Occasional Reader Rob sent along a link to this video of Thursday's Space Shuttle launch...
Pretty cool, eh? Watching this video fired off some long-dormant synapses about other such launches I saw in the way-back. From my reply to Rob:
Today's (very short) war story... The video reminded me of watching missile launches at Vandenberg AFB, where I was stationed for a lil over three years. I arrived there as a jeep two-striper back in '64 and moved into the barracks, as all young troops do. The first week I was there I was awakened around 0200 hrs by some violent shaking, accompanied by a dull rumble-roar. Now, I'd been in a few earthquakes as a child and recognized the feeling... I lept out of bed and literally ran out of the barracks on to the lawn in my underwear, yelling "EARTHQUAKE" at the top of my lungs to wake up the other guys who might be sleeping through this. And all I got for my concern was angry shouts of derision (and worse) from my fellow airmen, who were NONE too kind.
One of the guys did take pity on me as I walked back in, extremely red-faced and about to fuckin' DIE from embarrassment. "That was a Titan," he explained. "You won't feel the Minutemen or even hear 'em until long after they're gone, and the Atlas launches aren't nearly as bad... but yeah, a Titan launch feels just like an earthquake." The launch pads were about three or four miles from our barracks.
I saw hundreds of launches over the course of the next three years and was also involved in a project to see if our air defense radars could pick up ballistic missile launches (they couldn't and didn't, but that was long ago and radars have changed, along with the times). That was pretty cool because I was tied into the Vandenberg launch control center in order to start my scope camera three minutes before launch. I then got to step outside and watch the missile go from our mountain top, which looked exactly like the shuttle launch from that airplane. Pretty cool, in other words.You can't possibly imagine how embarrassed I was about that "earthquake" thing, Gentle Reader. Military guys ain't supposed to panic, for starters, and we're supposed to know every-damned-thing about our service, on top of that. I betrayed both principles in that episode and it took me quite a while to live that down.
Discovery launch photo from the Daily Mail link, above.