Monday, December 10, 2012

Red Dawn on the Mon

A few weeks ago the PG Digs Tumblr account ran a photo from their archives of military airplanes over Pittsburgh circa 1951. They asked if anyone knew what the photo could have been for?

The date they reference does not work out quite right for this theory, but the context of the photo sure seems to look like it went with Operation Comet which took place in Western Pennsylvania between 1949 and 1950. Whether that is the photo's actual provenance I can't say. 

Operation Comet was a large exercise of Army and National Guard troops in a scenario where Soviet paratroopers invaded from the north of Pittsburgh. In the exercise the Air Force at one point 'bombs' the Emsworth Dam to slow the progress of the invaders. All while key communications were provided by local Ham radio (Young'uns: that would be the Twitter of the day) operators and flocks of carrier pigeons. Not joking about the carrier pigeons. Also, part of the exercise included preparations in case Pittsburgh was hit with an atomic weapon.  I just bet it all partially inspired Troan's remarkable series that came in 1951.

Read more about the exercise in this 1949 edition of the Antiaircraft Journal (see p. 33...  p. 34 gets into the carrier pigeons). Professional reading for some. Lest anyone think this was all just some fictitious war game....  in 1952 the first antiaircraft batteries would deploy to 12 sites around Pittsburgh. 

I honestly only now am realizing there has been a remake of the movie Red Dawn playing in the theaters of late.  Who knew?   Apparently the plot of the current movie has us being invaded by North Koreans.  Really?!  I know the news can sometimes make it seem like it is always the very worst of times, but does anything of late really compare to the routine fears of 50 years ago.  Duck and cover!


Anonymous MH said...

I read somewhere they switched to North Koreans so they could sell the movie in China.

Monday, December 10, 2012 9:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks like the West End Bypass is fairly new there...may help to date this picture. The aircraft included look like they have been inserted in the days before Photoshop. The two fighter types look like maybe F-86s. From my earliest recollections (1960s) Pittsburgh was defended by AF Guard/Reserve with F-102s and later A-7Ds (A-7 as an interceptor always seemed a bit of a stretch) that are not in this picture. The antiaircraft batteries were with Nike AA missiles. Command center was Oakdale with a search radar that interfered with channel 2 (KDKA) VHF TV. Missile batteries were located, among other places, in Boyce Park.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 12:08:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

They should have waited the movie release this week when the North Korean rocket launch would have been free publicity.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 8:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did a lot of research into the Cold War Air Defense of Pittsburgh. First, I believe the photograph is a fake, aircraft sizes and angles do not appear correct. "Operation Comet" was in 1949 spread over Western Pennsylvania for coordinated training for local military reservists, local, county and state law enforcement, local governments, red cross, civil defense, civil air patrol, ham operators, etc. 90 mm AAA gun batteries were not established yet and the NIKE missiles were still just a dream in someones mind.

Thursday, July 26, 2018 1:06:00 PM  

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