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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Historic Views - Quote Number One

Here is the first of several interesting bits of material I gleaned from doing research on Air Defense. In the light of the documents previously posted, I feel there may be relevance.

Source: The Closed World
Paul N. Edwards c.r. 1996 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

[Pages 87-88 beginning with Paragraph 3]

By 1948 Air Force Intelligence--contrary to the estimates of both Army and Navy intelligence services and to those of the Central Intelligence Agency--had come to believe strongly in the possibility of imminent Soviet attack. This view bordered on the bizarre. Such an attack would have required (a) the Tu-4 Bull long-range bombers demonstrated for the first time in a 1948 Soviet air show and not produced in any quantity until the following year, (b) a suicide mission strategy, since the Tu-4 could hold enough fuel to reach the United States from the USSR, but not to return, and, most absurdly, (c) the USSR's willingness to risk American atomic retaliation at a time when it possessed only conventional weapons. The Air Force leadership, grounding its faith in the demonizing discourse of the Cold War, thought the kamikaze strategy a real possibility and apparently suspected, on the thinnest of evidence, that the necessary elements of this strategic scenario might be much more advanced than they seemed.41

The strange 1948 emergency alert provides good evidence of the strength of these implausible assumptions. In March of that year, USAF Headquarters ordered the existing skeleton emergency air defense system onto 24-hour alert. The alert lasted nearly a month, until it was suddenly canceled in mid-April. It apparently resulted from reports by Lt. Gen. Ennis C. Whitehead, AF commander in the Far East, of a series of "strange incidents and [Soviet] excursions" over Japan, combined with a change in Soviet European military alignments after the communist coup in Czechoslovakia.42


41. In the distorted mirror typical of superpower nuclear strategy, one reason for the Air Force belief in a Soviet kamikaze strategy may have been SAC's own plans, which involved something only a little better. SAC's medium-range bombers, even with aerial refueling and forward bases, could leave the USSR after a strike but could not return to the United States. SAC planned for pilots to ditch their aircraft in Afghanistan, Iran, Scandinavia, or northern Canada and attempt somehow to straggle home. B. Bruce-Briggs, The Shield Of Faith (New York: Touchstone, 1988), 78

42. Schaffel, The Emerging Shield, 77

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