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Interview with Morton Salk | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Morton Salk
November 10, 2006
Morton Salk was born in 1919 in Providence, RI. He served in both the Army and the Air Corps as a specialist in bombadier and a pilot. He served overseas in China as well as India.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Salk, Morton, Interviewer: Paul Zarbock


Zarbock: Good morning. This is 10 November in the year 2006. We're on the campus of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, in the William Madison Randall Library. My name is Paul

Zarbock and I will be one of the interviewers today. This is a continuation of reminiscent videotapes of World War II veterans, and our interviewee is Mort, sometimes called Morty, Salk, who was at the time that we are picking up on this new tape a first lieutenant. It's circa 1944. He has left China and is returning to the United States. And why were you returning to the United States, Mort?

Morton Salk: I finished my tour of duty in China after having flown 57 missions. And we received some replacement crews, so we had a surplus, in a way, of flyers. And so those of us who had been there the longest were eligible to return. There was no stipulated length of time for service except when replacement crews were available. And this proved to be the case. And I finally returned to the United States after about almost a year and a half in China.

Zarbock: A microscopic moment in life. How did you get from China to the United States?

Morton Salk: The air transport command furnished transportation which involved flying from China to India over the hump in a C-47 and then catching a plane out of India to New York, a DC-4, four engine, which at that time was state of the art transportation. And we flew into Florida, Miami, and I caught a commercial plane to New York. My hometown is Providence, Rhode Island, and then by train from New York to Providence. And that's how I got back.

Zarbock: Let me take you backwards just a minute. You're flying over the hump, what does that mean?

Morton Salk: Flying over the hump meant hauling supplies from India to China. China was cut off from sea transportation on the East coast by the Japanese, and there were no highways or any other means of getting material such as bombs, gas, etc. into China, except by flying it over the hump. I was a B-24 so we had plenty of capacity for cargo, which included bombs, oil, gasoline. And so we flew from China to India to pick up loads at an advance base in Chabou [ph?] Province in India, then flew back over the hump. So we left China with just enough gasoline to get to India, nothing extra, no spare, pick up all the gas we could handle, plus any bombs for anywhere sort of fragmentation through thousand pound bombs, then flew them back into China. And we had to accumulate enough material to fly combat missions. So during the monsoon season we flew many trips over the hump to pick up material and stockpile it so that when the monsoons had finished, we would then have sufficient material to go on three or four or five or six bomb raids before we had to get more supplies.

Zarbock: Let me paint a little color in this flying over the hump. What was your altitude?

Morton Salk: We flew generally at over 20,000 feet. There were three routes. There was a so called Southern route, middle route and a Northern route. And dependent upon the intelligence of the Japanese operations, would depend upon which route we'd take back or cross the hump. Japanese were asleep or not flying or had insufficient airplanes in that piece of geography, we would then fly the southern route, which are the lowest mountains. And if there was some additional activity, we'd fly the middle route. When they got exercised and when we anticipated interception we would fly the Northern route, and that was out of their range. But the mountains were much higher, they were 27,000, 25,000, and we flew those altitudes to get over the hump. The weather was unbelievable. We lost more airplanes, both transport planes and combat planes, over the hump than we ever lost in combat. The Japanese saw us coming.

Zarbock: And this is in the era of airplanes in which you did not have sophisticated radar, you did not have GPS, and I suspect that the cabins were not pressurized.

Morton Salk: That is correct, all correct. And it was cold. And we had just rubber oxygen masks. We had little heat, if any, and it was a perilous trip. On one of, for example, on one of our sorties across the hump to pick up supplies flying out of Kunming-- we used to fly in formation occasionally when we needed to send more than one airplane or more than one airplane was mechanically able to get off the ground-- to pick up all the supplies we could manage, we lost 5 airplanes over that hump in one day. These five airplanes took off, rendezvoused, and flew in formation and they were never heard from again. And most of it was attributable to weather. But that was just one example. We lost single airplanes very frequently, but we were still secondary in loss of air transport command, which flew continuous flights back and forth supplying B-25 bombers who were stationed in Kunming, and P-40 fighters, as well as other types later on. And they flew frequently but they lost many, many airplanes. Some, few, due to Japanese interception, but mainly due to weather.

Zarbock: What was the flight time from point A to point B?

Morton Salk: About 3 1/2 hours each way, approximately.

Zarbock: So you didn't pack food for yourself.

Morton Salk: No. No.

Zarbock: But it was cold?

Morton Salk: Yeah, it was extremely cold. And of course you get into India at Chaboir [ph?] and it was exceedingly hot. And during the monsoon seasons it was exceedingly wet as well as hot. Never a dry shirt, never a dry body, anytime, during that period of time. It's not a very pleasant place to be.

Zarbock: This videotape will probably be seen years and years from now. So again, in order to paint a little color into your words, you were very cold and then you landed and you were very hot and wet. It was dangerous, you would lose comrades and associates. You were first lieutenant in those days?

Morton Salk: Yes.

Zarbock: And what was the reimbursement that the federal government awarded you?

Morton Salk: My base pay was $125. My flying pay was $75. That was for extra hazard pay, or flying pay. And so that was the total amount. But then again there was no place to spend it, and most of us, or many of us, felt we might never have the opportunity to spend it anyhow, so it didn't really matter.

Zarbock: So for $200 a month, you were offered all of these exciting benefits.

Morton Salk: Yes. And of course sleeping accommodations, if I can use that word, in India were canvas beds stretched between some pieces of wood. And for a pillow I used my flying jacket wrapped around my .45 pistol. And that was where we slept, in our clothes and hoping that the rain would stop some time or another, which it rarely ever did.

Zarbock: Was there any recreation available to you? What were your off-duty hours?

Morton Salk: In China we had what we euphemistically called a day room. And it wasn't much of a room. It had a couple of 6 month, 8 month old magazines in there and we had a fireplace. And there I sustained my life by cooking hot chocolate out of K rations, it was Baker's type chocolate, and some contaminated water. And we would then heat it in a fireplace. And as I said that was-- I lived on that partially for some period of time. But there was little recreation. We had what some people might call a bar and it was-- carbonated water was manufactured by taking oxygen tanks out of derelict air craft and charging some water. And we managed to get a fair amount of spirits into China, surreptitiously perhaps, along with bombs and oil, and so we did have a bar set up. Now as far as recreation was concerned, we did play cards, and we did have a thing going with the local university at Kunming basketball team. And while we didn't have anything that resembled a team, we challenged them and we played several games of outdoor volleyball. Did I say basketball? I meant volleyball, against the Kunming University. And I have some pictures showing us all refreshing ourselves on sugar cane, by eating stalks of sugarcane during periods of time out. Anyhow, that's about what we did for recreation. We'd have some movies.

Zarbock: I was going to ask you about movies. Morton Salk: Right. And a couple of movie stars came over, said hello, two of them as I best remember. One was a fellow, I can't recall his name, he might-- if you're old enough you may remember, he had a big-- Joe something. I'm not doing well at this. And one lady, who was a movie star, Paulette Goddard. Strange I remembered her name. And she came over there. But that was the only two that crossed the hump to come to China.

Zarbock: So you didn't have many drop-in visitors?

Morton Salk: No.

Zarbock: So anyway, you're now back in the United States. What did that feel like, to leave this intense environment in China where death and illness existed, and suddenly, poof, you're in New York City.

Morton Salk: It felt-- it's indescribable, at least for me. It was like being reborn and having a feeling that you really shouldn't be there, that you should be back in China, because I left a lot of good friends, both deceased and alive, and I felt in a way that I had cheated somebody, something. That I was at a place that they belonged, as well as me, and I just felt that, for lack of a better word, shortchanged them by going home.

Zarbock: Was there a feeling of alienation between you and family, friends?

Morton Salk: No. No. I have a wonderful family and there was no feeling-- they were grateful that I had come back solid and I only received one injury there. I'd caught a piece of flack in my arm and so-- and for a while things were pretty terse, because I had a brother who was flying B-17s out of England, and while I was doing the same with B-24s in China, and of course the family was anxious about the survival of both of us. He had a far more intense tour, probably, than I did because he got to England earlier and left after 25 missions. And I like to mention him because he was on the first Schweinfurt raid where we lost 60 airplanes. And it took two months before I found out that he had survived that because the communication between England and China is almost nonexistent.

Zarbock: Again, for historical purposes, the raid-- the United States, I guess it was Air Corps in those days.

Morton Salk: Yes.

Zarbock: The attack on Schweinfurt, Germany was, as I remember, an attempt to destroy a ball bearing plant.

Morton Salk: Exactly. Yes, that is correct. It was if not the only one, it was the largest. And the feeling was if it could knock out Schweinfurt ball bearing _________________they would have almost destroyed the Luftwaffe without hitting any airplanes, because it just-- after all it was an essential part of a mechanism so...

Zarbock: How successful was that raid?

Morton Salk: It was successful. They did extensive damage to Schweinfurt. But it didn't knock them out of the war. They recovered very fast.

Zarbock: So let's put you back in New York.

Morton Salk: Okay, I'm in New York, or I'm back in Providence, of course, and spend a few days with the family when they sent me to-- I was actually assigned to a redistribution center in Atlantic City. There were two on the east coast, one in Miami and one in Atlantic City. And there was one, I think, on the west coast. And there you were supposed to be reassigned. And so I had read a lot of material, or some material, that told me that returning combat veterans, according to the propoganda, were given their assignment of choice. And so my choice of assignment was to go to Pennsylvania to a intelligence school, or to be an intelligence officer. And the interviewer listened to me patiently and said, let you know in a few days. And a few days went by, my name appeared on the bulletin board, I went in there to hear how soon I was going to go to Pennsylvania. And he said, you're going to Midland, Texas. And I said, I don't want to go to Midland, Texas. I would like to go back to China. I know what's happening there, but I don't know what's happening here. And they disengaged. And so I went back in for another interview next day and they said, nice to know that you want to go to intelligence school. You're going to Midland, Texas as an instructor. So I did.

Zarbock: The year is what?

Morton Salk: 1944.

Zarbock: What part of '44?

Morton Salk: I think the spring of '44.

Zarbock: The war had yet a year to go.

Morton Salk: Oh, yes, and that's why I was probably going to Midland, to teach other people my combat experiences, and I guess a certain value in that for teaching students how to become bombardiers and navigators. So I went to Midland, and as luck or fate would have it, the first group I instructed was a group of Chinese. They were just coming from China, about 100 of them, and they were the top people, top educated, and also had passed some flying psych or motor tests, what have you. So I taught them and we had-- I taught them through interpreters. They spoke no English. I spoke very little-- no Chinese, really, of any value for that purpose. And so I instructed Chinese for some time and then the war started to taper down, slow down. And they closed Midland Airforce Base and ______________ Air Base and moved it to Carlsbad, New Mexico, including me. So I moved to Carlsbad, along with the students who had not finished their course, and we reassembled there. And after several months at Carlsbad they closed Carlsbad and they shipped the residue, including me, to Mather Field in California, Sacramento, California. So we finished off all the Chinese students, at last, at Mather Field, Sacramento.

Zarbock: You and the students. Morton Salk: Yes.

Zarbock: Migrated out of three different...

Morton Salk: Correct.

Zarbock: From Texas to...

Morton Salk: New Mexico.

Zarbock: New Mexico to...

Morton Salk: California.

Zarbock: To California. What was that period of time, months or weeks?

Morton Salk: Months, several months. So I lived in a little town adjacent to Midland, Odessa, a town of about 8,000 people when I was there. I understand it's almost half a million these days. And then from there I went to Carlsbad and people began to think how I might be a tourist guide for the Carlsbad Caverns because I-- do I digress too much? Is that-- anyhow I got to know the stalagmites and the stalactites like the palm of my hand. And then to Sacramento, and got to live about 3 or 4 blocks from Governor Warren, who's-- the governor's mansion was about 4 blocks from where I lived and I used to see him out walking and-- stop me when I digress too much-- and later on he became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. It was a great assignment, Mather, and I was there for some time, until VJ Day ended. And I got out of the air force because I didn't feel that I was going to be a professional soldier and...

Zarbock: How do you teach people to be a bombardier? Specifically what did you do? You've got a classroom, you've got a bunch of Chinese, intelligent Chinese, and, okay, how do you do it? Morton Salk: At that time I was primarily a air instructor. There was a difference between air instructors and classroom instructors. And I used to teach them to be proficient on using the Norton bomb site, and to drop bombs in the vicinity, if not directly, on targets. And so I took three Chinese students with me almost on a daily basis to bombing ranges, and made sure they knew how to put the information necessary onto the bomb site and how to maneuver the bomb site so they can hit an aiming point on the ground.

Zarbock: I think it's really important for historical context to tell me about this Norton bomb site.

Morton Salk: Norton, Norton bomb site.

Zarbock: That was an amazing breakthrough, wasn't it?

Morton Salk: Yes, it was. It revolutionized bombing.

Zarbock: What was going on with the bomb site?

Morton Salk: Well, can you stop for a minute? It has a telescope. It has gyroscopes, two gyroscopes. It has, underneath the bomb site itself, it had a stabilizer that stabilized the site. It also had a couple of knobs on it that one could erect gyroscopes if they tilted or fell. And it also had a telescope. And it had another knob that you could extend, called an extend vision knob, appropriately, where you could extend the vision, and see either straight ahead or you could lock that in where you looked down at the ground at an angle that you could bomb. You couldn't use extended vision for bombing because it had no crosshairs associated with it, whereas the-- so what the bombardier does is he has sets of tables for each different kind of bomb, and there's a wide variety of bombs and they all have different ballistic coefficients. So this table's introduced using-- etc. And so the bombardier establishes the amount of crosswind at the altitude you're going to bomb by using the bomb site, and using a drift meter, and you have to set that in, preset that. You have to preset the dropping angle between you. There's only one little point in space, a dot in space, where you can drop a bomb of whatever variety you decide to drop, and it would hit a target. And you establish that dropping angle by using a course knob, which directs the azimuth of the airplane. And incidentally, the bombardier takes over control of the direction of the airplane. Not the altitude, but the azimuth. And by engaging this knob, which introduces the stabilizer into the equation and by-- one knob is called a course knob and the other is called a range knob, which moves the horizontal crosshairs so that the two crosshairs cross range, coincide. And when you have it adjusted to the air speed, the drift, the dropping angle, when your crosshairs look as though they're painted on whatever you're aiming at, if you're doing it correctly, optimally. And so that's the name of the game, to get those crosshairs plastered, painted, looks like it's painted...

Zarbock: The enemies did not have equipment as sophisticated as this.

Morton Salk: Nowhere in the ballpark. And it was extremely sensitive from a point of view of allowing anybody to see it, even to see it. It was always covered up. It was removed from the aircraft when the aircraft landed. It was put into a vault, guarded by-- and you had to have three passes to get into the area where your bomb site was, on a shelf, along with many other bomb sites. And I dare say, without being an expert on the subject, I dare say that the atomic bomb and its preparations in Chicago wasn't hailed any more closely than the Norton bomb site. And it used to take two people, two bombardiers, with three passes each to get into that area. And they each had to have 45s that had to be inspected, loaded, armed, ready to fire, to get into that area, along with your passes. That gives you a thumbnail sketch, at least, if not...

Zarbock: Why didn't you pursue a military life?

Morton Salk: I did. I took time out because I wasn't sure. I was in California. I loved California. Some people there offered me a position I couldn't refuse if I would get out of the air force. The war was over. And I decided that I couldn't foresee any more wars on the horizon so I just didn't see where I would fit into that anymore. So I worked for these folks who thought I had potential until Korea came along. I belonged to the reserve unit at Mather Airforce Base. Because of good fellowship, there was an upgrade of my military capability, of my-- and so I joined that reserve unit at Mather Field. And there was an unusual event. The unit itself was unusual. Some 500 of us in it, and friends of mine had told me about it. I was unaware of it. And I joined it, and they had every discipline that a group in the airforce has. Finance, chaplain, mess, you name it, police, whatever makes up a group of active duty airforce people. That was a group designed that way and that was a number of billets that were offered for each of these disciplines, and bombardiers and pilots and navigators and mechanics and maintenance, you name it. And so that when Korea started the design of that worked beautifully. What we did, Mather was a permanent base, had its complimented permanent personnel again, all disciplines, but when Korea started, overnight they divided us in three and they opened two bases. So overnight we had two additional training bases, training bombardiers, navigators, and it just was a money maker. It just worked beautifully. So we tripled the output of students and qualified people immediately, almost immediately, just as long as the course took. Plus the fact that they called in literally tens of thousands of people off the street, who had been to World War II, back to active duty, much different than things are arranged now, the Iraq situation. People I hadn't seen since World War II, all of a sudden, there they were in their World War II uniforms, and we were changing to blues. And it was quite a mess. Anyhow, these folks-- as I said, now we have three bases instead of one, and I stayed at Mather Field as an instructor for some time until I was sent to my next base, which is Strategic Air Command. I was sent to Ft. Worth, Texas, Carlsbad--sure--time-- airforce base. Carswell Airforce Base, named after a fellow pilot who drove-- got his crew to bail out and-- because somebody in the airplane didn't have his-- had parachuted-- as I remember it had been destroyed by flack or fighter pilot. He wouldn't bail out himself, he drove it into a mountain rather than leave a young fellow all by himself. So he got the medal of honor. So it's Carswell, after Major Carswell. And let's see. That was the SAC, Strategic Air Command, base.

Zarbock: The year is what now?

Morton Salk: 19--

Zarbock: The Korean conflict started in June, 1950.

Morton Salk: Yeah, it's '52 I believe. And I was sent there because they needed people to get on combat crews to fly. They were flying B-36s at the time, and I don't know if you're familiar with the B-36, not very many people are. As I understand, there's only about 325 of them ever produced. It was an aircraft that had a wing span of over 260 feet, just short of the length of a football field, that had 10 engines, six of them reciprocating engines that were in back of the wing, and two jets on the end of each wing. So it had 10 engines and carried a crew. The first crew I got on was a reconnaissance version of that B-36, so it had a many cameras set in the floor of a huge compartment and a dark room so they could take the cans of film out of the cameras and put it in the dark room where they had all the necessary fluids to develop film. And then the idea was to drop it at some base so that somebody could analyze what-- so that was a reconnaissance version and they-- I want to back up a little. First, I went from Mather to Puerto Rico. I was in error when I said I went to Carswell. I went to Puerto Rico. It was called Borinquen Airforce Base, and later renamed Ramey Airforce Base, and that's where I was introduced and the B-36 was introduced to me. And I spent three years there in B-36s. And we were part of the so-called EWO, Emergency War Order. We were prepared to fly against any target in the world because we had a long, long range. We--and-- but I will say, our original version I got into when I got to Ramey Airforce Base, Puerto Rico was the reconnaissance. Shortly after I got there, within a few months, they converted two bombers. So they pulled out most of the cameras. They pulled out the fluids in the dark room and they put racks and bomb bays. And we flew many missions out of there, dry run there. We've never-- these things are probably a little bit disjointed, but I probably, in summation you'll understand. We flew many missions, practice missions. None of them were less than 20 hours, and most of them were 24-26 hours. And, for example, we'd fly out of Puerto Rico. We'd assemble about 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning because we wanted to bomb Miami Siscory [ph?] facility, and we wanted to be the first ones there because if we waited 'til later in the day, airplanes from all over the country would try to get in and we'd have to wait, so we went streamlined. We'd wake up about 2 o'clock in the morning, get to the airplane, off the ground about 4:30, 5:00 in the morning. It took 3 hours to get in the air after we inspected everything on the ground that needed to be inspected, and then we'd fly to Miami. And first-- I'm sorry. We'd fly to Guantanamo Bay, and we'd make simulated electric counter measure runs against facility on the ground at Guantanamo. We'd go back out, and several times they'd get practice on tracking us, we'd get practice on counter measuring their tracking, and everybody was happy. Then we'd go on to Miami and bomb that. Again, a triangulation thing on the ground 'til it was-- if we had dropped the bomb we had a signal on the airplane would go off when a bomb allegedly was dropped and them on the ground could score. So we didn't triangulate our impact. And then we'd go on to the Atlanta and bomb that. And then we'd go to some place around Pensacola and bomb that. And then we'd go back to Puerto Rico some 24, 26 hours later. One of our missions which might be of interest to you, we'd simulate a war condition, a war problem, took off from Puerto Rico and 32 hours and 30 minutes later landed at the Eastern end of Turkey, having spent about 5 minutes over land between takeoff and landing. And that amount of land was over Gibraltar.

Zarbock: You had enough fuel to fly 32 consecutive hours?

Morton Salk: Yes. And coffee to boot.

Zarbock: Did you take turns sacking out?

Morton Salk: Yeah, we'd sleep off and on, take turns. But we didn't have two-- some people would think we'd have two crews, like on some commercial airlines, but no, one crew. We had a third pilot, but we had--- I think I leftover part of it. When we converted from reconnaissance which took 23 men, many of them photographers and developers of film, now we're down to bare knuckles flying crew, gunners, what have you. So we reduced down to about 15 men on a crew. And we had hotplates. We were able to shove frozen dinners into like a microwave type thing. And we had all the comforts of home. You could sleep on the floor, you could sleep standing up, we had a choice. Anyhow so that was one of the missions. But many missions-- one mission we flew-- Spokane Washington had some B-36s. And they had some propellers that we were going to get rid of to get a later version, later type, or a more-- or a newer propeller. I'm not certain, exactly, the grounds for getting re-equipped. But whatever the case, we flew our airplanes from Puerto Rico to Spokane, Washington so that--'cause we had the oldest propellers. We had the oldest B-36s in the airforce at that time. So we went there. But my crew, in particular, had the oldest of the old, and it had been on the ground for a long time trying to get it airborn because an awful lot of systems on an airplane that prohibit flying, safety provisions, had to be taken care of. And so I-- we finally got off the ground one day to go to Spokane, and in addition to another nicety here, you couldn't take off across the gulf unless you had more than one engine out. If you had more than one engine out, you had to return to the base, because that's a pretty long haul over water. And so just as we got off the ground, got in the traffic pattern, sure enough one engine caught on fire. The ground lit up like daylight. And we asked for instructions and they said, we're gonna make an exception, 'cause if you land, we'll never get this thing back in the air again. Go to Spokane. So we did. Let's see. What other exciting things can I tell you? After 3 years in Puerto Rico-- and incidentally, I'd seen Puerto Rico before. I saw it on the way to China. That was the first place-- when I left the United States on our way to China, we stayed in Puerto Rico. And it changed considerably. The quarters had changed, the club had changed, and there was different-- it was more updated. And I'd always thought many times that if I ever got a chance I'd love to be stationed there, because we just spent a few days. Incidentally that's when I met-- this is all ________________ briefed my unit, you may recall from my earlier interview. And so when we finished my tour I went-- was stationed-- sent to Fort Worth, Texas. That's when I went to Carswell Airforce base. Their B-36s were being phased out at Carswell and the B-52 was being introduced. The first B-52s were brand new there, the ones that are still flying. The grandsons of some of the pilots are flying them now, same ones, same airplanes, just reconditioned. And at any rate, I was at Carswell and I was in intelligence. I was not-- they didn't need anymore crew members, they had sufficient. And so I went to the intelligence business at that point. And that was a forerunner for the next thirty years of my service. Because when I went to intelligence I was preparing target folders for information in case we went to war with the Soviet Union, provided the crews with everything they could possibly need, and to find what they were looking for in the Soviet Union. And so I prepared target folders, target jackets, and briefed crews on their refueling points, of what they were gonna do until they got to the target, and what they were gonna do if they got hit, shot down. And remember, these folks were dropping atomic bombs, or they were going to be dropping. So that was all very, very serious. And the crews had to be interviewed or pass examinations every few months, and the commanders knew they knew what they were doing and how to get there and how to hopefully get home. And so after about several years of that, I got a call one day from personnel asking me how I'd like to go to Wiesbaden, Germany at an intelligence office. By that time I was a major, and I just said, you just answered a prayer 'cause I always wanted to go to Europe. I guess a lot of people do. And so I was sent to Wiesbaden, which is United States Airforce Europe headquarter, in downtown, in the middle of the city of Wiesbaden, beautiful city. And I was sent there for a specific purpose, which I was unaware of at the time, but as soon as certain clearances were satisfied, I was made Chief of the Exploitation Unit, Photo Exploitation. And I didn't know the first thing about it. Not the first clue. And was sent down the other end of the building behind a steel door. And I was in charge of a unit there that was exploiting satellite imagery. And then when-- that time no one knew anybody had a satellite being exploited, so I had a quite a whole raft of photo interpreters, had a whole bunch of administration people who administrated the photo interpreters, the whole units behind a green door, when you need to need how to spell Constantinople, I think, or something, if you get sufficient clearance. And I never could spell. But anyhow, I was a major and that's-- then shortly thereafter, I made lieutenant colonel. And so I had a wonderful experience there, lasted about two years. And then another problem arose and there was sufficient people in there who were now checked out in photo exploitation. So I was given the job of-- it had a title like Air Defenses of the Soviet Union in Europe, 'cause I'll tell you, I don't know if you're aware of it, but at that time we were going to be going to war with the Soviet Union just about any time, any minute of any day. And so things were terse. And what we discovered was that we weren't doing too well in knowing where the Soviet Air defenses were, where their AAA were, where their SA2s, SA1s, SA3s, we didn't know where they were. We knew where they-- we had a feel for it. We knew it was somewhere. We didn't feel that we were well informed so he gave me a job gathering some people that I knew there, some officers and a couple of airmen, and we were going to describe, on maps and computer, how the Soviet Air defense was operational, how they communicated with one another, where their lines came in, etc. etc. on infinitum. And so that's what I did. I tried to describe the Soviet Air Defense so our people could better penetrate to their targets, or could live long enough to penetrate their targets. So I did that for a while, and then finally my three year tour was up and I came back to the states, and had a choice of being sent to Florida, to McCoy Airforce base, which is right near Cape Kennedy, or to Vandenberg Airforce base in California, near Santa Barbara. And I chose Vandenberg Airforce base, and went there. And I became Assistant Intelligence Chief to a full colonel. And the mission was to provide security for information that went into ballistic-- to the continental ballistic missiles. And SAT crews would come in on a rotational basis and simulate. And, in fact, fire some missiles towards ___ and what have you. So we controlled the tapes that you shove into the side of a ballistic missile that directs the missile where it's thrown. And so I worked there and then I had put in by that time some 27 years in the airforce, so I decided enough. And I got some decent offers for other jobs so I retired. And the other jobs were contracts that came to me normally. I made several trips back from Germany to Washington to talk with people about things and they remember it. And the Vietnam War was at its height and they wanted me to come and work for the Defense Intelligence Agency. And so I retired and went to Washington and worked for DIA for 27 years. And most of that time was-- I can't keep a job. Most of that time was in the photo analysis business. And I found myself-- I'm leaping ahead quite fast. Most of that time was doing that and briefing people like VIPS, high ranking people, who were completely in the dark about satellite imagery, and they loved it. They just couldn't get enough of it. They were seeing for the first time things they'd heard about, or saw on maps, but hadn't the vaguest idea of what it really looked like. And I, along with them, were like kids in a new sandbox, just a big deal. And so I represented the unit in DIA that was responsible for satellite imagery exploitation on light tables, and I took off that with my own initiative, much of it, and briefed people in the Pentagon, ____________ who just loved to see pictures of the real thing. Like television might've been the first time anybody looked at a television set, that type of thing, you know, only more so. I spent 27 years doing that. I had a facility capability to Entre [ph?] and to the navy yard in Washington, where one of our group was at Bolling Airforce base. We had another unit-- and a third unit at the pentagon. And I was in the navy yard unit for a while when I first arrived there, and then I went to the Pentagon, that's where I had my office, main office, for a long period of time. And then one day I decided that's enough, 54 years in total, and so I did. And three days after I retired I went into the hospital for five bypasses, just to put a cherry on the sundae.

Zarbock: What a wonderful life you've had.

Morton Salk: What a lucky, very lucky-- my wife asked me yesterday something, a question, that led to my answer. I forget what the question was but the answer was everything has been a bonus since I was 21 years old. I wasn't supposed to come home from the war, I felt, and yet I'm now going to be 88 pretty soon. So it's all bonus after 21.

Zarbock: Does anyone ever win a war?

Morton Salk: I think so. I'd like to think we won World War II. Maybe not World War I 'cause we sort of blew it there, our surrender settlement, what have you. I think we did win World War II, but I've had some disturbing thoughts about that very question, almost that question, since this Iraq thing. I wonder why it all happened if this is the bottom line, not the surrender of World War II. Excuse me for being philosophical, digressing too far. I have some very strong opinions and probably too damn strong.

Zarbock: At age-- you said 88.

Morton Salk: I'm going to be 88 in June.

Zarbock: Well if this isn't the proper time to be philosophical...

Morton Salk: And that's one of the reasons I'm sitting here, is that because I'm just disinclined to take a lot of this with me when I go. I want to leave some of it behind, for good.

Zarbock: It is deeply appreciated that you do leave these thoughts and these experiences with us to be passed on to others. Thank you sir.

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