James Strait is the author of “World War III – Not How You Imagined It.” From ISIS to Islamic Jihad, to a rogue financing government like Iran or North Korea — the threat is real and growing. We asked James to layout his ideas for surviving a nuclear attack on U.S. soil. He had one answer for us…
When I was asked to write an article about surviving a nuclear attack, my immediate thought was, the safest place to be when a nuke detonates is to simply be somewhere else.It remains my best advice.
Growing Up During The Cold War
I’m a baby boomer. I grew up with the paranoia of the Cold War and the silliness of duck-and-cover drills designed to protect us from the influence of an atomic explosion. Even as children we seemed to intuitively appreciate that our collective futures would not survive a hydrogen bomb taking out our mid-western city of St. Louis.
But What If The Unthinkable Had Happened?
What were people doing in 1962 in order to survive a nearby atomic bomb going off ten thousand feet over their heads? Not surprisingly, they dug deep holes to hide in. Bomb shelters were the in-thing to have. It was like now owning a Bentley or a private jet. I only knew of one family that had installed an air raid shelter on their property, and they kept its location a closely held secret. Not even their only son would speak of the shelter…he never said a word. And I never asked.In our own home we did have a basement that was completely below ground level. One of the aspects of my childhood that I loved was my mother’s extensive library of over five thousand hard backs. It was always part of my unstated plan to use those books to create a radioactive shield in the basement. I could live in a cube built of books that would both protect and educate me as time passed waiting for the half-life of whatever isotope was decaying outside my imaginary cube. The books were a replacement for telephone books, the then recommended poor-mans barrier against invisible death. I knew that my plan was weak, but I figured I had almost endless toilet paper, and I could even eat the paper when foodstuffs had been exhausted…anyway, I was twelve years old.
Cold War Shelters
The reality was that shelters were an illusion as it related to extended preservation. Yes, if you were in the hole when the bomb went off, at the distance we lived from the city (thirty miles) surviving the initial blast was likely. Even the thermal wave may have cooled to the point where the air wouldn’t fry and human lungs would not blister from breathing superheated atmosphere. Regardless, a blanket of radioactive fallout would quickly smother the surrounds, and everyone would slowly die of radiation sickness weeks later.However, in their defense, at least those hiding in holes in the ground would have departed on their terms. Though I’m not certain most people thought in those terms, more likely, they’d convinced themselves that they’d emerge weeks later, filthy, smelly, and ravenously hungry to be some of the rare few to live through a nuclear war…futureless…but alive.
Mankind’s Instinct To Survive
I get it; it’s mankind’s instinct to survive. Regardless of circumstance, the screaming need to remain alive gives birth to some very creative methodologies to increase the likelihood of such. It’s why the survivalist industry has gradually grown beyond the cottage scale and is now a small but recognized industry offering solutions to most any scenario that can bring about large dimension calamity…from nukes and terrorists, to plague and zombies.
World War III, Not How You Imagined
I’ve recently released a novel, “World War III, Not How You Imagined”, and in that novel one of the dynamic events taking place inside America’s boundaries is the detonation of a dirty bomb with the active ingredient being enriched cesium chloride. Such a device is easily within the technical skill set of an organized terror group such as Al Qaeda or ISIS. The question isn’t if the Islamic State Iraq and Syria can create a dirty bomb, the problem for them is, deployment.
Keeping A Watchful Eye
The United States and other western governments are aggressive in their policing of all avenues by which an atomic device of any nature could be clandestinely introduced into society. However, while difficult, it isn’t impossible. Every citizen, at some level, understands the danger, and at some level stresses about it. Most of us have a very quiet but very active parallel mental circuit that’s continuously on the lookout for when every day circumstances begin to feel wrong. That personal radar prompts you to go out of your way and turn left when you actually needed to turn right…that little voice in the back of your mind helps you make a prudent decision.That same process is how we as common civilians are participating in the policing of our society. As unpopular as it may be with the politically correct crowd, we all profile in the process of assessing a situation. It used to be that I’d not give a seventy-five year old Caucasian lady a second glance other than be ready to assist her if needed, but I’d keep an eye on a person from the middle east that’s wearing a beard and an angry face. But it’s also no longer as patently obvious about who to watch and who to give a pass. It was just a few weeks ago that a British National beheaded an American journalist…on video! It’s a whole other discussion about what kind of whacked out freak show could do such a thing, but, if dressed in jeans and a button down shirt he’d easily slip under the first blush radar of someone like myself looking for a suspicious character walking down the street.
Growing Threats From ISIS
Clearly, groups like ISIS, Islamic Jihad Union, HAMAS, or any other of the over fifty-one terrorist organizations as determined by the United States State Department, are ready to scorch the earth in the process of forcing their worldview on everyone that isn’t them. Nukes do an impressive job of scorching just about anything. Our fears are legitimate but there is some good news…a little.I use the term nukes generically to speak about any weapon that energizes a uranium isotope, where by fission, or fusion. The former category is the technology of the atom bomb, as dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, fusion bombs, also known as hydrogen bombs are several orders of magnitude more powerful than an atomic bomb. It actually takes an atomic explosion to generate enough heat to ignite a hydrogen bomb, hence, the term thermo-nuclear. The good news is that the latter category of bomb is not likely to be available to a terror group, even one that has more leverage than we’d like to believe.
Threat Of Tactical Nukes
The bad news is that there are a bunch of tactical atomic munitions that could change life forever, wherever it exploded. And those devices could be more readily available to a ruthless well-funded organization. It’s the stuff of nightmares because the world’s nuclear governments have lost track of their inventory of tactical “nukes”. It’s a function of making too much of anything…its far more difficult to keep track of fifty children than it is five. And yes, atomic bombs are not children…they’re the destroyer of children, so you’d think governments would be hyper vigilant in their chain-of-custody documentation when it comes to maintaining situational awareness of the nuclear stockpile. But then…governments are largely incompetent, in part due to their vast modern dimensions, and in part because bureaucracies cover they’re asses.There’s also the issue of an aging atomic weapons infrastructure. A few years ago, as part of researching my first book, “Weird Missouri”, I took a private tour of Oscar One, the Launch Control Facility (LCF) at Whiteman Air Force Base in western Missouri. Oscar One is the lone remnant of the 351st Strategic Missile Wing, which had been comprised of fifteen missile sectors with each sector having fifteen Minuteman II nuclear tipped Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles with each sector having an LCF just like Oscar One. What the tour revealed was ancient equipment that was obsolete at the time of it’s decommissioning, which happened as a result of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the US and the U.S.S.R.
Much of the generation of extremely dated and equally tired equipment present in Oscar One, is the same stuff that our missileers work with on a daily basis in today’s world of watching and waiting to be told to bring the world as we know it, to an end. The point being that it may not be a terrorist event that brings about an atomic or nuclear catastrophe on American, English, or the soil of any other nuclear capable country.
Live Near A Nuclear Power Plant? Time To Move
It’s also advisable to live (or strongly consider moving) a significant distance from a nuclear power facility. The nuclear power industry markets their power as if there isn’t an equation to be balanced. However, even if there’s never an event here in the United States similar to the catastrophes of Chernobyl, Russia, or Fukushima, Japan…the specter of stock piling nuclear waste is a problem looming in a future that is always sooner than we expect. And, in the instance of isolating vast quantities of nuclear poisons…sooner than we want.Yucca Mountain, in western Nevada, was to be storage site that could handle our radioactive waste for decades to come, however, the Obama administration brought it’s funding to an end prior to construction completion, leaving only the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIIP) in southeastern New Mexico’s “nuclear corridor” to dispose of our significant quantities of radioactive waste. Living near WIIP would also be unadvisable. Of course, nuclear waste must be transported from its many disparate locations to WIIP, and the danger of containment being compromised during transport is also possible. Living along the transport routes has its associated dangers.
So-far-so-good with our nuclear power industry, but there have been close calls, Three Mile Island in central Pennsylvania, being most notable. It was at that facility that North Korean sleeper insurgents attempt to bring about a nuclear incident, but special operators from one of the US Army’s most secretive groups literally swoop in to save the day. It’s a scene from “World War III, Not How You Imagined”, and is one of many instances in the story of terror thriving in a fictionalized American future.
There are many concerns in modern life, nuclear war and radioactive terrorism being one genre. However, I don’t live my life fearful of dirty bombs, Kalashnikov wielding jihadists, or drunk drivers…well, maybe drunk drivers. But I’m also not blind to the potential for spontaneous madness to enter our lives at any instant.
Be prepared, but not preoccupied. Keep your head on a swivel, but don’t break your neck looking for what isn’t there. But if you see that bright flash…the one that leaves zero doubt in your mind that someone has just split the atom in anger…try to be somewhere else.
* What if relocating out of a major city isn’t an option in the near future? For detailed tips on surviving a nuclear attack, click here (from building a fallout chamber, to what emergency supplies to have on hand, etc.)
About the Author:James Strait’s professional career began as a Special Forces soldier, where he became the youngest recruit to graduate Special Forces Training Group. After the military he enjoyed a thirty-year career as a professional pilot flying over one hundred different categories, types, makes, and models of airplanes. In parallel, Mr. Strait operated a small business providing a variety of services to civilian companies and the military. He also accumulated 3,000 skydives, Master Parachute Rigger Certification…and lots of memories. After retirement from professional aviation, Mr. Strait transitioned into broadcast radio where he has hosted “Strait Talks” radio since 2006 (now on hiatus). He began his professional writing career with the release of “Weird Missouri”, in 2008. His second book and first novel was, “Déjà vu All Over Again”, an action adventure novel taking place during the final 57 hours prior to the calendar turning 12-21-2012. His newest book is a best selling action adventure novel, “WORLD WAR III, Not How You Imagined”. His future projects involve the 2015 release of his third novel, “Vector”.