What the Monument Means to Me: Roger Chang

“We helped to keep the Cold War cold at its peak by answering the President of the United States’ Key Intelligence Question in 1973 regarding Soviet multiple (MIRV) nuclear warhead capability on long range missiles. The answer was yes. Forty years later, this mission was officially declassified, and the story could be shared. The answer directly influenced the SALT II negotiations under Secretary of State Kissinger to mutually limit thermonuclear weapons delivery and MIRVs.

Using only long-range missiles across continents, up to 7,500 thermonuclear warheads could be accurately delivered in roughly seventeen minutes. This peak capability was unstoppable and roughly 7,500,000 times as powerful as the first Hiroshima atomic bomb. SALT II mutually reduced that capability.

My wife of four years and my one-year-old son would be impacted by my absence and our separation while I served on a remote Aleutian Island directly under falling Soviet test warheads.

I received a medal signed by the director of the National Security Agency for this effort, but the true reward is being able to enjoy breathing the fresh air and feeling the warmth of the sun without suffering from fallout radiation and a nuclear winter blocking sunlight a half century later. Perhaps the sacrifice of my time and my family at the age of twenty-seven helped to keep the Cold War cold.

The monument reminds me of my wife, who succumbed to cancer, and my estranged one-year old son, who probably could not understand my absence because I would return a stranger. They could not be told the importance of such a mission in 1973.”

Written by Roger Chang, U.S. Army Veteran

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