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Crews would then shut down the engines and remain in their airplanes. Missiles were a separate case. Note: The author wishes to acknowledge the efforts of George Cully in acquiring this document, and comments by William Burr and David Rosenberg. The document and the commentary are illuminating and brought to mind my experience with SAC nuclear operations during the following decade.

A Red Dot 1 message would not have been used to change the alert posture of U. By it instead would have ordered the strategic forces to carry out their wartime missions — in other words, execute the Single Integrated Operational Plan SIOP. This always required presidential authorization, either his personal approval in the immediate circumstances or that of his authorized surrogate. Although the legal chain of command for presidential succession ran through the Vice President, senior Congressional leaders and then the Cabinet secretaries in the order of the creation of their departments, the nuclear chain of command would likely have quickly bypassed civilian successors and rolled over to senior military commanders vested with pre-delegated launch authority.

Every president from Eisenhower through Reagan had pre-delegated this authority to a raft of these commanders in order to ensure rapid execution in the event of decapitation or communications outages that prevented the president from personally authorizing a nuclear strike.

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Red Dot 1 options were designated by a specific war plan number e. For example, war plan '55' might have called for the execution of a major SIOP option that unleashed the full might of the U. We learned in the mids that SAC planners had designed the counterforce targeting in such a way that all the major Soviet cities would have been obliterated. The ERT ensured that all U.

Fulfillment of a Concept

Mistakes calculating the FLSS timing for delayed Minuteman sorties was one of the more common critical errors in crew training. This phase would have begun with either a preemptive U. After a pause of a few hours to assess the adversary's reactions and speculative intentions, the president or his successor would have either authorized the termination of the offensive strikes using a special EAM or escalated the conflict to, say, large-scale strikes against enemy war- supporting industry using a second Red Dot 1 message with a new war plan number.

The final Red Dot 1 message envisioned would have called for an all-out strike against the enemy's top civilian and military leadership once hope of a negotiated end to the war had been abandoned.

Aerial warfare

Today's nuclear war plans allow for more flexibility in the size and sequence of strike operations; for instance, an initial strike may be directed against the opposing leadership and sequence in the opposite direction from the early s plan. For example, I served at the 'Kilo' underground Minuteman launch center which had the additional responsibility of serving as the Wing Alternate Command Post. If they never made it, the duties of wing battle staff managing Minuteman missiles would have fallen on the shoulders of my crewmate and me.

These Posture messages would have been issued by the senior SAC commander or lower-level commanders if SAC communications were disrupted upon notification that North America appeared to be under nuclear missile attack. Bombers taking off under a 'positive control launch, or PCL' would have proceeded with re-fueling along the way to their 'fail-safe' positions a hundred or more miles from enemy territory.


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These were the positive control turnaround points PCTP , which were located just outside the line-of-sight radar range of enemy territory in order not to trigger Soviet air defense operations and otherwise escalate tensions. At some point during this journey to their PCTAPs, the bomber crews might have received a radio transmission, probably over High Frequency from higher command or perhaps by Ultra-High Frequency Red Dot 1 messages transmitted to them by aircraft relays e. The Red Dot 1 message with less than 30 characters spelled out it was still only half the length of a tweet today would probably have been a voice message designating an Execution Reference Time and war plan number as well as unlock codes to unlock their bomb racks in flight.

This EAM to the bombers would have thus confirmed or possibly reprogrammed their final mission folder, targets, routes and bomb drop timing. If a nuclear strike was aimed at China or North Korea alone, a Blue Dot EAM would have been used to prepare the bomber and submarine forces to execute it. To the best of my recollection bomber EWO was not taught to Minuteman crews , a Red Dot 1 would not have been used because its war plan numbers would have involved strikes by U. Minuteman missiles whose great circle ballistic trajectories would have taken them over Soviet territory enroute to Asia.

By the early s if not earlier it was well recognized that such overflights by large numbers of U. Therefore, the main strategic nuclear war plans against China involved only strategic bombers and submarines whose routes and trajectories could circumvent Soviet territory, and I believe Blue Dot messages would have provided the EWO guidance. If the United States had gone to war with both the Soviet Union and China, then a Red Dot 1 message would have been sent to all three components of the U.

The Red Dot 1 nomenclature and mission that I was familiar with were compromised at least twice: once by an American spying for the Soviet Union, who evidently disclosed these secrets in the late s, and a second time by a misguided young SAC officer in the early s. Since during much of the s, s, and early s such SIOP directives would likely have been disseminated over insecure voice communications especially the Primary Alerting System , it is quite possible that Soviet communications monitoring would have intercepted the SIOP message at the same time that it was being passed to the U.

It is thus likely that the Soviets would have known a large-scale strategic strike was imminent and taken steps to preempt it or to be better prepared to launch on warning. It is also possible that the Soviets learned from this spy how to inject nuclear EAMs into the Naval Broadcast Communications Network, a compromise that was not discovered until the mids when it led the Navy to revise its SSBN launch authorization procedures in case they received a Red Dot 1 or the newer flag word that replaced it out of the blue.

In the second instance, the discovery of the compromise in the early s led the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Agency, and Strategic Air Command to devise new flag-words for execution EAMs, which may be still classified. If this second discovery had not happened, it is possible that the Soviets and later the Russians might have continued to have the ability to detect in real time the dissemination of U. On a personal note, I asked the late Helmut Sonnenfeld, a former senior assistant to Henry Kissinger, who was married to an heiress of the Hecht family department store business in Washington, D.

The th SMS was itself inactivated on 25 th March after its last missile was removed on 8 February. Most obviously, this has involved the coercion of an enemy nation-state by seeking to destroy its economic ability to wage war as opposed to eliminating its armed forces.

The use of strategic air power requires systematic organization e. One of the aims for using strategic air power is enemy demoralization—that is, the racking up of punishment to the extent that the will of the enemy to resist is broken. The theory of strategic heavy bombing began to be developed during the aftermath of World War I. The use of strategic air power has been limited since World War II for a number of reasons.

Not least among these is the relative scarcity of major wars as well as the inability of the vast majority of modern nation-states to devote sufficient resources to seek any decision in conflict via strategic air power. The United States is a notable exception here and it employed strategic air power in Vietnam in , against Iraq in and , and in Kosovo in Boyne seeks to do for air power what Mahan did for sea power in his The Influence of Sea Power upon History, — Olsen provides an excellent range of views on the evolution of air warfare in all its aspects and is particularly strong on strategic bombing.

Gentile adopts a near-scientific method to extrapolate the danger of treating bombing surveys as purveyors of strategic and military truth. Similar conclusions were advanced in Kennett , a passionate and highly readable work—albeit with less data and rather more emotion than Gentile Pape seeks to place the debates on the possibilities afforded by strategic air power in historical context.

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Meilinger is a fantastic companion volume for anyone seeking to study strategic bombing, containing, as it does, chapters on all of the elements central to the understanding of the evolution of strategic air thought. Werrell provides an excellent overview of the possibilities and limitations of air power after nearly one hundred years of development. Boyne, Walter J. The Influence of Air Power upon History.

Gretna, LA: Pelican, Tries to do for air power what Mahan did for sea power in his classic The Influence of Sea Power upon History, — Mahan had six prerequisites for success at sea. For the air, Boyne has five: first, a big budget; second, a recognized security threat; third, high technology; fourth, supportive political leadership; and, fifth, good air strategists and practitioners Douhet and LeMay, respectively, are singled out here.

Buckley, John. Air Power in the Age of Total War. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, A systematic treatment of each country while discussing the development of universal theories of strategic air power. He demonstrates how only the superpowers could make real use of strategic air power after Gentile, Gian P.

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How Effective Is Strategic Bombing? Very good in discussing the effects of bombing on morale, and the political and military factors relevant to leaders seeking to end wars. Kennett, Lee. A passionate and strongly argued history of strategic bombing that is very strong on demonstrating that strategic bombing is far more likely to be limited by a lack of material resources rather than any moral scruples. Warns that generals and politicians are often prone to self-deception when seeking to analyze the effectiveness of strategic bombing.