Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
John Cloe, Part 2

This is a continuation of an interview with John Cloe on September 21, 2016 with Karen Brewster at the Baranof Hotel in Juneau, Alaska. In this second part of a two part interview, John talks about conducting research on and writing about Alaskan military history, the potential for a "new Cold War,"and impacts and legacy of the original Cold War. He also talks about the defense of military bases in Alaska, anti-aircraft weaponry, and surveillance. John also discusses the story of the Nike Missile Site disaster in Anchorage after the 1964 Earthquake.

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Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2014-18-14_PT.2

Project: Cold War in Alaska: Nike Missile Sites
Date of Interview: Sep 21, 2016
Narrator(s): John Cloe
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Denali Whiting
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Historical Commission, Alaska Humanities Forum
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
Slideshow
There is no slideshow for this person.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.

Sections

Writing books about Alaska's military history

Conducting oral history interviews as part of his research

Doing history within the constraints of the military system, and benefits of having security clearance and understanding the context of what you are researching

Accurate historical research

Lessening of tensions between Russians and Americans and the end of the Cold War

A new Cold War with competition for control in the Arctic

Legacy of the Cold War with old military sites scattered across Alaska

Environmental impact and health effects from military activities and experiments

Economic benefit and population increase from military bases in Alaska

Soviet Union copying U.S. planes and bombs, and development of Alaska defense infrastructure

Defending military bases in Alaska, and types of anti-aircraft weapon systems

Role of the military after the 1964 Alaska Earthquake, and helping during other natural disasters

Nike Missile Site disaster in Anchorage after the 1964 Alaska Earthquake, and potential for explosion

Use of U-2 airplanes and satellites for surveillance

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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.

Transcript

KAREN BREWSTER: Those topical books like about the history of the Air Force or the P-38. Who decided those topics? Did you say, “I wanna write about this.” Or did the Air Force --

JOHN CLOE: No, we usually got directly told to do it. Like, remember when that AWACS crashed with the bird strike and killed all the people? KAREN BREWSTER: No, I don’t remember. That was in Alaska?

JOHN CLOE: Well, back in the 80’s or something. You know, it was an airborne control and warning plane, an E-3. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: It had taken off, hit a flock of birds, went into the woods, blew up. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. JOHN CLOE: Killed everybody on board. We wrote a report on that. And, like it was 27 people died in that -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. JOHN CLOE: -- flight.

And saw the movie Sully last night. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. JOHN CLOE: It was somewhat similar. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: Except that nobody survived this one.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. But so the topics you wrote about were --

JOHN CLOE: We were either told to write about it or we decided that we oughta write about it, we needed to write about it.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then did you have to get approval from higher command?

JOHN CLOE: Oh, yeah, we had to get the -- we had to write the proposal and all. We just couldn’t waste government time and money writing something, you know, that's neat to write about it, we'll write about it, you know.

Plus we never really had the time to do it. We needed, you know, to make sure it was worth doing -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. JOHN CLOE: -- before we did it.

And, you know, the annual histories took up a lot of time because we collected a lot of primary documents. All the message traffic, the letters, the memos, the emails.

We interviewed a lot of people. Either were taped and transcribed the interviews in a lot of cases. Sometimes just on the phone.

And we pieced together this document. It had to be footnoted, had to have a list of the documents there. It had to have a glossary there, had to have an executive summary, had to have a chronology. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: It’s a good research document, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Yeah, and you say, if --

JOHN CLOE: And those histories go back to World War II.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, and then someone doing research could go back now and use those. They’re a great resource, it sounds like.

JOHN CLOE: A lot of them are unclassified. You know, up to the '80s, I think and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JOHN CLOE: The '90s and 2000s.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And you were saying before when you did an interview with somebody and you had a transcript, you would send it to them for review --

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, when we did -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- and correction? JOHN CLOE: -- an oral history interview, we --

They sent me off to school to learn how to do it, you know, to begin with. And the Air Force one’s a one-week school down there.

But it’s real bureaucratic. You have to interview the person, you have to get it transcribed, you have to get a transcription to the individual, you have to send along a legal form that, you know, all this legalese.

And then you give them the option of rejecting it, accepting it with conditions, or with no conditions at all.

Like, "No, don’t release this until 20 years after I’m dead" type -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: -- thing, so, you know. All that’s kind of extreme, but --

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, it’s different. JOHN CLOE: Most of -- KAREN BREWSTER: It’s different than doing a public record -- JOHN CLOE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- type of interview.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, it -- the legal thing, it’s your product. It belongs to you legally. And you control, you know, this release -- releasability. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: And, so we did a lot of those. I think you’ve got some of the ones -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JOHN CLOE: -- up in your collection now.

KAREN BREWSTER: But, I was just thinking about it as a historian, and what that was like to work in the constraints of the military -- JOHN CLOE: Hm. KAREN BREWSTER: -- system, where you had to get approval for what you wanted to study and write about. JOHN CLOE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: What was that like?

JOHN CLOE: I didn't find any problems with it. The only thing that was frustrated, I couldn’t -- when I did write the two books I did -- I’m doing -- I was -- did off-duty and everything but I had to sign over the royalties to somebody else, you know.

Yeah, I couldn’t keep it myself. Didn’t wanna get fired, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Well, and also you had come through the military chain, so -- JOHN CLOE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: You know, that was a system --

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, I knew the ins and outs and I had the access. Normally, somebody didn’t have it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: So, you know, some Joe Blow wants to write a definitive history of the DEW Line, you know, and he’s starting from scratch, I already knew that. Knew about it.

We had seen the sites, because it was part of the job. I had access to the documents.

So it wasn’t fair to, you know, me to write a book about it and take the money for it. So -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Now, I can do it, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, and also, as you say, you had clearance. You had security clearance to a certain -- certain level.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, and that gave me an insight. You know, you have to -- it helps to have the clearance and oh, okay, this is what made things tick. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. JOHN CLOE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Do you have an example of a particular thing you were researching that having that clearance -- JOHN CLOE: Yeah, I -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- helped?

JOHN CLOE: You know, like I mentioned early on you had to know the threat. Because the threat drives everything. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: And sometimes the threat is real, sometimes it gets manufactured.

You know, the classic example when Bush and company wanted to go into Iraq and the CIA say they don’t have mass -- weapons of mass destruction.

You know, this is BS. And then Bush says, "Well, yes, they do." And back and forth, back and forth. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: They finally found they didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction. The CIA was right.

And remember Valerie Plame’s husband was a ambass -- you read all that deal. KAREN BREWSTER: Right, right.

JOHN CLOE: Then they went after her, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Got her fired from her job, because they exposed that she worked for the CIA that’s -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: That petty BS that goes on on the national level.

KAREN BREWSTER: But I was thinking, yeah, your job and the research you did, do you have an example where you found out something -- JOHN CLOE: Not really. KAREN BREWSTER: -- classified that helped you in your research?

JOHN CLOE: Just a threat. KAREN BREWSTER: Just the threat. JOHN CLOE: Understanding the threat. KAREN BREWSTER: So you --

JOHN CLOE: Understanding the plans. You know -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: It’s a -- and you gave me new insight of what I’m writing about and understanding it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: And --

KAREN BREWSTER: I’ve asked you a lot of questions today. I know you’ve been thinking about this subject, the Cold War, for way longer than I have. JOHN CLOE: Mm-hm.

KAREN BREWSTER: So are there things you wanted to talk about? That you want to make sure people know.

JOHN CLOE: Well, basically, I’ve seen contracts. I used to review the work. And it used to irritate me that, "Geez, I read this before."

It was like copying each other from -- you know. And they’re paying these guys big bucks to write about it.

It’s like, you know, when they had the Gulf or the -- Deep Horizon thing blow up, you know. And they pulled out the environmental impact statement and they were talking about walruses and seals in there. Whoever wrote that statement? There should have been manatees and whatever else is down there -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. JOHN CLOE: -- in the Gulf.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, so, that’s a little bit with all history is if -- JOHN CLOE: People copying somebody else’s work, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Right, and so how do you know that what you’re copying is accurate? With the -- with something like military history?

JOHN CLOE: You need to look at a primary document, you know. That’s the key thing and --

KAREN BREWSTER: But it’s like in military history some of us don’t have access.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, you should have access to primary documents.

You know, a lot of people copy somebody else’s work and they make the same mistakes.

You know, some classics that came out of the Aleutian campaign. People copied Garfield’s book and he’s loaded with mistakes and --

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And so as a military historian, you feel like you’ve written things to help correct the -- JOHN CLOE: Yeah, trying to correct -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- record. JOHN CLOE: -- to get the record straight.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. Are there any things you can think of with the Cold War that have been mistakes carried on that --

JOHN CLOE: Well, like I said about, you know, the contractors copying other contractors. And I can pick up a report and if it starts talking about Mutually Assured Destruction right off the bat.

And then it gets real wordy, and usually that’s another indication.

If a guy doesn’t know what he’s writing about, he work -- goes all over the landscape. Rather than getting precisely concise language. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: And, you know, like I said Mutually Assured Destruction was preceded by massive retaliation.

You know, it’s -- different doctrines to -- over employment of weapons -- nuclear weapons were developed during the Cold War. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: The first one was Massive Assu -- massive retaliation. Okay, we’ve got 50 nuclear weapons to your one and ours are about 20 percent more accurate and we can blow the hell out of you, so don’t start a war with us. You know, against Russia.

And then, finally, Russia caught up and came Mutually Assured Destruction. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Okay, you got 50%, we’ve got 50%, we can blow the hell out of each other. And, so, therefore, well, let’s not go to war, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Well, I was thinking of an example of something -- as you say, this copying that might not be correct, this idea of --

JOHN CLOE: Well, I’m using that as the contractor. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: I can tell when a contractor doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about when he starts talking about nuclear employment concepts.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Well, I was thinking the example you gave with -- that Russians came here as spies and were wandering around the Alaskan landscape.

JOHN CLOE: Well, the intelligence says we -- I read -- I used to be an intelligence analyst, and I know they weren't wandering around. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: Okay.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. So -- so that’s an example -- JOHN CLOE: I mean, I had a short stint of it and --

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. That’s an example of a fact you can --

JOHN CLOE: Because I saw the highly classified documents that talk about what the Russians are doing. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. And you --

JOHN CLOE: But they weren’t wandering around on the tundra in St. Lawrence Island and Soldiers of Fortune magazine articles --

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Were there any on Alaskan soil at any point?

JOHN CLOE: No, not that I know of. Unless they were invited.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. And were they invited?

JOHN CLOE: Oh, yeah, they came here. Particularly, at the end of the Cold War, they were bringing Russians over here, journalists and pilots and everybody else and his brother, you know. Lookin’ --

KAREN BREWSTER: That was that Friendship Flight?

JOHN CLOE: And then they had the open skies agreement where they could fly over our land and look down at stuff. It was all orchestrated, of course.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. So there was a lessening of tensions? JOHN CLOE: Yeah, it was a lessoning of tension.

KAREN BREWSTER: About what time would that have started? JOHN CLOE: ’91.

KAREN BREWSTER: Was that the Friendship Flight, kind of -- ?

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, they had the Friendship Flight, they did away with the restrictions. Remember --

And I’ve got two versions of this one. One was we shut the border down between -- You know, before ’49, I believe, I can't remember, the Natives on both sides could go back and see their family members. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: And then we’ve got two things, one F. -- J. Edgar Hoover shut it down.

Another version, the Air Force ver -- Army version of it. The military version, we shut it down.

No, they shut it down, the Russians shut it down. KAREN BREWSTER: The Russians shut it down.

JOHN CLOE: So I don’t know which is true. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: And I don’t know enough about the, you know, the instance of what I’ve read in the paper, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then when was that reopened so they could go back and forth?

JOHN CLOE: That was opened after the end of the Cold War. Do you remember they’d be going back and forth, the Friendship Flight, the Alaska Airlines.

KAREN BREWSTER: So the -- the end of the Cold War, you’d call -- what the '90 -- mid '90s?

JOHN CLOE: Let’s see. The Berlin Wall fell in ’89. The coup failed in ’90.

The Russian old hammer and sickle flag came down Christmas day ’90 -- ’90. Replaced by the flag now. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

JOHN CLOE: The -- Gorbachev had to step down. Yeltsin came to power.

Then Russia went in to economic military decline. And then Putin took over, and you know what’s going on now. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: And -- then we started these exchange programs, military to military exchange programs. We'd send units over there, and they'd send units here. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

JOHN CLOE: And on the civilian side, we had the Friendship Flights going on. We had Russians coming over and staying in people’s homes.

And you -- I don’t know if Fairbanks got involved. I don’t know about --

KAREN BREWSTER: I don't know. And Alaska Airlines was flying over to -- JOHN CLOE: And then Alaska Airlines -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- Provideniya for a while. JOHN CLOE: Magadan, yeah.

And that went on. I think it’s really slowed down. You had the opening up the Ice Curtain, failed, and people could move back and forth and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: They still do with restrictions and --

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. So, what’s the future? They -- you know, there’s talk about this new Cold War.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, there’s talk about a -- Russians putting in a division over on the opposite side.

And -- there’s a lot of talk about the Arctic and, you know, struggling for control of the Arctic. The, you know --

KAREN BREWSTER: And submarines up in the Arctic.

JOHN CLOE: Submarines up in the area. Russia's claiming the North Pole, you know.

And we’ll be putting up F-35s up at Eielson and it looks like a re-armament going on. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: And, you know -- KAREN BREWSTER: Do you think that's what's -- ? JOHN CLOE: -- the politicians have gotten involved with the Arctic -- study of the Arctic. You know, global warming is in there.

Obama comes up and spends three days, goes above the Arctic. And, so, you know, so --

KAREN BREWSTER: So you think they’ll be a new re-armament and a new Cold War?

JOHN CLOE: No. Probably going to be perking along. I don’t think we’re going to have a full-blown Cold War like we had.

I don’t know how long Putin’s going to be in office, and we can’t afford a big army. It depends on who gets elected president, too. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: That’s another biggie, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: I don’t know if we could afford a re-armament. The military sucks up a lot of money. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. JOHN CLOE: And --

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, and as you said, you know, now in Alaska the bases are very centralized. JOHN CLOE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: That we used to have troops, you know -- Galena and King Salmon --

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, those things have been closed down.

KAREN BREWSTER: -- Kotzebue and all those places and we don’t have that.

JOHN CLOE: They've shut -- We still have radar sites but, it was --

Centralization started after World War II. You know, in World War II, we had enough manpower so we defended every place in Alaska. Nome, Kotzebue -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Bethel, Attu, Kiska. You name it. Ketchikan, had military down there. Some military here.

And, you know, we just didn’t have the manpower after the war so they, "Okay, we’ll worry about the main bases."

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that’s interesting. So that is a legacy of the Cold War -- JOHN CLOE: A legacy. KAREN BREWSTER: -- I suppose?

JOHN CLOE: And what do we got now is -- it’s shrunken a lot. We don’t have -- I guess a little over 200 places in Alaska were associated with the Cold War. And it’s only a handful left now. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: Like, you read the article about Anvil Mountain. And -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, in Nome.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, that’s about the only billboard antenna left. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JOHN CLOE: They ripped everything else down.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, well that’s the other thing. The expense of going in and taking out the sites that were there. you know, like all the Nike sites in Fairbanks the -- that’s gone.

I mean, the military built all this infrastructure and then they’ve gone and had to take it out in some cases.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, what happened with the Cold War facilities, back in the '70s the military abandoned a lot of them.

Is as, "Okay, locals, you can have at it, you know." And, what it was was a lot of vandalism, a lot of looting, a lot of --

And then the General of the GSA got after 'em about, "Okay, you’re leaving a lot of valuable property." KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: And -- behind, and you gotta do something about it.

And then they said you’ve got to do something about all this mess you’ve left behind. Like, clean it up. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Plow the ground and reseed it, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JOHN CLOE: And then --

KAREN BREWSTER: But they took -- they took whole buildings down.

JOHN CLOE: old buildings. They had to take old buildings. Same thing that happened in the Aleutians, they had to -- left all this junk behind. Remove it, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: So there’s another infusion of money to Alaska. JOHN CLOE: As another infusion.

And then after that, okay, the environmental. You’re leaving PCB’s and oil spills behind, and old batteries and lord knows what. You have to clean that up. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: So that’s still going on.

KAREN BREWSTER: Has there been any connection made in rural communities and their health issues with any of this environmental pollution?

JOHN CLOE: Well, like Point Lay or Point -- They claimed that radiation from -- what was the one that they were gonna blow the harbor?

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, that’s Project Chariot. That one? JOHN CLOE: Project Chariot.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that’s before. I was thinking the Cold War sites.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, there were claims that they got exposed to radiation and they countered, "Okay, you smoke and drink a lot up there, too. That helps -- affects the health."

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I didn’t know if there were any from those installations. (Phone ringing) Uh, that’s somebody’s phone. That I forgot to ask to turn off. JOHN CLOE: Yeah, that's our phone. (Break to answer phone)

KAREN BREWSTER: I didn’t know if there was any evidence from -- that you know about.

JOHN CLOE: I don’t know if it’s provable or not. I’ve hear anecdotal, but I don’t think there’s anything in write -- in writing about it.

Okay, because you have to be near Point Lay when they’re blowing up, you know -- planning to do the explosions -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right, right. JOHN CLOE: And -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: And then there was that -- I can't remember the -- they did a -- the Air Force Aeromedical Lab did a experiments with who could stand up to cold weather.

And they took different races and they injected them with radioactive trace iodine. I’ve had the thing done, you know, the thyroid. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: And they measure your thyroid and everything else. Well, they did it to the Natives and didn’t tell them what they were doing, you know.

And -- and it’s not going to kill you or anything, and it's not going to cause cancer. But they didn’t tell them what they were doing. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: It’s an ethical problem, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: And it was for, you know -- It was a test to see who could handle cold weather best.

KAREN BREWSTER: And that hat was more in the '40s. Was that -- ?

JOHN CLOE: That was during the -- No, that was during the Cold War. KAREN BREWSTER: '50s? So, that was a Cold War thing, too?

JOHN CLOE: The Lab was located at Fort -- at Ladd Field. KAREN BREWSTER: At Ladd Field, yeah. Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: Well, that was in the news. You know, back in the -- I think the '80s it -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JOHN CLOE: -- popped up and --

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I didn’t know if there were any other ones that --

JOHN CLOE: I don’t think there’s any evidence of anybody getting cancer from it and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, I had some thyroid problems the same time and they even inject -- They showed me the thing and the little nuclear sign on it.

KAREN BREWSTER: So, any other issues about the Cold War that I haven’t asked you about?

JOHN CLOE: No, I think we pretty well covered it. We need to get over there -- meeting. KAREN BREWSTER: So --

JOHN CLOE: Oh, yeah, we’ve got plenty of time. KAREN BREWSTER: We’ve got plenty of time.

So, yeah, I mean, 'cause, I say, I know you’ve -- you’ve written so much about it and that from a -- both your personal experience and from a historian's experience. JOHN CLOE: Mm-hm.

KAREN BREWSTER: You know a lot about the subject, so, I don’t know if we’ve covered it to your liking.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, I think we’ve gotten -- Let me look at the list here. See if I missed anything. KAREN BREWSTER: I kind of --

JOHN CLOE: Well, you know, I think one of the things is -- It keeps running through the history of our military, it keeps running through the history of Alaska, is the military provides a lot to the economy. When they build a base, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: We talked about what happened in World War II. And, you know, George Rogers covered it pretty well in his book about the economy.

One of his chapters talked -- describes the impact of the military. It’s got graphs, charts, and everything else. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: You know, the population goes up, money goes up. People come in. A lot of people leave, a lot of people stay.

You know, we have the legacy of Hammond (former Alaska governor, Jay Hammond) and Clem Tillion and those people who were in the military, came up here, stayed and made Alaska great.

Geez, I sound like Trump now. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, but -- so that would be interesting.

JOHN CLOE: That’s a legacy, part of the legacy. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

JOHN CLOE: And then, we have the legacy of, okay, military spending, we need to keep bases open. Which bases should need to be shut. Well, we can’t shut them because the local politicians refused to allow it.

And they hold up this idea of the strategic place. And they quote Billy Mitchell, and it goes all the way back to the closure of the Gold Rush bases.

And then they were getting ready to close Fort Davis at Nome -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. JOHN CLOE: -- back in the turn of the century.

Nome put up a real fuss about we can’t close Fort Davis, what are going to do for -- they come in and spend money at the bars type thing. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

JOHN CLOE: That type of thing.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, and even -- yeah, there was -- even. You’re right, those Gold Rush bases were -- provided security and sort of a policing.

JOHN CLOE: Policing and what have you. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: We can’t go move the squadron from Eielson because, you know, it’s strategically located, you know.

And underneath the thing is okay, we’re going to lose a bunch of -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: -- military spending up here.

KAREN BREWSTER: But -- But during the Cold War, it does sound like Alaska was strategically important.

JOHN CLOE: It was strategically important. It was located astride a bomber route. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, what had happened -- the -- During World War II, the Russians had never developed a long-range bomber capability.

They tried to get us to send them four engine bombers under Lend-Lease and we refused to do it.

So, basically, their aviation was tactical, supporting the ground troops. Not bombing Berlin, you know, from Moscow or wherever. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: They managed to acquire a couple of our B-29’s that were force landed in Russia.

They reverse engineered ‘em, almost copied rivet for rivet. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

JOHN CLOE: Except for a few things. And created this thing. A look alike. Tu-4 Bull.

Through espionage, they got control of our atomic secrets. They created the -- I think it was an R4, or whatever they called it. A clone of our Fat Man bomb. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. JOHN CLOE: The plutonium implosive -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: -- type device. It was an identical copy of the thing.

And they put those two together and the BTu-4 had to have -- it had about a five thousand mile range at the most.

Well, it was not going to hit Washington, it probably would hit -- if they put it in -- based that and an atomic bomb in it, and they put it in Mys Shmidta or Provideniya or someplace like that or -- Not, Tiksi, that's a little too far west. But in the Soviet Union. And that thing flew. It had to fly across Alaska to strike Seattle. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: And on a one-way flight. So guess what? You know, we got to shoot this thing down before it gets there. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: So that resulted in all this infrastructure. The radar sites, White Alice sites, tied it all together. The forward operating bases where they base fighter interceptors.

The first thing, the tube artillery that protected the main bases, later replaced by the Nike system, which became obsolete almost the day they activated it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: The thing, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, and those AC&W sites, there were a lot of those. They were all over the state. JOHN CLOE: Yeah, there were 19 of them.

KAREN BREWSTER: They were all over in these very remote mountaintops and things.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, there was a system of surveillance radars were located on the coastal areas. Any -- from Point Lay, I think, all the way down into the Aleutians. They had it extended into the Aleutians.

KAREN BREWSTER: There was one near Homer, too. JOHN CLOE: Yeah, there was one near Homer. Olson Mountain, near Homer. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: There was one on Fire Island. There was one on Murphy Dome. They were the Aircraft Control and Warning Sites (AC&W). KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Then they had the Aircraft Control Centers, Murphy Dome being one, Fire Island being one.

They had two sectors, north sector, south sector. And they were all tied into central command center.

The -- NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), the Alaska NORAD Command and Control, ANRCC (Alaska Norad Region Control Center=ANRCC), which was one of those big Star Wars type thing with a big screen in the back with all the -- You know, you’ve seen pictures of it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right, and that was at -- ?

JOHN CLOE: That was a central point.

KAREN BREWSTER: And where was that? JOHN CLOE: That was on Elmendorf. KAREN BREWSTER: On Elmendorf, okay.

JOHN CLOE: And, you know, if you looked at some of these forward SAC magazines, you know, guys standing around and they’re looking at this big screen of the world and, you know, little dots and stuff all over the place.

It was all computerized and -- and then if a Russian bomber started coming, they’d be picked up by the radars on the coastal site, and then they’d launch the planes and they’d interiorate our sites with the vectoral planes to intercept point and they'd shoot them down.

If they got past that, then the Nike sites would shoot them down and --

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. But they weren’t really so worried about protecting the civilian population, they were worried about protecting the bases?

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, they had to protect the bases, you know.

And the civilians -- a lot -- you know, if they dropped a bomb on Elmendorf, it's obviously going to be a lot of collateral damage. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: In a variety -- You know, there's this back gate, and there's Anchorage, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: So --

JOHN CLOE: And the Russian bomb -- missiles and bombs weren't all that accurate. You know, it -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: You know, the central probability error was like miles. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: If you aim at a point, you’re lucky to get the -- the -- the bomb to hit the mark two miles away, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: So they had big bombs, so in case -- They’d blow everything up.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, well, that's what does -- Yeah, the Nike ones, they were directing at incoming aircraft, but they were set to explode actually in front of it. JOHN CLOE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right? ‘Cause they couldn’t actually pinpoint the target that precisely. JOHN CLOE: They couldn’t hit the plane with it, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: The conventional round had a proximity fuse. They get it near there, the radar and the proximity fuse that set it off and they would send shrouds of, you know, metal flying through the air and it would rip the plane apart.

And, yeah, I don't -- you know, they had a sub nuclear weapons capability. You could go to Google and look at it, it’ll explain it all to you. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: It was a sub kiloton, it was maybe about ten thousand pounds of -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, something -- JOHN CLOE: TNT or something.

I remember when they first tested it, they had a couple of Air Force guys standing underneath the -- where they’re going to blow the bomb. The missile.

And they fired the thing, it was a genie rocket and -- This is open source. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: I read this in an article.

And it blew up in the point in the sky and it worked and the guys underneath of it, it didn’t hurt them at all.

And way up there in the atmosphere. They didn’t even feel the shockwave from it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Wow.

JOHN CLOE: But it was designed to take down a whole squadron of planes.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Now, you were in Anchorage in ’64, during the earthquake? JOHN CLOE: No. KAREN BREWSTER: No?

JOHN CLOE: I read about it and I wrote about it.

KAREN BREWSTER: No? I thought maybe you were already in Anchorage at that point. JOHN CLOE: Not when the --

KAREN BREWSTER: When did you come to Anchorage? JOHN CLOE: I came to Anchorage in '70, 1970. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, the military was definitely a big time player in the earthquake and the recovery from it, because one, there was not that much of a disaster preparedness capability in Anchorage.

The -- Anchorage had let go it’s only disaster preparedness guy. It’s in that film, you know, "Though The Earth Be Moved." KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, yeah.

JOHN CLOE: I don’t know why, budget cut or something. They let him go, and they didn’t even have a center there.

And, of course, they got him back real quick like during the earthquake.

But the only one that had any command and control capability, and troops to guard things, was the military. They’re the only ones that had the water tanks and the ambulances. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. JOHN CLOE: And the spare food and -- you know, so.

KAREN BREWSTER: ‘Cause the military’s prepared for disasters?

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, they’d already -- You know, they have to prepare for war. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: So, you know, disaster's another war -- type of warfare. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Instead of, you know, going there and destroying things, you’re trying to go ahead and save things. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: There's not that much difference. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: You’ve got to have the command and controls and the infrastructure, and the wherewithal, the resources. And the military had 'em all. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: So they were able to provide reconnaissance that the state troopers obviously didn’t have. The military had airplanes with cameras in them. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: They could go out and take aerial photographs.

They could send their helicopters to pick up people in like, you know, Whittier. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: You'd read a report of a helicopter pilot getting over -- coming over the Portage Pass -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: -- looking down at the devastation and commenting about it. KAREN BREWSTER: Huh.

JOHN CLOE: And he picked -- he picked up a bunch of stranded people that were waiting on the -- they were on the Turnagain Arm. You know --

KAREN BREWSTER: On the flats? JOHN CLOE: Flats area. The -- the car couldn’t go left or right. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: Or farther back. And he saw them standing, so he stopped and picked them up and brought 'em back to Anchorage. KAREN BREWSTER: Huh.

JOHN CLOE: Dropped them off, and somebody housed and fed them. And mostly it was military doing it. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: Same thing with other locations. They established a recovery center near for -- Valdez. I can’t remember where they put it, you know.

Told people to drive up there and we’ll take care of you.

KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. Yeah. And I -- I never thought about the military’s role in that. It also -- probably the same for that ’67 flood in Fairbanks. JOHN CLOE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: They had big vehicles that they could get through the floodwaters. JOHN CLOE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Same kind of thing.

JOHN CLOE: The forest fire on the Kenai. I think, you know, the state has got a better -- has got a capability now.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, but in the '60s? JOHN CLOE: '60s, they did not. KAREN BREWSTER: They did not. Yeah. JOHN CLOE: And -- KAREN BREWSTER: Interesting.

JOHN CLOE: There was the military helping out. They still help out. One of -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: Military supports three things. Military assistance to civilian agencies, military support to civil defense or something. I can’t even remember. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, now they -- they save --

JOHN CLOE: One was war related. One was disaster related.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And they certainly help with mountain rescues. JOHN CLOE: Yeah, McKinley every year. KAREN BREWSTER: McKinley.

JOHN CLOE: They haul like Park Service's stuff up on the mountain. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. It’s training. It’s training for them. JOHN CLOE: Train for that. KAREN BREWSTER: High altitude flying.

But -- I mentioned the ’64 earthquake because of the story about the Nike missile site out at what’s now Kincaid Park - Site Point.

And that there was these -- this potential for disaster with the rockets coming off their supports. If you’d ever heard that story?

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, I heard it or read it.

You know, we were still researching it, and it popped up in the New York Times. An article, a little cryptic article.

They had missiles out at -- all the Nike sites had missiles. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: Stored out there. To set one of those things off, it’s not that simple. I mean, you just don’t drop it on the floor and it blows up. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: You know.

KAREN BREWSTER: It was -- it was the jet fuel that was --

JOHN CLOE: You’ve got to go through a lot of steps to -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: -- get this thing active. And -- and --

KAREN BREWSTER: And in that case with the earthquake, it was the jet fuel that was the --

JOHN CLOE: The jet fuel was there, that could’ve blown up. I don’t think the nuclear warheads would've gone off. KAREN BREWSTER: No.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, I -- I’m not that familiar.

I took a one-week course on tactical nuclear employments off of -- I remember there was a lot of math.

God, we had to figure out fall out, we had to figure out what the -- how close we could blow it up -- you know, the troops.

How long the troops have to wait to -- you know, the radiation decayed enough so they could go through it.

A lot of slide rule stuff, and I’m not good at math.

It is -- But I remember there was a very -- you had to have a team effort to set one of those things off. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: You had to pull this, push that and -- to get the thing to go off.

And had the army, you know -- and it’s a -- the nuclear warhead is a little chunk of uranium probably about the size of a marble and you got all this explosive packed around.

You blow the explosive, it compresses the -- send the implosion device, it squeezes all the atoms together and they bloop, like that. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

JOHN CLOE: And it’s -- That’s simplistic, but -- so they -- those nuclear warheads going off was probably pretty remote and --

But, you know, it’s a scary situation, those guys out there. And --

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that story from the -- about the earthquake, I wondered if you had heard that? JOHN CLOE: It fell off on the ground, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right, and that the -- spilled the propellant fuel and there was a potential that there could have been an explosion just from the fuel.

JOHN CLOE: Well, the fuel is solid. It wasn’t liquid.

They had some nasty liquid stuff, you know, that the -- powered the original rockets. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: They had the famous one that the type of missile had was an oxidation that you have to mix with another type of fuel, and as soon as they mixed they’d blow up.

And one of the missiles in the silos at Damascus, Arkansas blew up. And there were -- a five megaton warhead landed in the ditch five miles away. Three miles away.

It didn’t blow up or anything, but it just blew the whole shebang up. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: The ones that missile -- the ones that the Nike's had were solid propellant.

So that, you know, you can blow it up, but it’s -- it’s like, you know, you got to have a trigger to blow the thing up. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, the story for that --

JOHN CLOE: You can light a -- stick a match and hold it to the -- the propellant and it’ll burn, but it’s not going to blow up.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, that story about the earthquake made it sound so dangerous with all that -- JOHN CLOE: Maybe a little overblown.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay, that’s why I was asking if you researched it and heard it.

JOHN CLOE: You have to put a detonator in there, you know. Propellant to make it blow. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, you can take -- You know, it’s like you can take a match and light it and it’ll just go up into blue flame, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

JOHN CLOE: It’ll burn, but it won’t blow up. KAREN BREWSTER: So, okay.

JOHN CLOE: You know, a spark will do the same thing. And, you know, but if you had a detonator hooked --

Yeah, I guess if it had the detonator tied in, if the detonator went off in the propellant, then you would have a big explosion and it would cause the other ones to go. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: And then it would be a big bang out there. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: Then they would probably throw the nuclear warheads all over the place and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: It would be a big mess. And I think that’s what they were confronted with and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Yeah. It’s --

JOHN CLOE: They were apparently coming off the rails and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: We don’t know who was in charge of it. This captain claimed he was in charge of it and -- but he was trying to file a VA claim and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. JOHN CLOE: I don’t -- have a PTSD and, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay. JOHN CLOE: Okay, I don’t know.

KAREN BREWSTER: You never -- you were never able to -- JOHN CLOE: Really pin it down, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Pin it down. Okay. Cool.

Anything else about Cold War things that you’ve researched that you want to talk about? Particular incidences or -- we've sort of covered the general -- JOHN CLOE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: -- impact and legacy, but any particulars?

JOHN CLOE: We talked about the U-2 incident and it got Kennedy and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. JOHN CLOE: -- some "SOB never gets the word" comment about this poor pilot he got off course. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

JOHN CLOE: And wound up over -- flying over the Russian -- landed at Kotzebue and -- I don’t know, we never heard any reaction from Kotzebue.

KAREN BREWSTER: I've talked to -- I talked to some people last spring up there. JOHN CLOE: Okay, this strange plane comes whizzing in -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. JOHN CLOE: -- and lands there. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

JOHN CLOE: They operated U-2's out of Eielson in the Cold War, and they were real -- still real hush-hush about them.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, they -- they’re not using them anymore? JOHN CLOE: They still use them.

KAREN BREWSTER: They still use U-2's? JOHN CLOE: Yeah, they still use them. Still flying them. Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And for what purpose are they used now?

JOHN CLOE: Usually, for electronics warfare. And they fly them up and down the coast to Korea, things like that.

But they don’t overfly people’s countries like they did. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: Yeah, with this surveillance, we needed to confirm the presence of airfields in Russia and missile sites. And find the satellites.

And the only way to do it is a manned flight. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

JOHN CLOE: So that’s what the U-2's were used for. And -- KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

JOHN CLOE: Obviously, if satellites could do a better job, and it’s not as risky, and you can get better quality pictures downloaded and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. JOHN CLOE: And --

KAREN BREWSTER: Alright, well is there anything else?

JOHN CLOE: No.