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comment by user-inactivated
user-inactivated  ·  1124 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: 1950s U.S. Nuclear Target List Offers Chilling Insight

So here's a fun story from the annals of the Cold War.

I flew with a lot of C-130 guys in the Air Force. Some of these pilots were getting old and were even pilots in the 80s when Mother Russia was one serious incident away from turning our country into a fiery mushroom farm. In particular I was astonished to learn that C-130s, which are propeller driven and generally considered slow in comparison to a B-52 for instance, were completely capable of dropping nuclear ordinance, but not capable of a speedy enough departure to outrun the blast effects. This was a last resort scenario, and these were considered 100% loss scenarios for the crew.

But imagine this, a C-130 with four parachute-deployed nuclear weapons inside the cargo area. As you approach the target, the cargo bays open and the drogue chute pulls the first bomb out from the airplane where it drops to its deployment altitude and detonates. The plane will be a few miles away at this point, but not far enough for the pilots to keep their eye sight, which they might be expected to use to fly the plane. But that's why they had four bombs, because between the pilot and the co-pilot, they had four eyes and could hit four targets. So in order to keep the plane flying (possibly during anti-aircraft firing and performing maneuvers which the pilot would have to be able to see) the pilots had blackout glasses. Each one was a simple lead-lensed eye patch and there were three on the plane. The co-pilot would drop the first bomb, lose an eye, and then the pilot would lose an eye at the next bomb. Then the co drops and loses his other eye, and the final bomb drops to destroy the pilot's remaining sight. Then the plane crashes and the world is ever fucked.

That's how crazy nuclear war was already planned to be.

goobster  ·  1124 days ago  ·  link  ·  

That's just... nutz.

Here's my story: My friend was a locksmith with the Navy. During SALT Treaty inspections (when we let the Russians peek into our nuclear arsenal and count warheads), she would work ahead of the Russian crew, quickly picking the locks and opening the chambers. A couple of the Navy crewmen would then grab the ordinance, close the door and relock it, then run around the other side of the ship, and put them back into the containers the Russians already searched, thereby maintaining a larger arsenal than what the Russians could find.

Cue "Yakkity-sax" soundtrack.

jleopold  ·  1124 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Why didn't they just give your friend a key?

WanderingEng  ·  1124 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Here's my third hand story: a coworker's friend worked at an Air Force nuclear bomber base (specifically KI Sawyer in Michigan's UP) in the ground crew. They'd occasionally load a nuclear bomb in a bomber, presumably for training or transport. If they dropped the bomb in loading, there was a whole ream of paperwork to fill out. The quote my coworker gave was "we had to fill out that paperwork all the fucking time." I just picture a bunch of 20 year old kids wheeling nuclear bombs around and cussing when one hits the tarmac with a thud not because they were concerned about the weapon of mass destruction but because of the paperwork.

b_b  ·  1124 days ago  ·  link  ·  

This is a fantastic story. Thanks. Apparently, according to Wikipedia, they've since invented goggles that can instantly turn opaque when exposed to a nuclear flash and then slowly clear out over the course of a few minutes.

user-inactivated  ·  1124 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I think they probably had those at the time as well. But by the time you're using C-130s to drop nukes, you likely don't have logistics capabilities or time to wait. This was such a last resort scenario that they probably weren't even really devoting resources to it. He just said that they had to train for it.

user-inactivated  ·  1123 days ago  ·  link  ·  

More likely scenario:

First bomb drops, co-pilot loses first eye. Co-pilot freaks out and is kicking and screaming in pain, accidentally pulls or kicks some switch/stick and causes the plane to drop or rise suddenly. Pilot knocks his head from the sudden change and passes out. Plane spirals out of control and gets obliterated in the first mushroom cloud along with the remaining bombs.