Monday, July 27, 2020

Noble Hammock

Everglades National Park

To Monica

The Noble Hammock canoe trail-marker was difficult to see as we drove toward Flamingo on the two-lane road from the main entrance. We did a three-point u-turn after we passed it, came back and parked on the shoulder of Flamingo Highway. Dean and I carried the canoe the short distance to the short, flimsy, wooden dock that stuck into the mass of indistinguishable, seemingly impenetrable mangroves. We really didn’t know what to expect as we launched our old fourteen foot, fiberglass canoe just a few feet from the side of the road.

Dean sat in the front, you sat on a cushion in the middle, and I sat in the stern, each of us with a paddle. You were about ten years old and had the short, emergency paddle. It was too short to push us through the sloughs when we were in the shallow parts, but you helped paddle when we had deeper water. We were in shallow water a lot as it hadn’t rained in quite a while. The trail was so shallow in parts we almost turned around, but we pushed the canoe through the mud with our paddles and made it further and further into the mangrove jungle.

The mangrove hammocks lay scattered in a saw-grass prairie, and the canoe trail connecting the hammocks was marked with PVC pipes and a few wooden markers. As soon as we were out of earshot of the highway, there was no other reference to where we were. It turned out to be a monotonous, boring paddle and we were getting tired of shoving the paddles into the mud to push us along most of the trail. While the water was deeper in and around the hammocks, we could hear the mud and saw grass crunch along the bottom of the canoe as we pushed along the shallow parts. We certainly weren’t paddling between the hammocks.

Shoving off - Noble Hammock

You and Dean shoving off from Noble Hammock

Somewhere along the trail, after we were all tired and looking forward to completing the seemingly endless trail when I hit something hard on the bottom with my paddle. You turned to look back just as I leaned into the paddle with all my might, trying to get as much pressure as possible on what I thought was a rock or a log, when the object I was pushing on objected wildly and erupted four of five feet into the air right alongside the canoe.

You saw the alligator spin vertically in mid-air and fall back into the water. All I saw was its white underbelly as I lurched unexpectedly forward, looking backward over my shoulder trying to hold on to my paddle as the alligator twisted and fell away from us. Dean jerked around to look just as it crashed heavily back into the murky water. The canoe rocked from the swell then slowly returned to the almost boring silence and tranquility of before. We all sat stunned by the surrealistic event that had just happened. I don’t remember all the comments we made but I know you got to hear words you weren’t familiar with.

And you wonder why I think Disney World is boring.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Key Man

One late, miserable night while Jim Eby and I struggled with the newly installed 2740 terminal at the Dade County jail booking desk, two plain-clothes Miami Beach detectives brought in a hooker they picked up who, it turned out, happened to be a man.

Working the booking desk was among the worst working conditions I have ever worked. While it was mounted in a large circular pedestal in the middle of a huge room, the space inside the circle was cramped and serviced several booking stations at once. It was kind of like going to a bank where the service counter is curved around one teller. It was as bad as the tower at Homestead AFB, which, besides the drive-through at Wendy’s, was the service call I most dreaded. No space to work, impossible for any diagnostics and noisy beyond belief. With constant interruptions, telephone calls and people always reaching over the counter or throwing books or paperwork, it was worse than any product planner sitting in a sterile cubicle could possibly imagine. Two CE’s could not work together without pushing a deputy out of the way. Using an oscilloscope was impossible. A real zoo.

For those of you who think television shows accurately display police stations, you are wrong. Miami’s booking desk at the Dade County jail in the evening was more like Best Buy on Black Friday. On weekends it was even worse. There were at least seven holding cells along one long wall, always filled with noisy, usually malicious, often drunk members of society who you wouldn’t invite into your house. One cell was used for female prisoners who were transported to the women’s facility. The prisoners would get rowdy at times and they would incur the wrath of the real commander of the booking desk: The Key Man!

The Key Man carried a ring of cell keys that must have weighed ten pounds. He would walk along the cells, chatting with repeat offenders many of the jail staff knew by name and generally maintaining a semblance of order.

As Jim and I waited for the two detectives to move out of the way, the jail commander, Lieutenant Armstrong walked up and picked up their booking sheet.

Key Man! Where’s the guy the Beach just brought in?”

What guy?” said the Key Man, a big, strong African American who looked like he should play football for the Miami Dolphins. He walked over and said, “They didn’t bring in any guy.”

The two cops looked at each other in disbelief. We could see the panic in their eyes.

Lt. Armstrong straightened up and said, “Show me where you put the prisoner they brought in.”

The three of them followed the Key Man to the cell being used for the women prisoners. There were at least ten women in the cell.

The Key Man looked around the cell, even standing on his tip-toes as he tried to get a good view of the people in the cell. The women weren’t helping, doing their best to block his view.

There,” he said, finally pointing to the wall bench in the back. “The one in the red dress.”

Working at the jail was never boring.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Stick Shift

The day started like most others, except this morning I didn’t have to drive to my first call. I met Larry in the office parking garage in Coral Gables, just outside Miami. I didn’t even go inside the office. Larry asked if I could help diagnose a cantankerous communications controller in Key West, and he would drive the one hundred and sixty-five miles down to the end of US Highway One. All I had to do was sit and watch as our world transitioned from urban, glass ensconced canyons of corporate America to the dream world of white beaches and blue water that beckoned sun-starved visitors from all over the world. I didn’t even take my own tool case. I already had visions of a great pasta dinner at Mangia Mangia. Larry and his pristine, gloss black Datsun 240Z, were famous across south Florida, from autocrosses and gymkhanas to concours d'elegance auto shows. If there was a display of Datsun sport cars, Larry’s car was sure to be there. I wouldn’t have turned down his request to ride to the Florida keys for love nor money. Well, maybe love.

“You know, we’re not going to be alone down there today,” as he pulled into his favorite breakfast stop in Layton in the middle of Long Key two hours or so later. “Jimmy T. is doing a customer call down here with one of his guys, so maybe we can all meet for lunch or dinner.”

I called dispatch in Atlanta to find out if anybody else was headed for the Florida Keys. There were two other dispatches to the keys for different products. It would be impossible for one person to service the entire spectrum of IBM products and systems, so two specifically trained techs – not usually assigned to the keys – were en-route to both Islamorada and Marathon. An unusual day as the Florida Keys simply did not have that much IBM inventory. The whole keys territory had one man assigned for typewriters and copiers, and another for everything else. We all decided to meet at Whale Harbor, in Islamorada, about half way back to the mainland, after we all wrapped up our calls. Mangia Mangia in Key West would have to wait for another day. So would lunch, as it turned out. A typical day with no lunch. It could have been snowing outside and we wouldn’t have noticed. When we finally wrapped up, it was late in the afternoon.

As we walked to Larry’s car at Boca Chica Naval Air Station, Stickshift tossed me the keys. I gave Larry that nickname back when we first met. It has stuck with him ever since. Larry knew I was also a sports car addict and had a German National Competition License while I was stationed in Germany. I raced amateur events and had done hill climbs with my Triumph GT-6. The chance to drive the famous, super-tuned Z-car the seventy-five miles from Boca Chica to Islamorada was a chance I wasn’t going to pass up. I adjusted the seat and the mirrors and the seat belts, and played cautiously with the gear shift. The engine fired up on the first touch of the key, and I glanced at Larry.

“Let me know if I do anything wrong,” I said.

“You’ll be the first to know if I bust your ass!” He laughed.

It didn’t take long to get the feel of the car. The steering was razor sharp and the handling was as balanced as it could be. Not only was it fast and stuck to the road as if it were on rails, but it had fantastic brakes to boot. I’ve driven powerful cars I wasn’t comfortable with, but Larry’s Z was perfect for me. This was a driver’s car. The first time I heeled and toed the car down through the gears, Larry laughed. “Can’t help yourself, can you?” He asked.

It came as naturally as breathing. It was that kind of car. I took it across the Bahia Honda Bridge without going under 110. It was absolutely at peace with the road. I came up on the back of a bright red TR-6 who thought he was speeding just we approached the Seven-Mile bridge. I came up on him quickly, he was probably doing 80 or so, but he had a tendency to use too much of the road for my taste, so I waited for him to make eye contact in his rear-view mirror before I passed him. His look of amazement as we went by was worth the trip. He was the only other car we saw for several miles, but I cooled it a little going across the iconic Seven Mile bridge. No speeding through Marathon, although maybe a little testy with a few of the locals. Back on the throttle headed toward Long Key.

I pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant next to Jimmy T’s unmistakable, mustard-yellow 240 Z and reluctantly shut off the ignition. “I thank you sir,” I said as I handed Larry the keys.

“No problem, man, it was a fun ride,” he answered. “You know what you said to the guy in the Triumph?”

“Uh, no, was I rude?” I answered.

“You told him to crap or get off the pot!” he laughed. “The dude was in lala land, he had no idea we where there!”

We had drinks and the neckties were soon stuffed into pant’s pockets. Al pulled in about twenty minutes later and we ordered dinner. We were the last customers in the restaurant when we finally paid our tabs and slowly headed toward the parking lot. There had been a lot of teasing and taunting between Larry and Jimmy T while we drank and told car stories, especially about the ride up from Key West. Jimmy T’s 240 Z was pretty much stock, but he loved to rib Larry about how much Larry treasured his immaculate automobile. As we walked through the parking lot, I felt a curious air between the two Z-car owners. I knew this was serious. This was going to be a race.

Jimmy T pulled out first, and it was obvious he was just as serious as Larry was. The first ten miles back through Tavernier were cat and mouse, but Jimmy T was on his toes. He wouldn’t let Larry in front of him. Nothing Larry tried worked. Jimmy T kept his Z-car just far enough in front to maintain his advantage all the way to Key Largo where the highway opened up to a four lane, divided highway. Larry decided to back off and let Jimmy get comfortable. Larry drove as fast as he dared in the 55 mile per hour speed zone. He was barely over the speed limit, trying not to draw attention as we kept inching toward Jimmy T’s odd colored sports car, cruising in the right lane of US Highway One just barely in front of us. It was a sweet, beautiful Florida night, and one of the few times the four-lane divided highway through Key Largo was empty of traffic. No one out after Midnight during the week. We had the Overseas Highway to ourselves.

The last several miles of monotonous, almost hypnotic driving along the dark, empty divided highway of north Key Largo seduced Jimmy T. He occasionally glanced at his passenger. I joked to Larry they weren’t talking about cars. We were approaching the gentle, left hand turn where the two lanes of northbound US 1 in Key Largo merge into a single lane, headed toward the drawbridge over Jewfish creek. Larry didn’t want to alert Jimmy T he was positioning for our one and only chance to pass him. If we were too early, he could have easily beat us to the apex of the curve. The gentle left curve, besides being a merge lane, also starts the beginning of a double yellow line that runs uninterrupted for the next several miles. A beautiful, empty road, late at night with perfect weather and visibility, and a once in a lifetime challenge. Nobody but us. How long will it take to get from Jewfish Creek to Florida City?

Jimmy T looked to his right toward the old Card Sound Round as we passed under the last traffic signal for the next twenty miles and I yelled “Go!"  Larry downshifted to third gear and jammed the accelerator to the floor. The midnight black Datsun 240 Z howled, and snapped my head back in the passenger’s seat. We screamed past Jimmy T, apexing the curve perfectly. Timing is everything and it was a perfect pass. There was no way short of Florida Highway Patrol intervention would Larry lift his right foot. Larry slammed into 4th, then 5th gear and I watched the speedometer hit 120 as we screamed across Lake Surprise headed toward the drawbridge over Jewfish creek. He did slow down a little as we rocketed across the metal grating on the bridge. Jimmy T was right on our rear bumper.

The first curve after the Jewfish Creek bridge was a super fast, left hand sweeper and Jimmy T’s headlights faded further and further behind. Larry lifted a little for the right-hander as we skirted Black Water Sound headed toward the bend just before the County Line Marina. Jimmy T’s headlights were immediately glaring in our fastback’s rear window. Once we were past the Marina entrance it was time to roll, and we did. Except for the Thiokol drawbridge. Larry considered the effect the metal grating would have, so he slowed down to 80 or 85 as we sped over it. The last chance Jimmy T had to pass us was just after the bridge where the highway opened up to what was known as a suicide street, one of those wicked, three lane abominations that were designed to kill people, but the only thing in sight was the distant glare of Florida City on the horizon. Larry never lifted his foot again. The six cylinder engine was mechanical perfection. The sound of almost seven thousand RPM proved all was in harmony. Every time I looked at the Speedometer it was between 120 and 125. There were no other cars on the road. Not even one. Jimmy T faded further and further back. He wasn’t going to catch us.

We pulled into the Last Chance Saloon parking lot in Florida City just under ten minutes after we crossed the Jewfish Creek bridge. A touch over 19 miles for an average speed of a little over 115mph. We got the famous middle finger salute and a big grin from Jimmy T. His terrified passenger looked liked he had been embalmed.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Satire - We Don’t Sell That Here

I walked out of the store, frustrated yet once again. No matter where I went, the salespeople had no idea what I wanted. “Why would you want to put polish on your shoes?” was a common response. When I answered to make them shiny, most just stared at me, although one young woman actually laughed.

Dude, you’re wearing running shoes. Why would you want them to be shiny?” She asked. I started to answer, but she had already tapped her phone so I simply turned and walked away.

Maybe that’s the reason most men in southwest Florida wear dress shoes that look like they were worn while cutting down invasive pepper trees or wrestling alligators. Men here simply don’t need shiny shoes. I noticed it from my first meeting with the business owners in Port Charlotte over twenty years ago. The men simply didn’t shine their shoes. I interfaced with the county government for a while as well, and noticed the same phenomena. From department heads to county commissioners, shoes were obviously not a conscious choice when dressing for work or meetings. Insurance agents, realtors, even the media people I met wore shoes that appeared to have never been shined. Weather forecasters and news anchors on television, anyone shown standing, wore shoes that looked like they had been worn for a long, long time.

I began to get self-conscious. I quit shining my dress shoes and began leaving them on the back porch in an attempt to “age” them so perhaps no one would notice I wasn’t from around here. It was a new, uncomfortable time for me, having been a fanatic for shined shoes ever since I had been a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol back when I was fifteen. I was a member of our squadron’s drill team, competing in National Drill Competition in New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza. Believe me, our shoes shined. They were “spit shined,” a lengthy, tedious process reminiscent of the “waxa on, waxa off” shtick from an adolescent karate movie. I would use all of my mother’s five-day deodorant pads to lock in the fantastic shine once I thought the mirror-glaze would pass inspection, a habit I kept through eight years of serving in the Air Force. I joined the business world after returning home, joining a company famous for its black, wing tip oxfords. My shoes fit right in until I finally retired and moved to Florida’s southwest coast.

The answer of course, was to wear walking shoes, made mostly of colored fabric with rubber soles. I decided once I quit wearing a tie, I would dress down permanently. “Casual Friday” would be my standard for years. But then, maybe my decision was subliminal actualization. Maybe, somehow, I instinctively knew they don’t sell shoe polish here.

My old, brown loafers will just have to wait until I find some of that strange stuff on Amazon. I hope it gets here before we go out of town.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Near nuclear launch - Response to the UN - Jan 2016

John Bordne United Nations Interview

Seconds to Stop the Final Countdown: the Cuba Missile Crisis in Okinawa

Side-event organized by the permanent Mission of Chile to the UN and the Mayors for Peace.1

Analysis and Opinion

By George Mindling

What counts is not what sounds plausible, not what we would like to believe, not what one or two witnesses claim, but only what is supported by hard evidence rigorously and skeptically examined. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” – Carl Sagan

On October 27th, 2015, I received an e-mail from Glenn Jones, a former fellow member of the 1962 TM-76B Mace missile Installation, Checkout and Verification team at Bitburg Air Base, Germany. Glenn forwarded an opinion article published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, dated 25 October 2015, titled “The Okinawa missiles of October” by Aaron Tovish.2 While unfamiliar with the article itself, I was well acquainted with John Bordne's story. I first heard it while writing “U.S Air Force Tactical Missiles 1949 – 1969 The Pioneers” with Robert Bolton, of Lawrenceville, Georgia in 2006 and 2007. John Bordne and I communicated often about the TM-76B Mace in Okinawa during that time, not only for the book, but also for my web site about tactical missiles.

I read the article and was struck by several statements I felt weren't correct, or were incredibly exaggerated. Two days later, at the TAC Missileer Reunion in Orlando, I addressed the reunion attendees after the main dinner asking anyone for comments or information, especially veterans of Okinawa. While there were members of the 498th Tactical Missile Group present, no one had heard the story, and many attendees gave it little credence. I wanted to know if perhaps I had been wrong in excluding the story from our book, or if I had been correct in my original assessment.

Charlie Simpson, Colonel, US Air Force (Retired) Executive Director, Association of Air Force Missileers, sent me an e-mail on November 17th, 2015, asking if I had any knowledge about the same article as he had received inquiries from members of his organization. I answered Colonel Simpson;

“Neither Bob (Robert Bolton, Co-author, U.S. Air Force Tactical Missiles 1949 – 1969 The Pioneers) nor I could corroborate any part of the story while we were researching our book several years ago, nor could I find anyone to give it any credence whatsoever. I posted questions about it on the web site, but have had no comments. I mentioned it at our last TAC Missileers convention, which included many 498th TMG vets, and the response was the same. No one had heard about it before, and no one gave it any credibility after I mentioned it. While I wasn't there, I can't swear it didn't happen, but personally, I think it's a case of confused memory. Operation Sunset Lily was true, but this is a whole different tale.

I soon received an e-mail from Joe Perkins, Executive Director of the TAC Missileers Association, asking anyone with any knowledge or information about the Bordne story to contact Travis Tritten, a reporter for the Stars and Stripes in Washington, DC. Tritten asked the TAC Missileers Association for information about the Bordne story. After exchanging e-mails and a lengthy telephone conversation with Tritten, I gave him permission to use any photographs from my web site in the article he was writing about the Bordne story. I agreed to allow the use of any material on my web site as I deemed it in agreement with the intent of the original contributors. Several photographs submitted to me by other members of the 498th TMG were used when the story entitled “Cold War Missileers Refute Okinawa Near-launch3“, was published on December 23, 2015.

My TAC Missile website,, originally based on the Air Force unit I was assigned to in Germany, has been open to the public since 1996 when I originally hosted it on [Over 617,000 page views, average 47 hits a day] It was moved to its own domain a little over 15 years ago, and has been popular with former missilemen and Air Force veterans ever since. As the site became popular, more and more people contributed stories and photographs to help keep our part of Air Force history alive. One of the early contributors, Robert Bolton of Lawrenceville, Georgia, - also a former Mace missile man – and I became good friends and eventually collaborated on a book based on our experiences with the web site and our personal experiences with the Mace missile system. The book, U.S. Air Force Tactical Missiles 1949 – 1969 The Pioneers, was published in 2008, and was developed from contributions from former missilemen from all aspects of the early cruise missiles.

John Bordne was also one of the other early contributors to the web site, and later the book.4 His descriptions of the early days on Okinawa in 1962 with the TM-76B Mace and the launch sites were an integral part of the early deployment story of the Mace B (TM-76B/CGM-13B.) All except one particular part: John maintained that they (the 498th TMG) were at DEFCON 2 during the Cuban Missile crisis and came close to launching missiles during the tense confrontation. While not being able to explain to me what DEFCON 2 meant, his belief was that all of the sites on Okinawa were operational in October, 1962, were ordered to launch their missiles against their assigned targets, and therefore they were at DEFCON 1. I disagreed with his assumption of the DEFCON level, but John was adamant and would not budge. I had no choice but to not include Bordne's story in the book.

I responded to Aaron Tovish's article in December, 2015, on the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists web page:

“I read your article with great interest as I researched John Bordne's story in 2008 for inclusion in my book, U.S. Air Force Tactical Missiles 1949 – 1969 The Pioneers, co-authored with Robert Bolton. We included many of John's comments and photos in the book, but could not corroborate or verify his Cuban Missile Crisis story. In our book's acknowledgments, I thanked John Bordne for his many comments and contributions to the book, but as I also wrote, 'We thank the people who contributed stories and material for this book, much of it derived from or inspired by contributions to the web site. We have endeavored to verify each and every story, confirm or deny every rumor. Many stories were left on the table, but several could not be ignored.' The story about DEFCON 1 at Kadena was one of the stories we left on the table.”

“One basic reason for our exclusion of his story is the lack of proof PACAF went to DEFCON 2 at any time during the Cuban missile crisis. USAFE, under Gen Truman Landon, escalated to DEFCON 3 unbeknownst to NATO Commander, Gen Lauris Norstad, who had been authorized by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to escalate NATO forces at his discretion. Gen Norstad, after discussion with British Prime Minister McMillan, decided not to escalate from DEFCON 4 to DEFCON 3, although Gen Landon had received permission from direct Air Force channels as did all other Air Force combat commands. [Nuclear Weapons Safety – Scott Sagan-Leadership Involvement, pg 103]. The Strategic Air Command was the only U.S. force I found to advance to DEFCON 2, and stayed at that level until Nov 15th. Theater Commands such as USAFE and PACAF were not part of SAC and did not fall under that command. While part of the SIOP at the time, the TM-76B (CGM-13B) was a tactical missile, not a strategic weapon.”

I found no records from the 498th TMG, 313th Air Division, or 5th Air Force to show they escalated to DEFCON 2 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and therefore did not support inclusion of John Bordne's story as a factual component of the book.

I decided to watch the Bordne interview to better understand Aaron Tovish's article. As I watched the video,5 I realized I was being forced into a position I had avoided for several years. I quickly began to suspect the purpose and overall integrity of the interview based on irregular, inappropriate, and quite frankly, erroneous statements Bordne made while explaining not only the background to his story, but his Air Force history as well. It appeared to be more theater than substance.

John Bordne and I trained concurrently, though separately, for basically the same system and skills early in our Air Force enlistments. While Bordne was Flight Controls, launch, I was Flight Controls, maintenance. I, too, was half-way through TM-76A Flight Controls class at the Lowry Technical Training Center in Denver, Colorado, early in 1961 when Leonard Estrada, Long Beach, California, and I were selected to move to the first TM-76B Flight Controls mechanic training for first term airmen. All previous TM-76B Flight Controls personnel, both career airmen and NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers), were factory trained in Baltimore, Maryland, by Martin-Marietta.

Bordne and I were both students at the Combat Tactical Missile School, 4504th Missile Training Wing, Orlando Air Force Base, Florida, during the second half of 1961 although Bordne stated he was assigned to Kadena in the summer of 1961 while I didn't finish training at Orlando until November of that year. Bordne trained as a launch crew member while I was trained in missile maintenance. One of my classmates, Leonard Estrada, and I were both slated for assignment to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, after graduation, however, at the last moment – after our hold baggage containing our winter uniforms had been shipped to Kadena – our orders were changed and we were both given PCS (Permanent Change of Station) orders for Bitburg Air Base, Germany, to report in January, 1962. I remained in the Mace B program for eight years, serving through all of its numerical designation changes.6

I found the cumbersome, ill-recorded video of the October 28, 2015, John Bordne interview tedious to watch, so I converted it to the .mp3 audio format so I could listen to it conveniently. I deleted the first ten minutes of the recording – before the interview actually starts – and have listened to the entire John Bordne interview at least three times. I replayed parts of it many times while taking notes and insuring I understood what Bordne said. I had to research many of the comments, including those that were not necessarily germane to the Okinawa issue, as I knew many of them to be inaccurate Unfortunately, they are indicative of the relative accuracy of the overall interview. I began to question not only the information being presented by Mr. Bordne, but also the purpose of the interview as well.

Bordne's dramatic opening statement "It was hard to believe, that if we had to launch theses missiles, that we were in last minutes of our life, and that within days there would virtually no life left on the planet. I cannot explain the feeling that I had, It is something I only had once and haven't had since then. Bone chilling, numbing feeling" is expectedly as profound as the subject itself. The problems begin about a minute later when he says emphatically, "I did not want to be a missileer, in fact I wanted to fly. At Lackland, the Captain that gave us our assignments stated that we have you slated for missiles because I had taken some college as, in electrical engineering.”

At this point, I made my first replay to make sure I copied the text correctly. The statement is so fraught with basic procedural problems it had to be addressed.7 After listening to the entire interview, and reading Bordne's comments posted on the Bulletin of Atomic Scientist web page that contained the article, I realized the story had expanded beyond my initial reading of it some seven or so years ago. I had not heard the part about sending other launch crew members to the adjoining complex to possibly shoot the other launch crew, and had not heard the part about “cracking open” the massive launch bay doors. The first part is preposterous and the second part is impossible. If it had been an actual launch order, an EWO (Emergency War Order), any attempt to prevent a launch would have been considered an enemy action and met with defensive action, including gun fire if necessary, and secondly, the launch bay doors had to be partially open to even start the Mace-B J-33 jet engines as they are “air breathers,” not rockets as mistakenly reported recently by a Japanese news agency. To make the story even more implausible is the thought of raising or lowering the 100 ton launch doors manually.8

While I seriously doubt Bordne's personal intelligence knowledge of any Cuban refugees or of the 50 SAM sites in Cuba9 he mentions, I cannot prove he was not privy to highly sensitive intelligence data not usually disseminated to enlisted, non-related personnel (E-3's) in the field. I documented the "sabotage" event in Germany he wrote about in the comments section of the on-line article in my book as that is part of the official 38th TMW record. He mentioned the sabotage story to me in an e-mail in 2007 while I was writing the book, and the story was resolved when Robert Bolton and I uncovered the documents that showed the “sabotage” proved to be a contractor error at the worst possible time. As far as the3 TM-76B sites that were “sabotaged” from the “Road to nowhere,” we only had two sites at Bitburg for a total of 16 launch bays, and we didn't go operational until 1964. Our first missile test insertion was at Rittersdorf, Site VII, still a raw site, in September, 196210, the month prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis. While Bordne states these were comments made at a pre-shift briefing, the incorrect assertions simply don't lend credibility to the remainder of his story.

On December 6th, I forwarded Bordne's story to Carlo Croce, a former Mace-B Launch Officer who also served at Kadena from May 1965 to Dec 1966, for clarification of procedures and duties. Carlo contributed much to my book from the 313th Air Division history concerning Operation Sunset Lily, the planned launch of an inert Mace-B from Kadena during the Vietnam conflict, and has experience in other missile systems as well.

Carlo responded:

“We never received mid-shift codes (did get altitude potentiometer settings from 5th AF), and only Target Planning had info on the missile targets. The launch crews had no such information. Target coordinates were provided as data settings during count up and could not be changed without shutting the missiles down and counting back up. The alert crew had no control or knowledge of targets. So obviously there was no call-out of targets during launch.

We had no pouches and no launch keys. The launch key concept was a SAC Minuteman ICBM concept. We did have keys to the locked bookcase that contained the launch authenticator cards. These keys were handed over to the LO and Mech 1 during crew changeover.”

While Carlo disputes many of Bordne's comments, specifically about the presence of launch keys, I would recommend contacting Carlo for his full comments and opinions. Croce did not reinforce any of Bordne's assertions, and contradicted many of them.

My research continues on several statements, but the overall accuracy of John Bordne's interview is poor at best, terrible at worst, and therefore, to me, the overall reliability of his interview is in question. I doubt most of Mr. Bordne's comments could have been made to an audience of his peers without serious disapproval or disagreement. All of the facts are important here, not because they have direct bearing on the claim of an incident that could have launched a nuclear attack, but because they show a potential problem with Mr. Bordne homogenizing past memories into a blend he can express with one sentence, unfortunately with little or no accuracy.


In my opinion, something out of the normal routine may have occurred during A2C John Bordne's duty shift that day in the launch complex at Kadena, however, I have come to the conclusion the event, as described by John Bordne, is undoubtedly enhanced and exaggerated, quite possibly by simply fading memories of fifty-four years ago. I will leave the reasoning for such enhancements to others.

Aaron Tovish has spent exhaustive hours developing his article and taken extreme care to place disclaimers about the validity of the information presented, but I think an intensive program to research all USAF records, specifically WRAMA (Warner Robins Air Material Area) to determine if PAL (Permissive Action Link) was installed on the PACAF systems as they were on USAFE weapons over a month prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis, should be undertaken before any organization supports the story as anything more than just an “opinion.”

Finally, and perhaps most important in understanding the combat readiness of all operational Mace tactical missiles, including all TM-76B/CGM13B missiles assigned to the 498th Tactical Missile Group in PACAF, the 71st Tactical Missile Squadron and all TM-76A/MGM13A missiles in the 38th Tactical Missile Wing in USAFE, were continually assigned as QRA, or Quick Response Alert missiles – the equivalent of the Victor Alert status for fighter aircraft with nuclear response assignments, regardless of “DEFCON” status. The DEFCON level had no bearing on missile launch status or readiness condition with QRA responsibilities.

The Mace missile alert launch responsibilities did not change because of the Cuban Missile Crisis, or lessen when the crisis was resolved. John Bordne's contention that PACAF or the 498th TMG status was raised to DEFCON 2 is not only incorrect, but immaterial as well. It only serves to confuse what may have actually happened.

George Mindling
January, 2016
Co-author “U.S Air Force Tactical Missiles 1949 – 1969 The Pioneers”
Owner and Webmaster
Port Charlotte, Florida

4 US Air Force Tactical Missiles 1949-1969 The Pioneers pages 234 and 261

6 My original IC&V (Installation, Checkout and Verification) duties at Bitburg Air Base, Germany, included installing and testing all Flight Controls/Safety and Arming test equipment and support equipment in the Missile Support Area, and later working with cabling crews at both launch sites, 7 at Rittersdorf and site 8 at Idenheim. I worked under the Launch Control Center floor at both complexes at site 7, and pulled cables to both the LCSC and the LAGG consoles. Leonard Estrada and I, along with S/Sgt William Reeves and A1C John Cochran, not only tested and inspected the Flight Controls System, including the Heading Monitor System, in all TM-76B missiles and nose sections in the Missile Support Area, but performed all Safety and Arming checks on each warhead section mounted on each missile at the time of insertion in the launch bays as well. We were responsible for all site dispatches for all Flight Controls/Safety and Arming problems, including the Heading Monitor System. By 1964, our section had grown to seven airmen and two NCOs. Following my four-year assignment at Bitburg, I cross trained to Inertial Guidance system mechanic while assigned to technical school support at Lowry AFB, Colorado, and later served a second tour at Bitburg in both Guidance and Flight Controls. I earned my Master Missileman badge as a Staff Sergeant in 1969 having served solely with the Mace B. I was an Air Force board-certified 7 level technician in Flight Controls and on the AC AChiever inertial guidance system as well.

7 AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test – administered to all military recruits) and AQE (Airmen Qualification Examination) scores – Category and enlistment date was determined by AF Recruiting area quotas. Only certain numbers of recruits for each of the four categories were allowed to enlist each month. The categories were Administration, Mechanical, Electronic, and General. Each recruit's category was decided prior to enlistment.

9 There were 24 identified sites, (2 not operational, as of Oct 20,1962 – CIA Documents of the Cuban Missile Crisis 1962, Editor Mary S. McAuliffe, CIA History Staff, October 1992

Friday, August 31, 2018


I drifted away from our monthly writer's group discussion about people hearing things differently than a writer intended. I didn't physically leave, of course, but I may as well have been on Mars. My memory rudely inserted the anxiety I felt once when I impulsively spent eight hundred dollars on stereo equipment that I certainly didn't need. I was as detached from the writer's meeting as if I had fallen asleep. For some odd reason, my muse wasn't interested in the writing being reviewed, and some oral comment or critique I heard during the meeting shut down my normal brain function and I was suddenly in my own world, my mind vividly filled with apprehension from the unexpected - and quite rudely inserted - memory from years ago. My muse had abandoned me.

Memory has a way of being kind, or at least kinder than reality, and the excitement of having two close friends stop by after work to listen to my new, expensive, pride and joy speakers gradually slipped in to displace the anxiety I felt when I spent over a month's salary on a whim. Back then, our stereos were the pinnacle of home entertainment back when direct-drive turntables, cobra-style tonearms and Shure V-15 type 3 cartridges were the mark of excellence in personal taste and audiophile distinction.

The purchase of the stereo components I had dreamed of for years - a pair of JBL Century 100 speakers - didn't come from our meager budget, but from an unexpected financial windfall that was the benefit from a brutal stretch of overtime work that upset our family routine and even affected our relationship. I was rarely home during that miserable period, working sixteen hour days and even once spent twenty-four hours, without interruption – not even for foodon one service call. When I received my first large overtime check, I splurged on the JBL speakers that I still have.  My wife supported my desire to buy the speakers as a just reward for both of us enduring the tumultuous time.

I carefully “balanced” the new speakers per the instructions I saved from Stereo Magazine, measuring the distance between the speakers, taking into consideration the drapes and carpet, and listening to professionally mastered records that carefully reproduced the exotic sounds required to adjust my Marantz 200 watt stereo receiver to the new, space dominating speakers.

Paul stopped by first, parking his custom-turbocharged Datsun 280Z in the driveway. Money was no object to Paul in his quest for perfection, and his taste in stereo sound was impeccable.

Hmm,” he said, standing dead center between the speakers. “Try Allan Parson’s Pyramid. That’s a great one to test with.”

I carefully played the first cut on the “A” side, then waited for Paul’s profound analysis.
They sound really, really good, George, but you need to crank up the bass a little. The sound just isn’t full enough.”

After Paul left, my wife – who thought the settings were perfect – asked if I was going to change the bass settings.

No,” I replied. “I think it sounds great the way it is.”

Not twenty minutes after Paul left, Bob pulled up. Bob was another single friend who was also a renowned audiophile. His LP collection was stunning in its own right. I respected Bob’s opinion as highly as I regarded Paul’s.

Standing in the very same spot Paul had stood an hour earlier, listening to the same Alan Parson’s album, at exactly the same volume and adjustment, Bob quietly pondered the music.
Well, George, they really, really sound great, but there’s way too much bass. They sound ‘boomy’.”

The room slowly came back into focus and I once again heard voices discussing the merits of something or other. Someone’s writing was still being discussed. I carefully glanced around the room. The moderator was telling a new group member to take critiques with a grain of salt as everyone hears things differently. No two people interpret the same thing the same way.

I couldn’t help think how true. And not with just writing.


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Dirty Secrets of a Writers Group

I posted a blog for the Sarasota Writers Group back in 2014 that I recently updated and "tuned."  I hadn't posted it on my own blog before, so I decided to post the updated version here.


Dirty Secrets of a Writers Group

As George Collias reminds us from Earnest Hemingway: "Write drunk, edit sober,"
Or was it Dylan Thomas? I don't remember.

Thinking of writing that book that has been buzzing in your head, but don't know where to start? Google "Writing your first book" and you'll find around 690,000,000 hits, some of which may even be useful. Helping new writers is big, big business.

You may come across the suggestion to join a writers group. Helping writers of all ages and genres is a basic premise of most writer's groups, many of which are listed in the Arts and Entertainment section of your Sunday newspaper. Internet searches show local writers groups and most public libraries can usually point you to a writers group in your area as well. Writers groups usually welcome new writers with enthusiasm and understanding, they are glad to see you taking that first step.

While you will welcomed by the members of a writers group, do not expect them – almost all of whom have other day jobs – to dedicate their priceless time at a writers group meeting just for you, at least not more than once. Almost everyone in a writers group will help a new writer as best they can, from writing and editing, to proofreading and suggestions about publication. A new member may even find a mentor who will take them under their wing. However, if you are looking for free editing for your book or novel, you're wasting their time and yours as well.

Writers groups vary in their format, with some groups welcoming all writing while others are designed for a specific genre such as poetry or novels or non-fiction narrative. Don't expect in-depth discussion of your historical fiction novel at a poetry writers group. A good writers group will help define the writing process and help develop the mechanical and technical skills that allows new writers express themselves while understanding most writers do not have a bachelor's degree in English or a Masters in Fine Arts.

Writers Groups Are Not A Substitute For English Class

I was once told a writer who doesn't have a grasp of grammar is like a color-blind person trying to paint a portrait. If you are offended when someone points out spelling errors in your manuscript, or your grammar is horrendous, you might want to try something besides writing, Unless, of course, you have a really great friend who likes to edit. A good dictionary will do wonders for your acceptance in a writers group. If you don't bother with spell checking, you're off to a bad start unless you are a really gifted story-teller. You don't have to be a great typist to be a writer. A few writers I know still write in longhand and have someone else transcribe their work. Often that typist is also an editor of some sort.

I’ve found several writers groups that minutely dissect pre-submitted writings. Each group member gives his or her critique, allowing the writer the final few minutes to defend or explain their writing. I’ve found the defense is usually embarrassing or frustrating for the writer, who almost always thanks the group for their honest opinions, then never show up again. I find these meetings offer little in the way of inspiration or encouragement. William K. Zinsser, in the introduction to the 7th edition of his revised and updated "On Writing Well" writes: "My concerns as a teacher have also shifted. I'm more interested in the intangibles that produce good writing – confidence, enjoyment, intention, integrity – and I've written new chapters on those values."

Writers Groups Are Not A Substitute For Professional Counseling

There isn't much sympathy in most writer's groups for personal or political vendettas, e.g., it was all his/her fault and the world needs to know what a bad person he/she really is and you all are going to sit here while I read chapter after chapter of this agonizing diatribe. Many writers get that personal story off their chests and find they don't have a second book in them, which leads to the question; Why do you want to write? Are you telling a story? A personal memoir or an autobiography? Are you planning on making a fortune writing? Well, good luck, I know hundreds of writers but only a few who call it a profession. So, whom are you writing for? Who is your target audience?

If you are writing an autobiography, which is the usual genre for new writers, there are only two scenarios for your looming masterpiece: A; You are already famous and people may actually buy the autobiography, or, B; You are just like the rest of us and nobody cares. If you fall into the first category, you probably don't need a writers group, your book will probably grabbed by a publishing house. If you fall into the second category, however, the writers group probably doesn't want to read it. They’ll help you write it, and they’ll do their best to encourage you, but don’t expect to impress a seasoned group of writers enough to make them want to hear all your details. You may find even your relatives won't read your manuscript. They will tell you they will read it when they get a chance, but they won't, although they may skim through it to see what you wrote about them.

The best advice for new writers is to finish your autobiography and put it on a thumb-drive. Put it away until you're famous and can update it. Now sit down and write for fun, write because you enjoy writing. Write because you have a story to tell, you know, the one you have been thinking about for years. Then bring it to a writers group and read it out loud in front of people you don't know. New writers are often cloaked by intimidation or insecurities as they venture into an unfamiliar world that glaringly exposes their shortcomings and lack of experience. That bravado usually crumbles quickly in front of a writers group. You may want at least a warm, comfortable feeling with the group before exposing your soul, but when you do read in front of a writer’s group read only enough to make them want to hear more.

Many writers will at one time or another inadvertently revert to writing about personal experiences. The memories are often painful and unexpectedly personal. Writing is often cathartic, especially for new writers. While an insensitive writer's group might dampen a new writer's candid honesty, most members understand the self-discovery process. Shared experiences can become part of the camaraderie of a writers group, but don't overdo it. Constant repetition of personal problems is a sure way to shut off a receptive group of listeners anywhere, much less a writers group.

Make Them Beg For More, Not Mercy

I had the pleasure of watching members develop and grow into marvelously entertaining writers during the several years I was the Sarasota Writers Group Leader for the Florida Writers Association. However, I've also watched people attend several meetings, then drop off, either discouraged or disappointed in what they found, or in some cases, what they didn't find.

I have been asked what the difference is between a writer and an author. I've been told that authors have published books. I argue many books by celebrity authors are actually written by ghost writers. To me, an author is the visionary or creator of an idea to be conveyed, while the writer is the conveyor of that vision or concept to print. It follows that most authors are writers. A writer may do journals, blogs, newspaper columns, or magazine articles or any other form of written communication. A writer to me is someone who puts words into print to convey thought.

­You are displaying your descriptive powers, or your wit, to a group of like minded individuals asking for their response. There isn't enough time at any meeting to listen to more than five hundred words or several pages of material from any one writer unless it is a special writing. It only takes several hundred words to appreciate a writing style or the dialog between characters. Listening to someone read page after page of their own work can be like listening to a children’s violin recital.

I have watched people join our writer's group and grow beyond their expectations, and conversely, I've seen talented writers drop by the wayside, discouraged or disappointed with their work. Many new writers take critique of their writing as criticism, and unfortunately, depending on the critiquer, sometimes it is. A new writer must be thick-skinned when submitting work for critiquing, but at the same time be open to change if the criticism is valid. Being poorly critiqued has probably discouraged more aspiring authors than any other single factor. Most critiques I've read are given in good faith, meant to improve the caliber of the work under review. Unfortunately, critiques are a direct reflection of the talents and skills of the critiquer. I've seen great writing attacked because the critiquer was simply repulsed by the subject. It is often hard for those who aren't professional editors to separate the stimulus to an emotional response from the writing that triggered it.

Often religious or political viewpoints become the focus of the critique instead of the writing itself. Novels in the sexual realms tend to be fire-starters. I can only imagine what kind of responses E L James would have gotten with her Fifty Shades of Grey from most writers groups I’m familiar with. The book, in my opinion, could have used the help of a good writers group. Sir Salman Rushdie said about the book: "I've never read anything so badly written that got published." I doubt James would have abandoned her book because of a bad writers group critique, but good critique could have definitely have helped the quality of her writing. The fine line is critiquing the quality of the writing itself as opposed reacting to the emotionally charged nature of the subject.

Critiques are often ego based, or subconsciously prejudiced, and those are deadly to a new writer. I can read anonymous critiques from members of our group and tell who wrote it by the style of the critique. Alan Sherman wrote a parody of Peter and the Wolf, performed by the Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra, and one line from the work has stuck with me since I heard it almost fifty years ago: "A camel is a horse designed by a committee." That's exactly what happens when several critiques vary in their assessment of a given work. The writer being critiqued doesn't know which way to go or which path to follow to improve their writing. I was once critiqued for using too many adjectives in a manuscript while another critiquer in the same group said the writing was bland and needed better descriptions. One friend attends several writers groups, and much to his dismay, can't satisfy any two of them with any one piece of writing. One group felt a narrative he wrote was flippant, distasteful, childish, while the other group thoroughly enjoyed the same piece of work.

Writers Groups Are Basically Mutual Admiration Societies

If you read in front of the group, be polite enough to listen to others who read their material. After all, they were polite enough to listen to you. If you head for the door as soon as you're finished reading, don't expect the welcome mat to be out when you return.

Don't let your speaking style detract from your writing. If you sound like you're reading the telephone book when you are reading Steinbeck out loud, have someone else to read your material to the group. We have a regular member who is in demand to read other people's work. Her interpretation and inflection when reading makes even the aforementioned telephone book a pleasure to listen to. I recently read a member's final proof and was astounded to find I was intrigued by the book as I had a hard time following it during the readings. Every reader embeds their own images and emotions on the material they read, which may be quite different from someone else’s interpretation, even the author’s intent. Don't expect an audience to cheer your first attempt at explaining how you developed nuclear fission if you, like me, read out loud like Elmer Fudd. Get a good speaker, or hand out enough printed copies so your audience can read for themselves.

I've attended writers groups that follow a specific reading and critiquing format almost religiously, often intent on developing writers in a competitive environment such as winning awards for the group members. Other groups tend to mix up the readings with presentations from outside guests, from published authors to publishers and editors while critiquing is done separately from the meetings. Comments are almost always called for after a reading so a writer has immediate feedback on their work. Every group is different in its makeup and purpose and rarely are there any fees associated with writers groups. If the group you visit doesn't offer the education or experiences you are looking for, try another group.

You Can't Please All Readers

I have one piece of advice for new writers: It is your story and you are the one telling it! Write it your way and let your writing reflect your heart and your soul. You are the artist and this is your medium. I like my own writing, I can read it for hours and I'm sure you can read your own writing for hours as well. Bring it to the next writer's group meeting, well, five hundred words of it at least, and see if others hear it as you meant it. Don't be discouraged if the group you meet doesn't like your writing. Take the criticism and find another group and see if they accept your style and content. Arthur Godfrey once famously said, "Some people just don't like ice cream." As long as you please those you are writing for, you are by my standards a successful writer.

My favorite group likes vanilla, pistachio, chocolate, and just about every other flavor of ice cream, but every once in a while, someone brings in a delicious upside-down cake instead.