BOOK REVIEW: By Any Means Necessary
by James MacLaren
America’s Secret Air War in the Cold War
William E. Burrows, 2001, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Just put it down. Sonofabitch, but is it ever GOOD.
We always KNEW there was a buncha damn weird shit going on way out yonder, next
to the North Pole, or perhaps some godforsaken shithole in East Asia, all those
years, but we never really knew exactly WHAT.
I’m an old fuck and well remember those old “Duck and Cover” drills in the late
fifties and early sixties. Hell, elementary school grades one and two were spent
in a school on an Air Force base that handled certain Strategic Air Command
business, practically in the shadow of the launch pads of Cape Canaveral. It was there that
the best engineering talent this country could muster (and by golly it was a
CONSIDERABLE amount of talent) was doing its dead level best to figure out how
to land a box of hot neutrons directly on top of fat-assed old Nikita
Krushchev’s bald head and do it in less time than it takes to cook a pot roast.
Of course, the box of hot neutrons wouldn’t be worth a turd floating in
ditchwater without knowing EXACTLY where it needed to be placed in order to
perform its Infernal Duty, and so the arcane discipline of Targeting was begat.
The Reds took their Secrets quite seriously back in those days and had no
compunction whatsoever about killing people who pried a little too closely.
Worse still, the Commie Bastards had their OWN boxes of hot neutrons and we had
to know where the boxes and the Special Delivery vehicles for Surprise Delivery
of said same were being kept so we could reasonably assure ourselves that
perhaps Armageddon would continue to hold off, at least until next Friday or
maybe even a little later on.
And, since the Russkies weren’t exactly handing out engraved invitations
detailing information like that, we sorta had to go over there and get the
damned information ourselves.
Those were, as the Chinese curse will attest, Interesting Times.
Well…now it looks like the curtain’s been lifted a weency bit and we’re allowed
a peek at some of the shit that was going down.
Lotsa different shit comes under that umbrella.
Not least among which is the business of “ferreting.”
Works something like this: 1.) Some day I might need to fly a bunch of bombers
over to Russia so I can turn all of the Russians into a glowing cloud of mist.
2.) The Russians know this and have sensibly ringed their country with
airfields, aircraft, and RADAR so they can spot me coming and blow me out of the
sky before I have the chance to cause any Big Mischief. 3.) If I can blast their
radar to hell ahead of time, it would be just like poking them in the eyes with
sharp sticks and blind guys don’t do really well when it comes to flying attack
aircraft. 4.) The Russians know THIS, too, and try to hide the radars by not
turning them on (thus giving their positions away as surely as a guy waving a
lit flashlight around in an otherwise dark room gives his own position away)
unless they think, “Uh oh, the shit might be on boys.” 5.) It then becomes my
job to send aircraft heading toward (and sometimes OVER) Russia that look
threatening enough to where the Russians are FORCED to turn on their radars,
just in case they need to blow me out of the sky if I really DO have a Big Bomb
on board, but instead of a Big Bomb I merely have a planeload of electronics for
sucking all the information I need out of the lit radars so I really CAN blast
them to hell ahead of time if some fine day I decide I need to. 6.) I hope the
Russians don’t decide to blow me out of the sky while I’m ferreting them, just
for the sheer malicious hell of it, and while we’re at it, I hope I don’t start
World War III either.
Ferreting and Targeting go hand in hand.
And so, shortly after WWII was over, an incredible dance of men and machinery
was entered into that still goes on to this very day.
A dance that occurred in dead silence with nobody aware any dancing was going on
except the two antagonists, locked in Thermonuclear Embrace.
Aircrews were sent into hostile territory (lethally hostile at times) with the
admonishment that if something went amiss, there would be nobody sent to rescue
you from thirty-four degree water, icy mountainsides, or barbaric KGB
None of those who went down made it back, with but a single exception.
At home, wives and children were kept completely in the dark by a government
wholly unwilling to admit to some of the provocative operations that it was
Missing and not even properly presumed dead.
This is a book about people, not just neato high tech devices (although there’s
plenty of that, too).
I’ll not bother with specific details here. What you’ve got above should be
Get this fucker and read it.