BMEWS - 510 Full Days - Epilog

In September, 1962, my 510 days were finally served and I left Thule to return home. A month after my return home, Presidents Kennedy and Kruschev were engaged in a global stare-down when Soviet nuclear missiles were discovered in Cuba. BMEWS was very nearly put to the ultimate test just shortly after activation. BMEWS was deliberately no secret; the Soviet Union knew of its existence and capabilities. Perhaps the knowledge of sudden and sure retaliation helped to convince Mr. Kruschev that he did not have a nuclear alternative and to finally agree to remove these missiles.

After leaving the BMEWS project and RCA Service Company, I went to work as a system technician on the Minuteman guidance system for the U.S. Air Force at a repair depot for inertial guidance systems for ICBMs. I had the opportunity to visit each of the Air Force Minuteman bases in the middle 1960s and see our nuclear defense umbrella first hand.

As a result of the BMEWS and later Minuteman system experiences, I came to understand the MAD defense theory. I believe that MAD worked well to ensure the safety of the United States and North America. By never allowing the opportunity for a sneak attack which could destroy our ability to retaliate in devestating numbers and ensuring that the strategic ballistic missiles of the United States were ready to fly in an instant, nuclear war was averted for over thirty years.

The Cold War has ended, and the nuclear threat would seem to have subsided somewhat in recent months; but it has not disappeared. Indeed, with the instability in some of the now independent republics that were once the Soviet Union still possessing nuclear ICBMs, the threat of nuclear blackmail may be as dangerous as ever. The BMEWS sentinel will have a job to do long into the future.

UPDATE: Spring 1998
Within the last several months, either at the end of 1997 or very early 1998, the Chinese Communist government has boasted, bordering on threats, of launching a nuclear strike on California cities. In late April, and early May, 1998, various news services (mostly conservative) are reporting that against Justice Department advice, the Clinton Administration has sold the Replublic of China missile launch and guidance technology. I'm not going to give an opinion on this, but let the reader do his/her own research and draw his/her own conclusions.

However, the thought occurs to me that over the past 36 years, since I was involved with BMEWS, Mutually Assured Destruction, as a defense strategy, has not been changed. In the past 36 years, we still have not developed a defense against nuclear missle attack beyond MAD. Our only defense option is to launch nuclear missles against a nuclear attack. We have no capability to do anything else; we cannot "shoot down" enemy missles, Russian, Chinese or otherwise.

In order for MAD to be effective, we must have adequate warning in order to launch a counter-strike, and cause the suicide of the country who issued the launch against us. And, this ability to have an adequate warning must not be a secret. Potential enemies must know that we will know. Well, I have heard not a peep about being able to detect a threat launch by the Chinese (or Iraqis, or about anybody but Russia). BMEWS does not point that way. If we have satellite technology which will provide such a warning, we ought to making the public (and the Chinese, Iraqis, etc.) aware of it. Otherwise, we're defenseless, and they'll know it.

You probably should be calling or writing your Congressmen and Senators.

Gene, 7 May, 1998

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© Copyright 1996, Gene P. McManus, Baltimore, OH