Sunday, October 08, 2006

LDS Heros -- Early 60s

I thought I'd post the stories of some real heros who were also LDS.

I'm starting with the very early 60s in Newfoundland. Pre-Cuban Missile crisis, in Canada.

There was a SAC (pronounced "sack") base there. Active, with all that means. An alert went out, either a broken spear or a broken arrow (the terms will make sense in a moment). An experimental external carry air-launched thermonuclear device was being ferried through the base and someone pushed the wrong button, thinking they were jettisoning an external fuel tank.

Instead they had armed and released (on the ground) a fusion weapon. It was cycling, attempting to acquire a target. At some point very bad things would happen.

A perimeter was established. The problem was, of course, that there was no way to evacuate. Of course the weapon might just take off, but it could detonate in place as well. They needed two men to disarm it. One to disarm, the other to make sure the "safety" equipment (the nerve gas in the weapon designed to prevent tampering with it) didn't kill them.

They could only get one volunteer. As the other guy said "I've got a family." The Mormon guy said "I have a family too, that's why I'm doing this."

Now Newfoundland has a lot of wind and if you take the right precautions, nerve gas diluted by wind and blown away from you won't necessarily kill you quickly, the drugs you can take can slow it down sometimes. If you get lucky, you might even disarm the weapon without setting the safeties off, if you don't, and work fast, you have a chance at disarming the weapon before you die.

The risk was high enough that every man who worked the perimeter was given a promotion.

The LDS guy lived, and they told him that living was more than enough for Mormon. Any more and they might have to acknowledge the weapon had been there, and that had the potential for embarrassment.

My Dad thought the guy might be bitter about the difference in treatment, but he only said "you know, I still have a family." He was sealed to that family later in the Los Angeles Temple, and I'm sure he received his true reward.

But he was a real hero, even if somehow he was the one guy on duty at the time who did not get a promotion.


annegb said...

How did your dad know him, Stephen?

Stephen said...

We were at the same base at the time it happened, in the same branch. Same MMS, different duty shifts.

Lisa M. said...

This was really neat.


Stephen said...

You are welcome. I've about 2-3 more stories I've run across, but am looking for more.

I'm not sure my brother saving a guy who was drowning, then jumping back in to rescue the guys shoes counts or not.

Anonymous said...