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(from the 2009 archives) ‘HIS FINGER WAS ON THE RED BUTTON.’ —Michael Brohm

I traveled for three days with a group of six retired Russian military officers. With great pride they sang songs about Fatherland Russia, hero jet fighter pilots and the softness of a mother’s love. They had never encountered an American and worked to show me both their strength and their friendship.
They had firsthand Cold War experience flying warplanes and training for battle. Late one night, during the usual rounds of vodka toasts, I asked them what they did in the military during the Cold War.
One of the men told his story of being assigned to a nuclear mis­sile train that constantly traveled around Russia to avoid detection by the Americans. He was on the train car containing, as he called it, the”red button”, the device that when pushed would launch the mis­sile. He spoke of the eagerness, the readiness of his comrades to en­gage the enemy. As he spoke excitedly about training for the mission, the actual launch of his nuclear missiles, he stopped in mid-sentence. Looking at me, he suddenly realized that I was his intended target. I would have been killed by the missiles he was preparing to launch.
The room went sober and silent as each man thought about the mo­ment. After a few quiet breaths, he came over to me pulling me up into his arms saying in English…

“Never again.


MICHAEL BROHM is a regular contributor to The Zephyr.  He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.


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