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This Is The End ...

Some say the end of the human race will come by accident. One day, society will become so complex and so imposible to understand that something will go horribly wrong and no one will notice until it is too late!
   "Near misses don't count!" Maybe not, but they sure give people a lot of grey hairs. And we have been to the brink more than once -- but we're still not used to it.

It's a typical November Friday at the North American defence command complex at Cheyenne mountain near Colorado Springs. And then the panic starts. The Russians are attacking. A warning goes out to US airbases all over the world. The President's personal plane gets ready to take off for somewhere safe.
   For endless minutes, technicians scramble around the system, checking. Military staff watch their displays and hope that they have done everything needed. And then ...

And then, someone finds out that it was all a mistake. Somehow, a computer had started to play a tape of a simulated Soviet missile attack. "Stop doing things and go back to sleep" messages travel around the world.
   Red-faced senior officers begin an investigation. Was it an error by a computer or a human being? Well, that will take at least a week to find out, by which time something else will have come along to distract the world's media. And it was a useful training exercise. Wasn't it?

Well, it was and it wasn't. The alerts that went out to US airbases were for the real thing, not a training exercise. Although it was clear to those in the front line that there were no missiles on the way and no alerts were issued to US airbases in the UK.
    The staff at the long-range radar tracking station at Fylingdales in Yorkshire took just 30 seconds to decide that there was no attack on the way. According to an RAF spokesman, they just did their job with British true grit and they soon sorted out where the truth lay.

The news media dug into their archives and they soon came up with horror stories about nuclear alerts triggered by flocks of migrating geese, meteorites and the rising Moon, of all things! But the US military had been hoping that it was well beyond such teething troubles.
    Of course, left-wing MPs in the UK leapt at a chance to make trouble in the first year of the Thatcher Era.

"What if we went to war by mistake?" was included in their opposition to a NATO plan to station more missiles in Europe to match Russia's superior nuclear forces.
   If the left-wingers had got their way, the UK might never had hosted its quota of "Tomahawk" cruise missiles.
   And all those "Peace Wimmin" would have had to find something useful to do with their lives!

Of course, all the steam went out of the issue and people forgot that they had been minutes away from a nuclear arse-kicking match. But the news media were able to drag it all up again 7 months later. There were 2 nuclear attack alerts in one week at the beginning of June of 1980!
   The Russian press immediately started yelling that the US Government was "playing with fire". But at that time, there was no truth in Pravda and no news in Izvestiya, so no one in the West, except left-wingers, took much notice.

As in November of the previous year, no units stationed in the UK were put on alert. The investigations resumed. And when the fault was found in the multi-million-dollar "Doomsday" computer, it was found that a 20p part wasn't working properly.
    But the alerts had come when there were Russian missile-carrying submarines within 1,000 miles of Washington. The Americans took three minutes to decide "false alarm". In the event of the real thing, there would have been missiles raining down on the US capital 2 minutes later.

By coincidence, a Yorkshire family had been booked to spend the weekend after the November nuclear alert trying out Hull council's new fallout shelter -- a high-tech version of the wartime Anderson Shelter.
   The Hopkinsons and their 2 daughters were isolated from the rest of the world from teatime on Friday to midday on Sunday with minimal facilities and the lights on around the clock so that experts could monitor them on closed-circuit TV.

After the alerts in June of the following year, the government was having to issue plans of Home Office approved shelters to counter worries that con-men were cashing in on the nation's fears of a nuclear war by accident and selling useless fallout shelters.
    Shelters costing from 1,200 to 6,000, plus VAT, became the must-have domestic fashion accessory and a firm making Ministry of Defence shelter kits under licence was flooded with orders.

Does any of the above sound familiar? Probably not after the collapse of communism in the Soviet empire. But as weapons technology advances and the world continues to be plagued by rogue dictators and loonies with causes, it may become familiar again.
   One thing that's for sure is that if we do return to living "Under the shadow of The Bomb", the con-merchants will come leaping out of the woodwork to sell ignorant punters fallout shelters made out of cardboard, kitchen foil and string -- and costing an arm and two legs!

As a postscript to the above catalogue of false alarms, another cutting turned up from the same period. The Americans were planning to hold an exercise called Global Shield in 1980, shortly after their summer false alerts and the newspaper report said that the military were "bracing themselves for a wave of Communist protests" and accusations of war-mongering.
   But when you think about it, just how seriously are the Yanks going to take protests from the outfit which they expect to be the enemy in the next world war? Surely, the more complaints from the potential enemy, the better -- as it's a sign you've got him worried!

Compiled by G-L Enterprises.etl.

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