During the Cold War scores of United States Air Force fighter and fighter bomber pilots, both in Pacific and Europe, sat quick reaction alert around the clock, ready to launch on a moment's notice to attack Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union targets with nuclear weapons. This memoir mashes up, with some embellishment, events and personal experiences from the early 1970s in order to provide a look into the preparation, training and sustainment of the men assigned the onerous duty--called Victor Alert. My memoir gives insight into the mundane human aspects of life sitting on the "Bomb"--ready to launch in any conditions, penetrate a wall of defenses and drop it with precision. The "how do we get back home," if there was a home, was a bit sketchy. Aircrews leaving families unprotected and realizing our odds of returning were slim accepted these risks as just another day at the office. When the many years of painful lessons maintaining safe and secure Victor Alert ended, a culture of perfection lost way to other competing priorities. A few highly publicized incidents raised storm flags. Regardless of the implications, Nuke alert became just another part of our day-to-day life. The horrific potential consequences of Victor Alert duty, mixed right in with normal flying activities, mundane household chores and the joys of family life in a friendly foreign. For people stationed in Europe before the internet enlightenment, connections to family and friends in the USA were complicated, expensive and cumbersome. Our lives centered around the squadron, the flying schedule, deployments away from home base, and the weather, bonding our wives and children as much as it did us, the aircrews--pilots and electronic warfare officers assigned to the 81st Tactical Fighter Squadron. But all else was secondary to Victor Alert. Every detail was specified in war plans, concepts of operation, procedures, training manuals, checklists and rules of engagement. To insure we were prepared, frequent war games and exercises gave us practice and confidence. While we all felt absolutely ready to do our jobs if ordered, most of us wondered if anyone high up in our chain of command would be brave, or foolhardy enough to ever push the red button.
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