The Trader

When I was a kid they had such things as ‘Army-Navy Stores’ which were, ostensibly, military surplus outlets. They still have them but now most of the stuff is made in China crap rather than genuine GI stuff. The greatest of these places was a place called The Trader over on Canal St. in Manhattan. It was an old building from the ’20s that was just jam packed with all sortsa gear. Sadly, I discovered that The Trader is no longer in business.

Canal St., by the way, was an awesome collection of stores for above-board and sometimes below-board stuff. Computer geeks were especially drawn to all the electronics surplus that some stores carried. I remember buying stuff t do all sortsa computer-related chaos.

Canal Street was also pretty mucht he place to buy illegal fireworks back in the day. There was nothing subtle about it. Just don’t blow anyone up and everyone pretyy much loked the other way.

After 9/11 The Trader was kind of an everyman’s survival supply. Sure, it was ostensibly a surplus store, but savvy survivalist knew that in all those piles of old Vietnam era flight suits, German ponchos, and surplus wool socks, there were a few things that could be useful for when the end of the world came.

I’ve linked to this article in the past, but it really is worth a repost…especially now that The Trader appears* to have gone the way of other great hole-in-the-wall specialty shops that used to populate NYC.

Survivor N.Y.C.

 

* = It appears The Trader is no longer in business. Google Earth shows a new business at the old Trader location on Canal Street.

“Lost” fallout shelters

Short version: guys discovers a fallout shelter buried in his yard.

I am fascinated that this thing was not full of water. I’ve seen quite a few stories like this one and invariably the shelter has filled with water over the forty-plus years of being ‘lost’.

I used to know a guy who had a shelter similar to this kind buried in his yard under his patio. He wasn’t really expecting a nuclear exchange (or maybe he was and just didnt tell me) but he did say that it was where he would keep all his valuable guns and stuff in case a forest fire came roaring through his little patch of nowhere.

I’ve no doubt there are plenty of these forgotten shelters out there. One of special interest is a  ‘demo model’ of an underground house built for the worlds fair back in the 60’s. Some folks think it’s still there and want to go digging for it.

And although techincally they arent as dramatic, every so often impromptu public fallout shelters are discovered stacked with mountains of ancient Civil Defense gear.

Like those pesky WW2 leftovers that keep getting dug up everytime someone digs a new subway tunnel in Berlin, these sorts of things will keep cropping up from time to time. I , for one, find them utterly fascinating.

Patriot(s, s’,’s) Day.. or is it?

There’s only a handful of holidays I get worked up over…Independence Day, my birthday, Valentine’s Day, Paratus, and one or two others. And then there’s Patriot’s Day…the moveable feast of the political right.

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Maybe someone really said this. Maybe not. But the sentiment certainly seems apropos.

First, there’s a bit of ambiguity about the name..is it Patriot’s Day, Patriots Day, or Patriots’ Day? I go with Patriot’s Day. You can figure out which punctuation rings your (liberty) bell. It most certainly is notPatriot Day‘ which is, I think, a holiday in poor taste since  we already have a holiday with that name and ‘re-using’ it is patently disrespectful to the original holiday.

Then there’s the date. To me, Patriot’s Day is April 19. Why? Because that’s when the shooting started. The notion of making it the third Monday of April, regardless of date, for the purpose of creating a three day weekend is abhorrent to me. You make a holiday to remember and act upon a historical event. You don’t make it for the sake of getting a three-day weekend. *

Folks are calling today Patriot’s Day but I’m going to be a stickler….orthodox, if you will…and say that Patriot’s Day is April 19. Period.

* = Having said that, yes, Paratus is a moveable holiday. BUT..Paratus was designed from the get-go to be held on a Friday so you could have a weekend to play with your Paratus gifts. I do not find this inconsistent with my attitude about re-arranging historical holidays to fit modern demands for three-day weekends.

 

Patriots Day

To be fair, there is some confusion over whether it is Patriots Day, Patriot’s Day, or Patriots’ Day.

51862212Succinctly, its the anniversary of the opening salvos of what we call the Revolutionary War. (Remember – if  you strike at the .gov and win, it’s a revolution; if you lose it’s a civil war.)

The history is available at the usual sources.

In a sad commentary on the cynical nature of .gov, this day is also a ‘heightened alert’ day for many .gov, .mil, and LE agencies. Apparently those of us who remember days like this are considered a suspect group.

So what’s the great purpose of Patriots Day? Well, I think it’s one of those holidays open to personal interpretation. I think its an excellent excuse to head to the range and practice with a firearm. I also think it’s an excellent day to contemplate what patriotism is to  you, how it is manifested, what it’s qualities are, and what you’re willing to do and not do in the name of it. In short, it’s an excellent occasion to mull over your ideals and beliefs vis-a-vis government and individuality.

In olden day, there used to be Liberty Trees or Liberty Poles…these were features that served as rallying points on days like this.

liberty-poleNowadays rallys tend to be held at places like the federal courthouse or other building, which seems a little counter-intuitive to me. It’s using ‘the other guys’ features as your own rallying point. However, I was in Kalispell last weekend and saw a bunch of armed, Gadsen-waving folks with signs at the war memorial up there…so perhaps that has become the new de facto ‘liberty pole’. Although, really, I like the notion of a huge sprawling liberty tree that people can gather under and around…have rallies or simple picnics on Independence Day..that sort of thing.

Regardless…it’s a holiday today, and it’s not a bad idea to head to the range and punctuate the day with gunfire.

Pearl Harbor Day

It’s Pearl Harbor Day.  A day that should remind everyone that the sneak attacks that mess up your life can happen anytime…and from any source.

The day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, this nation set itself onto a war footing. This would lead to rationing, scrap drives, concentration camps for certain ethnic/racial groups, Victory gardens, shortages of staples like rubber, butter, meat, fuel, etc. In short, you went to bed on December 6 in a world that you were familiar with and one week later you were knee-deep in one of the 20th century’s most defining events.

The lesson? “It” can happen anytime. It can be Japanese torpedo bombers, a pink slip from your boss, a spot on your chest x-ray, a process server on your doorstep, that little stick turning blue, or a sudden sharp pain in your chest. The Pearl Harbor that catches you off guard and forever changes your life can look like a lot of different things. Might be a good idea to have some of your ducks in a row so that when it does happen (And it will, be assured) you’re not down for the count with just one punch.

Of course, if you are prepared, you can sometimes give back as good as you got…and then some.

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Article – Almost Everything in “Dr. Strangelove” Was True

Half a century after Kubrick’s mad general, Jack D. Ripper, launched a nuclear strike on the Soviets to defend the purity of “our precious bodily fluids” from Communist subversion, we now know that American officers did indeed have the ability to start a Third World War on their own. And despite the introduction of rigorous safeguards in the years since then, the risk of an accidental or unauthorized nuclear detonation hasn’t been completely eliminated.

If you havent read it, Stephen Hunter (of “Point Of Impact” fame) wrote a terrific book, The Day Before Midnight, about some guys busting into a launch facility to do a little DIY WW3. It was a really great book and would make an awesome movie. It’s my favorite book of his, narrowly edging out POI. And, yeah, it’s a little derivative of “Twilight’s Last Gleaming.

Anyway, the gist of the article is that despite the protestations of the military and the government, there have been times when the ability to launch nukes on one’s own has been possible. I suppose in Cold War planning that made sense – if command-n-control is knocked out there has to be a way for weapons to be used without authorization from the smoldering radioactive ruins of DC.

I mention this because it’s a fascinating little bit of history that sort of segues into preparedness. For those of us who grew up in the world of first strike, second strike, MADD, and Minuteman missiles its rather interesting.

The article is also  interesting because it details how the .gov tried to balance a very complicated equation – nukes had to be tightly controlled so no one could go off-kilter and start WW3 on their own, BUT there had to be mechanisms in place to allow an individual command to launch independently if higher authorities were disabled/destroyed. The solution (if you want to call it that) was two-man rules, no-lone-zones, layers of verification, split codes, and a few other ‘team’ requirements. Basically, it was a lot like having two names on a checking account…without both people signing off, nothing happens. (At least, thats the plan anyway.)

And, to segue to a slightly less on-topic matter, it’s interesting to note that while it supposedly takes more than one person to launch a nuclear attack, it has historically taken only one to prevent it.

Although there is the premise of the rogue individual starting WW3,  most folks are unaware of the rogue individual who prevented WW3. There are at least two Soviet officers (here and here) who, when given the opportunity to allow a some fissionable matter to do its thing, said nyet and prevented what might have been the start of WW3.

Interestingly, once you start looking into these sorts of matters you discover there have been quite a few times that we’ve been just a phone call and a button press away from having a nuclear exchange. Nowdays I suspect the incidence of nuclear war is fairly low but the risk of nuclear attack is unchanged or perhaps a bit higher. Somewhere there is a cargo container with a couple nuclear artillery shells in it just waiting to go through the Port of Seattle or somewhere similar. I mean, you look at the numbers and you realize there is a huge amount of smaller, less dramatic nuclear devices out there…man-portable stuff that some zealot can stuff in the back of a Cessna 182 and detonate over pretty much anywhere. There’s a lot of those little nukes out there..artillery shells, torpedoes, ‘special weapons’, demolition packages, etc, etc….stuff that fits into a 55-gallon drum or smaller.

Anyway, an interesting article for those of us who have an interest in control (or lack thereof) of these sorts of things.

 

 

Links – Cold War History sites

Two websites about Cold War facilities and fallout shelters.

Coldwar-Ct.com

Massachusetts Cold War History Site

Both sites feature pictures and small histories of various fallout shelters and other ‘doomsday’ real estate. One thing I found interesting and that I was unaware of was that the .gov had, in some cases, built small shelters for radio stations to allow them to continue to broadcast in a crisis. I never knew that.

The pictures of the hardened communication facilities is interesting as well. Having gotten to explore a couple of those microwave relay outposts, I can tell you that for the era they were built in they were very serious about survivability.

Anyway, entertaining links with some fascinating pictures…I especially enjoyed this series. Every now and then these facilities come up for sale. You’d have to spend some serious coin on your own to come up with an equal level of protection.

Article – Mussolini air raid shelter opens to tourists

Seventy years old and it appears in better shape than many more recently made bomb shelters I’ve seen.

ROME (AP) — A Roman villa’s wine cellar, which was converted into an air raid shelter for Benito Mussolini and the Italian dictator’s family, is opening its anti-gas, double steel doors to tourists.

The shelter was quickly constructed in 1940, after the outbreak of World War II, in what had once been the wine cellar of a noble family who lived there before Mussolini took up residence during his Fascist rule.

Visitors at a preview Saturday saw the iron-rung ladder used for emergency exits and a rusting contraption to purify air in case of a gas attack. A label on the apparatus was dated November 1940 in Roman numerals, in keeping with Mussolini’s style of evoking the ancient Roman empire’s glory days as inspiration for his own rule.

I enjoy seeing these older shelters when they turn up. Part of the attraction is that many of them were quite effective but were built, necessarily, using materials and techniques of the time. With modern techniques, materials, and equipment you could build something better, faster, and probably cheaper. But if all you have is 1930’s technology you can still build something like that. I find that a bit reassuring.