Wednesday, January 16, 2008

BIG BANG MAG: Ordnance magazine ca. The Peace Movement

Who doubted it? Ad from July-August '69 issue of Ordnance magazine.

The snapshot of the ICBM ad in a 1969 issue of Ordnance: Systems for National Defense magazine encapsulates the thrust of a publication whose motto could have been "Peace through strength, strength and still more strength."

It was the height of the anti-Vietnam war movement and the magazine's editors and publisher were feeling the strain. Throughout the magazine are articles and editorial asides sniping at peaceniks and those who wished to reduce the size of the "military industrial complex."

"Suddenly into weapons selection arena come new and strange committees," writes contributor Robert L. Johnson of the Air Force.

"They have one and only one set of objectives -- to discredit the established authority, to downgrade anything military, to alarm the people, and above all to divide and create the maximum social dissent -- all this with a studious air, an innocent manner and an immediate attack on any who challenge their motives.

"By using a liberally oriented press and news media to the maximum advantage they are assured of widespread national coverage -- and by repetition of a 'big lie' technique -- they establish credibility...

"Many labor under the illusion that defense appropriations are taking from social programs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Social ... appropriations are already far inflated over any previous level..."

"The war in Vietnam will go into the record books as a stark example ... of one 'conducted by civilians completely and totally ignorant of tactics and strategy and completely lacking in the willingness to win," writes Leo A. Codd, an army officer, for an article entitled "Today and the Task Ahead."

"I have attempted to show that fear of a massive military partnership with industry is without a basis in fact," wrote Vice Admiral J. B. Cowell for "Industry and Defense: A timely vindication of the US military industrial relationship."

"Such a thing does not now, nor did it ever, exist. Under our form of government, under the leadership of wise men imbued with an abiding love of country, it will not come to pass."

"The campus community has a large contingent of vociferous 'antiwar' crusaders who challenge all proposals for the national defense ... " continued another editor angrily. "Their objection [to an anti-ballistic missile system which was never developed] is to be expected. It is all of a piece with draft card burning, desecration of the National Colors and destruction of campus facilities -- including libraries ... In addition, there are many church organizations which have taken their stand with the opponents..."

The magazine's positions read quaintly at a time in the future distant from its editors, one in which there is no serious mainstream opposition to anything the military and government does. Possessing the largest military in world history, one which exceeds in spending what all other countries in the world COMBINED do for their militaries, the fears of the directors and contributors of Ordnance look very antique.

In 2008 there is no effective debate on the appropriateness of the size of defense and security force structure fielded by the United States. And Americans have no stake or say in the wars their leadership chooses to wage. In no longer having to serve, as they did when the 1969 issue of Ordnance was published, they abandoned resposibility, mostly to have the unimpeded freedom to buy on credit whatever lavish things they wish to buy whenever they wish to buy them.

As for the big presidential candidates -- not a blessed one of them has a recommendation that departs from the risible meme that the US military must be strengthened. Spending the most in the world for a military is not enough. There must always be more invested to redress any weakening and ensure the capability to peremptorily or pre-emptorily attack others in the so-called defense of freedom and the American way of life.

We can look back now and view Ordnance in 1969 as inhabiting an odd period in American history. The military men within its pages felt threatened by oversight and the realization that the Vietnam war was lost. They worried about a future in which military spending, their livelihoods, and the national defense might be diminished.

The threat of the Soviet Union was omnipresent, they wrote. The peace movement was not going to impress the Russian bear. America had to be prepared to push on, to even fight a war in Europe with tactical nuclear weapons, wrote one contributor in an article entitled "NATO's Defense Posture."

"Protection of free Europe with conventional weapons is an unrealistic concept, and practical plans for the deployment of improved tactical nuclear armament must be put into operation at the earliest moment," it was said.

One of the ways the nuclear war in Europe would be fought was with Atomic Annie, a massive artillery piece meant to lob the shells of Armageddon at advancing Soviet hordes.

Photo from Ordance magazine of one Atomic Annie in silhouette after Shot Grable, part of Operation Upshot-Knothole in 1953.

"Unless the strategist specifically wishes mass exterminations (which is conceivable), the rationale for [radioactive] fallout is highly questionable," reasoned the Ordnance contributor. "Even if fallout were desired, it might prove unuseful -- just as a gun which explodes when it is fired can then only be used as a club."

"Fallout is the element from which most nuclear fears are derived. It can and should be eliminated promptly."

In the face of Soviet might, the US had one thing on its side, reported Ordnance. Then, as always said now, technological savvy would save the day.

"The Commie talks big but frankly we think he's short of know-how," part of a famous movie general's outburst in Dr. Strangelove, made the belief into famous Cold War entertainment. "I mean you just can't take a bunch of ignorant peasants and expect them to understand a machine like our boys . . ."

The same belief still rules supreme only now the enemy/ignorant peasants are in the Middle East.

In the July '69 issue of Ordnance, US tech savvy was hailed in the development of the submarine-launched ballistic missile, a "technical surprise" which had kept America ahead of the Soviets.

Thanks and a tip o' the hat to Rick Noll of Bona Fide Records whose wanderings of antique swap meets in Pennsylvania contributed this slice of history.


Blogger scamorama said...

"In the July '69 issue of Ordnance, US tech savvy was hailed in the development of the submarine-launched ballistic missile, a "technical surprise" which had kept America ahead of the Soviets."

I don't know that I would call it a "technical surprise", considering the Soviets had submarines capable of carrying and launching nuclear missiles before Polaris.

True, the earlier Soviet weapons were IRBM's (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles), but so was the Polaris A-1.

The REAL breakthrough with Polaris was submerged launch capability.

Mated to a quiet, nuclear submarine, it was (and still is), the ultimate weapon.

11:58 AM  

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