Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The bear was identified as an honest American species

An incident recounted in a book review, Dropping the Screwdriver by Alex Goodall in the December 2013/January 2014 edition of the Literary Review. The subject book is a history of the many brushes with operational disaster during the nuclear cold war, Command and Control by Eric Schlosser. The reviewers incident:
I can vividly remember, as an undergraduate in the late 1990s, my introduction to the history of nuclear geopolitics. While working my way through a pile of texts on the Cuban Missile Crisis, I began compiling a list of misunderstandings and mistakes that could have led to accidental nuclear conflagration had things turned out differently. Although not the most serious incident, one that sticks in my mind involved a black bear that stumbled onto an air defence command post in Duluth, Minnesota. A guard saw a shadowy figure attempting to climb the security fence, shot it, then activated a intruder alarm. Due to the wrong alarm being activated at nearby Volk Field Air Base, this caused an order to be issued to scramble nuclear-armed F-106A interceptors to repel a Soviet attack. Fortunately, at the last moment, the bear was identified as an honest American species and the order rescinded.

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