Report from GN Conference in Huntsville, Alabama

From: Dave Webb

April 7 - 9 2017

Pivot Toward War:
US Missile Defense and the Weaponization of Space
25th Annual Space Organizing Conference & Protest
(Thanks to Will Griffin and Tom Moss for most of the pictures
and to Eric Herter, Will and David Swanson for the videos))

Day 3

Membership Meeting & One Last Story - April 9
(From Bruce's Blog)

During our last day in Huntsville, Alabama (Sunday, April 9) we had a brief membership meeting of the Global Network to review some organizational issues such as an evaluation of the conference, a new board appointment and where we would hold our annual space conference in 2018.  We met just outside the hotel around a fire pit and when we were going around doing introductions a man introduced himself as a US Air Force officer who was staying at the hotel and wanted to see what our group of "interesting people" was talking about.  (Many in our circle were wearing Veterans For Peace shirts/hats.) So he sat and listened to some of our meeting.

After the meeting was over John Schuchardt from Ipswich, Massachusetts went up to the officer to talk with him.  John himself had been a Marine Corp Reserve Officer during the Vietnam War and quit the military because of his opposition to the war.  I asked John to share his conversation with the officer on April 9 and here is what he wrote.

My conversation with the Air Force Reserve Officer who listened in on part of our meeting:  

He said that he was an Administrative Liaison for B-1, B-2, and B-52's bombers in the Reserves.  His job was to manage "assets" and coordinate, advise, and plan the deployment of Reserve assets with regular Air Force command structures.  His position was increasingly being called upon because there is a growing emphasis from reserve status to operational status.   (This would mirror or parallel the increasing use of  Reserve units to shift from the normal Reserve assignments to overseas war-fighting.)

I did not ask all the questions I would want to, trying to keep things social and friendly.   I didn't find out his rank, his Reserve unit, or exactly why he was in Huntsville. He suggested he was taking part in meetings to work on over-all issues of force integration and changes being brought about as his reserve assets became more integrated with operational regular commands.
 I did say, "59 US cruise missiles attacked a base in Syria with Russian personnel (and probably planes) yesterday.  What is going to happen tomorrow?"  His reply, "Nobody knows."

My parting handshake was, "Please don't blow up our beautiful world."  He smiled and agreed that he hoped not.

I think it was interesting that the officer wanted to stick his head into our circle and we were glad he did.  It was good that John spoke with him afterward to make the human connection.  And their parting words were important as well as they reaffirmed for me that not everyone inside the military  is anxious to blow up our planet.

Reflecting on this chance encounter I thought about all the US military personnel stationed around the world and, just from my own experiences in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, I am certain that many heartfelt discussions are currently happening on US bases between those who are eager for war and those who are not.

We know from past history that signals from military personnel who are doubting US aggressive moves, risking WW III, can in fact help slow down the grinding wheels of the Pentagon's war machine.  I don't know if the officer who sat in our meeting is one such doubter or not - but the fact that he was drawn to our peaceful spirit speaks for itself.

We can only hope that the legions of US military personnel who do in fact doubt the current mission will speak up often and loudly and help bring some sanity to the out-of-control US imperial war machine.  Everyone has a role in protecting our Mother Earth from a devastating global nuclear war.

Visit to Aerospace Park and Space & Rocket Center Museum - Sunday, April 9

On Sunday conference attendees visited the Space and Rocket Museum. On the way there we took a detour around the aerospace park where an amazing number of  corporations were positioned ready to feed the ever growing technology of the military space machine. Will had already shown some of the companies established there in his excellent video advertising the conference.

A contingent of Veteran's for Peace had already shown their disapproval at Raytheon's activities

Museum entrance

At the museum we found that, being a Sunday, there were a number of visitors - many families with young people excited by the exhibits describing the adventure of space travel. However, included in all this was a not so subtle mix of military rocket and missile technology. As Bruce remarked in his blog:

"it was amazing to see how new generations were being indoctrinated to support 'everything space'.  Space technology controls and directs everything the 'warfighter' does these days but these systems are massively expensive.  Thus the need to have a thorough brainwashing program in place to help steer the unsuspecting public to give up social progress to pay for the dazzle and flash of military space technology."

There were also a few exhibits on Wernher von Braun, first director of the Marshall Space Flight Centre - but no mention of the illegal extraction of him and his team of scientists from Germany at the end of WW2 through a secret operation codenamed "Paperclip", nor of the fact that the V2 rockets were manufactured at Mittelwerk - a series of tunnels dug out of Kohnstein Hill - towards the end of the war the factory used forced labour from the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. Some 20,000 people died at Mittelbau-Dora or soon after (including1300 -1500 killed by British bombs); 350 were hanged (including 200 for sabotaging the rockets) and many others died from exhaustion, cold, malnutrition or disease - others were murdered by guards. It is estimated that the V2 rockets killed some 2,541 & injured approximately 5,923  people.


Two of Von Braun's earlier inventions on show - the V1 and V2 used to bomb cities during WW2

THAAD exhibit in the Space Centre

More military mobile missile exhibits

US Army Nike Hercules surface-to-air guided missile

US Blackbird Spy Plane under reconstruction

The technology involved in some of the civilian/scientific exhibits was certainly very impressive - especially the Saturn V that eventually took Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the Moon and back in 1969. The Saturn V was designed at the Marshall Space Flight Centre and based on the Jupiter series of rockets, which were based on the Redstone Rocket, which was itself based on the original V-2 rocket.

With the Apollo spacecraft on top, it stood 363 feet (111 m) tall, and without fins, it was 33 feet (10 m) in diameter. The Saturn V weighed 6.5 million pounds (2,950 metric tons) including fuel and was designed to send at least 90,000 pounds (41,000 kg) to the Moon.

A horizontal Saturn V for a clearer view of the stages

One of the Saturn V F-1 rocket engines used for launch

A Brief Tour of Redstone

After this visit, many people left to make their way home. Some stayed on a little longer and a car load of us went for a drive through Gate 9 of Redstone where we had lined up with our banners just two days before. One of us was an ex-army officer and we were allowed to drive through the checkpoint on the gate without any problems.

Things were very quiet in the base (it was a Sunday after all) and no-one bothered us as we drove around. We visited the Redstone Test Site (a National Historic Landmark):

  The Rocket Park (which apparently was taken off-limits to public after 9-11):


Left to right: the V2; Jupiter; Redstone (foreground)
 and Saturn I; and Jupiter-C Rockets

and a group of rocket engines:

RS-25 Engine

Saturn V Engine by Rocketdyne

 At our Global Network meeting  held early that morning it was generally agreed that the conference had been a great success. There had been so much information exchanged that some time will be needed to digest it all. We will try to get as much as possible available from the web site.

It was also agreed that we should add Will Griffin to the GN Board and that next year we will meet in the UK - either in Yorkshire (close to Menwith Hill and Fylingdales or somewhere close to Croughton (near Oxford) - all important US bases. Lindis and Dave will follow this up and provide more details in the near future.

And so, until then ....

See also:
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3


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