Writer’s Note: The World Series of Poker Circuit is currently taking place at Horseshoe Bossier City. So, I’m staying in Shreveport, Louisiana during the next two weeks. Today, I’ll share with you two things that have impressed me most so far about my visit.
It sounded like a screech. A deafening, high-pitched screech. Almost like the scream in a horror movie.
I looked up into the sky. There it was.
A giant B-52 bomber.
If you’ve never seen the breathtaking sight of a B-52 in flight, I must say — even from the ground — the visual is awe-inspiring. Conjoined with its high-pitched eardrum-shattering 120 decibels, the image of the B-52 plowing overhead with it’s beastly eight engines barreling out thick black smoke is a momentous assault on the senses.
Barksdale Air Force Base is located on Bossier City’s east side. Years ago, I remember well the sight and sound of B-52s regularly hoovering over the Louisiana Downs Racetrack off in the distance, which I frequently visited. It’s been a long, long time since I saw this aircraft up close. I had forgotten how intimidating the sight is. Earlier today looking up into the sky, I rekindled that double-edged love affair with darker forces and was once again reminded of mankind’s inherent aptitude for creating marvels of self-destruction.
It was horribly beautiful.
The B-52 is an astonishing image of national power. The fleet carries payloads of nuclear weapons. These are B-52s on high alert — always ready to strike. Prepared for its target like wolves catching the scent of a bunny, B-52s are always swilring around up in the air somewhere, defending the nation. This is intentionally so, as a sort of Orwellian flip-flop of logic manifested by explaining the madness as a “deterrent.”
Never mind that their constant presence was one of the things which triggered an arms race and ignited the fuse for a lot of bad guys in the world who came to accelerate their own ambitions for nuclear weapons. Even with the Cold War long over, B-52 missions continue around the clock, every day and night of the year. I had just witnessed the conclusion of one of these missions, landing at Barksdale AFB.
But what’s really most impressive about the B-52 is longevity. This year marks the aircraft’s 60-year anniversary. That’s right. America’s nuclear arsenal is hauled around in a fleet of planes that were designed when Eisenhower was President and most the country was tuned into “I Love Lucy.” I’m not sure if that’s more astonishing, or horrifying.
That’s how incredible these planes are. That they have stood the test of time for six long decades and remain just as frighteningly effective as the day they first rolled off the Boeing assembly line as the most powerful fighting machine perhaps that’s ever been designed. Think of all the advances in technology and changes in aircraft design since that time. And yet, the most destructive instruments in the history of mankind are hauled around in the equivalent of a 1952 Chevy.