An Atomic Secret
It was almost two weeks since Jones had last been at CASP. The computer was now fully operational, and the operators were running his and Heike's simulation, entitled "Atomic Attack on a Putative Enemy from Zero or Negative Altitude", some two hundred times. Punched cards were piling up and being taken in batches to secure filing cabinets. Jones whispered to Heike,
"Too bad no one's ever going to look at them."
General Smith, not for the first time, was behind Jones when he thought he was communicating privately. Jones had forgotten that the general had, as he had threatened, taken over a little office near the computer. He now asked them to come in for coffee.
The general seemed to delight in making it himself with a little coffee-maker, and, as he set Heike's cup down in front of her, he said,
"Commander Thurmond was over a few days ago, and we had a long talk. I think, in fact, that we're almost entirely in agreement. The navy protects our shores against Soviet submarines, eventually atomic missile ones, and the army defends the perimeter of the free world against conventional attack. Neither is in a position to take the sort of offensive action that might start a world war."
"Of course, we've got a simulation running in the next room that sounds very offensive indeed."
"I like the title. There's the word, 'putative', and I've never heard the ocean depths referred to as 'negative altitude'."
It wasn't often that General Smith displayed a sense of humor, and Jones replied,
"Philosophers love to talk about things being putative, and we thought we might as well give it an obscure name in conformance with DoD custom."
"The acronym, AAPEZNA, is marginally pronouncible. But, as you remarked just now, it won't really matter. Commander Thurmond also agrees with me on that score."
It was Heike, who said,
"I think Went really does speak for the submarine force, probably better than Admiral Benson. But there's the rest of the navy."
"The carrier force. I've also made some arrangements there. The carrier force is in basic conflict with the air force. As are we in the army. One might expect us to be able to cooperate closely with what used to be the Army Air Force, but there's a great deal of bad blood left over from the split and before. So, to some extent, we can make common cause with the navy against the newly independent air force. This must sound horribly parochial to you, Miss Herrnstein."
"Well, I'm used to conflicts between the services. But I don't think Jones and I are involved in any conflict of interest."
"None at all. In fact, you and Jones, and myself and Thurmond, are all in exact conformance with the containment policy of President Truman and Secretary Acheson."
"With all that support, there hardly seems any contest."
"You haven't met General LeMay, Miss Herrnstein. Moreover, even though the army and navy have much more political influence than the brand-new air force, there's another factor, public patience."
Jones wasn't sure what he meant, and asked. The response was,
"Most people, both military and civilian, don't have the sort of nerve it takes to wait out a policy that might take ten or twenty years to bring ultimate victory. It's tempting to think that a sudden atomic strike could quickly settle the matter. That's the promise. And we really don't know whether it's realistic."
Jones pointed out,
"That sounds more Japanese than American. A much bigger Pearl Harbor."
"Certainly. But there's a great deal of fear, based on the reality, and, on top of that, a great deal of hysteria. Traditions can be abandoned under such circumstances."
"I can't imagine President Truman giving in to that."
"Nor can I. But I know an old police detective who once told me that we have no idea what really goes on in the homes of married couples we think we've known intimately for twenty years. In the same way, we don't really know the men at the top. They didn't get to the top by accident, and there are layers of their personalities well beyond our ken. So it behooves us to give all possible support to what is, after all, the administration position."
Jones inwardly began to feel that they might not be subversive after all. If faking things to foil LeMay simply had the object of supporting the president's policy, that was hardly treasonous.
Back in Jones' office, they sketched out a few ideas for the new model, that of an air attack on the Soviet Union, and vice versa. Heike pointed out,
"We can take the basic structure from the sub vs escort simulations. The defenders have to first find the intruders, using radar instead of a mixture of sonar and radar, and then it comes down mostly to a gun battle between individual units. Once we get that right, we just multiply the results."
"Yeah, the speeds are much greater, and some of the weapons. There's also the element that bombers can form a mass formation for mutual defense, something that probably wouldn't work for subs."
"Those tactics of the last war might not work now. Bombers might do better to attack individually at widely separated points."
Jones considered for a moment, and replied,
"We're still relying on piston-engined bombers, and so are the Soviets. But both sides have jet fighters. So it doesn't sound as if the bombers on either side would have much of a chance."
"The whole thing would be to sneak individual bombers over in the hope that some wouldn't be intercepted."
"Preferably at night, or in bad weather, or both."
"So it's largely a question of whose radar is better."
"Heike, I can't imagine how we're going to simulate radar detection. I don't even understand very clearly how it works."
"Neither do I. Let's go to lunch."
They weren't very far from the waterfront of the Potomac in Alexandria, and, on impulse, they went there. It was a decidedly ramshackle and downtrodden district, but it was easy to find a parking space. Despite the general neglect, there were many solid-looking brick buildings which didn't appear to be in any danger of falling down. The larger ones were warehouses next to the wharves, but others housed shops, and, in some cases, residences. Above one shop, which was the Potomac analogue of a ship chandlery, there was a little restaurant with a cheerful bright blue sign and an awning to match. The contrast to the district was irresistible, and they ascended the outside stairs to the Blue Heron.
The combined owner-waitress, and perhaps cook, was a lady in her forties who might once have been rather like Sarah Swift with a more pronounced southern accent. There were no other customers, and she greeted them with great enthusiasm. Jones could see that it might be difficult to hold a private conversation under the circumstances, but they ordered sandwiches quickly without asking any questions. Heike then said quietly,
"This is a big day for me. Early this morning, I got a proof I've been working on, off and on, for months."
"Great. It must be pretty significant if you've worked that hard on it."
"It's not Fermat's last theorem or Godel's incompleteness proof, but I think that a few people will take notice."
"I bet they will. Did you start your mathematics on your own, proving whatever you came on?"
"Partly. I went to what amounted to a school for smart girls. I got some help and encouragement there, but it was pretty limited, and there was the general atmosphere of fear."
"Because you were Jewish?"
"There were only a few Jewish girls in my class, and I hardly knew whether I was one of them."
"You didn't know whether you were Jewish?"
"My father was one who believed that he'd been accepted as an ordinary German. He and my mother were almost forty when they had me, their only child, and he was quite an authoritative figure. In fact, he was close to the stereotypical German father figure. He gave orders, and one of them was that Nazi anti-semitism didn't apply to us. Our name was one that wasn't necessarily Jewish, and so I could stand aside when the other Jewish girls were being picked on."
"I didn't know it was possible to just decide not to be Jewish."
"He got away with it until the end. He helped trash Jewish businesses on the so-called Crystal Night of broken glass."
"How old were you then?"
"Twelve. I was a very confused and frightened kid. I think I must have known, even then, that we weren't safe."
"Were your friends non-Jewish?"
"I hardly had any. I wasn't accepted at school by either group, and I wasn't allowed anything like a boy friend by my father. That hardly mattered, since I looked very young and wasn't attracting any."
"I've heard that there are anti-Semitic Jews."
"My father must have been Exhibit A."
"What about your mother?"
"I think she must have been terrified the whole time. But she always obeyed."
"It's no wonder that you're a little uncertain about some things."
"Sex, in particular, you mean. When I got here, I was fairly traumatized. I was also immersed in mathematics, and spent my time with older people who looked on me as a sort of prodigy. That, in itself, discourages intimacy. So there weren't any boy friends here either."
"I had teen-aged girl friends, but sex since then has been pretty anonymous. I may not be any more comfortable than you are with what people seem to count as intimacy."
"If, indeed, they know any more than we do. They couple up, get married, and have children. Do they really know what they're doing?"
Noticing that the owner-waitress was probably listening, Jones replied,
"I suppose some must. Went seems to."
"He is interested in, perhaps fascinated by, his wife."
"I know. Is she more important to him than his naval career?"
"I'd guess that she is. That's rather unusual, I think."
"Well, hooray for Went."
At that point, having just finished eating, the owner- waitress descended on them. They were still the only diners, and it had to be explained to them how fabulously successful the newly opened restaurant was going to be.
General Smith was still there when they got back to the computer room, and they talked about the new model. He soon said,
"There's a problem here. In order to construct this simulation, you'll have to know how many atomic devices we have, and how many we're likely to have at various points in the future. But that's probably our country's most closely guarded secret. Very few people are in on it, and I'm the only one here at CASP."
"We can construct the simulation in such a way as to leave certain parameters open, and give it to you. You can then fill them in and run it the desired number of times under conditions of secrecy. You could then announce the results to the defense community while still keeping those parameters secret."
"It's a good thing I've learned enough to be able to do that."
"I don't think you'd have any difficulty, general. You'd need one of the operators to run it, but the operator wouldn't know which of the thousands of numbers in the program have any special meaning."
"Yes. That's okay, except for one thing. You and Jones, in constructing the model, wouldn't know what the results would be. For all you'd know, they might favor an immediate atomic strike by LeMay."
"We wouldn't be entirely at sea. It would mostly depend on fighters finding bombers and shooting them down. And, of course, we'll be structuring those contests. We couldn't predict the exact results without running the simulation, but I don't think they'd come as a total surprise."
"Results in military affairs aren't usually proportional to the size of the forces involved. You can't, for example, triple the forces on each side and say that there will then be three times as many casualties. In this case, the difference between a hundred attacking bombers and three hundred might be the difference between almost no destruction and total destruction."
Neither Jones nor Heike disagreed, and General Smith continued,
"I've devised an alternative approach. I'm giving you five different scenarios with different numbers of bombs, ranging from just ten to an arsenal of three thousand. I won't tell you which is the true one, and, of course, you won't ask. You will then construct a model based on each scenario. I'll then choose the right results without telling you."
"In view of the point you've just made, these will have to be independent models reflecting the difference in the scale of combat and the different factors which are brought in."
"Certainly. I've put these scenarios all on different sheets of paper."
General Smith then spread five sheets of paper out on his desk facing Jones and Heike. On each, there were dates, starting with the present, and numbers of bombs, with varying kilotonnage, to be available on those dates.
After studying them, Jones remarked,
"The rate of increase over time seems to be the same in all five cases."
"Ah, yes. I just multiplied them out. Only one scenario is genuine. The rest are just for security purposes. If you'll excuse me for a moment, I'll be back shortly."
With that, he rose and left the room. Heike immediately murmured to Jones,
"Which one do you think it is?"
"The middle one."
"Me, too. He practically moved his hand to it at one point."
"And, of course, he isn't trying to fool us. He wants us to know."
"Besides, one extreme is crazy. We must have more than ten bombs by this time. And I doubt that we have three thousand."
When General Smith returned, possibly after going to the mens' room, he sat down and asked,
"Which one do you intend to begin on?"
"I think the middle one."
General Smith smiled broadly and replied,
"Then I guess we'd better get to work."