Imagine being told that you could call home to say good-bye to your loved ones, knowing that it might be the last time you speak to them, and you can't even tell them why you are calling. That was the reality faced by a number of U.S. air force members as they left on a possible bomber mission in 1962.
At the height of the Cold War, tensions were running high between the United States and the Soviet Union. Several nuclear bomber planes left U.S. soil with orders to cross the arctic and drop nuclear bombs on multiple Russian targets.
The bombers were given orders that if they received the "Go" confirmation by a certain point, they were to continue on their path and drop multiple bombs. It was possibly a suicide mission as the destruction from multiple nuclear bombs could possible blast them from the sky. But if the order was not given, they were to turn around and head back home having never dropped their payloads.
Think about that for one moment. What would the world currently look like if those bombers had been given the green light to lay waste to a huge swath of Russia? It wouldn't have been a victory for U.S. forces because regardless of where those bombs struck, it wouldn't have taken long for the USSR to launch a retaliatory strike against American soil. There is a reason why they dubbed the term M.A.D. - Mutually Assured Destruction. Essentially, you kill us, we kill you right back.
But throughout the Cold War, one thing was always lost in translation, the individuals that were willing to sacrifice it all to protect their homes and family. Pilots of those bombers that took off, heading towards the Soviet Union knew there was a chance that they would never return, either from the nuclear blast, or from being shot out of the sky by Soviet forces.
Being told to call home, say good-bye, without letting your family know you may be on your way to meet your maker is as close to being asked "any last words?" as you can get outside of an execution. It is a feeling I cannot comprehend, nor can I imagine what it must be like for those soldiers to talk to their wives, their children, their mothers and fathers, knowing it might be the last time they ever get to hear their voices.