During the Cold War, you either got it or you didn’t. If you were an ordinary civilian – John Q. Public – there was no way you could get it. If you were in or around the military, you might get it or you might not and if you did it was from a service-related perspective – The Army, Navy, and Air force necessarily saw things in very different ways. In my opinion, the Air Force had the most worrisome perspective because it controlled the nuclear-laden bombers and the nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles and was under the spell of this madman – Curtis Emerson LeMay – who advocated dropping a nuclear bomb on Hanoi during the Vietnam War and in 1968 ran as vice-presidential candidate with George Wallace.
I got it by age 10 because my life was tied to the construction and operation of air defense initiatives, the first being NORAD’s Pinetree Line, one of three lines of radar installations strung across Canada and intended to protect the U.S. in the event of an air attack by the U.S.S.R., the other two being the DEW Line and the Mid-Canada Line. And, simply stated, what I saw and what I heard over the years could not be reconciled.
At age 5, I was living on Ernest Harmon AFB (Air Force Base) near Stephenville, Newfoundland, which was the Easternmost Pinetree installation. At age 16, I was living on Elmendorf AFB next door to Anchorage, Alaska, which was the Westernmost Pinetree installation and support site.
In the intervening years we were posted to were Keesler AFB and Tinker AFB, which specialized in electronics training, and Wright-Patterson AFB, a research and logistics base which, among other things, specialized in electronic cryptography training.
But it was a three-year side trip to Japan that opened my young eyes.
We were stationed at Kisarazu Air Base in Japan’s Chiba Prefecture from 1954 to 1957 and as was customary for U.S. installations overseas, local nationals could get on-base jobs doing things that were not inherently governmental. So, there were Japanese laborers, barbers, gardeners, janitors, and more, including unarmed Japanese guards at base entrances.
But it was a 24/7/364 deal, because on May Day the base went on lock-down and nobody was expected to enter or leave. What’s more, the Japanese were made invisible out of concern that they might be assaulted or killed by rampaging (read parading) Commie May Day celebrants. They either had to stay home or come to work on April 30 prepared to spent the night and return home late on May Day and the open gates were protected by very well-armed Military Police.
Outlying housing areas like Area F where I lived were barricaded by stacking orange crate style boxes up along the chain link perimeter fence, which in my case was about ten feet from the back of the house.
And there’s the rub.
The fence could be easily scaled and, because of the type of boxes used, it was a see-though barricade. And I saw through the boxes and more.
The local Japanese Communist Party Parade went right past the house and it was a grand affair. Everybody was smiling and laughing and just having a great time doing a snake-dance behind their huge red banner. But for the nature of the celebratory apparatus, it was absolutely the same mood and manner with which Japanese Shinto celebrated their many significant days.
I watched the entire column go by and not one of demonstrators so much as glanced at the American Imperialist installation I called home. And since I ain’t stupid and had seen more than my share of Joseph McCarthy’s televised HUAC shenanigans, I began to see through all the pretense – You don’t use orange crates as barricades and you damn sure don’t have men under arms manning guard stations just once a year.
It was, as I came to see more clearly as I got older, a lie furthered by the both the C.I.A. and the Chiefs of Staff. And years ago, when I was living in West Virginia and doing family tree research, I came across a stunning little sales pitch related to our time in Newfoundland.
Check the link below. It’s an ill-behaved site, but I assure you it’s valid and will lead you to an official NORAD presentation on the Pinetree Line. It may load so slowly that you’ll think it a bad link or display a blank page or request that you to select “try again”. Reloading, opening in a new window or using a different browser may also resolve it.
There’s no dialog, but it allows switching between a picture gallery and a slideshow, and even without dialog I think you’ll get the drift.
Of course, no Soviet invasion alarm was ever raised and all three of the now abandoned warning lines (DEW, Mid-Canada, and Pinetree) have for years been the subject of Canadian remediation efforts.
They caused in more damage to the Canadian environment than to any aggressive Soviets…