The Cuban Missile Crisis was the first time in my experience a nuclear bomb threat came into my life for real. Those who lived through it know it was no joke. To read about it is one thing. To live through it is another.
Shortly after John Kennedy became President, the first real issue was the Cold War. Nikita Khrushchev was the Party Head of the Communists in Russia. Now there was a new and forward-thinking youngest President of the US ever. He had been a PT boat captain in the Pacific and had first-hand knowledge of war. His boat was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer as it sat in the water on patrol. Kennedy and his crew swam to an island, hid, and prayed for rescue. Today, even the experience of war is not sufficient to get you elected. Ask John McCain about that aspect of his run for the Presidency.
Life seemed simple in the 50's for a young boy growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta. I was 5 when my father became Pastor of the Clarkston Baptist Church. We lived on DeBelle Street in the little run down church parsonage. We had no TV --- as did most families. Radio and newspapers were the only media. When school started we could walk up the practice ball field and be there before the bell rang. Clarkston was almost identical to Bath in looks. It had a single caution light with a short main street and businesses. That main road was E. Ponce de Leon Avenue which ran all the way from downtown Atlanta and into Stone Mountain. From there you could go on a big trip to Athens which would take another 2 hours. Neither expressways nor Interstates existed. There was no air-conditioning in cars or houses. It was more developed than over at my Granddaddy's house near Greenville, SC. The dirt road winding to their house was unpaved and covered in gravel. Dust rolled out behind us on the last 2 miles of the trip.
I am starting to sound old to myself, but much has changed over 69 years in America.
My future wife lived in Rocky Mount. Her father had built a little one bedroom house in a cotton field on Western Avenue and near the City Lake. Once you drove toward Nashville you were immediately in the countryside. Because they were in NC and roads were much better, you had pavement of tar and gravel on Sunset Avenue which was NC 64 then and now. Of the 3 states in which I have lived, NC-SC-GA, NC always had the best roads for tourists to travel this most scenic southern state.
My memories of post-war America started in 1946. There was talk of how the 2 Atom Bombs brought an end to the war in the Pacific. The Mayo family of Rocky Mount has lost a son, Roger, in a bomber explosion as it journeyed to its target. His crew was never recovered. They were, first, listed as missing in action. Finally it was changed to Presumed Dead. Her grandmother always hoped and prayed he would be found and come home to them. War is real and people die before their time. All America was returning to normal civilian life. His $10,000 death benefit paid for the building of our little cottage beside the Pamlico River.
Next, the Korean Conflict began. North Korea was Communist and South Korea was our allied nation. General Douglas McArthur was the Commanding General. He had been overseeing the rebuilding of Japan. Wisely, he saw the awful destruction of 2 major cities in Japan as justice and revenge. The Emperor had stepped down. A new government was formed by popular vote. What Japan is today was a direct result of kindness applied by America to its vanquished enemy.
The United Nations was established to foster peace worldwide. Each nation had representatives, but there was no real peace. There was coexistence between 2 main nuclear nations. It was called the Cold War Period with Communism on the one side and Democracy on the other. America was considered Capitalist and Communism let the state run everything. In my lifetime Communism has proven to be far less efficient than Capitalism in making life better. We all know the Russian system collapsed in the 1970-80 period and they take a capitalist route now. However, the Communist Party still is their government. The cost of war bankrupted Russia.
The simple solution to Korea was to NUKE EM. The trouble was --- now Russia had the bomb and they were allied with N. Korea. We stuck with conventional arms on that conflict and we lost! The peace came with negotiations and establishing the 40th parallel as the boundary between North and South Korea. You could call that "a stalemate negotiated to the end we wanted." Vietnam came to an attempted negotiation / we withdrew / the Communists took over and it fell. Now---after all the death and destruction we have re-established trade there. The average citizen is still in the same squalid conditions as before we ever went --- and for thousands of years prior in that tribal jungle with small villages and rice patties.
Cuba had been the Island playground for America. It was only a few miles between Florida and Cuba. We had trade relations and were getting goods like sugar and bananas from them. They had casinos and lavish entertainment as one of their few industries. Their Dictator was living high. The majority of the citizens were in abject poverty. Along came a young revolutionary named Fidel Castro. A civil war raged and Communists won in Cuba.
The historic lesson from that is Communism promises and delivers a quick turnaround in abject poverty. It is appealing, but it never really works in the long haul. As soon as Castro moved into the President's mansion, he was enjoying the lavish living. The economy and average citizen was not one bit better off. There was no industry. Their cars are still the 1950 or earlier versions of automobiles. Meanwhile, America was booming and new models were offered us each year.
Kennedy was told the Russians were putting long range missiles into Cuba. He had lost a secret invasion named the Bay of Pigs. The Military had come up with a plan to invade and conquer that Island. They lied in the same fashion of post-9/11. He took their word and found out things were actually far different in the real world of diplomacy. Russia had quickly developed missile technology and their ICBM launched the first satellite into space. Their German scientists and engineers had beaten our German scientists/engineers. Another OOPS in world power was suddenly in our faces! Communism could starve its people for appliances and modern stuff. They had put all their collected money into their military. We could get the bomb in Atlanta!
In October was the biggest nuclear standoff since the end of WWII. We came within hours of the big red button being pushed. My neighbor down the street built an underground bomb shelter. I had a rather unique chemistry teacher, Mr. Marsh; also build one at his house. The Civil Defense in Atlanta was storing durable food supplies and other things in the basements at Emory. Every day I passed those boxes in the Chemistry Building I had to think on what would happen if Nuclear Hell broke loose. It was personal for me!
Should the sirens blare, Atlanta could get a nuke within about 20 minutes. If the heart of town were hit, there were maps of how far out the destruction would go. Clarkston was within the 10-mile range and we would be fried. Further out, people would get radiation to the point all the way to Athens would be poisoned. A Fallout Shelter was the way to survive the initial blast, but what would you really do?
Here are the possibilities:
Move quickly with your family and lock the doors against the neighbors
There would never be enough air, water, nor food to sustain more than your family
The 10-day supply would, hopefully, spare you. Then the aftermath would require you get in your car and go away from the area to start a whole new life with whatever was left. You better have enough stored gas to get you a day's drive away.
Water flowing in streams would contain radiation
Fields for growing crops would be poisoned and now there was no food locally
Even if you survived, you conscience and memories of neighbors locked out would haunt you
Our family and home would be a pile of ashes and a ghost would only be left
Surviving a nuclear attack was possible. Life thereafter for many years would be a fresh start and totally different. Now there are enough stored warheads to possibly even destroy planet earth as a habitable place. Today you could have to move to another planet or the moon to keep humankind existing in this corner of the universe!
Folks THIS IS REAL TODAY!!!
The Nuclear Arms Treaty with Iraq has far more motivation than we ever had in the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Treaty Agreement is now signed by us and Iraq. The Congress is in the process of considering it for approval. Such a thing has never been debated under the Constitution before. Should they try and stop this this Treaty, which the Constitution says must be approved by Congress (both House and Senate), the President has promised to veto such legislation.
Should this happen, they could override the President with a 3/4 vote. There is great speculation that the Senate could do such, but the House can't. It is once again a CRISIS TIME!
What do you think is the WISE THING TO DO?????