolit says, smiling broadly. It's a common joke. Push the men and they say it is a common joke.
It's past 3 a.m. now, the night still moonless black, and Crenshaw is threading the Buff at incredibly low altitudes through the mountain passes of New England. This is a crucial part of the traiing. If you are going to race your B--52 across Russia, ducking down to treetop level to avoid radar, you had better learn how to do it here first.
Down below, Kippie's slanting radar is reading the terrain ahead, Crenshaw's red screen is reading it closer, and Maj. Kaufman training an extra crewman, is riding upfront looking for light aircraft, no bug squishing wanted. Crenshaw's altimeter, a thermometer like display on the right of his screen, reads 500 fet above the ground.
"OK, you have significant terain at 10 o'clock, also high terrain at 1 o'clock and you are heading through a valley tween them," Kippie radios in an Irish monotone.
At 1 o'clock, which is just off the right wingtip, a huge black hulk looms and moves toward the plane. Whump.
"What the hell was that?" Kippiesquacks from below. Later he will tell how B-52s roaring low over mountain ridges like this one, sometimes get caught in air currents similar to the churning water in the ocean surf. "It can braek a B-52 in half," he will say.
There is another hour of that significant terrain at 12 o'clock high terrain at 2 o'clock, aircraft at 9 o'clock, ridges and mountains and bobbing and weaving under what would be radar in the foothills of the Urals.
Then it is down over gray lakes, the first glimmer of false dawn entering New York again, and a second bomb run. On the racetrack. Sixty seconds. Ready. Ready now. A missile and bomb run on Watertown New York.
Stand by. Twenty seconds. Yellow lights blipping, earphones whining.
"Missile away," Crenshaw says soothingly, banking he craft sharply to get it back on the racetrack. "Bombs away."
Bye Bye, Watertown. Bye Bye , Kiev.
At 0600, 146 hours before the prisoner exchange for Ayers and Kolit in their isolation of the Alert Facility, Crenshaws B-52 is cruising down into the the rising sun, breaking through a low cloud level and landing at Griffiss. Thelast choreis the maintenance debriefing; an airplane older than its pilot suffers from many gremlins."any questions?" crenshaw asks. "Any jokes?"
Then you code, named IP, are escorted away, down a Grifiis road with signs that warn tht this is a SAC alert route. Away from the camouflaged B-52s loaded with enough megatonnage to put Russia back in the Middle Ages, past the fianl sign that says you are leaving this nuclear base and moving back into a world of Beethoven and Red Dye No. 2.
The farewell sign at Griffiss Air Force Base reads:"You are now entering the most dangerous area in the world-the American highway."Pictures 1 through 6, B-52s on alert at Griffiss Air Force Base are lined up and ready to take off with enough nucear weaponry to hit every major city in the Soviet Union. Dino Crenshaw, B-52 pilot who made the flight to Bangor. Lone B-52 crewman plays an electronic space war game while on alert. Warning sign at gate to Griffiss.