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tv   Vince Houghton Nuking the Moon  CSPAN  August 21, 2019 4:04am-4:56am EDT

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[inaudible conversations] >> good morning, everybody. good morning and welcome to the tenth annual gathersburg festival. i'm the mayor of city of rockville but we are in gathersburg and it's the best city. please today bring you fabulous event, truth be told i'm super jealous but more on that later.
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thanks in part to the generous support of sponsors and volunteers the book festival has been going on for 10 years, when you see them, please give them a thank you. a few but very important announcements, please silence all of your devices. we hope you're following gathersburg festival, if you post about festival use #gbs, your feedback is very important, services are available at tent and website by submitting survey you will be entered into a drawing for a 100-dollar visa gift card. will be following books immediately after presentation. copies of his book and i already have mine are on sale at politics and pros tent right across. a quick word about buying books, it's a free event and does help festival if you buy lots of
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books. purchasing books from festival partner politics and pros helps support one of the best independent bookstores, it benefits our local economy, jobs, excuse me, and, of course, books make the best gift. so if you enjoy this program and you're in a position to do so, please buy books here today. as i said in the beginning, i am super jealous of the city of gathersburg and festival, jealous in a good way as i'm please today see elected body come together to support a great idea as we all know, that doesn't always happen. when it does, everybody wins especially the community. the author we are going to hear from this morning vince is a historian and curator of international spy museum. in nuking the moon, he writes of intelligence plans that went from conception to planning to testing to cancellation, what was most interesting to me was
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how out of the box these ideas were, how potentially catastrophic some of them could have been, spying, using iceberg as floating airfield, remember, it was during world war ii and the cold war not now with global warming. and could atomic power be used for something more than bombs? the stories and remember they happen are mindbogglingly and in some cases mind blowing but the real take away from me, reader of lots, et cetera, et cetera, it's what makes bold idea and out of the box strategic intelligence mission worthy of risking the very soul of the united states of america. thank you, and give a please to speaker vince. >> thank you, appreciate that.
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i didn't know that i was going to be introduced by the mayor of rockville, a bit of an honor for me. you were here for the last speaker or if you were wandering around in the end, what an inspiration. such an inspirational speaker but power of community and power of coming together. [laughter] >> this is not that. [laughter] >> i have to follow this guy, yeah. so this book was a bit of a passion project and i had written academic for university press and i have to do something different. i have to do something that's going to get me out of wanting to rip my eyes out because i start at thousands and thousands of pages of documents and i wanted to write something that could be read by the layperson and -- and academic history is important, we need it, we need to be able to understand the world around it but it's so confining to those in the ivory
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tower, it's so confining to those who have the time to go through footnotes and read through what my ph.d adviser would say don't you any add -- adjectives because there's a noun that would go for it. sorry, i love you. [laughter] >> but i wanted to write something that also coincided in this case with opening of new museum, 2 seconds, if you don't know, the spy museum reopened, we had been down for a little while. come by and check it out, this is a great complement to that museum. the idea that a fun book that you can read just, i think, chapter by chapter like 1 every night if you wanted to, actually has real purpose and real meaning to it and i promise i didn't set out to write a real meaning, i just we wanted to write a fun book that was made
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you laugh and made you kind of smile and go, oh, my god and i was writing it i realized that there was a bigger point to all of this, the before we get there, the book itself is split into four sections and this wasn't on purpose, this was a result of the research that i did for this and i didn't do the research for this on purpose in the beginning, i was doing research for the other book and kept running in the archives into stories that made my eyes open and my jaw drop. i can't believe this actually happened and i think i'm going to win a pulitzer,i will have an affect or because it's crazy plan that no one ever heard of this. i spent a couple of days, forget the research, sorry again, doctor, i'm going to follow this to natural end and if this happened and top secret, i can win all the awards and then i'd spent 3 days and realize it was canceled before it actually happened, i find that one
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document where it was like this plan is canceled and you're not suppose today -- supposed to growl loudly, but if you're in new york college park and heard somebody, that was me. i was going to be stuck with another program that didn't exist, but after i kept seeing more and more of these and - and after i realized how much resources were spent, the personality involved in planning the extraordinary missions, technologies, operations, i said there's a book here, but not that i have time to open museum. i was proofreading another book, the one that's coming later on. in the backio-mind i started listing programs, policies, technologies and said when i have time, everyone says that,
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when i have time, i didn't mean to write this when i did. i run a podcast out of international spy museum, i get to sit down with authors and be on the other side of all this, authors, historians, spies, people i find interesting and i was talking to one of them and said do you have any ideas for books, she's like, you have to talk to my agent, okay, sure, i will talk to your agent. what the hell just happened. of course, i told everyone in the museum i'm writing this book, no, you're making a museum, what are you talking about writing a book, a lot of it was coming in early and staying late and putting this together and i had a lot of wonderful people that helped me do this and proofread stuff for me and told me what jokes worked and i didn't because i'm not a comedian, i'm a historian and
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within the historian realm got cool, but in normal people realm i'm not. hey, does this joke work, no, no, don't do that. that might work in her head but doesn't work in reality. so it ended upturning into four sections, the first one is on animals, anybody see the story about the russian whale spy if not go check it out. that's an operation that actually happened, the russians seemed to turn the whale in operator, fortunately for us it deflected in norway, wanted freedom in the west, not only human spies, animals are defecting to the west, so that kind of spurred on the ideas and what you see in the book are several and i will talk about those specifically attempts in the past where during the second world war of the cold war we try to turn animals into allies in very unique and somewhat disturbing ways.
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we talk about technology and nuclear weapons, that's my passion, i'm obsessed with this topic but so many things went awry when we started talking about what we could possibly do with nuclear weapons and i will talk about why as we get further on, i want to get you an insight . any chance i get at the muis veem, this is the official cia e and turned into covert listening
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device. this doesn't mean putting a collar on his neck, full fledge, cutting open the cat, putting a power pack inside abdomen, turning tail into the antenna and you laugh, this has to be out of a movie, no, real government documents, cia document that is detail this project and to take a step back, sounds ridiculous, the idea probably came from istanbul, turkey where the soviet embassy was somewhat open, now very difficult to get inside of it. when an american spy noticed that stray cats, would wonder in and out of soviet embassy, certainly inside the courtyard and would sit down and get scratched behind the ears by
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diplomats and in some cases jump and sit of the laps of kgb member that is were chatting and someone said, i wonder if we could do something with this and the idea kind of filtered back to the agency and this is a time when the agency was thinking big things. we can do big things with science. anybody hold of mk ultra, cia had to do mind control. usually losing lsd and other drugs. understand how the brain work with electronic stimulation, a lot of experiments done on animals. the idea -- i know people laugh on the idea using a cat for anything because cats don't get trained, they don't do what you want them to, we are going to train a cat to be a spy, sure you are, pal. the idea was can we combine this knowledge of animal brains and to be able to use electronic
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timulation -- stimulation with a cat and fun part of the story is we don't know how it ended. we have two versions of how it ended. one comes from a mend of mine who is a member of board and actually former director of the office of technical services at cia. top engineers at cia. he knew all the people who were involved in it and had access to classified data, he tried to train the cat, they realized they wasted too much money and canceled the program. great story, probably the true story, but if it was the only story it wouldn't end up in this book, trust me, the other version comes from vĂ­ctor, high-level cia executive who got
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disallusion with the agency, gives you idea of his book and talked about it in a very different way. he said that they trained the cat, when the cat had its natural instinct to wander off in searching for food, they grabbed it again, went back inside and did surgery and rewired the brain to overcome instincts to the point where it could do laboratory test according to what the cia wanted to. all right, we've got, now we need to do a full-scale field test over new robo kitty, the full scale test took place in northwest dc where cia drove kitty, maybe it was all black and spooky from the movies, maybe white van that said bob's landscaping or meryl's flowers, lots of lights brinking --
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blinking and they got kitty and they said, all right, there's two men sitting there randomly and we will see if our cat can go listen to their conversation, so click some buttons and they push some lights and twist open the door and put kitty in the street and hit the go button. to their amazement made a b line straight for the men. these are tech guys, these are nerds, these are my kind of people sitting in the van probably saying, i can't believe this is working. i can't -- we will get raises, we will get to go on vacation, buy the harley i've always wanted so the cia operation guys think i'm cool. as they are thinking they may not have been thinking to traffic patterns that were going on and hero got halfway across the road and got run over. that's how one side of the story
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end, sort of. that's when mind takes over and thinks about the poor agency techs are sitting there not only are they not getting their harley but they have their kitty road kill sparking and smoking in the middle of connecticut avenue and they have to go to scrape it off the pavement before soviets see it or god forbid the washington post. that's an example of stories that are in the book. another interesting one goes to world war ii, the primary focus, world war ii and cold war, this is a time when after pearl harbor, most certains, patriotic ones, most of us, figuring a way to help the government win the war. there's a dentist, area near philadelphia, michael adams, michael adams wasn't just dentist but also adventure, he had great ideas, patents, u.s. patent office, he had ideas for how to help move faster and ship
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communications, the idea was to create a fried chicken vending machine which is not what the story is about but the genius doesn't come around every day. [laughter] the idea was spurred on by listening to reports, but as he was driving back from vacation in southwest united states where he had spent several days going in and out of the cave system in southwest united states looking at all the bats that existed in the southwest united states, and something clicked, i've been looking at bats and i understand that bats will always try to find warm, dry, dark places during the day, right, when in doubt their instinct to find place to hide out when it's light out and he had the second
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thought, japan is made of i wouldings and wood and paper, wood and paper and explosives, if we can fix an explosive to the leg of the back of bat and drop it over japan and naturally find way to attics and nooks and crannies and explosive goes off of timer and burn building, if we can find hundreds of thousands of them we can win war without firing a shot. a plan that might have worked. lots of testing, it had some pretty good chance of doing so. the first test they did was a bit problematic, this is where knowledge of bats wasn't as high as we would like it to be even though man-made recruited was actually to top bat person in the whole country, learned in second grade that bats navigate
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using echo location. the top bat dude in the country, the top bat person, i can't figure out what word i want to use here, anyway, it'll come to me at some point, and this is someone that you think would understand the physiology of bats, the first test that canister full of bats that would wake up halfway down and then spurs out. they miscalculated. when they dropped canister full of bats, they didn't wake up in time. i don't think if you have wings, first test didn't work out so well. it's not a failure, it's a learning experience, they went back and collected more bats,
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the good thing that we have lots of bats, got more bats and decided this time we will get it right, we will put ourselves in a position where they're not going to be asleep, miss calculated in the other direction and when they had the big refrigerator truck where they had the trucks, when they were asleep, devices, they opened the big doors to get the bats, they are all awake, they all complying out of the truck, now, the good news is they set up a fake japanese town as test site, half of the bats flew right to test site and burned the test site to the ground. oh, my god, this works perfectly. the bad news is the other half of the bats went to u.s. army airfield with towers and barracks and hangers and planes and burned that to the ground. [laughter] making matters worse, he didn't have the need to know, this was
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top secret program. he had no idea why his airfield running to the ground, when he showed up with fire department he couldn't get to his own building because he was told it was classified. he had to sit there and watch it burn but in tend it worked. yeah, we lose airfield here and there, the whole idea is to burn japan to the ground. admiral level and had to tush to chief of naval operations, the top navy admiral and said we have this great plan, it's georgia to win the war for us. now, i didn't tell you what time period this was, that would have given away the ending, early '45 when admiral was told about the bomb situation, we have this gate idea, there's all the bats out in new mexico and training out in new mexico, testing, oh, i thought you were going to mention something else happening in new mexico because that's what's going to end this war not your bat bombs, we will not spend millions of dollars when we spent $2 billion in 1940
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money on building the atomic bombs, as crazy as plan was, wasn't canceled because it was wacky or canceled because we were going to win the war another way and that's what's fundamentally found inside the stories, the vast majority of them worked so crazy that they had worked, the vast majority were so crazy that somebody, no, no, we will not do this. most of them were canceled because they were superceded by events, some other technology came along that worked better because the war ended, because the cold war ended, and so it's not like we stepped up and someone said, we will not spend money on that, it just went a very different direction, i want to make sure that i cover the topic that the book is named after before i cut off with time
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this is the last chapter in the book, i say it's the last for a reason, project a11a, and this was program that came right after sputnik. none of you were alive when sputnik was around. c-span is not looking around. you are all in your 20's. that's one part of the issue, the second part of the issue is that diplomatic one, it's a cold war big picture, we were the scientific and technological kings of the world or at least we thought until 1957, everyone looked to the united states as a scientific innovators knowing had we developed the atomic bomb, we built the first airplane, microwave popcorn, we were the scientific heros of the
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world but now all of a sudden the soviets had beat us on our own game. why this mattered was that the developing world latin america, africa, east asia was looking for people to follow. this was the game of the cold war, what side do we want to join up with and science had always been our club, right, we can innovate your country, we have all the technology, we have all the innovation, you want to become part of the developed world, we can be your guy but now the soviets had beaten us at our own game so we needed something big, something to show the world that we were the top dogs. essentially we needed something to say, no, no, not so fast, americans are the ones that invented big things and so there was truly a plan right after sputnik to detonate a thermal nuclear weapon on the moon and do it on terminator, the dark side and the light side meet each other with all of us here on earth would stair up and at
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the mushroom cloud that developed as sunshine through the back of it. this was an idea that the u.s. air force had. now, you might be thinking to yourself what kind of crazy scientist would agree to research this plan, well, the man behind it, the head of the entire operation was leonard riffle. i guaranty no stuff that he's done, started assistant to enrico, prominent scientists in 20th century, helped us built the atomic bomb. after the program he went to do deputy director of apollo program. men on the moon, not nukes on the moon. he was in 1980's called to ukraine and belarus to tell them how to deal with attack, disaster and anyone watch football or sports or the weather or everything else, you watched weather before, leonard
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invented when people write on the screen, the guy goes, that was leonard rifle. this is a guy who was inventor, a real scientist. now, he understood that he didn't know enough about universal geology to do on his own and recruit a man name jerard, string of ice and rocks outside of neptune, kiper had graduate student that he brought on for his operation, the young graduate student was very good at math, a ton of math to figure out what it would look like on the moon. you may have carl fagan, ph.d, brought along as graduate student to help this program do math so i'm talking about real scientists, i'm not making this up, right, the guy who is deputy director to have apollo program, all involved in this air force program to figure out how to detonate a bomb on the moon.
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now, what's fun about the chapter is no one really understands why it was canceled. not to my satisfaction, i read everything that there's possibly to read and not a single person lays out, a lot of it is like, well, it seems as though this was the reason or apparently it was the reason or, you know, we heard it was the reason or someone told me it was the reason, even the air force documents don't lay out, they say program was canceled. to me that's fascinating as historian. a crazy plan like this, we don't know why it happened, my hypothesis is -- it was canceled because someone somewhere told that you wouldn't get much from the moon. whole big idea of the beautiful mushroom cloud depends on atmosphere like on earth, right, the reason you get mushroom cloud dust and debris gets kicked off by nuclear weapon, volcano and other things, you don't need a nuke to
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make mushroom cloud, rapidly rising hot air hits the atmosphere of the air above it and get smooshed down and then gets pushed to the side and then the air rising rapidly creates vacuum and gets sucked back in. that only happens if you have a dense atmosphere that can create vacuum, the moon is essentially a vacuum already, we could have spent billions of dollars putting a nuclear weapon on the moon to explode it only to have the dust going lots of directions, it would have been pretty, maybe u but we certainly would have got than mushroom cloud, now, what's fun about this is we found out decades later that we weren't the only one with the exact idea, the exact same time, the soviets had a program that was part of lunar missions, the first human made object to detonate, basically stick on the moon with soviets, took first pictures of the dark
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side of the moon. went around the moon and took spying, is intent of the mission was to be on the moon, unfortunately for them they canceled program as well because it would have been a very different perspective with those nile armstrong stepping up on the moon nuked by both countries only a decade earlier, let me wrap up because i will get in a hook here in a second, 21 chapters in the book, all the same tongue-in-cheek, i wrote this with my tongue so planted in my cheek that it almost hurt for the end of the day, i didn't mean to be big picture. i had no intention whatsoever to be big lesson to be learned but i taught myself into it by looking at all the programs, the reason that they are from the cold war and second world war is because of a very specific instance and the first line in this book is this is a book about desperation and that's truly what we are seeing in
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here. these are all stories about when the united states and britain, some others were truly desperate because there was a word that gets thrown around a true existential threat to our existence. every presidential single debate, republican, somebody throws existential threat, iran, al-qaeda, migrants, no, existential threat means threat to our existence. in world war ii the germans and japanese could have been threat to existence of the united states, certainly did the cold war, 65,000 nuclear weapons that the soviet had were threat to our existence and we pair existential threats with all the money in the world that the government was willing to give in order to build new innovations and technology, you get plans built out of desperation. and i jokingly say that if necessity is a mother of invention, desperation is the
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drunk uncle. the guy who stumbles in, calls you 3:00 a.m. in the morning and says i have the greatest idea in world, no matter how much you argue with him and logic as reason for not doing it, it's got to work, it's going to work, for him it's important because he's desperate. and so the united states and the british and others were truly desperate during this time when our existence was under threat and so programs like this were agreed to, were funded, were tested and some cases almost operational, because we truly felt that we had no other choice, that nothing else could possibly work, that the normal way of doing things wasn't going to keep us safe, wasn't going to keep us secure, so we had to try new and innovative things and in some cases those went down rabbit hole and so i hope that you'll all go down the rabbit hole with me, this book was a blast to write, i hope that you enjoyed as much as i did writing it.
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now i will take any questions that you might have, thank you. [applause] >> thank you so much. there's a microphone moving around. >> vince, can you expand upon the dinosaur program, the x20, had legs to it. >> sure, so one of the question he's asking about is a top secret -- and i want to say air force program but air force to nasa to everybody else. this was an attempt to create a reasonable space plan that could be used not only for exploration but also for bombing missions worldwide. and this was going to be an aircraft that was based on concept called dynamic soaring which is something that birds do all of the time. they essentially find layers between jet streams and hot and cold air and bounce their way, ever watch eagle inflate where
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they are not slapping wings and bouncing from place to place. the idea behind this program was could we use the upper atmosphere to do this, could we send a plane in the space and essentially bounce its way around the world to do reconnaissance, they could never stop it, later on to do bombing missions and the problem i think they ran into and you mentioned this already and maybe people didn't hear this, when they decide today name aircraft they we wanted to give it homage to concept of dynamic soaring and this is a case where, you know, you look at some of the words like brangelina, dynamic soars, what could we possibly name top secret potentially arm's space plane that would inspire fear and make congress want to give billions of dollars, let's call the dinosaur. and so our top secret space plane was legit called the dinosaur, this was something
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that would have potentially worked and i think you're right, there's some legitimacy to this. the problem it ran into is it didn't have a home. it was funded in many respects by what is now called darpa, agency, at the time it was arpa, nasa was interested certainly because it was space related and air force wanted it. they needed a -- a bomber that could go anywhere in earth within minutes. the issue was how do we get the government at the white house, how do we get congress to fund this when they're competing projects, there's different ideas, how can we possibly make this work and turned out that that was the real issue where robert who was secretary of defense at the time, the real number cruncher, the guy who would cut any program that didn't have a perfectly layed out, perfect, 100% purpose that was agreed with everybody. dinosaur ran into that problem. congress kept giving it money to keep it alive but eventually it
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was doomed when they gave it x destination. every time you get x in front of it it would never put in production, experimental, that's what x stands for. once they gave it x20, the dinosaur program was dead. the money for it was actually funneled into another program called mol, man orbiting laboratory, essentially that would have been a space station that would have combination of spies and air force personnel on it that would do essentially what satellites do for us today where they would be inside the space platform with a telescope looking for things that will take photos of and big massive camera they can direct to take pictures of this, this sounds like a great idea but man satellites, digitally took
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pictures, the mol ran into problems, now, we found out much later that the mol had another mention that people didn't talk about, it's called negation, negation was a mission that is still so top secret that you do not find in documents, some of the stuff is still redacted because of negation, when negation is fancy way of saying, taking out other guy's satellites, you know, so if war breaks out or if we want -- war is about to break out or want to make sure satellites or there's maybe later on missile defense satellites, we don't want them to be there, men in space who could kind of maneuver over there and then space walk to blow up other guy's satellites or make sure they didn't work. that was a reason nro really liked the idea, that's a reason dod liked the idea but when it came down to it, the money for mol was up against the money for
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a third satellite called the hex -- hexagon, we had 3 early satellites one was corona, first ever man-made satellite in space, the second one gambit and the third was hexagon, would cost just as much as mol and congress only had money for one of the programs, while mol had great concept, dod wanted it. the nro wanted it, just about every intelligence agency except for the cia wanted it, and this is where the cia was able to put immense pressure on the white house and in this case richard nixon to cancel the program to allow the money to go to hexagon later on. any other questions you got? over here? the microphone is coming all the way around the outside.
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>> desperation that actually worked? >> most of the time. what's fun about this, i even say in introduction, library full of books in which cold war and world war ii desperation led to some of the most innovative and useful technologies in history, right, if you go down out to virginia and first, made me want to be a pilot, whom am i kidding? i would love to fly in that thing. that was created out of desperation. it leaks fuel out of its fuel tanks.
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what crazy man came up with that idea? the idea flying the 3 times speed of sound, even at 90,000 feet the air is enough to build up 2, 3,000-degrees of heat, what happens when metal gets heated? it expands, aircraft will seal fuel tanks, it's a genius idea. not idea that came on tuesday at 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon. this is an idea that some lockheed engineer had at 2:00 in the morning at some bar, stick with me, guys, all right, let's say that the plane leaks fuel when it's on the ground. [laughter] >> can you imagine being the first test pilot of sr71 and looking behind, let's pretend, just seeing rocket fuel essentially coming out, where is the ejection handle because i'm getting out of here as fast as i
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can. works fantastically. the normandy i vagues, the d-day invasion was a desperate attempt to get foothold in europe and it worked but it almost didn't, right, the only reason it does is because we -- we avoid the freak weather that was in different days, the only reason work is because germans bought into perception program that they had been working on for year and work sod well that hitler refused to let reinforcements go to normandy because he thought the real mission was coming somewhere. a hundred things had to go right for d day to go right. it was a desperate attempt to get foothold, we talk about, wow, what a great idea. ice hower's plan was perfection, what a storm had washed craft to north sea and the nazis, you know, all the british would still be seeking germans today,
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maybe not. most of europe would be glowing in the dark today, but d day worked, eisenhower is a genius, led us to victory. that's looking with 20-20 hindsight and applying what we know 2019 to what was happening on the ground but if that had been disaster, eisenhower would have been the goat and not the genius, interesting to look at some of the programs, i try to get the reader to ignore what you know, actually, the one in the introduction, you must have learned what you have learned. don't apply 2019 to read stories, if you apply what you know today, you will react to the books by going, what were they thinking, i want you to ask that same question when you're reading this but not in that tone, i want you to go what were they thinking, like why were they so afraid, why were they so
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willing to do these kinds of plans and if you forget what you know and forget history, for most americans they don't have to forget history, they just don't know it anyway. [laughter] >> they are ready for this book, you guys are sitting at book festival, you need to forget the history that you know, clearly you wouldn't sitting here if you weren't the most intelligent people in the most entire country. [laughter] >> but i want you to say, all right ui need to put myself in the shows of the people at the time who were making these programs because if you do you can understand desperation that they felt and sometimes, yeah, desperation leads us to great stuff, that's other books, right, a lot of books in the library, don't read this if you want to know that. these led us down a path that not sure we want to emulate going forward. wait for the microphone, it's coming right in front of you. >> when i was in vietnam and i
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have the friend tell me that captain x was goose control officer and i was friend of captain x, he was a west point graduate, i might add. i asked what's august control officer, this is a experimental program whereby we put the geese to perimeter the bases and rather than using soldiers and gi's who might get shot, we put the geese out there, when there's noise, they start honking. >> yeah. >> did you come across anything like that? >> absolutely. the question -- not super easy to hear but when he was in vietnam actually for perimeter defense, they put geese out of the idea that if you ever run into a goose, honking or wake up the dead and you know, anybody else is trying to infiltrate your base camp.
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that's respective way of using animals for defense and we do that all of the time today. right, dolphins and other kinds of mammal, water mammals are used for port defense, right, other places because they get to know the port very well and anything that comes in there that's out of the ordinary, they are automatically train today warn people, hey, there's something out of the ordinary, it could be diver, pollution, whatever, it doesn't matter because we are using animals effectively. how can we use animals and their senses because animals have sense that is we don't to our benefit? that was what they were trying to do in these programs, right, i just gave you one example, other examples of using live chickens to heat nuclear weapons, to use foxes painted with glow in the dark paint to scare the japanese to use synthetic goat poop to pass biological through the germans.
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[laughter] .. .. we probably have time for one or two more questions if you have one. right here, oh, no. actually read the book so i'm a little worried about the question. >> thank you very much for being here, and you are very humerous, i don't know why you think you're not. so, president kennedy said and they call us the human race. with that in mind and with the desperate measures that some people are willing to go, to what keeps us on the right side? what stops our security from going too far? >> i mean, historically it's been the i would the country has been set up.
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it's been the civilian control of the military, checks and balances within the government. historically it's been congress deciding not to give money and the power of the purse to these programs that were not necessarily the most awe inspiring. the conclusion again -- i didn't mean for this to be serious but the conclusion of the book says, look, 9/11 moment in our history that most of us will never forget. always before 9/11 and after 9/11 and as many people that died in 9/11 as horrible as it was how much it change, it was not a moment where our existence was under threat. al qaeda, i don't care how many 9/11s you do. if they ran another hundred airplanes into buildings they're not thenning our existence. does not compare to nuclear armmageddon. to the nazi war machine and imperial japanese machine
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marching across the world but we almost he reacts as though our existence was under threat. and fortunately we got to a point now where the government works and it worked the way it was designed to work, where anytime we overreacted after 9/11, i don't care where you come down politically, times if you're a libber to tarean or liberal, he overstepped whether it was certain element of the patriot act certain elements out what we allowed or intelligence agencies to do we overstepped and overreacted and we have walk back from the brink but a that was only because of an attack like 9/11. it's weird to get inside our heads only because of 9/11. but if you think but what our ancestors were afraid or, parents, grandparents, what could have happen if world wore 3 had broken out in the 1960s or '70s or if a buy loggal weapons attack from to sow yets happened or invasion happened, what we would be willing to do.
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i worry that our true threat -- there are three and this where is you get me waxing philosophic. one are the russians because they have so many nuclear weapons they could really ruin us. two is climate change. and you don't need to be a gra know lea tree hugger and three is ourselves. and that is not necessarily we're going blow up the united states but if the united states ceases to be the united states we have destroyed who we are as a country, and that doesn't -- this is not partisan. the democrats and republicans are just as guilty of leading us down that path. or potentially leading us down the path. if we find ourselves questioning who we are as americans and questioning the kind of foundation of the constitution, we have killed ourselves. we don't need the russians to do it for us. thank you. [applause]
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>> could i take one more but -- all right. that's a great place to end remember thank you so much. i'll be over there signing books. [inaudible discussion] [inaudible conversations]
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left in the drawing board. >> good afternoon. i want to welcome those of you who are here in the auditorium. here in washington dc as well as those of you who are watching online. on our website or on c-span. i believe they are in fact on site here. according to them. just wanted


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