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Interview with Morton Salk,  November 15, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Morton Salk,  November 15, 2002
November 15, 2002
In this interview, Morton Salk discusses his post-World War II military career, including his work with satellite imagery and the importance and capabilities of that technology.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Salk, Morton Interviewer: Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview: 11/15/2002 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length 54 minutes

Hayes: Today is November 15, 2002. I am Sherman Hayes, university librarian at UNCW Randall Library and we're interviewing Morton Salk as part of our notable series. Uh...we're going to uh...cover Morton's career, an interesting career uhm...from post-World War II. Uh...for other uh...listeners to this tape or transcription uh...readers uh...there is a separate uh...set of tapes on Morton's World War II experience in another collection. Please refer to that, which includes some uh...history of his early life. So, Morton, if we start this uh...analysis uh...perhaps you can tell us, you know, in a summary term about the career and then we can go back and cover what you think are highlights. What was your career after World War II?

Salk: was in several parts. of the major parts was uh...uh...a number of years in the Strategic Air Command flying the latest version of uh...bombers and the Continental bombers. I uh...was on a crew for several years flying out of uh...Texas and Puerto Rico and other places deploying uh...with nuclear weapons uh...flying alert aircraft during the times the Soviet Union was a primary uh...enemy of the United States. Uh...I spent a good deal of time there. I did a lot of time instructing navigators and bombardiers and the radar operators after having gone through a school to become triple-rated radar and navigator bombardier. Uh...later on I went through a school of photo interpretation.

Upon completion of that I was assigned to the United States Air Force Headquarters in Europe and became the officer in charge of uh...interpretation of the very beginning of satellite imagery. Uh...there were two places where sat-- satellite imagery was exploited. One of them was in Europe at Unified Command and the other unit was in Washington, D.C., the Defense Intelligence Agency after completing career by retiring at Vandenberg Air Force Base as assistant director of intelligence at Vandenberg. The first strategic missile division was located there. I then converted or changed civilian clothes and became a uh...a interpreter in charge of some satellite imagery units in Washington for working for the Defense Intelligence Agency and I worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency for 27 years in various locations around Washington and again some uh...special projects in Germany.

Hayes: Yeah, good. Let's go back then uh...World War II is over uh...and you have a choice right? You could have uh...mustered out. You'd been in the service from an earlier tape for quite some time.

Salk: Right.

Hayes: Uh...what was-- what was the uh...your thinking of to decide to stay in? What was the uh...

Salk: One of uh...I was uh...after World War II I became a civilian for uh...four years. Uh...the Korean War started then and I was recalled to active duty in California.

Hayes: Oh.

Salk: Uh...I belonged to a reserve organization at Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento and when I was recalled to active duty I decided that I would uh...for Korea I trained Korean uh...World War II recallees to get them uhm...updated so that they could participate in battle in the Korean War.

Hayes: And you were an officer at this point?

Salk: Yes.

Hayes: And at what rank did you re-up as a...

Salk: I was a captain.

Hayes: A captain in the-- was this a separate Air Force at this point or still part of the Army?

Salk: It had just become the Air Force in 1947, so it was a separate Air Force. I was recalled in 1953.

Hayes: Okay.

Salk: And uh...uh...stationed at Mather Field and I went through an upgrading course to get-- to become triple-rated because with the uh...advent of uh...jet bombers uh...they had smaller crews and we needed to be cross-trained there for our capability for each individual.

Hayes: And what does triple-rated mean? What does that--

Salk: It means that uh...instead of being a single-rated bombardier as in World War II uh...the B-47, the first multi-engine jet bomber uh...had only three persons aboard, two pilots and a radar operator who also had to double as a-- as a uh...navigator and had to triple as a bombardier, so radar navigation and bombing.

Hayes: All right.

Salk: All in one person.

Hayes: But were you ever expected to fly the bomber if there was an emergency?

Salk: Yes in World War II, I was considered the extra pilot in case something happened to the two pilots.

Hayes: Okay.

Salk: a matter of fact one of the two pilots later-- much later on uh...the uh...department became aware of the fact that one of the pilots if he became injured or killed uhm...they would have to have another full rated pilot, so some pilots became quadruple rated with radar navigation, bombardier, pilot.

Hayes: Wow.

Salk: And only a handful of those but enough to have one in each B-47 aircraft. B-47 aircraft did not last very long in the inventory as a first line bomber because it didn't have sufficient uh...legs to get from the states to-- to the Soviet Union area and redeploy to safety, so they-- so they uh...had limited range and limited bombs, all the capability. Uh...after the uh...I went into SAC shortly after I was recalled to active duty.

Hayes: And SAC is?

Salk: Strategic Air Command. At that time Curtis-- General Curtis LaMay [ph?].

Hayes: Okay.

Salk: I was sent to Puerto Rico from Mather Air Force Base after my period instructing there and I was assigned to a B-36 reconnaissance unit. B-36 had a relatively short life insofar as its deployment as a first line bomber. It was a six engine bomber with uh...only one built that I'm aware of with the propellers behind the wings, the engines behind the wings, reciprocating engines and four jets, two on the end-- end of each wing. Wingspan was about 265 feet.

Hayes: My goodness.

Salk: It carried the reconnaissance version of the B-36 which is assigned to Puerto Rico with about 23 people and we had a darkroom and many cameras and our job was to take pictures of areas. This is before satellite imagery of course and return those pictures to bombing units so they could strike targets. Uh...halfway through my tour in Puerto Rico uh...the unit was-- had its mission changed from reconnaissance to bombing so they reconfigured the bomb bays and pulled out some of the cameras and the darkroom with its chemicals. That prepared it to take pictures and develop them in flight. But we did away with all of that and put bomb bay-- bomb racks in the bomb bays and we became a bombing unit. And, of course, at that time, we're just coming into the nuclear age or beginning the nuclear age so we carried uh...nuclear weapons.

Hayes: So, and what year was this then you were-- '50?

Salk: Yeah, 1954 to 1957.

Hayes: And so there really were deployment of nuclear weapons on these?

Salk: Yes.

Hayes: And the Korean War uh...was raging on the Asian continent but you were-- you were uh...ready to be deployed out of Puerto Rico is that where you were?

Salk: Yes that's correct.

Hayes: And so if you-- what were training exercises? Where were you flying then? I don't think that's classified at this point.

Salk: Well, uh...we-- we trained-- the B-20-- the B-36 was a unique aircraft. It had uh...didn't have a refueling capability and we were able to stay fly for 24, 26 hours at a time.

Hayes: Wow.

Salk: In fact, my longest mission was from Puerto Rico to Turkey and that took 32 hours and 30 minutes and that's without refueling. And, our average training mission was around 24 hours. We would fly from Puerto Rico to uh...Cuba and uh...and uh...use Guantanamo bay facilities for uh...radar training.

Hayes: Right.

Salk: And we'd fly to other what were called bomb plots. We would simulate dropping bombs on bomb plots in Tampa, Miami, Charlotte, New York all on the same mission and then return to Puerto Rico, the dropping of the simulated bombs that we-- it was a triangular method of scoring when we simulated aiming at a target and a signal would be sent out at the moment of bomb release and people on the ground were able to take all the-- many facts into consideration, where that bomb would have hit had we dropped one.

Hayes: If you dropped it, yeah. And what-- what was the crew size on this then that you were working with? This is not just three.

Salk: The reconnaissance as I said had 23 men and the uh...bombing version had 15.

Hayes: Fifteen. Well that's quite a difference.

Salk: Yes.

Hayes: And how long did that plane then really survive as a viable uh...

Salk: Approximately ten years.

Hayes: Oh, that long?

Salk: Or just a little bit less. I'd rather say somewhere around seven to eight years and there was-- there were a number of bases around the United States where uh...that was uh...the leading bomber. It was constructed, the B-36 was constructed basically during World War II uh...and it was insurance policy against our losing or the allies losing the war in Europe and we would have the ability to strike that continent from the United States without refueling and make a round trip.

Hayes: Uh huh.

Salk: And in case we lost we'd still have the ability to-- to strike Europe.

Hayes: Yeah, okay, good. Then you really had a kind of a long uh...assignment there. I mean for Air Force which moves everybody everywhere every few years that wasn't a bad uh...

Salk: Actually it was a three-year assignment in Puerto Rico.

Hayes: Oh, okay.

Salk: And then I was rotated to uh...Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas, again a B-36 is just transitioning into B-52.

Hayes: Okay, B-52s.

Salk: That was an all-- all jet bomber. And uh...after a few years in Puerto Rico, I was sent to Europe USAFE or U.S. Air Force Europe Headquarters and uh...I was-- and then sent there in the intelligence business and I uh...took over the exploitation, as I mentioned earlier, of imagery, satellite imagery.

Hayes: Okay, so did-- did that end the active flight duty at that point?

Salk: Yes, yes.

Hayes: Okay.

Salk: From then on my career I was involved in-- in the intelligence and primarily-- primarily not-- not exclusively photo interpretation.

Hayes: Photo interpretation, okay.

Salk: And involved in uh...several things while I was on flying active duty uh...for example the Cuban Missile Crisis and uh...we were on alert for several days, 13 to 15 as I remember it, and most of the time uh...we had our aircraft loaded and ready and we were ready to engage uh...and we didn't see our barracks or our quarters for several days. We lived and slept and ate on the ramp underneath the wings of our aircraft ready to launch at a moment's notice.

Hayes: Which base were you at at that point?

Salk: Carswell.

Hayes: Carswell which would have been uh...not a long flight to Cuba I guess it would have been--

Salk: No, nothing, nothing, it was very easy because we would fly from uh...Puerto Rico, as I said, to Turkey or Puerto Rico to Spokane, Washington and back--

Hayes: Right.

Salk: -- and no problem.

Hayes: Was the whole base in this same mode for that time period?

Salk: Yes.

Hayes: So you had thousands of people that were ready to--

Salk: Yes, including uh...little known uh...uh...aircraft called B-58. Its nickname was the hustler. It was also built at Convair of the same airfield as uh...the SAC unit. Across from the SAC unit, across the airfield was a Convair ____ which became General Dynamics built the B-36 and later on built the B-58 Hustler and the Hustler was uh...all jet and set every air speed record in existence and broke them all. But and so they were also on alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis and they uh...they uh...stopped uh...building them after a few years, had a very short span of life when they were first line aircraft because, again, not sufficient range and very unforgiving for an accident. It was very accident prone.

Hayes: Oh, we've had some others since then right? I guess that's always a problem.

Salk: Yeah.

Hayes: at this point are you still a captain then as you-- as you start the European experience?

Salk: I was a major.

Hayes: A major.

Salk: Yes and shortly after I was assigned to Europe I became a lieutenant colonel and I had a unit of uh...almost 30 people who were involved in-- in the satellite exploitation and that was the uh...glamour activity of-- of the Air Force as well as our intelligence worldwide. It was very new, brand new, and we were looking at imagery worldwide, places that had never been seen, most of whom had never been seen from the air by anybody up until that time.

Hayes: And what was the satellite that was up there at that point? Was there a-- was it a military satellite?

Salk: It was an imaging satellite.

Hayes: Just an imaging satellite, probably launched from Florida or--

Salk: Probably launched from Vandenberg.

Hayes: Vandenberg, oh that's right they were the launch site. And so, you know, without giving any secrets away what would be the normal routine for a unit like this? I mean were the manager of a large group of people but what, you know, what was their function and routine?

Salk: Their function was to discover anything of uh...military nature. What we were dedicated to the status of Soviet forces and uh...we did that whether it be ground, air, radar whatever the-- transportation, whatever, anything that had a military uh...connotation. We exploited that imagery to report, for example, how many uh...trucks were at a depot, how many missiles were at it, how many SA2 sites, surface-to-air missile sites, how many airfields and what those airfields were home to, were they Floggers or MiGs or whatever so that we were able to do air order, battleground order, battle missile order and provide input into the national database.

Hayes: Now the U-2 flights, which were in the late '50s is that correct?

Salk: That's right.

Hayes: Went away at this point? They no longer became a uh...strategic tool?

Salk: No. They were-- no, they were used, but because the uh...acuity, the imaging uh...was better for some purposes on a U-2 than it was on-- that's at the very beginning of satellite imagery. Uh...the pictures were not as revealing.

Hayes: Okay.

Salk: As they would have... and besides that they didn't cover nearly the swath of territory. It was miniscule compared to the satellite.

Hayes: But were those same U-2 fed into your unit or you were only satellite?

Salk: We were just... yeah.

Hayes: And what city were you based in Europe in?

Salk: Wiesbaden. That was United States Air Force uh...Europe, USAFE, at Wiesbaden, Germany.

Hayes: Wiesbaden, Germany.

Salk: It has since moved but during my entire tour there it was Wiesbaden.

Hayes: And was your family moved with you?

Salk: Yes.

Hayes: And they had this experience of the European--

Salk: Yes was a-- Wiesbaden was a small city, relatively small city and uh...there was limited housing so that we were able to get our families there providing we could find uh...combinations in the city on the-- the expression was "on the economy," if we could find something on the economy they would cut orders and allow our families to join us. Barring that I put in about three or four months of uh...bachelor time there until I could find, locate a couple of rooms so I could send for my family.

Hayes: Good and how-- what was your family at this point?

Salk: Just my wife.

Hayes: Just your wife. And what was-- so we're talking what year did you probably arrive then in Wiesbaden? I'm trying to get a sense of uh...

Salk: 1963.

Hayes: '63.

Salk: Yes.

Hayes: And from that point then the World War II experience of Germany was pretty much history or, you know, was the sense now that it was Germany and us against Russia and there was no longer the World War II legacy or was there still--

Salk: Uh...I think you identified it quite well. I think there was some undertones not overtones of-- of uh...the animosity, enmity uh...suffered during the war but we were uh...aligned with the German military. We had joint exercises. We had some-- some exchange in intelligence with the Germans uh...and so actually it was a very peaceful thing. All the Germans while- got the sense that they harbored some uhm...animosity a losing nation might uh...and would probably but general it was very peaceful existence.

Hayes: And the community was accepting of all these uh--

Salk: Yes.

Hayes: -- soldiers and so forth?

Salk: Well, and it's understandable because the economy now was-- was being held up by uh...thousands upon... I can't tell you the entire complement. I don't know but this particular one was-- we had thousands of Americans there in Wiesbaden and was during the time when we had big establishments all over Germany uh...of military both Army and Air Force.

Hayes: I think Wiesbaden is still a base is it not or that area there's some--

Salk: Yes, yes and there is a hospital there that is the main function. The headquarters, the operational headquarters had moved to another part of Germany about 15 years ago.

Hayes: Okay.

Salk: Twenty years ago.

Hayes: Okay, good. Uh...back to the question of uh...what would be a-- what kinds of actual activities did a unit do? I mean was it uh...or maybe you could tell me the complement or the types of people that would, you know, without their names or anything but just uh...

Salk: Well, uh...again headquarters was-- was the headquarters for bases all the way from Turkey through Greece, to France, Germany, all the Norwegian countries- all the Scandinavian countries, uh...England and we had people uh...who were sent to these various places to make sure and to inspect and to supervise uh...the war readiness for all these units, far-flung all over the face of NATO.

Hayes: But I meant your particular unit, your-- your own--

Salk: My unit?

Hayes: Yeah, the uh...I'm trying to get a--

Salk: The end result was our reporting to Defense Intelligence Agency back in Washington every discovery or every change that we saw in Soviet capability.

Hayes: But I'm trying to get a sense was it an actual tape that came to you? Was it photos on a table? What was a--

Salk: We got raw foot- we got the film, the negatives.

Hayes: All right.

Salk: And we had what are called light tables and we had uh...viewing equipment magnification of that.

Hayes: Okay.

Salk: And we uh...looked at it in detail. We saw uh...every-- one of the interesting parts, most that I found was that we were seeing things, as I alluded to earlier, uh...for the first time. Uh...we didn't know whether our aircraft attacking-- attacked the Soviet Union would fly in or cross or low over-- over defenses and we were able to locate the defenses, the radars, the missiles, surface-to-air missiles, the aircraft who were going to engage our aircraft had we had a war. And so, we felt that we were making major, major contributions to uh...our offensive and defensive situation.

Hayes: Yeah. And it was an assumption that the Soviets were doing the same thing to us, you know?

Salk: Uh...I-- they didn't have the capability of satellite imagery for some time after that.

Hayes: Okay.

Salk: Yes, after-- as the years went by they acquired it and they were able to. Just to how uh...proficient our-- they were, how good their equipment was is hard to say. Ours kept improving through the years.

Hayes: Right, right, right. And were your units military or civilian? Did you have civilian workers as well as--

Salk: We had uh...we had some civilian support in the form of IBM technicians.

Hayes: Oh, interesting.

Salk: We had IBM uh...mainframe and IBM at that time punch cards and they would devise a program so that we could uh...tell by recalling their tapes just uh...whether we covered a-- an air base. Let's say, for example, and at that time we saw 20 aircraft and now we'll see it again and how many aircraft, so we'd have this system of being able to update our database and these-- these fellows, three of them, uh...assigned to our unit and had 25 imagery analysts and a couple of admin, administration people and the three IBM-ers.

Hayes: An image analyst really spend long, long hours and truly kind of learning how to look at this flat image and see what was there. I mean that's fascinating to me that somebody could uh...

Salk: And, of course, we had some capability for seeing in stereo-- stereo too.

Hayes: Oh, interesting.

Salk: We had stereoscopes and uh...later on the equipment became exceedingly uh...uh...sophisticated but during the early stages we had rudimentary or basic uh...stereoscopes and so we were able to get a three-dimensional look at everything. And was uh...the most fascinating aspect of-- of intelligence and we would have been sorely hurt without that. In fact, I don't know how we would have conducted our military affairs without it.

Hayes: Without it, yeah, interesting.

Salk: Very exciting.

Hayes: Yeah.

Salk: Each day was exciting because each day something was revealed that was meaningful in terms of the defense of our country and-- and in terms of offense against uh...the alleged enemy and it-- and it isn't-- it's hard to describe uh...what a good feeling it gives one to be uh...originally-- the originator of this kind of valuable, important and you can't live without it information.

Hayes: Right. Well I think a lot of people feel that the Cold War provided a stability because each side tried to find out everything they could on each side.

Salk: Yes.

Hayes: And by knowing that they were more reluctant to go to war, so I mean it is-- without intelligence uh...then it seems even riskier.

Salk: Oh, yes.

Hayes: Uh...and I think in current times we're struggling with some of that because uh...some of the of satellites don't work against the current time terrorists or uh...some countries now--

Salk: Right.

Hayes: -- as much as it did in your early days.

Salk: To give you a couple of concrete examples we-- we determined the production of their, all of their military equipment by watching their production capability. We'd tell many submarines they were building per year, at what stage each submarine, what class of submarine, what it's capability was, when they started putting missiles in them. We could tell airplanes. Every new generation of airplane that came along we have a precursor of that by looking at the imagery and then we could determine with a little experience how many of these they're capable of building and in what period of time. So we-- we had the whole-- whole package.

Hayes: And I think a lot of your work later on became pivotal to the uh...negotiations for disarmament even or a reduction in arms right?

Salk: Without question, very important, yes.

Hayes: Now you were sending this information to a Defense Intelligence Agency.

Salk: In Washington.

Hayes: And then at some other layer was it analyzed even further or combined? I mean you wouldn't necessarily be part of that but you weren't the finished, final reports. You were kind of creating the broad dataset for other analysts?

Salk: It was like-- it was in addition and sometimes duplicative of what was going on in Washington. We had uh...not all of the imagery that was sent to Washington. We had parts of the Soviet Union and-- and the uh...uh...their satellite countries and uh...Washington had all of the film covering the entire mission.

Hayes: I see. I see.

Salk: And uh...we-- they uh...incorporated what we sent them, we sent them in the form of messages what we were discovering and they would incorporate that into theirs and they would look at it also for verification to see if they uh...could add or subtract anything from that.

Hayes: One of the-- one of the concerns in this whole time period was the uh...ability of the Soviet Union to spy on us. I mean you were spies in the sky and they would spy on you and others. I mean was internal security a concern?

Salk: Oh, yes.

Hayes: Was the loyalty of your own uh...employees?

Salk: Oh, yes. It required uh...special, very special clearances. It was-- at that time it was the most closely held secret. We had already exposed the uh...nuclear weapons. We had already used those in Japan and satellite imagery was the most closely- in its capability and the fact that we're using it was probably known but how well we were using it was uh...very closely held uh...had to have a special clearance besides, way above secret clearance, a special clearance for satellite imagery.

Hayes: Interesting.

Salk: It was highly compartmented.

Hayes: Now what do you mean by that?

Salk: I mean uh...not everyone is in intelligence. In fact, only a very small number of people in the intelligence business who were cleared for top secret and other uh...and other compartmented uh...secrets were not-- did not have this access to satellite imagery. That was the most, probably the most closely held of all uh...classified information.

Hayes: Interesting, interesting. Did you ever yourself feel risk in this time period working in this kind of unit?

Salk: No.

Hayes: No?

Salk: No.

Hayes: You were just another lieutenant colonel going to work as far as uh...

Salk: That is correct. We had a segregated part of our building and uh...with all the uh...possible latest advances in security, uh...ultrasound name it, motion detectors and uh...truly secure vault, vaulted area.

Hayes: Wow.

Salk: And only the people that worked in there were allowed in there.

Hayes: Wow.

Salk: And there was just a handful. The rest of the people of the hundreds that worked in intelligence buildings, several stories high, only have the vaguest idea of what-- in fact had no idea. I'll retract what I said a minute ago, no vague idea, no idea at all. As a matter of fact, until I was, quote "read into," unquote, a system I used to see people going in and out of the door and I didn't know if they were uh...playing uh...videogames or-- or what they had, not the slightest.

Hayes: Yeah.

Salk: It never occurred to me that there was a satellite up there taking pictures. It never occurred until I became the chief of it.

Hayes: Yeah, interesting.

Salk: And was read into the program.

Hayes: Now, why do you think that you transitioned into this area? Was it because of your knowledge of uh...the bombers and so forth I mean?

Salk: Well, I went to-- I guess I failed to mention from Fort Worth-- back in Fort Worth, Texas uhm...I was sent to a uh...imagery interpretation school and Wichita Falls, Texas and I spent nine months there learning how to read imagery.

Hayes: Right.

Salk: And when I went shortly thereafter, not shortly thereafter, a few years later was sent to Germany in that they had the only other facility other than Washington, other than the DIA and CIA.

Hayes: Right.

Salk: Uh...of exploitation of imagery. I was the most likely candidate to take over that shop and I did.

Hayes: Excellent. You mentioned two acronyms that we may want to go over and say-- acronyms which remain CIA, Central Intelligence Agency and DIA is Defense Intelligence Agency.

Salk: Correct.

Hayes: But those are different.

Salk: Yes.

Hayes: They're different and we continue to have that there is two different ones?

Salk: Yes and DIA is rarely mentioned newscasts by journalists because's what the name implies by definition we're military intelligence. We-- we estimate and send out national estimates on what military posture other countries have and the Central Agency is a broader overview of uh...matters of climate or function, other functions other than military but our military capability uh...information is what the government goes on for to know what potential, potential enemies.

Hayes: Being part of this Defense Intelligence Agency did you work with other government agencies, you were very high up in this or was it mainly just within the Defense Department that you were--

Salk: Uh...during the early years of uh...satellite imagery it was just the U.S. As I said before it was extremely close hold and we-- we uh...published things that we uh...obviously that we could tell how many tanks the Soviet Union had and where they were and what their capability and uh...other countries had to presuppose, I suppose, that we were getting this from human intelligence.

Hayes: Right, right.

Salk: Or signal intelligence or something else but I don't think they even guessed, possibly they did, from satellite imagery.

Hayes: And when do you think it became more common knowledge that the satellites, I guess when there were more and more of them.

Salk: Yes. It wasn't until uh...well after my-- my tour in that business. When I finished in-- in Europe I uh...came back to the states and I was assigned to uh...Vandenberg Air Force Base and there uh...I became deputy intelligence chief for the First Strategic Missile Division and that meant that we were feeding information to the combat crews who were going to launch missiles.

Hayes: Right.

Salk: And uh...I retired at Vandenberg Air Force Base in 1967.

Hayes: '67, and you were actually a fairly young man at that point still. I mean--

Salk: I was 46 I think at that time.

Hayes: Wow.

Salk: But I had been in since 1941 and uh...during my tour-- tours in the service I uh...became acquainted with some people who thought that I could continue to make a contribution so they asked-- they asked me to come aboard and work for the Defense Intelligence Agency, which seemed a natural uh...thing to do after the experience that I'd had in interacting with defense intelligence, so I did.

Hayes: And you were retired as a colonel then is that what?

Salk: Reserve I was a colonel uh...lieutenant colonel active duty.

Hayes: I see.

Salk: And so I changed, took off my blue suit and put on a civilian suit and uh...went to Washington and uh...continued in the satellite imagery business and grew up with it. It improved every respect, the equipment to analyze imagery, every part of it improved as time went on.

Hayes: Yeah.

Salk: And, of course, the computers (inaudible) a factor.

Hayes: I was going to say the computing really changed in that, yeah.

Salk: Yeah, we were able to retrieve information and cross check information. It isn't like some of the things you've been hearing recently on TV, one unit didn't talk to another unit. We talked to each other. We had uh...interacting computer capability and-- and communication systems, so we-- and we had-- got to where we could get near real time images instead of waiting for a ____ from above for that information to come to us in what was called a bucket retrieved by an aircraft. That's the way the satellite imagery spat out.

Hayes: Interesting.

Salk: A bucket of imagery and an airplane would come along with a hook and pick it up out of space and deliver the film to us.

Hayes: Now in what-- not in most recent times?

Salk: No, no, that was earlier but now we're-- now we're in a different world and we're at near real time.

Hayes: And it feeds it to a--

Salk: It digitally comes down and uh...and there's no-- there's no film per se.

Hayes: Right, right, right.

Salk: Except when you develop the digital information.

Hayes: Now you-- you were the head of a very large unit in Germany and now you're in a civilian practice. Were you still in management or did you go back to more--

Salk: No, no I was in management. I never did uh...go get a light table. That was never my job. I was I guess sufficient grade or rank or experience be in management and I uh...spent a good part of my time early in DIA as a uhm...sort of efficiency expert, efficiency person, maybe not expert.

Hayes: Uh huh.

Salk: Uh...on making sure that our manpower was being utilized to the greatest advantage and assigning work to people who were producing imagery uh...material from imagery. And so uh...I did that uhm...and later on I went to the Pentagon as a uh...briefing officer uh...and I briefed uh...people in the Pentagon from-- including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs on down and up right across the ranks and positions uh...people who had clearances to see this to keep them abreast on the latest developments so they could in turn go to the Security Council and go to the president or go to the uh...Secretary of Defense and tell him all about it and so we could then go to the Congress and say we need so many dollars or we need so many more people or we don't need dollars. We don't need or whatever the case might be.

Hayes: Yeah.

Salk: And so I represented DIA in that respect in the Pentagon.

Hayes: Interesting.

Salk: Telling people.

Hayes: But isn't DIA part of the Pentagon? It's not?

Salk: Yeah, they're in the Pentagon but I mean uh...DIA is a direct-- has its own director, like the CIA has a director.

Hayes: And who does the DIA director answer to?

Salk: He answers to the-- to the uh...chairman. He answers the uh...Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Hayes: Joint Chiefs of Staff, so it's not in line of any one of the service units.

Salk: No.

Hayes: It answers to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Salk: That's correct. It's a civilian organization that is DIA. It has many-- it has all color of suits. It has Army, Navy, Air Force, some representation in it but--

Hayes: But you consider it a civilian arm?

Salk: Yes. Yes.

Hayes: And then do they borrow military people?

Salk: Yes, oh, yes.

Hayes: But then they go back, those people go back in their duties to other things?

Salk: Yes, correct.

Hayes: And is the director a civilian?

Salk: No, the director is generally a three-star of DIA during my experience. I don't know what it is today but I presume it's the same.

Hayes: Right.

Salk: Three stars generally, and they rotate uh...Navy, Army, Air Force.

Hayes: I see and so who are some of the Joint Chiefs of Staff type people that you ended up talking to I mean in this time period? This would be in the uh...'70s mainly or?

Salk: Uh...late-'60s and '70s.

Hayes: Yeah.

Salk: Uh...

Hayes: Westmoreland and uh...

Salk:, Westmoreland was out in the field. I talked to Admiral Crowl, I talked to uh...McNamara. Uh...I can't think of very many names uh...but positions I can relate to uhm...uh...whenever, almost on a daily basis or on a daily basis to be specific I would brief the director of-- of Defense Intelligence Agency because each day we received more pictures.

Hayes: Yeah.

Salk: Those pictures were analyzed and those pictures more often than not contained very sensitive and highly interesting uh...information.

Hayes: Yeah.

Salk: And I would acquire the uh...prints of those uh...equipments or people and uh...had the graphics folks uh...make up what we called briefing boards and I would through those and to those for the director so that he-- when he-- he had a daily meeting or briefing every morning with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Hayes: Ah.

Salk: So, I would take it to the director of DIA and he would take it to uh...he and/or we would take it to the next level of briefing and by nine o'clock in the morning uh...everyone who had a right to know or need to know would know what we exploited the day before.

Hayes: Now during this time period you're at... was the, pretty much the full spectrum of the Vietnam War.

Salk: Yes.

Hayes: Was the same agency being used for tactical there or were you still concentrating primarily on the Soviet Union as part of your--

Salk: Both.

Hayes: Both.

Salk: Yes. We'd take imagery to President Johnson and President Johnson would make some decision, most of the decision on what the next day's targets or bombing was going to be based on--

Hayes: Johnson himself was making those choices?

Salk: Yes he did.

Hayes: I had read that but I didn't really believe it that he--

Salk: Well he can believe it and uh...and also to his credit I think he was able-- he picked out places where the civilian casualties, which is a big item today, were held to the minimum. He would select targets or at least be briefed on what civilian casualties would occur if we did thus and so, or contrary to that what would be the limit or unlimited if we did something else. And based on judgments on how many uh...casualties he's willing to-- to uh...

Hayes: Did you ever meet Johnson in this time period yourself?

Salk: No, I didn't meet him but I met just about everybody else who was around.

Hayes: Interesting.

Salk: Uh...the uh...the of telling, briefing these people, these were decision makers and the responsibility for telling decision makers what's happening in the world because they went to bed the night before and they came into work in the morning and uh...unless somebody told them uh...what was happening they had no basis for making judgments.

Hayes: Right.

Salk: And those judgments included everything from uh...budget through the number of people in the Army or Navy or Air Force, et cetera. It had no limit to-- to its impact and most of that good stuff, not all, much, shouldn't even say most, much if not most of the good stuff that was derived from imagery.

Hayes: Right, right.

Salk: And I was getting-- I was completely sold on the program. I was uh...a living, breathing uh...child of the system. I realized and was absolutely convinced that this country would be uh...on a verge of making some terrible mistakes if it hadn't been for what we were able to look at on a piece of imagery.

Hayes: Right, right. Now did you see any change in pattern when Nixon came into uh...practice?

Salk: No.

Hayes: Or was it the same kind of--

Salk: Same kind of importance. Uh...Nixon made uh...decisions, one important decision I think that I'd rather not discuss right now but at least one very overarching and important decision based on, solely on imagery. He had a uh...a national uh...faced with a national problem on whether to provide uh...military aid to a very sensitive country, a country that became very... and he uh...turned to imagery. He wanted to know specifically uh...what the need was for this country, for us to supply I think it was 50 aircraft, late generation aircraft. And uh...he-- he waited, I think he gave us about a week to tell him whether their request was-- was uh...warranted or whether it's an overextension of our aid to them, not that we couldn't afford it, not that we didn't have it but whether they would disturb the balance between that country and its neighbors.

Hayes: Interesting.

Salk: And so, again from imagery.

Hayes: Interesting.

Salk: I'm sure he had input from other intelligence sources but primarily the decision was primarily based on imagery. Uh...I've been away from it now for a while uh...but I still remember, and forgive me.

Hayes: Go ahead.

Salk: The fire that burned in my belly for imagery. I knew that it was important beyond my poor power to-- to discuss.

Hayes: Yeah, good. Well that makes a difference doesn't it to work at a job that you--

Salk: Absolutely crucial.

Hayes: -- felt that was really making a difference.

Salk: I uhm...used to brief on a weekly basis a group of people who were, in the Pentagon you speak of rings. That's, you know, the Pentagon consists of rings, five rings to each floor and a ring is the shape of a pentagon and stacked up five stories high. And I, the most important ring it was where the Joint Chiefs of Staff resided and once a week I briefed a major portion of the Joint Chiefs and sometimes the Secretary of Defense would-- would pop in and of the persons that uh...I remember very distinctly was uhm...a general uh...who had just come back from Vietnam and he was the prime mover in public relations, public information office. And so he had to balance that very highly sensitive information I was briefing him on with what he could release.

Hayes: Oh, boy.

Salk: What was releasable to "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times." And uh...he was the uh...he was a four-star general uh...Chappy James.

Hayes: I remember that name.

Salk: He was a general. I think he was only the second black general. Davis was the first and uh...Chappy James died about 20 years ago still a young man but he was a-- he was very sold, he was sold on this imagery exploitation as I was and more maybe.

Hayes: Yeah. Well I must say that the Vietnam War uh...I don't know that the imagery was good enough to penetrate some of the uh...jungles and so forth and so on. I mean it still has--

Salk: We had so much recon-- we had-- we did do satellite imagery in Vietnam but we had so much manned aircraft reconnaissance.

Hayes: Right, right.

Salk: It was hordes of aircraft flying, all taking pictures of it constantly and a lot of those pictures were transmitted to the United States. We had-- sometimes we'd get imagery that was less than 24 hours old taken by manned aircraft because we had men who were looking at it at the Pentagon.

Hayes: Yeah.

Salk: At that time, most of my activity all but for a few years was in the Pentagon but I also had some responsibilities in Bolling Air Force Base later on. Just about two years before I retired they built a DIA building at Bolling Air Force Base. It's about a tenth of the size of the Pentagon, nonetheless a very big building.

Hayes: Bolling?

Salk: Bolling Air Force Base, just outside of Washington.

Hayes: Oh, I'm sorry I didn't know that, yeah.

Salk: Yeah, in Maryland.

Hayes: Good. Now uhm...after a long and distinguished career you retired. At that point did you come to Wilmington or did uh...

Salk: Yes, shortly after I retired I did.

Hayes: So, you've been here for quite some time.

Salk: Almost six years. I retired in 1995.

Hayes: 1995 and so combined, gee from World War II start up as I remember in what '39 was it?

Salk: No.

Hayes: '40?

Salk: I-- I went in January of '41.

Hayes: January of '41 and retired really from service to the government in--

Salk: In 1995.

Hayes: Whew.

Salk: Fifty-four years.

Hayes: Fifty-four years.

Salk: And uh...this may not necessarily be part of this but I have trouble excluding it.

Hayes: That's all right.

Salk: Uh...all of us or most of us have read articles in newspapers and magazines about retirement and one should not retire because it's get used to certain routines and that your life expectancy sometimes is limited because of it. There have been many articles written. Well, I almost obliged that by three days after I retired I had a major uh...heart attack and a major operation. I had five bypasses three days after I retired.

Hayes: Oh, God.

Salk: I retired January 3rd as I remember it and January 7th I had five bypasses.

Hayes: So those articles are right on target.

Salk: I fit the mold.

Hayes: So, if you hadn't retired you might not have had-- well I don't know that's--

Salk: And then after I recuperated I came to Wilmington.

Hayes: In-- one of the things that I see a theme through all of your interviews is that still need to have the person in charge but the technology has just radically shifted at that time.

Salk: It has.

Hayes: I mean uh...

Salk: It has.

Hayes: Well from the-- from the early planes that you were flying in to uh...

Salk: The early B-36 for example I said the early version. I got into-- the version I got into was the reconnaissance version of the B-36 and it had uh...a room about a third of the size of this back toward the tail and uh...about seven or eight different kinds of cameras in the floor so I could take trimat pictures, vertical pictures.

Hayes: Right.

Salk: And then take the cans out of those, film out of those upon completion of the reconnaissance, and they had a darkroom, all the chemicals. They developed the imagery.

Hayes: Right, right.

Salk: And put it in a bucket and fly over an airfield. This is the routine and drop that bucket there.

Hayes: That's interesting.

Salk: And it was quite an advance from there to-- to near real time imagery across the whole world.

Hayes: And now I think that the satellites have gotten so sophisticated that they-- they can do heat images. They can do uh...

Salk: Everything.

Hayes: -- different spectrums uh...

Salk: And underground.

Hayes: Oh, that's right. They've had some good luck with uh...even some underground work.

Salk: Earth penetrating yeah.

Hayes: Yeah.

Salk: And uh...yeah it's revolutionized 100 percent.

Hayes: Yeah.

Salk: And that's what was fascinating to me when I was introduced to it in Germany that we could uhm...see things that had never been seen by anybody and not just see things. We're talking about forests and fish and fowl. We're talking about tanks and-- and guided missiles and submarines, you name it.

Hayes: Yeah.

Salk: Across the whole spectrum and recognize it. There was a-- there was a hunger in our-- in the U.S. for that kind of information. It was vital and to be able to use that and conduct the many years of the Cold War based on things that uh...who was it Eisenhower, no Reagan said that but verify. Well we were verifying.

Hayes: Well thank you very much for your interview.

#### End of Tape 7 ####

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