A Prelude to War

Originally Published on 5-28-2008

On a crisp clear morning in October, 1973 I was walking along a mountain ridge in Virginia. Hearing the jet engines of distant aircraft, I turned toward the mountains to the southeast. As I watched, a huge aircraft at full power rose above the mist, banked to his right, headed east, climbing into the morning sky. A minute or so later a second bird of war followed the first. I had seen these planes loitering above the tree tops of the valley for years. These planes typically flew low, and quietly – unless you were directly beneath them. I had an idea of what they carried, and what they could do. I understood one of the first sign of WW3 would be these guys making speed and altitude, heading north or east. Half an hour or so later as their massive contrails approached the horizon, I knew they would be over the Atlantic. Later we heard the Soviets had indicated they would not allow Egypt and Syria to loose the “Yom Kipper” war with Israel. Nixon, responded by lowering the defense condition – a number which indicated threat level, culminating with zero for a condition of nuclear war. A lot of scenarios of just how this actually materialized have been written. Some say it was a ground alert only. Some say it was several days later. One of the accounts says the Soviets were shocked and surprised. A few hours later when their long range radar picked up incoming war birds flying near the edge of space, I suppose they were. The Soviets subsequently decided to skip serious involvement in a war where they had little or no vested interests.

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