Pushing the Edge on Nuclear War

By William R. Polk

Decisions on nuclear weapons are and will remain the most important part of our quest for world security since even small mistakes or wrong actions would probably be catastrophic. We now seem to be moving closer to the danger point of provoking their use. So I want particularly to emphasize four points on the issues we all face and then raise a few other general considerations:

—Technical mistakes are always possible. More have happened than is generally known. In the Eisenhower administration, NORAD at least once spotted on radar a flight of geese over Iceland and went to Red Alert. It took a critical period of minutes to recognize the cause and stand down the alert. During that time, the danger of a missile launch or an aircraft attack was clear and present.

Some years later, a nuclear bomb was actually dropped on America (by a U.S. Air Force bomber flying where it should not have been while carrying a weapon it should not have been carrying). Fortunately, the firing mechanism was faulty and the bomb did not go off. Had it detonated, in the confusion SAC and other formations would have been hard to stop from reacting to the supposed attacker. These are just two of many incidences of dangerous times.

I fear that we are again heading into dangerous times.


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