I have mentioned before that I worked in Poland for five years beginning almost immediately after the fall of Communism. I worked as a management consultant to Westernize and computerize a large Polish enterprise that had been bought by a group of American investors. (Which is itself another story for another time.)
Note: I graduated in mathematics from Alliance College in 1960 from which I entered the United States Air Force. Alliance College was a school underwritten bythe Polish National Alliance. I took the Polish as my language requirement and I grew up in a community where Polish was spoken by my Mother and in many places and circumstances. In the Air Force, I was assigned to the Strategic Air Command and served as a Launch Control Officer operating an Atlas F–ICBM silo near Salina, Kansas.
On my first trip, I arrived in Warsaw very late and was met at the airport by a driver from the company who spoke no English. My Polish language skills had languished quite a bit but I was able to have a simple conversation as we drove from Warsaw to Torun, the site of the factory. I was taken to a hotel and after checking in went to my room, opened the window and fell into bed having been mostly awake since leaving New Mexico. As I was falling asleep I heard the unmistakable sound of heavy artillery. Looking out the window and to the West, I could see that each “boom” was accompanied by a flash. I eventually fell asleep.
Room service woke me in time for breakfast (sniadanie) in the hotel’s dining room where I was met by a great gentleman, a professor at The University of Torun and a former fellow at the Brookings Institute. After breakfast, we were taken by a company driver along the historic Vistula River to the factory. As we were driving, I asked the Professor why the cannon fire during the night. He explained this was a Polish military base having formerly been a Soviet medium-range missile facility.
I didn’t say another word because there was only one Soviet medium-range missile facility in Poland, it was in the Northwest, and this was then, at one time, one of my targets. This beautiful medieval city would not be here had we launched against that Soviet base. It was a chilling experience. I never mentioned this to my hosts, of course, but the thought was always with me -- nuclear war made concrete and personal.