Journal Entries from Exactly 33 Years Ago Today

PORTAGE WINTERING-OVER CAMP: Sunday, November 20, 2016 — Winter, after a long delay has finally showed its ugly mug. Snowed yesterday and it is dusting again this morning as the temperature has dipped into the twenties  the last two nights and is forecast to do so again tonight.

We have the contract set on the next Woods Cop book, but publication will not be until February 2018. Meanwhile I’ll work on something else. And paint and draw.

Part of getting ready to write is getting “the room” ready, which entails a lot of filing and sorting through notebooks and ironically I found one journal with an entry 33 years ago from the exact date, in 1983.  That Nov 20, like this one was also a Sunday. Here’s the entry:

Sunday, November 20, 1983 – Tonight ABC aired its controversial film The Day After.   My generation and those who have followed behind us, have all grown up with the bomb.  But even those of us who served in SAC, which was tasked with delivering bulk of the U.S.’s nuclear weapons in an all-out war – I suspect –rarely gave the aftermath much serious thought. The truth is that those flying bombers and tankers (B-52s and KC-135s) didn’t really plan to come back. There were, of course. Di rigueur contingency plans on paper directing us to “recover” in  Milwaukee or Green Bay, where we theoretically would present ourselves to the local military commander and be at his disposal. (There were no women at such operational ranks in those days). The plans were of course, on paper, but nobody viewed the mission as anything but a one-way ride. In fact mission success was bolstered by such thinking. If our families were to be obliterated behind us, then we would damn well make sure the other side got a lethal dose. What we knew was that our country would never deliver the first strike and therefore we were assured that any strike we launched would be in retaliation for something done to us. Somehow that put the white hats on our heads.

The ABC program has created a tremendous public  discussion and controversy that has run for several weeks at various levels of intensity. The Freeze/Disarmament people have tried to use the film to support their position; the militarists naturally have used it for their own position support. Business as usual among America’s special interest groups.

The Day After makes one think, that’s for sure, but in one sense the result of a nuclear exchange is almost immaterial: What I’m getting at here is that 25 million Russians died in World War II and Uncle Joe Staling and his henchmen hardly blinked. Ironically, while Hitler’s forces poured across the Bug River into Soviet territory, Stalin was still conduction mass transportation of political enemies to GuLAGS in Siberia., and it was hard for Soviet military leadership to convince the Soviet leader of what was happening.  25 million dead then, so what’s the biggie for the Soviets if they lose another 100 or 200 million bodies?  Obviously their leaders realize their country would no longer exist in political terms so they, as our leaders, must factor all that in and what has prevented a lethal exchange so far seems to have been the strategy called MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction, which means nobody can “win” such a war in conventional terms, because both combatants will be obliterated, and there also will be all sorts of Massive  collateral death and destruction in Europe and in the Soviet’a satellite countries, but these are government decisions, not decisions in the purview of common folks — those on the receiving end. For the fodder-folk, be it from nukes or conventional weapons the ultimate result is the same. Some will die swiftly, some slowly – and many, in the downstream from hunger and infectious diseases.

If Americans come “unglued” over this show, I’m guessing it will come from seeing Americans dying in huge numbers on their own land and  in their own homes. It’s been a long time since our civil war — though emotionally the damn thing continues to persist and some who were on the southern side call the conflict The War of Northern Aggression. Weird. Massive human loss and societal destruction is a reality we’ve never had to deal with at the magnitudes Europeans and Asians did during World War II.

Despite what one hopes for, how does a “side” disarm in the face of those who would use their power either to dominate, or out of paranoia and fear in their leadership ranks. (Remember, Hitler repeatedly gave orders to fight to the last man, meaning old, young, male and female, military and civilian,  everyone until no German  was left alive to fight.)  Like most thinking people the nuke thing disturbs me when I bother to contemplate it, but I don’t pay it much attention as long as the Cold War situation remains in some sort of stasis.

If I harbor a fear, it’s this: If one side feels critically threatened and has emotionally unstable leadership,   such leaders might feel they have no choice but to strike pre-emptively, which is why we don’t need  dozens of countries in the world with proliferating nuclear weapons programs. I don’t put my concern solely on the Soviets and smaller nations led by questionable personalities.  Never mind the “Global Communist Threat,” the last big war was fought against European Fascist states – the far right of the political spectrum in those days, not the extreme left.

Leon Uris’s novel —  Mila 18 was published in 1961 – my high school graduation year –  and this novel compellingly told a story about circumstances in the Warsaw Ghetto during WW2. To some extent Uris looked at the philosophical question that involves the response to life-threatening aggression:  Does one turn the other cheek, or does one fight back? Is not fighting back a matter of obedience to a higher religious ethos and principle? Or, when we are truly threatened, does it impinge on those being attacked to not willingly (or easily) surrender their life and liberty? In Mila 18 youth eventually rise up to take over defense leadership in the ghetto, intent on fighting back, no matter the cost, and if I remember correctly from actual history the survivors of this resistance movement emerged later to push the creation of the nation of Israel.  Such questions will always be among thinking people, but the real concern here is not how the masses will act,  because unless the enemy already has fallen upon us – the decisions are vested in a country’s leaders.  God help us if we have an unstable soul with his or her hand on the “football.”

That concludes the journal entry. It’s fun and semi-instructive to look back and see what was rolling around in my empty coconut in those long ago days. Since I left college in 1965 and joined the USAF I have kept a journal, not daily, but regularly for some 51 years and looking back pleases me, makes me smile, and sometimes disturbs me. Once in awhile I even find a good idea I can use now.

Also, there are some notes from 1967 – 49 years ago– when the killing  in SEA ramping up as it was rolling along; I was in training as a navigator at Mather AFB in Sacramento California then.

March 15 –  North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh demands that bombing be halted and the U.S. troops be withdrawn from SVN before direct peace talks can begin.

March 22 – The U.S. announces that Thailand has given permission for us to use bases for B-52 air ops; previously our missions and sorties had to be flown out of Guam, which is a long haul from South Vietnam.

April 4 – Martin Luther King Jr. says “the U.S. government is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. He encourages draft evasion and a merger of antiwar movement with the civil rights moment.

April 15 – Antiwar demonstrations all across the country, 50,000 in SF and 100,000 that in NYC. Songs of those days were “All You Need is Love, and “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Out at Mather AFB we paid no attention to Martin Luther King or  to the demonstrations. We were  focused on training to do a job and intent on doing it as well as we could. These were, to be sure, strange, strange times. Ironically most of the boys I went to college with never served in the military. They evaded in any way they could and frankly it was easy enough back then to get a medical excuse that would allow one to remain home while others stepped up to serve the nation and risk their lives and limbs.

Enough for today. Got real work to do  Journalizing-blogitating, by any definition,  is not real work, but such trivia  keeps us writers writing and that’s always a good thing for us. Shot and a beer. Over