Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Montage of images and link description. Race for the Superbomb Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience
The Film & More
Interview Transcripts | Bibliography | Primary Sources

Lt. General James Edmundson on: Strategic Air Command�s War Plans
James Edmundson Q: By the late fifties the basic philosophy of the Strategic Air Command's war plans had not changed. Isn't that right. The idea was still to deter attack by threatening strategic targets in Russia. But the targets had multiplied and the stockpiles had multiplied.

JE: That's correct. And it got to be quite a job...My office was three stories underground. And I had there a room that was bigger than this room [50 x 60 feet], as I can see it, which was a computer room. And they were all full of great big cabinets, computer cabinets...But these computers were used to really monitor the SAC war plan. The timing would change. We'd crank into the computers the weather program for that month (winds aloft and target visibility), and would adjust the timing on the takeoff of the airplanes to-- Each month, the timing might be a little different. And we would route them-- A computer would enable us to route them so they wouldn't fly into somebody else's bomb blast, or if there was somebody else's radioactive cloud from a target that had been hit someplace else. Coordinating the SAC war plan at that time was a very, very complicated operation, and we couldn't have done it without this room full of computers.

I know now how primitive it was. The heat that was generated by all of these glowing tubes and things was tremendous. It took a tremendous air conditioning load. Further on downstream, that whole room full of machine could have been handled by a a computer about the size of your desk. And I think today it'd probably go into something about the size of a cigarette package. But it took a computer to handle the SAC war plan during the time that I was there. So it did get very big and very complex.

Q: All of this was in support of what would have been an absolutely devastating attack on an enemy.

JE: That's correct. And General Power used to say he'd sure like to have all the Russians' top staff people over, and have them visit SAC headquarters and be able to give them a briefing on the SAC war plan. He said he thought that would be a very effective way of letting them know just exactly what could be done to [them]. But you're right. Passing the word back and forth. To have this capability and not be able to let people know that it was there, and without telling them in specifics what it was, so they'd know where to-- how to counter it, took some pretty clever people in the communications business. That wasn't my problem.

back to Interview Transcripts

Program Description | Enhanced Transcript | Reference