Robert Shields, Wordy Diarist, Dies at 89
"In addition to 91 boxes crammed with 25 years of his life, Mr. Shields is survived by his wife, the former Grace Augusta Hotson..."
The roots of the crisis went back to 1953, when Dwight D. Eisenhower swept into the White House on a platform of securing the country against communist threats. Under the stewardship of John Foster Dulles, his hawkish secretary of State, Eisenhower devised a new defense doctrine to counter the spreading "Red menace," which had recently claimed Eastern Europe and was infecting Asia. The U.S., according to Ike's doctrine, would no longer get bogged down in "minor" wars like in Korea. Instead, it would prepare for "total war," an all-out nuclear holocaust designed, in Dulles' own words, "to create sufficient fear in the enemy to deter aggression."War mongers suck.
To keep the Soviets sufficiently frightened and in check, the Air Force's Strategic Air Command, or SAC, began a systematic and sustained campaign of harassment and intimidation. Every day, U.S. planes took off from bases around the world and penetrated Soviet airspace, probing for weaknesses in Russian radar defenses. Huge exercises with ominous names like Operation Power House scrambled hundreds of nuclear-laden long-range bombers that charged across the Atlantic, headed for Moscow. At the last minute, they would turn around, but in some war games, squadrons of B-47 Stratojets would take off from Greenland, cross the North Pole and fly deep into Siberia in attack formation -- in broad daylight. "With any luck, we could have started World War III," the SAC commander, Gen. Curtis LeMay, famously declared.
The Russians were not amused. Had the Soviets tried the same stunt, Khrushchev indignantly responded, "it would have meant war."
Throughout the campaign to demonstrate overwhelming American air superiority, the United States violated Soviet airspace more than 10,000 times. Our thermonuclear stockpile increased tenfold, while LeMay publicly speculated about the 60 million Soviet citizens targeted for annihilation under the Dulles doctrine of massive retaliation. The term was a bit of a misnomer because Soviet planes at the time did not have the range to reach U.S. soil and never once infringed on U.S. territory.
The double standard was not lost on Khrushchev. "Stop sending intruders into our airspace," he thundered at a visiting U.S. Air Force delegation in 1956. But he was largely powerless to prevent the incursions, which, of course, was the entire point of the exercise.