I’ll never forget an incident that took place in the summer of 1984, while ThoughtRogue was just a young buck serving aboard a nuclear missile submarine, purposefully lost somewhere beneath the steely, frigid waters of the North Atlantic. A “Boomer” submarine’s mission is to lurk in a designated swatch of ocean, its exact location known only to those sailors onboard the boat, ever-ready to rain destruction (Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), to be exact) down upon any nation which exhibits the madness to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States of America.
The year before, President Ronald Reagan, announced his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a huge, expensive new strategic defense program which would develop and deploy a cutting-edge, space-based system to intercept and destroy incoming missiles that threatened American territory or her allies. This, of course, did not sit well with the apparatchik in Moscow (who President Reagan once referred to publicly as an “evil empire”), and which the Soviet’s rightly viewed as a great new “threat” to keeping up with us in the arms race, and sparked a further ratcheting up of the Cold War’s incessant saber rattling and public relations brinksmanship.
Having not surfaced for several weeks, we would occasionally deploy a special buoyed cable behind our submerged vessel, a Very Low Frequency (VLF) antenna whereby we received updated military instructions – but which also provided the sailors some brief snippets of general news and information from back home. It’s easy to forget with the Internet now at our fingertips, but back then, these news bits were vital to the crew’s morale, breaking our constant, sleep-deprived drilling and the oppressive Cold War tension we lived under.
One day, after trailing the VLF antenna behind the boat, a few of us gathered as the news-brief was printed out, clackety-clack, from an old teletype-like machine. Someone tore off the paper and read it aloud to the other crewmen. I remember experiencing a distinct inkling of what it must have felt like to receive a letter from the States in WWII after being disconnected from the world for weeks on end on the front lines.
We listened eagerly as the brief news story described how our Commander-in-Chief, during a sound check as he prepared to deliver his radio address, mistook the microphone as being turned off and genially joked to everyone within earshot, and to the world, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
Given our circumstances, we simply didn’t think it was all that hilarious of a joke at the time.
But, as we well know, Ronald Reagan’s affable, unflinching standoff with the Soviet Communists eventually put an end to their evil empire, and put it where rightly belongs – upon the ash heap of history along with many other wicked regimes.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Reagan. Let’s win one more for the Gipper!
My God, we miss you, buddy…