Notes from Underground: A Cold War Missileer Goes Home

An Article

By Paul Kijinski

Copyright 2013 Paul J. Kijinski, Sr.

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I originally wrote this article in 1995 while on assignment for Harper’s Magazine. Paul Tough, a contributing editor at Harper’s at the time, took a chance on an unknown writer and sent me to my old Air Force unit to investigate how missile launch control officers were dealing with their nuclear responsibilities in the post-Cold War era. However, Lewis Lapham, the legendary editor at Harper’s, wasn’t convinced that the young officers depicted in my piece were “psychologically interesting enough,” and so he killed it. I received a check for $750 that literally had “Kill” written on the memo line!

After recently dusting off this article and rereading it, I’ve decided that those officers—who, in 2013, would be in their mid-forties and likely not on active duty anymore—still deserve an audience for their service. I see Capt Fewster and Lt Barker as wonderful ambassadors for the generations of missileers who have quietly protected—and continue to protect—our nation while performing alert duty in subterranean launch control centers.

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