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Poetry Magnum Opus

Cold War


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Cold War


Fifteen, six-man crews on alert

in bunker for two-week stint,

playing chess, reading, bored.


Klaxon sounds, jolting each

to his feet, moving en masse

to board their assigned truck.


Speeding to the parked aircraft,

signaling guard to get well clear

as they scoot up the ladder.


Helmets on first, then strapping

into ejection seat, pilot signaling

ground crew to fire engine one.


Radar navigator and electronic

warfare officer copy message

from command post. Go code!


Pilot releases brakes after confirming

four digit code agrees with his own

plastic sealed card that screams GO.


Tower voice directs the line of fifteen

B-52 bombers, two H-bombs lying

cradled in each closed bomb bay.


Takeoffs thirty seconds apart down

the exhaust filled runway, radio silence

eerily maintained for hours to the IP.


On intercom only for duties as the plotted

route is followed without any talk

unnecessary to the task.


Electronic warfare officer monitoring

threat scopes, watching the blips for SAMs,

surface to air missiles dubbed Fan Song.


Descending to low level, the pilots draw

thermal shields across windshields,

reverting to trust in radar and cameras.


First and only target inside the Moscow

defense ring receives both weapons, ten

seconds apart, aircraft climbing for its life.


Gunner downs a MIG-21, and crew cheers.

White missiles fly by and explode, not

close enough for shards to enter the plane.


Exiting Russian territory, still nothing

on radios, the crew left to wonder

What are we going back to?



Franklin -- From 1950s until I retired in 1974, what could have been.

Edited by fdelano
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Great perspective of "what could have been," Franklin. The effective title draws the reader in, and the poem captures the era and its "state of mind" very well.



Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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Horrifyingly hypothetical read Franklin. It's hard to imagine the pressures of living constantly with this sort of responsibility for any length of time. Brings back memories of newspaper reports of our own planes flying over us (in England) with open bomb doors on maneouvres. Check out the clip "Major Kong rides the bomb" from the end of the film satire Dr. Strangelove. The world is now a different but still very dangerous place. Currently reading Tom Clancy's "Against all enemies" among other stuff. I like to keep informed. Geoff.


Edited by Benjamin
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Thanks, Tv and G. Dr. Strangelove was banned from military theaters for a year or more. We who then were flying these airborne alert missions found the movie to be both hilarious, chilling and a lot of the technicalities accurate. As the movie started and credits ran, a KC-135 tanker and a B-52 bomber were trying mid-air refueling. The boomer controller in the tanker could have been training because he kept fumbling the hose around the bomber's open receptacle. The background music was "Try a little tenderness." I spilled my popcorn from laughing. Geoff, you likely remember the song at the end, after the H-bomb exploded. It was a wartime British song, I think, something to the effect that we'll meet again some summer day. Worth watching again to find out. I think Peter Sellers played three or four roles. Genius.

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David W. Parsley

Isn't that the movie that taught people how to break into the change box on a coke machine? Speaking of which, it seems like Slim Pickens could have used a bottle to accompany him on his ride. And then there was the not-previously-announced doomsday machine - "You know how he likes surprises."


Back to the poem: if there is a movie it summoned for me, it would be "Failsafe." Those were rough days indeed and this piece brings some of that back. The choppy rhythm enhances the sense of urgency, of standard ops transitioning into battlefield response in situ. Might want to clean up a few grammar/diction problems (i.e. substitute "the" or a blank for "their" in L6). Nice job.


- Dave

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