Russell E. Hershey,
INT: So how important do you think the role of the ICBMs and your roles here were in the history of the Cold War?
RH: I feel if it hadn't been for the ICBMs and the nuclear deterrents that... and if the Soviet Union, controlled under the leadership they had, had seen an opportunity to build their military industrial complex up to the point of making a first strike feasible, they very well would have done it. The only thing that prevented them from doing that was the fact that we had the counter-balancing forces, so that their first strike would never have succeeded.
INT: Can I ask you the same question, Ed? Did you regard the Soviets as expansionist? You were on duty in the earlier part of the '60s when really I suppose the paranoia was almost at its peak. How do you regard their aims? What do you think they were out to do?
EM: I would concur with Ray in that I think we felt that the Communist society was advancing or attempting to advance their system of economics throughout the world and I to some extent separated that from these ICBMs. I think regardless of world expansion policies, it's a very significant logical jump to nuclear warfare, but there was this, once again, fear of the Soviet nation attempting world dominance. But I think the nuclear missiles once again the parity of the two systems during the Cold War, in a strange sense, perhaps ultimately causes the downfall of their system and the following part of the Cold War.
INT: As a missile commander, MacNamara introduced in the '60s what became known as mutually assured destruction, he called it assured destruction. Can you explain to me what you felt that meant by assured destruction?
EM: Well, I think simply that if the United States were attacked, the air force, navy and armed forces had a capability to retaliate in such a manner that there would be no victor in this type of armed conflict, so that of itself, once again, becomes a strange deterrent.
INT: What was the worst moment for you in your service history in terms of the Cold War?
EM: The worst moment? This is difficult. I can't remember a worst moment, I thought the training was excellent, we were never put in a position where something occurred where we did not feel that our check lists and our training enabled us to properly save what might be an unsafe condition. Ray and I participated in an actual launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base and the launch that we participated in resulted in a an abort, due to a difficulty. I would probably remember that as, for me, the worry that a missile had had a malfunction and its oxidizer and fuel valves were open and there were hazardous vapors and conditions that required some real agility. But other than that, we didn't have any... that I remember any significantly difficult moments.
INT: Ray, do you remember any particularly bad time? Do you ever think the political situation was getting tense, that...?
RH: Back in '73, I believe Nixon increased the readiness of the forces, allegedly due to response to something that happened in the mid-East, at the time, I was concerned about it and in retrospect I wonder if it really was in response to something to happened in the mid-East or whether it was an attempt to get attention off of Watergate, which was going on at the time. But, it was... to me it seemed that I don't know what's... I don't see anything in the mid-East that justifies this. Maybe there's something in the mid-East that I don't know about that justifies this, which caused a bit of concern on my part. Then later on, after a day or two, it was returned to previous status and everything went on as normal. If you were to say as far as nuclear warfare goes, that would be my worst moment. As far as equipment or fear or, you know, hazard or whatever, the abort that Ed and I experienced would have been the worst moment. When you're standing here in the control center and you have a hundred fifty tons of high explosive missile down the cableway, two hundred and fifty feet away and you really don't know what its situation is, that gets a little tense.
INT: Last few questions, Ed. Just getting back if I may, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, what were you doing?
EM: No, I was actually in college in Washington, D.C., at the time. I do remember the crisis and of course later, when I became a missile officer in discussions with quite a few of the contemporaries that had been on alert during those period of time, that was quite a... the [inaudible] was advanced, so that was quite a worry some time.
INT: Given the billions, of not trillions of dollars and rubles, that have been spent on the arms race, do you think it's been justified and worth it?
RH: Well, personally, I strongly feel that - and I'm very much comforted today that things are better - I personally feel certainly there has to be a better way to conduct world affairs, than with our nuclear arsenals. Having said that, I think the Strategic Air Command did during its period of time a wonderful job and in the celebration today, is no weapon was ever used, and they actually once again, with their patch, peace is our profession, feel that they've been successful. I think at that period of time it accomplished its goal. Certainly I would like to see repeated at the Olympics where the Russian gymnasts brought the flowers to the American gymnasts at the end of the gymnastic events, I found that very heart-warming. We'd like to see a whole lot more of that.
INT: Ed, given you think that the Russians have launched against you, would you let anyone, even your family know, that this was the end? Did you ever think about what would happen then?
EM: Are you directing that question...
INT: To Ray, sorry, yes.
RH: If we had received a launch message when I was on duty, I realized, you know, as I said, Southern Arizona would have been totally uninhabitable, very shortly. Tucson would have been gone, the sites would most certainly been gone. I don't think any amount of notification I could have given my family would have done any good, except to terrify them and no, I didn't have any plans to notify my family. I didn't think there was any point in it.
INT: Can I ask the same question of you, Ed?
EM: I think there was a seriousness that pervaded all the missile crews, but questions like this, which seem logical, were probably never discussed, on any kind of basis between the officers or enlisted men or with the families. I like Ray, would suspect that if there were to be a launch, it was a very intense period of activity and you would be focused entirely on that lauand no, you probably would not notify your family, perhaps in the back of the your mind, that this area would be destroyed. I don't think the missile crews really believed that they would ever have to turn keys on their weapons. They were prepared to if ordered to, but I think very strongly that they believed that this would not occur.
INT: Thanks a lot.
END OF INTERVIEW