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BOOK REVIEW: By Any Means Necessary

America’s Secret Air War in the Cold War

William E. Burrows, 2001, Farrar, Straus & Giroux</h3>

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.

Strategic Reconnaissance.

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

operatives.

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

engaged in.

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

enough.

Get this fucker and read it.


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