SAT & BAF! Memories of a Tower Rat
Author: Doug DePew
Publisher: Outskirts Press (2011)
Binding: Paperback, 240 pages
The year is 1986. The Soviet Union is five years from collapsing, and the arms race has ramped up to unbelievable proportions. It appears nothing can end this standoff except nuclear annihilation or capitulation by one of the antagonists. One company of infantry stands between the entire Soviet arsenal and live Pershing II nuclear missiles which are the threat used by President Ronald Reagan as he orders Mr. Gorbachev to "tear down this wall".
In this brutally honest and irreverently funny account, one of the men who stood the perimeter describes what it was like. You will be taken to the field, inside the towers, and out on the town. You will be carried through the two year tour of one very young Infantryman as he arrives in Germany straight out of Infantry School and gradually navigates his way through the mind numbingly tedious and insanely active life of a tower rat. For possibly the first time, a person who was actually there relates the amazing bond forged in the towers of Waldheide Nuclear Weapons Storage Area. You will see it through his eyes. You will live it.
Young men, graduates of the Infantry School, arrive in Germany and are assigned to a special unit that guard's Pershing II nuclear missiles. They are given a high-pressure assignment that requires a secret security clearance with no preparation or special training for the job. Not what they expected.
Doug DePew tells it like it was, not something the average civilian can understand or relate to. You have to have been in the program to understand the pressure and responsibilities associated with nukes and guarding them. SAT & BAF! Memories of a Tower Rat is part of the "Cold War" story, and what it took to win. Unfortunately, the importance of the Cold War is being deleted from history books, along with much of what made America great.
For those not familiar with military terms, I suggest creating a glossary as you read. SAT and BAF, the reader discovers on page 56 mean Security Alert Team and Backup Alert Force. Guard towers were placed around the Pershing site and the men who manned them were "Tower Rats."
DePew's book is insightful, and gives the reader a peek into a corner of the secret world that protected the U.S. from the USSR. DePew and his buddies were hard drinking, brawling, fraulein-chasing, pranksters who, when duty called, seriously guarded the warheads and missiles from Soviet and peacenick attacks. Men who bonded and always had each others back. Men I would have been proud to have commanded, and I can speak from the experience of having had a couple of NCOs who were like DePew and his buddies.
I enjoyed the lieutenant and the password scene. I never forgot a password, but it brought back memories of a couple of men who did, and one who talked too much about them. I was very pleased to note that while the author and his buddies had numerous run-ins with the MPs, there was never a security breach or incident, and when all is said and done, that’s all that matters.
The book contains descriptions of the author's travels through out Germany, Spain and Switzerland, along beer, wine and frauleins. I think DePew had a good time.
Having been a member of the nuclear fraternity, I appreciated DePews' story and will keep the book on my shelf.
Reviewed by: Lee Boyland (September 2011)