Russell E. Hershey,
INT: Can you tell me just a little about the ... I mean, a lot of people have known [inaudible] in the past, the double key system and the fact that one person couldn'treach a key, can you just explain how that worked. Take itfrom the moment when you decoded the message, when it appeared to be valid alert, what would the next sequence of events be?
TD: OK. Once we decoded the message and determined it was a valid launch message, then we'd open up the safe, we would take out the documents. Then on the launch code - no-one knew what the launch code was,... no-one did until it was sent - then we would open the documents and check to make sure that the codes did match, and if they matched, then we would determine our launch time. There were different times in the launch that we had to do manually within this system. And once we agreed upon that, the commander and the deputy agreed, and that time was coming up, then the deputy would get his key in the slot and the commander would break... They had these seals on them, you had to break the seal to get to the key, the key slot, then you would break the seal, put your key in the slot, be ready to turn and the commander would count down, three, two, one, turn and hold. One, two, three, we'd turn and hold for three seconds or until the sequence started and he would be reading through his check list and I could tell, as a deputy at the time, when the sequence started and later on, you saw the lights run across in the control center there, and we just watched that and we... you know, it's all over within a minute.
INT: Were you present for any launches?
TD: No, I wasn't that lucky. I was out at Vandenberg when [inaudible], which... What they would do is a missile would be selected from the inventory and we would take it out of the silo here and take it out to California and set it up there and then watch it and that's how we would get our statistics as far as how accurate we were and how reliable our system was. I was there, but I was not the crew that was down in the launch control center when it was launched.
INT: Did the responsibility weigh heavy on you?
TD: At times it did...
INT: Can you say what it...
TD: At times the responsibility of knowing the power of annihilating whatever my target was, did... At first it wasn't too bad, but once I had a family and you sort of kind of think a little bit differently about things, once you have children, then it, at times, I really did think about it and unlike maybe a lot of other people, I did have a box of food, that was canned food and canned water at home and told my wife... I had a password that if it looked like the situation in the world was getting hot enough, that I would call and pass her this word in a sentence and she would take my kids and this box food and go into a [inaudible] cave and wait to see what happened. I don't believe it was total annihilation, it would not have been and it isn't. You know, if it was, we couldn't have tests and still be here. They've tested many of the weapons and they're very limited in some respects, although they're very powerful and I fully expected to have my family survive.
INT: Did you think a nuclear war, once started, was stoppable?
TD: Only from our side! I believe it started, it wouldn't be very long before we would stop. The way our government and our society is, if they would see any of the annihilation, I'm sure it would stop very quickly. I'm not so sure about the other side. I have no idea how, you know, the general public would feel over there or if they would even know or get to see what was happening.
INT: You said me earlier that it wasn't easy, that it wasn't to fight the Cold War. Tell me a bit more, what was it like?
TD: Well, the Cold War was a war that went on twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. We also did not know who was friend or who was foe. I've often looked at someone sitting next to me and asked them if they were enemy, because of what they were proposing to do. It was awful hard to realize that the Cold War was more or less a political war, it was not a military war and I guess being in the military, that's where I had my problem. It was not a war being fought so that we could win something. It was an economic war, really is what it was.
INT: Good answer. When you were fully alert here, you said to me that you applied to go to Vietnam to get out of it. Can you tell me that...
TD: OK. While I was here, Vietnam really heated up and when I first got here, most of the people that were on crew forces were aircrews. The officers were either pilots or co-pilots or navigators, the enlisted people were crew chiefs or maintenance mechanics for aircraft. When Vietnam heated up, all these people were scooped up and sent over to Vietnam. Consequently, the crew force in numbers dwindled and whereupon quite a few alerts, we were meeting ourselves coming and going, it was very strenuous mentally, 'cos we never had a chance to sit back and rest. We came off alert, we had that day to rest, quote unquote, which most of us couldn't do, 'cos you're over-tired. The next day we went in and had training and the day after that we went back on alert again. So we were out there, I knew my crew much better than I knew my own family. Now my kids really didn't know who I was, because all they'd ever see was this sleeping person that was passed out on the couch when they went by, and it was a problem for our families, because even the wives... [inaudible] down there and we were so tired, we'd be laying there, worthless, and they had to pick up the garbage can and take it out. And if we weren't there, it would not bother, but the fact that we were there and we weren't doing it and they had to, created problems for a lot of families at the time.
INT: Can you tell me that you actually applied to go to Vietnam?
TD: Yes, there were a bunch of us, I think - I'm trying to remember the numbers - probably about twenty one of us decided that it would have been much easier to be in Vietnam and go in, do our tour and have it over with, instead of going through this every third day alert type of thing. And we also wanted to do something to get involved. Here we were sort of pushed in the ... back from anything and nobody even knew what we were doing. This way we felt we'd go there and be able to contribute something to the Vietnamese War. Well, we went down and they just looked at us and laughed, there was... you know, go home and get ready to go on alert the next day. We weren't eligible to go out of the country, because, well, of the classified material that we did have available to us. So consequently, they had a way of covering themselves, even if they wanted to send us over there, they really couldn't at the time.
INT: Earlier you said an interesting point that even now, the public don't really know what went on, about how much is involved in the [inaudible], can you explain that to me?
TD: I tried to explain some of the things that we did to protect the public. They didn't really realize how hard it was to keep this country as safe as we were keeping it. By that, I mean, where they could walk the sidewalks, not worry about being shot at or someone trying to take over this government. It was not an easy task. There was an awful lot of things that went on, on a day to day basis, twenty four hours a day. There were times when it got very hard, after spend a day and a half without sleep, trying to find a way to counteract something, to come up out of a hole and walk down the street, trying to go to your car and have people spit on you, because you're in uniform. It just made it that much harder to go back again and to do this for these people who didn't appreciate it, 'cos they had no idea what we were doing. I can't really tell you much about what we were doing at the time, but it was a never-ending battle and any time there was, you know, we had to counteract whatever they did and we did things to make them counteract us... the Cold War was an economic war, for one thing, and we did a lot... as it proved out we did eventually bankrupt them and that's what finished the Cold War. But at the time, it wasn't only that. They were also trying to take over our country and I was involved more in that period of time with those things than I was with the monetary pof it. Later on, I was involved in the monetary part and we did do things tmake them spend money to counteract things that we did and, as it's proven to be, the right way to do things, it worked. I'm glad it did. I'm glad my children don't have to worry about this nuclear holocaust per se that they've always had in the back of their mind, that they heard about.
INT: Would you say then that, certainly for you and your crewmembers, that the Cold War was in fact a real war?
TD: Yes, it was, it definitely was a war. In fact...
INT: (Interrupts) Can you say that as a statement.
TD: Oh, OK. The Cold War was in fact a war to us and in fact, whenever we came on alert, we were required to wear dog tags and just the same as if we went on alert on an aircraft. It was the same type of thing. We did it in a different way than an aircraft crew did and we did it day in and day out, did a, I think, a lot more than they did, more often than they did. This was a constant thing, it was twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week that we were on alert and an aircraft is not on alert twenty-four hours a day and there was a strain mentally. It's there saying, you know, well what happens... that it was always there and consequently we did our best to keep these things ready to go twenty four hours a day.