I don’t remember ever thinking about my responsibility to humanity before becoming responsible for H-bombs. My thoughts while in US Air Force flight school were about attending to what I was required to learn and do. The issues were when on duty to perform as well as possible and to relax when off duty in a way that would improve our performance when on duty. The personal goal was to graduate from flight school, and secondarily to graduate as high as possible within our class because the higher we scored the more choice we had as to the kinds of airplanes we would fly. I graduated at the top of my class in everything and that was seventy percent of our total score. Unfortunately, I didn’t display the kind of military enthusiasm expected of me and was rated poorest on that measured quality, and therefore instead of being at first choice for assignments I was sixth out of the local portion of our entire class. That was about one-hundred graduating pilots.
An aside comment, on our first day introductory at flight school, while still in an auditorium with the whole Air Force Class 1959H, the introductory speaker said, “Look around, half of you won’t make it through flight school!”
I did graduate near the top of my class, but as it turned out I lost my bet to become a fighter pilot because there were only five fighter assignments, and I was sixth in my class and pushed into the bottom of the assignment choice list into B-47 bombers. And that is where this story really begins. Because with this assignment, instead of defending our country and our government against all enemies, foreign and domestic, I was to fly around with H-bombs and threaten the whole world with extermination.
For me, the question then became, “What is my personal responsibility to humanity?” My life goal wasn’t, and still isn’t, to destroy humanity; it was to be a law-abiding citizen and defend my country. But the problem was that if I performed my job perfectly, it would bring the end of civilization, and possibly all humanity. My action would precipitate our enemies to retaliate with everything they had, and of course, we would retaliate with everything we had too. That was the United States’ plan and official Air Force policy. It was aptly named Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).
Here is the current state of MADNESS from Wikipedia, The current list of states with nuclear weapons: “From a high of 70,300 active weapons in 1986, as of 2019, there are approximately 3,750 active nuclear warheads and 13,890 total nuclear warheads in the world. Many of the decommissioned weapons were simply stored or partially dismantled, not destroyed”
This problem came up for me because I began talking about Charles Galton Darwin’s book, “The Next Million Years.”