[ExI] The Bomb verses a Email server

Anders anders at aleph.se
Fri Sep 16 19:01:25 UTC 2016

On 2016-09-16 14:31, John Clark wrote:
> Actually it was even worse than that.

Actually, it was even worse than /that/. A bear could have destroyed the 

Here is some entries from my nuclear near miss document:

1962 August-Oct






U2 Flights into soviety airspace


Accidental incursion of a U2 Oct 26 near the Chukotski Peninsula, Soviet 
MIG interceptors took off with orders to shoot down the plane. Trying to 
reach Alaska the plane ran out of fuel; IS F102-A fighters launched to 
escort him, armed with nuclear missiles and usable at the pilot’s own 


1962, October 24






Soviet satellite explodes


“On October 24, a Soviet satellite entered its own parking orbit, and shortly afterward exploded. Sir 
Bernard Lovell, director of the Jodrell Bank observatory wrote in 1968: "the explosion of a Russian 
spacecraft in orbit during the Cuban missile crisis... led the U.S. to believe that the USSR was 
launching a massive ICBM attack." The NORAD Command Post logs of the dates in question 
remain classified, possibly to conceal reaction to the event. Its occurrence is recorded, and U.S.

space tracking stations were informed on October 31 of debris resulting from the breakup of "62



1962 15–28 October




Tension, Alert, Action


TheCuban missile crisis <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_missile_crisis>


The crisis peaked on 27 October, when aU-2 
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_U-2>was shot down over Cuba and 
another almost intercepted over Siberia, afterCurtis LeMay 
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curtis_LeMay>(USAir Force Chief of Staff 
had neglected to enforce Presidential orders to suspend all overflights, 
and a Soviet submarine nearly launched a nuclear-tipped torpedo in 
response to depth charges (with the launch being prevented by an officer 
namedVasili Arkhipov <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasili_Arkhipov>).


JohnF.Kennedylaterestimatingthe oddsofwarduringtheCuban 
MissileCrisisatsomewherebetween “one-in-threeandeven”(Sorenson, 1965:705).

‘It wasn’t until January 1992 in a meeting chaired by Castro in Havana, 
Cuba that I learned 162 nuclear warheads, including 90 tactical 
warheads, were on the island at the time of this critical moment of the 
crisis. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and Castro got very angry 
with me because I said: “Mr President let’s stop this meeting. This is 
totally new to me. I’m not sure I got the translation right. Mr 
President I have three questions for you: Number 1 — Did you know the 
nuclear warheads were there? Number 2 — If you did, would you have 
recommended to Khrushchev in the face of a US attack that he used them. 
Number 3 — If he had used them, what would have happened to Cuba?” He 
said: “Number 1 — I knew they were there. Number 2 — I would not *have* 
recommended to Khrushchev; I *did* recommend to Khrushchev that they be 
used. Number 3 — What would have happened to Cuba? It would have been 
totally destroyed.’

— McNamara, /The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. 
McNamara/, 2003.

(Secretary of Defense during the Cuban Missile Crisis)

‘We had to send a U-2 over to gain reconnaissance information on whether 
the Soviet missiles were becoming operational. We believed that if the 
U-2 was shot down that—the Cubans didn't have capabilities to shoot it 
down, the Soviets did—we believed if it was shot down, it would be shot 
down by a Soviet surface-to-air-missile unit, and that it would 
represent a decision by the Soviets to escalate the conflict. And 
therefore, before we sent the U-2 out, we agreed that if it was shot 
down we wouldn't meet, we'd simply attack. It was shot down on Friday. 
... Fortunately, we changed our mind, we thought "Well, it might have 
been an accident, we won't attack.”’

— McNamara, 1964 interview

(Secretary of Defense during the Cuban Missile Crisis)

- The local Soviet commander in Cuba had the power to launch the 
tactical nuclear weapons without approval from Moscow

1962 October 25,:






Duluth incident



“At around midnight on October 25, a guard at the Duluth Sector Direction Center saw a figure

climbing the security fence. He shot at it, and activated the "sabotage alarm." This automatically

set off sabotage alarms at all bases in the area. At Volk Field, Wisconsin, the alarm was wrongly

wired, and the Klaxon sounded which ordered nuclear armed F­106A interceptors to take off. The

pilots knew there would be no practice alert drills while DEFCON 3 was in force, and they believed

World War III had started.

Immediate communication with Duluth showed there was an error. By this time aircraft were

starting down the runway. A car raced from command center and successfully signaled the aircraft

to stop. The original intruder was a bear”


1962 October 28




Alert, Action?


Okinawa Launch Order



“- During the crisis, while at DEFCON 2, a launch order was accidentally 
sent to a missile base in Okinawa

- All three parts of the coded order matched the codes the base had, 
signalling a launch of their nuclear weapons

- These were 4 sites on the island, with 2 launch centres on each, which 
each had 4 1.1 megaton warheads

- (making a total of 32 missiles)

- The launch orders included targets in Russia and in other communist 

- The senior field officer who was also in charge of one of the sites, 
Capt William Bassett, took command of the situation.

- He became suspicious that a launch order was given without DEFCON 1 
being declared (which should be impossible).

- Bassett’s crew suggested that the DEFCON 1 order may have been jammed 
and a launch officer at another site suggested a Soviet preemptive 
attack may be underway, giving no time to upgrade to DEFCON 1.

- Bassett’s crew quickly calculated that a pre-emptive strike should 
have already hit them

- Bassett order them to check the missiles’ readiness and noticed that 
three of their targets were not in Russia, which seemed unlikely given 
the current crisis. A launch officer from another site phoned with a 
similar concern.

- Bassett radioed to the Missile Operations Center to confirm the coded 
order but the same code was radioed back

- Bassett was still suspicious, but a lieutenant in charge of another 
site all of whose targets were in the USSR argued that Bassett had no 
right to stop the launch given that the order was repeated

- This other officer ordered the missiles at his site be launched.

- Bassett ordered a launch officer to send two airmen through the 30m 
tunnel to the site where the missiles were being launched with orders to 
shoot the lieutenant if he continued with the launch without Bassett’s 
agreement or DEFCON 1 being declared.

- John Bordne (the airman who leaked this account) realised that it was 
unusual for such an order to be given at the end of a routine weather 
report and for the major to repeat the order without stress in his voice.

- Bassett agreed and telephoned the Missile Operations Center to either 
give the DEFCON 1 order or issue a stand down order.

- A stand down order was quickly given and the danger was over.

[This was reported in 2015 by a serviceman who saw the Bassett’s actions 
and phone call first hand, but has not yet been confirmed by the Air Force.]

“ (Toby)

1962 October 26






ICBM test launch


“At Vandenburg Air Force Base, California, there was a program of routine ICBM test flights. When 
DEFCON 3 was ordered all the ICBM's were fitted with nuclear warhead 
  except one Titan missile 
that was scheduled for a test launch later that week. That one was launched for its test, without

further orders from Washington, at 4a.m. on the 26th. 
It must be assumed that Russian observers were monitoring U.S. missile activities as closely as

U.S. observers were monitoring Russian and Cuban activities. They would have known of the

general changeover to nuclear warheads, but not that this was only a test launch.”


1962, October 26






Unanonounced Titan missile launch


“During the Cuba crisis, some radar warning stations that were under construction and near

completion were brought into full operation as fast as possible. The planned overlap of coverage

was thus not always available.

A normal test launch of a Titan­II ICBM took place in the afternoon of October 26, from Florida to

the South Pacific. It caused temporary concern at Moorestown Radar site until its course could be

plotted and showed no predicted impact within the United States. It was not until after this event

that the potential for a serious false alarm was realized, and orders were given that radar warning

sites must be notified in advance of test launches, and the countdown be relayed to them.”


1962, October 26





Malstrom Air force base


“When DEFCON 2 was declared on October 24, solid fuel Minuteman­1 missiles at Malmstrom Air

Force Base were being prepared for full deployment. The work was accelerated to ready the

missiles for operation, without waiting for the normal handover procedures and safety checks.

When one silo and missile were ready on October 26 no armed guards were available to cover

transport from the normal separate storage, so the launch enabling equipment and codes were all

placed in the silo. It was thus physically possible for a single operator to launch a fully armed

missile at a SIOP target.

During the remaining period of the Crisis the several missiles at Malstrom were repeatedly put on

and off alert as errors and defects were found and corrected. Fortunately no combination of errors

caused or threatened an unauthorized launch, but in the extreme tension of the period the danger

can be well imagined.”


1962, October 27





U2 Shot down


‘We had to send a U-2 over to gain reconnaissance information on whether 
the Soviet missiles were becoming operational. We believed that if the 
U-2 was shot down that—the Cubans didn't have capabilities to shoot it 
down, the Soviets did—we believed if it was shot down, it would be shot 
down by a Soviet surface-to-air-missile unit, and that it would 
represent a decision by the Soviets to escalate the conflict. And 
therefore, before we sent the U-2 out, we agreed that if it was shot 
down we wouldn't meet, we'd simply attack. It was shot down on Friday. 
... Fortunately, we changed our mind, we thought "Well, it might have 
been an accident, we won't attack.”’

— McNamara, 1964 interview

(Secretary of Defense during the Cuban Missile Crisis)

Later it was discovered that Khrushchev had followed similar reasoning 
and had ordered his commander in Cuba not to shoot the planes.

- The choice to shoot it down had been from a more junior Soviet 
commander acting on his own authority.

1962, October 27





Submarine B-59


“- During the crisis, a flotilla of four nuclear submarines were sent by 
the USSR to escort nuclear materials to Cuba

- A group of blockading US ships detected submarine B-59 and tried to 
make it surface for identification by dropping low-explosive depth 
charges as warning shots.

- The US ships did not know that as well as conventional weapons, the 
subs were armed with (tactical) nuclear torpedoes which could destroy 
many ships at once (15 kiloton warhead = Hiroshima)

- Because it was deep underwater, trying to evade detection, submarine 
B-59 had been out of radio contact for days and did not know whether war 
had broken out

- The commander, Captain Savitsky, believed the depth charges were of 
the usual high-explosive type and that war had already broken out.

- He therefore wanted to use the nuclear torpedo against the aircraft 
carrier leading the US ships.

- This required agreement from the political officer, which was granted.

- Luckily, because this particular submarine was carrying the flotilla 
commander, Vasili Arkhipov, on board, it also required his agreement and 
he did not agree.

- Arkhipov convinced the the commander to surface the submarine and 
await orders from Moscow

[There is some disagreement about how serious the commander was in his 
order, with some suggestion that Arkhipov’s intervention wasn’t really 

“ (Toby)

1962, October





NATO readiness


“It is recorded on October 22, that British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and NATO Supreme

Commander, General Lauris Norstad agreed not to put NATO on alert in order to avoid

provocation of the U.S.S.R. When the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered DEFCON 3 Norstad was

authorized to use his discretion in complying. Norstad did not order a NATO alert. However,

several NATO subordinate commanders did order alerts to DEFCON 3 or equivalent levels of

readiness at bases in West Germany, Italy, Turkey, and United Kingdom. This seems largely due

to the action of General Truman Landon, CINC U.S. Air Forces Europe, who had already started

alert procedures on October 17 in anticipation of a serious crisis over Cuba.”


1962 October




British alerts


“When the U.S. SAC went to DEFCON 2, on October 24, Bomber Command (the U.K.) was

carrying out an unrelated readiness exercise. On October 26, Air Marshall Cross, CINC of Bomber

Command, decided to prolong the exercise because of the Cuba crisis, and later increased the

alert status of British nuclear forces, so that they could launch in 15 minutes.

It seems likely that Soviet intelligence would perceive these moves as part of a coordinated plan in

preparation for immediate war. They could not be expected to know that neither the British Minister

of Defense nor Prime Minister Macmillian had authorized them.”


1962, October 28






Moorestown false alarm


“Just before 9 a.m., on October 28, the Moorestown, New Jersey, radar operators informed the

national command post that a nuclear attack was under way. A test tape simulating a missile

launch from Cuba was being run, and simultaneously a satellite came over the horizon.

Operators became confused and reported by voice line to NORAD HQ that impact was expected

18 miles west of Tampa at 9:02 a.m. The whole of NORAD was reported, but before irrevocable

action had taken place it was reported that no detonation had taken place at the predicted time,

and Moorestown operators reported the reason for the false alarm.”


1962 October 28






False warning due to satellite


“At 5:26 p.m. on October 28, the Laredo radar warning site had just become operational. Operators

misidentified a satellite in orbit as two possible missiles over Georgia and reported by voice line to

NORAD HQ. NORAD was unable to identify that the warning came from the new station at Laredo

and believed it to be from Moorestown, and therefore more reliable. Moorestown failed to intervene

and contradict the false warning. By the time the CINC, NORAD had been informed, no impact had

been reported and the warning was "given low credence."”


1962, November 2





Penkovsky false warning


“In the fall of 1962, Colonel Oleg Penkovsky was working with the Soviets as a double agent for the

(U.S.) C.I.A. He had been given a code by which to warn the CIA if he was convinced that a Soviet

attack on the United States was imminent. He was to call twice, one minute apart, and only blow

into the receiver. Further information was then to be left at a "dead drop" in Moscow.

The pre­arranged code message was received by the CIA on November 2, 1962.

It was known at the CIA that Penkovsky had been arrested on October 22. Penkovsky knew he

was going to be executed. It is not known whether he had told the KGB the meaning of the code

signal or only how it would be given, nor is it known exactly why or with what authorization the

KGB staff used it. When another CIA agent checked the dead drop he was arrested.”




Dr Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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