Posts filed under 'The Cold War'

British Aircraft of the Cold War

The Avro Vulcan

Britain’s economy was hit particularly hard by the Second World War. Unlike the US, the UK struggled to bounce back and had to contend with what was left of its far flung empire. To make a bad situation worse, the Brits also had to deal with the emerging nuclear threat posed by the Soviet Union — a country possessing the capability to strike the British Isles with long range bombers. To address the prospect of nuclear death from above, the UK began to plan for an advanced air defense strategy. Along a parallel track, the UK also began to make plans for strategic bombers to deliver newly minted nuclear weapons. One of the most amazing systems they devised was the V Force, a threesome of long ranger bombers including the Valiant, the Victor, and the Vulcan. The most innovative, long lived, and beautiful of the three was the Vulcan.


The Vulcan bomber looked like it was built for Batman. The final production model represented an evolution in design after extensive prototype testing. Probably the most notable feature of the aircraft, the delta wing, had to be modified with a “kink” on the leading edge to reduce buffing at high speeds. Production began in 1955 and ended in 1965 with a total of 134 Vulcans produced. As a testament to its great design, the Vulcan remained in service with the RAF until 1984. And as the British are want to do with both their cars and aircraft, the Vulcan unfortunately didn’t offer much in the way of creature comforts. One the worst over sights was the omission of a lavatory, forcing the crew to wear diapers on long missions. A proper galley was also lacking, leaving few options for in flight food prep. Crews were left with a small soup heater, which rarely worked. Often times, it overheated cans causing them to explode, spraying soup all over the interior. Also, to make things even more uncomfortable, the anemic heaters didn’t work well. And of course, like all things British, the Vulcan suffered from numerous electrical issues (many of which were eventually addressed in the Mk2 version).


As part of the V Force, the Vulcan initially carried the Blue Danube nuclear gravity bomb. After the US fielded its first hydrogen bomb, the British developed one of there own, the Yellow Sun Mk2. Smaller nuclear bombs, like the Red Beard, were prepositioned in places like Cyprus and Singapore. In 1962, the RAF started arming Vulcans with the Blue Steel, a massive rocket with a 1 megaton Red Snow warhead. To replace the limited Blue Steel, the British worked with the US to develop the Skybolt ALBM. Unfortunately for the Brits, this program was canceled by the Kennedy administration. By 1970, the RAF decided to remove the Vulcan entirely from the nuclear deterrent role and transition it to the tactical bomber role. In this conventional configuration, the Vulcan could carry up to 21 1,000 pound parachute retarded iron bombs.


Thankfully, Vulcans were never used in a nuclear conflict, but they did participate in the Falkland War during the early eighties. Five Vulcans were update to include ECM pods and missile hard points on the wing. The logistics of the Vulcan bombing missions was amazing, requiring a daisy chain of refueling planes along the route over the Atlantic. And the bombing runs, while not producing much damage, were precisely executed by the crews. While the bombings didn’t disable Argentinian operations on the island, they spooked the Argentinians enough to cease deploying combat aircraft to forward bases.

Vulcan Video (don’t mind the strange music)

English Electric Lightning

To defend against Soviet nuclear bombers, the British developed the supersonic Lightning interceptor in the ’50s. Like the American F-104 Starfighter, the Lightning was basically a “missile with a man in it” with not one, but two stacked jet engines shoehorned into a small airframe. Armed with two 30mm cannons and two air-to-air missiles, the Lightning packed a pretty good punch for the era, but sacrifices in fuel capacity were made for the sake of unparalleled performance. Later variants added an internal fuel tank lending a beer belly to the aircraft’s profile. And in a truly bizarre mod, over wing external tanks were added to extend the Lightning’s range even further.


With the adoption of the more advanced (yet slower) Tornado F3 interceptor, the Lightning began a slow phase out between 1974 and 1988. In their final days, the Lightnings were painted camouflage and used to defend the cold expanses of the North Sea. While the Lightning never shot a hostile aircraft down, in 1984 an RAF pilot intercepted an American U-2 at 88,000 feet using what’s called the zoom climb technique. In 1985, a Lightning bested F-15s, F-16s, and F-14s in intercepting a British Airlines Concorde as part of a multi-nation exercise.


Despite its impressive performance, the Lightning was quickly outclassed by more advanced fighters in the late ’60s. The radar, with its 30 mile range, was particularly weak even by British standards. Still, many RAF pilots claim the handling of the Lightning was better than any of the American Century Series fighters.

Lightnings in Action (+ hot air traffic controller)

3 comments April 14th, 2009

Modern Wonder: The R-7 Semyorka


Unlike mid-century American rocket celebrity Wernher von Braun, the brains behind the Soviet space program was a mysterious figure simply referred to as the “Chief Designer”. The mystery man was actually Ukrainian born Sergei Korolev, a political prisoner during Stalin’s Great Purge of the late ’30s. It is remarkable Korolev ever had the opportunity to design rockets, let alone dream up his masterpiece the R-7, since he nearly died in the Siberian prison system known as the Gulag Archipelago. Although trained as an aircraft designer with several gliders under his belt, Korolev’s real skill was planning – and his visionary passion for space travel. While Korolev didn’t posses von Braun’s technical aptitude, he could identify and execute a good idea. And by scouring the technical journals of the west, picking the brains of Soviet rocket experts, and sifting through the remnants of the Nazi V-2 program, Korolev was able to devise a rocket that was years ahead of anything the west was developing. This rocket was called the R-7 Semyorka and its descendents are still in use to this day, transporting people and cargo to the International Space Station.

What made the R-7 Semyorka so revolutionary was its use of technology considered by the west as impractical – like steering motors instead of control vanes and separate strap-on rocket boosters. Like von Braun, Korolev also recognized one of the major shortcomings of the V-2 design was the use of internal fuel tanks, which added additional weight. Instead, the R-7 used the body of the rocket as a fuel tank, increasing the amount of fuel that could be carried and reducing the overall weight of the rocket.

But all of the revolutionary design features also translated into a difficult testing phase for the R-7. The whole world saw the launch pad failures of von Braun’s Redstone rocket, but nobody outside of the Soviet top leadership circle knew about the frighteningly high R-7 failure rate. Many of the misfires were eventually traced back to small issues, like improper wiring or forgotten parts – not design flaws. Once the vodka rations were cut back and more stringent quality control enforced, the program started to look promising. After hearing the American’s planned to orbit a satellite by 1957, Korolev lobbied the Soviet leadership for a chance to beat the Yanks. Up to this point, the R-7 had been designed as an ICBM, but work now commenced to modify the design to deliver a satellite into orbit. The satellite, called PS-1 or Sputnik 1, was a simple affair consisting only of a basic 1-watt radio transmitter producing the famous Sputnik “beep”. But despite its small stature, Sputnik made history by being the first man made object to reach orbit around the earth.

The reliability of R-7 allowed for a number of other firsts, like the first space dog, the first object to travel to the moon, and of course the first human into space. All these firsts took a toll on Korolev though, as he increasingly felt like he needed to constantly sing for his supper. Unlike the United States, where all space related activities were coordinated by one agency, NASA, the Soviets funded a multitude of competing programs. Money was often allocated on the basis of political connections rather than technical merits. Korolev was famous for being difficult and independent, which hurt his funding prospects going into the ‘60s. After hearing Kennedy’s speech about putting an American on the moon by the end of the decade, Korolev began to plan for a Soviet program that would do the same. Unfortunately, he had a hard time securing support for engine design and was unable to develop a rocket that would match von Braun’s Saturn V and its mighty F-1 engines. Korolev died in 1966 of a heart attack and the Soviet moon mission died a couple of years later from neglect and lack of funding. But the R-7 lives on in its various incarnations, still rocketing people and payloads into the heavens.

Vostok-1 Launch (first human in space)

1 comment August 6th, 2008

USS Pueblo: Cold War Casualty


40 years ago this week the North Korean military captured a small US electronic surveillance ship in what was generally considered international waters off the east coast of North Korea. The incident was notable at the time because it marked the only occasion since the 19th century that an American captain surrendered his warship to a foreign power. The confiscation of sensitive NSA equipment also meant the Soviet Union could eavesdrop on our military communications (further assisted by the fact American spy John Anthony Walker had provided the Soviets with code keys around the same time). One of the most unfortunate aspects of the incident was how Commander Lloyd M. Bucher was scapegoated by the US government. Only thinking of his crews’ safety as multiple North Korean gun boats attempted to corral him, Bucher choose not to throw the tarps off his .50 caliber machine guns and instead tried to flee the area. Engaging the North Koreans would have certainly led to hostilities, which would have meant numerous deaths on the poorly armed Pueblo. Instead, the captain surrendered the ship and the crew thus endured extremely harsh detention and torture for eleven months.

The reality of the incident is the blame was tragically misplaced. It was the NSA and the US Navy who dropped the ball, not Bucher. The US Navy knew the North Koreans were becoming more belligerent regarding spy missions conducted by the US. Commander Bucher was never warned of this and took the actions of the North Koreans as routine harassment instead of hostile. Also, the NSA did not properly train its spies in the
destruction of equipment or documents in a situation where the ship might be captured. There was also an Oregon connection in the Pueblo tragedy: the only fatality was an Oregonian, Naval Reservist Duane Hodges from Creswell.

1 comment January 26th, 2008

Great Cold War Movies

For no particular reason, here are my favorite Cold War themed films. What is not included are movies featuring a prominent espionage theme (The Ipcress File, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, Bond films, etc.) because that would inevitably lead to list bloat.

Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Jeez, where do I start; this film is awesome in so many ways. The over-the-top performances from Peter Sellars and George C. Scott. The cheesy special effects. The spot on replication of a B-52 interior. The classic one liners. It’s all pretty awesome. I could watch this film a hundred times and never grow tired of it.

World War III (1982)
I saw this on TV back when I was an elementary school and I seem to recall it being one of those made-for-TV affairs…maybe a mini-series? Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to locate a DVD copy to review, so I’ll have to rack my brains to recall the plot. If I remember correctly, the storyline involved Soviet troops invading Alaska to capture the massive pipeline in that state. A small ill equipped National Guard unit tries to hold them at bay in the dead of winter while the US President (Rock Hudson) negotiates with Russian leaders. It seemed like a cool movie at the time, but I bet if I watched it now, it would probably suck. Anyway, still looking for a copy, either VHS or DVD. IMDB claims the film was made in Oregon and the director died here in a helicopter accident during production.

K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)
This is a fairly recent film and often overlooked, which is too bad because I consider it superior to other recent submarine films like The Hunt for Red October and Red Tide. Unlike those films, K-19 charts a steady, riveting, historically accurate course. Director Katherine Bigelow is one of my favorite contemporary big budget filmmakers and she does a competent job here telling a story of sacrifice and courage set against the backdrop of the Cold War. The film didn’t do well at the theaters, probably because there are no big explosions and Harrison Ford doesn’t kill anyone.

Red Dawn (1984)
I’m sure there are a few readers of this blog who have a soft spot in their heart for this film, but I’ve always had trouble buying the premise Cubans (and Soviets) could actually parachute into Colorado. And how would they get all those tanks and into the heart of America? By air dropping them or moving them up by train from Mexico? This movie mixes equal parts cornpone patriotism with latent American prejudices, like the fear of Latinos streaming over our border unchecked. Still, the whole running to the hills and fighting the commies partisan style is still pretty cool, so the movie remains one of my favorites despite its more cringeworthy aspects. That and the fact Jennifer Grey firing an RPG is totally hot.

Fail-Safe (1964)
Wow, this movie has a totally trippy opening. Some kind of wacky dream sequence featuring a surreal bull fight. This movie follows a premise similar to Dr. Strangelove, but strikes a far more somber tone. While totally depressing, it’s still possible to enjoy this film on an intellectual level. And it has B-58 Hustler bombers, which is totally hot.

By Dawn’s Early Light (1990)
This is another often overlooked Cold War gem (another made for TV movie?). It certainly has its cheesy moments, but it does a pretty good job of showing what would have happened during the first few hours of World War III. The story follows the crew of a B-52 bomber, the crew of a Looking Glass flying command post, and Air Force One. And like Dr. Strangelove, James Earl Jones spends the entire movie stuck on a plane.

WarGames (1983)
I didn’t know anything about computer hacking before I saw this movie. It was a complete revelation just seeing Mathew Broderick hooking his Commodore 64 up to his phone. Up till then, I thought computers were just for playing games, which is of course the theme of this movie I guess. The NORAD war room is rendered impressively even by today’s standards. In actuality, NORAD was not nearly as impressive as it is in the film since it didn’t really have two story video screens.

Honorable Mentions

Ice Station Zebra (1969)
This film starts off promising, but slides off the rails about halfway through. It does have Ernest Borgnine and the guy from The Prisoner though, which is awesome.

The Bedford Incident (1965)
This movie would have been great if the ‘special effects’ were a bit better. Good story though. It’s totally the kind of movie that kid from Rushmore would have turned into a stage play.

Firefox (1982)
This movie is painfully boring until Clint Eastwood steals the Soviet jet; from there it kicks some mild ass.

Gotcha! (1985)
I saw this on video w/ Matt Mattecheck back in High School. It’s notable for the presences of Anthony Edwards mainly, in his preTop Gun glory. While super cheesy, this movie does a good job portraying a divided Berlin. The film also featured the newly popular sport of paintball.

The Beast (1988)
A little known film from the ’80s directed by Kevin Reynolds (who wrote Red Dawn), the movie is memorable for its subject matter: the Soviet experience fighting in Afghanistan during ’80s. The plot involves a tank crew and its cat and mouse game with a group of rebels. Are those tanks firing live rounds in the film?

The Day After (1983)
Supposedly, this made for TV movie changed the way President Reagan thought about nuclear weapons and brought about some of the limitation on nuclear weapons in the mid ‘80s. Although the horrid special effects detracted from the authenticity of the movie,it still had a powerful effect on the public by showing just how devastating a nuclear war would be.

5 comments December 14th, 2007

Seaplane Strike Force

The notion of a strategic bomber in the guise of a seaplane seems quaint today. But between 1955 and 1959, the US Navy operated 11 giant P6M Sea Masters from the waters of Chesapeake Bay. These aircraft were manufactured by the Martin Company and featured four afterburning jet engines that pushed the lumbering aircraft to the edge of the speed of sound. Much of the design was cutting edge, like the watertight rotating bomb bay that could accommodate 30,000 pounds of conventional or nuclear ordinance. The Sea Master was the product of envy; specifically the Navy’s envy of the Air Force and their sexy strategic bombers, like the B-58 Hustler and B-47 Stratojet. In the late 1940s, the Navy lacked the means to deliver nuclear weapons into the heart of the Soviet Union. Bombers deployed from aircraft carriers had limited range and submarines were armed only with primitive cruise missiles. The Navy decided to try and beat the Air Force at their own game and embarked on a project to build and field a strategic nuclear strike force.


The plan was ambitious. This seaplane strike force would be mobile. Support ships would be deployed to forward position to refuel Sea Masters or rearm for follow up attacks. Larger ships would provide maintenance support. Floating caches and submarines would provide emergency fuel and weapons. The role of the Sea Master was flexible. It could be converted from bomber to mine layer in hours. The Sea Master also had the ability to take on even more varied tasks, like airborne tanker and electronic surveillance. But it was the technical challenges of just getting the aircraft off the ground, sorry water, that ultimately lead to the programs termination. That and the fact the Navy had developed more effective strategic weapon systems by 1960 (like the Polaris missile).


It’s too bad the Sea Master was never fully operational. It could have carved a niche for itself in the Navy. I imagine the Sea Master providing refueling for Navy aircraft in Vietnam. The Sea Master also could have offered long range surveillance in that conflict as well. More recently, the Sea Master could have given special forces another tool for maritime interdiction. It could have also provided long range search and rescue capability. But there are a lot of seaplane haters. They point out the simple fact that seaplanes require relatively calm seas for operation (a very valid criticism BTW). Still, it’s fun to think about what could have been if the Sea Master would have gone into full scale production.

1 comment October 24th, 2007

Cold War 2.0

If you’ve been watching the news lately, invariably you’ve heard about three recent actions by the Russia government reeking of Cold War posturing. It all started earlier this month when RAF Tornado jet fighters intercepted eight Russian Tupolev 95 “Bear” bombers approaching the UK. Apparently Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to resurrect the old Soviet Cold War practice of testing NATO defense systems by probing member countries airspace and monitoring interceptor response times. And the UK wasn’t the only country dealing with prowling Bears – Norway dispatched F-16s to shadow the aging Russian bombers during their leisurely jaunt over North Sea shipping lanes. Then last Tuesday, Russia detonated a massive air-to-ground conventional ordnance they’re calling “the father of all bombs”…apparently a jab at the USAF’s smaller yielding Mother of all Bombs (MOAB). This new device is being described as a “vacuum bomb”, but really it’s similar to older Vietnam era fuel air, or thermobaric, bombs called “daisy cutters”. These bombs basically release a cloud of fuel and then ignite it with an explosion seconds later, causing a huge concussive wave that is extremely deadly. The US military used these bombs to kill cave dwelling Taliban fighters in Afghanistan a couple of years ago. And finally, on the same day Russia trotted out its new bomb; President Putin dissolved the Russian government and named a new prime minister, a little-known head of a financial market watchdog group and close ally of Putin. Many are now suggesting that Putin is moving strongly to consolidate his power going into the upcoming Russian presidential elections.

So what does this all mean? Is this really a sign that a new Cold War is emerging between NATO and Russia? Well, in my opinion, no – it’s still too soon to jump to that conclusion. But the bellicose actions are troubling. Russia is currently experiencing a windfall of oil profits and Putin, a former member of the Soviet KGB, is committed to pumping much of that money into the military to modernizing its aging collection of Cold War strategic weapons. I won’t give a laundry list of all the hardware Russia is trying to update or build, but I’ll throw out a few things they’re spending money on that trouble me.


Yamantau Mountain
US intelligence sources believe the Russian government has recently dumped more than $6 billion into the Cold War era Yamantau Mountain underground complex in the Yaman-Tau Gory mountain range east of Moscow. This vast underground installation, often called Russia’s Area 51 but really similar in concept to our decommissioned Cheyenne Mountain, spans some 400 square miles and is served by thousands of workers. The Russia government has never publicly acknowledged the existence of the site, but defense experts have speculated that it serves as a shelter for top officials. Others have suggested Yamantau once housed Dead Hand, an old Soviet computer system that would automatically launch (a la Dr. Strangelove) missiles during an American first strike. But with more than 30,000 above ground workers at the site, something fishy is definitely going on. The site is too large to simply house Russian politicians. Could Yamantau house a secret nuclear weapons program? I guess we’ll never know since the entire complex is 3,000 feet underground!

Yamantau Mountain


Sarov Class Submarine
It was recently leaked that Russia is designing a super secret submarine to replace the mega quiet Soviet era Kilo Class sub. The leaked details suggest the secrete sub, code named Project 20120, contains technology radically different from any other submarine currently in service. If this design comes to fruition, the US Navy will be forced to contended with a nuclear powered attack submarine quieter than anything else in the water.

Submarine: Military Secret Shows Up on the Internet


President Putin announced in August that Russian will resume building Tu-160s, a supersonic bomber similar in design to our B1 bomber and codenamed “Blackjack” by NATO. While the Tu-160 is an older design, Russia is committed to updating the aircraft with new GPS style navigational systems and smart weapon hard points. Actually, in a lot of ways, the Blackjack is a better aircraft then the B1. It’s bigger, faster, and more complex (but lacks stealth capability). And with the planned modernization and new production run, it could very well have a longer operational life than its American counterpart.

2 comments September 13th, 2007

Cheyenne Mountain: RIP

I read recently that Cheyenne Mountain, the underground home of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and star of the ’80s movie “War Games”, has been mothballed. This Cold War facility was built deep inside a mountain near Colorado Springs during the 1960s to keep an eye on those sneaky Soviets. I guess closing this facility makes sense: we’re not facing a massive nuclear first strike like we were during the height of the Cold War. But what about some kind of unforeseen zombie outbreak? Shouldn’t we keep Cheyenne Mountain around for something like that? I mean, this place is really cool and we blow billions of dollars every month on uncool Iraq, can’t we spend a few million to keep Cheyenne Mountain operating just in case something really crazy happens?

Cheyenne Mountain Fast Facts

- The Army Corps of Engineers used 1.5 million pounds of dynamite to excavate about 700,000 tons of granite.

- Cheyenne Mountain has 15 buildings, 12 of which are three stories.

- Cheyenne Mountain rests on 1,319, 1,000-pound springs that allow the complex to sway up to a foot horizontally in any direction.

- The two blast doors are 25 tons, 3 1/2-feet-thick baffled steel.

Going Ballistic! (Wired)

Cheyenne Mountain Home Page







October 23rd, 2006

Oregon Cold War Week: SW Sector

This is the last post in this week’s special series on Cold War Oregon. Be sure to check-out the last part of this post for info about sites across Oregon that didn’t quite fit into my neat little categories.

Coos Head Air National Guard Station (North Bend)
I don’t know much about this facility other than the fact it was used by 104th Air Control Squadron of the Oregon Air National Guard. Recently, I think there was some discussion of deeding the land to one of the American Indian tribes in the area, but I don’t know if that ever went through. My guess is the Coast Guard uses this facility for their rescue helicopters these days.

Google Maps

US Naval Facility Coos Head (Charleston)
This has to be one of the more secret Cold War installations in Oregon. Built in 1958 at the entrance of Coos Bay, this small facility monitored underwater listening stations that were part of the Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) and the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS) used to track Soviet submarines. In the late ’80s, this station was closed and monitoring was transferred to Whidbey Island. I don’t know anything more about this site, but I’m guessing it’s semi-abandoned like Christmas Valley.

Google Maps

Kingsley Field (Klamath Falls)
Currently the home of the Oregon ANG 173d Fighter Wing, this facility mainly trains fighter pilots from across the country. But during the Cold War, this was a full fledged Air Force base. Not sure what the Air Force used the base for, but it was closed in 1978. In 1980, the 142nd Fighter Group began stationing fighter interceptors at the site and the unit was later renamed the 8123 Fighter Interceptor Training Squadron in 1983. The unit was renamed again, as the 114th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, in 1984 and finally became the 173rd Fighter Wing in 1996. BOMARC missiles may have been part of the Air Force installation as part of Air Defense Command (ADC), but I haven’t been able to find any information about what the Air Force actually did there. My dad claims he saw B-52s at Kingsley back in the ‘60s, so maybe it was either a satellite SAC base or some kind of refueling stop for strategic bombers. Boy, that runway is really long, I bet a B-52 could land there.

Google Maps

Cold War Oregon: Various Sites

AT&T Long Lines (Various Locations)
My dad told me about a hardened Cold War relay station in Roseburg a while back. Supposedly, the site was chosen because it was thought Roseburg could ride-out a nuclear attack better than other Oregon locales. I think it has something to do with weather patterns. Anyway, I do know AT&T maintained something called Long Lines, which were hardened facilities designed to withstand a nuclear attack. There was one site over on the Oregon coast at Saddle Mountain that was pretty extensive. The Maupin installation is definitely hardened (see photos), but not really used anymore from what I gather. There were basically two types of Long Lines sites, junctions (switched) and repeaters (relay).

Junction sites were larger, sometimes manned, providing switching of microwave signals. I think the Saddle Mountain facility was a junction site. Signals could be rerouted to various paths or underground cables depending on traffic load, bandwidth, and location. Termination points were usually located in a major city.

Repeater sites provided amplification of a signal. These sites were usually placed to get around obstructions, like mountains, or on long stretches where a signal might weaken. But with the adoption of fiber optic cables in the ‘70s, microwave reliance diminished. By the mid 1990s, microwave technology was pretty much obsolete (except for making popcorn and reheating coffee). Most of the repeater sites are shut down and their facilities have often been sold to small wireless companies.

King Mountain

South Saddle Mountain


AT&T Project Office: CLLI code LSBGVA05 (East Coast)

Civil Defense Community Fallout Shelters (Various Locations)
Probably most Oregon cities had Community Fallout Shelters. These were usually located in government buildings and would be stocked with survival supplies. I remember our post office in McMinnville being designated as a Community Fallout Shelter. My dad said that Melrose Hall on the Linfield College campus was also a Community Fallout Shelter, stocked with medical supplies apparently for the treatment of wounded urbanites who would have evacuated Portland during an atomic attack. The Community Fallout Shelter Program was born in 1961 and the purpose of the program was to locate, mark, and stock fallout shelter. Local governments (city and state) did the work as far as delivering and placing the supplies in the shelters, while the Feds provided actual shelter supplies. These fallout shelters were for radiation protection only, although some of the shelters would have offered a modicum of blast protection depending on the structure’s design and construction. My dad said the “duck and cover” drills were a joke. The old saying was, in case of atomic attack, put you head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.

Cold War Civil Defense Museum

Occupying a Shelter: Civil Defense Film

Target You: Civil Defense Film

Let’s Face It: Civil Defense Film

September 22nd, 2006

Oregon Cold War Week: SE Sector

Over-The-Horizon-Backscatter Radar (Christmas Valley)
This massive radar complex was built late in the Cold War, sometime in the 1980s, about 17 miles east of Christmas Valley. Designed to detect Soviet bombers thousands of miles away, the facility was obsolete by the time it was built and mothballed just months after beginning operation. These strange looking radars were designed to bounce radio waves off the ionosphere in order to “see” around the curvature of the earth. The Christmas Valley installation is the transmitter site, while another complex in Tulelake, California receives the bounced signals. Monitoring was done from Mountain Home AFB in Idaho during the short time the site was operational. The site is now being maintained on a “caretaker” status just in case Joseph Stalin busts out of his glass coffin Simpsons style.

The Christmas Valley site could very well receive a new lease on life. In the 1990s, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration tested the radar system for weather forecasting. This type of radar has shown promise for tracking large storms over vast stretches of ocean where no other radar coverage exists.

Google Maps

Tule Lake Receiver (CA)

1 comment September 21st, 2006

Oregon Cold War Week: NE Sector

Umatilla Chemical Depot (Umatilla)
The Umatilla Chemical Depot opened in 1941 in northeastern Oregon as a storage site for wartime munitions and supplies. In 1962, the facility began storing chemical weapons for possible use in an all out war with the Soviets. Weapons stored in hardened bunkers included rockets, land mines, and bombs containing the nerve agents GB (sarin) and VX. Additional, there were many large containers of World War I era mustard gas. While the depot is still maintained, a significant stockpile of chemical weapons have been disposed of. As of July 26, 2006, 732 tons of GB loaded weapons have been destroyed, representing about 20% of the total stockpile.


Google Maps

Boardman Air Force Range (Boardman)
A bombing range used by the Oregon, Washington, and Idaho Air National Guard, this site was shut down in 2000. The range seems pretty small (12 miles by 12 miles square) but is still being used in some capacity. Between 1952 and 1956, the 57th Air Division at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington assumed responsibility for the Boardman Range. I think there were plans to create a rocket park here a while back, but it doesn’t seem like much is going on out there at the moment.

Google Maps

Pendleton Army Air Base (Pendleton)
This base was built during the Second World War (they trained the pilots for the famous Tokyo Raid here), but I don’t know if it was used during the Cold War. I believe it’s still used by either the Oregon Air National Guard or the Oregon Army National Guard. To be honest, I really don’t know much about this site, but I’ve seen it before, and it looks pretty small.

Google Maps

Add comment September 20th, 2006

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