"Mr. Parolini" (third part)

(To Gregorio Vella)

  • Well Parolini, we are at a good point. Tomorrow I have to do something else and we can not finish; if it's all right for you we can see the day after tomorrow, at the entrance to the third zone, around a quarter past eight.

  • For me it's okay, so this afternoon I'll tell my department store. It took half an hour to get the last maps out and go for lunch. Would you like to go see something in the 11 / H store?

  • Of course, what is it? I do not see anything at 11 / H!

  • I know, there are only a few hundred 76 spools to be retrofitted and a lot of 20 / 70 caliber cartridges, the ones to be sold off; I do not know if you have seen them, are cartridges with the eagle and the swastika stamped on the case and the containers, residues of the last war and still in excellent condition after more than thirty years, I say that they are even better than those that do SNIA; he saw the grains of dust, perfect graphites. Until a couple of years ago they used them for comparison shots, because they had excellent ballistic stability, then someone said that maybe it's not good to use things with the swastika. I do not see what harm there is; we still have so much American ammunition and for that nobody says anything. But what I want to show you is another thing; let's say that it is always an explosive kept in bulk, like that of today's containers, only that ... It is not closed: Well! Come to see and if you consider it appropriate, I suggest to make the wise to that there, but I must first ask if you suffer from mica low pressure ... then I explain ...

  • Low pressure? What's that got to do with it? However, I do not think so, I make two or three blood donations a year and they check everything, so far they have always found it right.

The 11 / H depot, which was on the western edge of a distant area, was unusually narrow and long; the lighting of the explosion proof electrical system was decidedly dim and there was a smell that was a little different from that of the other deposits, in addition to the damp and damp background odor, it also felt like rosin, light and not unpleasant .

  • Listen to Gregory, if you were to feel "strange", as tired, do not hesitate to go out and sit outside; some time ago one of us almost fainted. It is because of particular nitric esters emanating from the grain, they are vasodilators and they lower the pressure. I confess that sometimes I come for therapeutic purposes, I adjust the pressure better than the pills. Here, we prepare a couple of maps put it on top of the wheat and considering that it is not closed, if we agree we give it more than an hour of exposure, I will spend in the afternoon to see if the maps have marked.

  • The wheat? What grain?

  • This, but do not touch it!

We had reached the end of the depot where, at its best, there was a large, sturdy wooden chest, almost two meters high with the front wall torn in two points. Inside, blocked by the wooden carpentry built around it and partially wrapped in heavy ocher-yellow waxed paper, one could see a large cylinder of dark red color, the diameter was a little less than a meter for over a meter and a half tall, the consistency to look like it looked like plasticine and the smell of rosin had become more decisive. It had a star-shaped hole in the center, which ran through the cylinder throughout its length, and in several places it seemed as if it had been pierced as if it had been repeatedly carotated to remove samples.

  • In technical jargon they call "grain" any geometric solid configuration of launching or propellant explosives, from the solenite cylinders of a few millimeters of the 13,2 caliber, up to this thing here. This grain is the engine of a missile. Have you ever heard of "Polaris"?

  • It seems to me, if I'm not mistaken, were the first American strategic missiles launched by submarines. At the beginning of the sixties. In those days I was a child.

I wonder why we were both talking in a low voice.

  • That's right, the first version was equipped with an engine like this and had a range of almost two thousand kilometers, with a fairly small size, less than seven meters in length, so suitable for boarding. The thrust gave her the sequential burning of two grains like these here; in fact it was two-stage, the first more "lively" as a booster and the second cruise. The difficulty was to combine the smallest possible size, suitable for the launches of a submarine, with the "military content" that the missile had to transport, which in the case of Polaris was a nuclear warhead.

The school will have studied the history that at the beginning of the sixties the cold war was at the height of the tension and the two blocks faced each other and paid no expense to overcome themselves in quality and quantity of armaments. Italy, the Italian Navy, wanted to do its part (we were recently in the Atlantic Alliance and we tried to make a good impression) and with a genuine stroke of genius developed a project to embark the launch pad of four Polaris aboard the Garibaldi cruiser; beautiful ship of the former Royal Navy, "condottieri" class, survivor of the war and the transfer of property, for the war damage that we had paid for by defeats. At La Spezia in the Arsenale they had done a great job, the ship was almost completely rebuilt, modernizing it and became the first cruiser-missile launcher in Europe, also embarking the then modern Terrier missiles; he remained our flagship ship for a long time, until the Doria came into service.

  • He knows that what remains of the old Garibaldi happened to see him a couple of weeks ago, still floats, albeit barely and almost completely devoid of superstructures, at the Pagliari pier towards San Bartolomeo; it has saddened me that I have nothing to do with it, I imagine how they will feel their hearts clench, seeing it like that, those who have been embarked on it, living a little of their youth. But what experience did Italy have of strategic missiles in the fifties?

  • None, but as often happens to us, we supplicate the lack of experience, sometimes of intellectual rigor and, above all, of resources, with genius. In this case the genius was played by the Commander Glicerio Azzoni; we've known each other since he was a lieutenant, now he's an admiral, recently retired. It was he who invented everything and designed and supervised the construction of both the launch system and the command and control system, aft of the Garibaldi. Starting from less than zero and it was not a simple thing. Unlike launching from submarines, where the ignition of the missile engine takes place cold and after the expulsion from the well, which is done with compressed air; on the Garibaldi the ignition of the engine had to take place inside the wells and the ship, at the time of launch, had to withstand high thermal and mechanical stresses. The first evaluation tests with the launch of simulacra, had made between the '62 and' 63 year of return to service of the ship, in the Gulf of La Spezia first and in the Caribbean Sea after and under the supervision of the Americans and had gone wonderfully. Basically recovering a ship properly "Railroad", with homemade work and a negligible expense compared to a system on an atomic submarine, we had achieved a degree of nuclear deterrence that, although more vulnerable, was very respectable. The Americans, besides being amazed, were very interested in it, partly because they did not trust their underwater launch systems enough yet; there was still a lot to be developed and they were chased by the Soviets who were making equal but longer-range weapon systems. They even considered to arm a small fleet of merchant "shadow", like the German war corsairs of the last war, secretly armed with Polaris, modeled on "Garibaldi system".

  • It's a very interesting story, but how did it end with the missiles on the Garibaldi and this stinking thing, what are you doing here? and how is it finished?

  • It ended up nothing, like so many things more or less Italian; but in this case it was better this way. In October of '62 there was the crisis of Cuba; the world was on the brink of nuclear catastrophe but fortunately common sense prevailed and they found the agreement. Khrushchev withdrew the missiles from Cuba and Kennedy paid a few compensations. They do not know each other, also because in the pacts there was also that he in the eyes of the world and, above all, of the Americans, had to appear "winner", you know, in the streets of the elections, problem that they did not have in Russia and a counterpart was certainly that of the withdrawal of Polaris and Jupiters from all over Europe and from Turkey.

So Garibaldi remained in service for another eight years but with the four empty wells; the nostromi used them like cale, putting in everything, cordami, milk of painting and so on, you know, on board every space is precious.

The fact of Cuba, even if it made the world feel the atomic nightmare, brought a great political stability, given by the "mutually assured destruction" and gave great credibility to the military rank in both blocks. This led to a huge flow of military research funding, both capitalist and communist, and a tremendous boost to the development of very well-aimed technologies. The Americans quickly overcame the disadvantage on the underwater component, but entrusted the role of main deterrence to the SAC, the "Strategic Air Command"; he will have seen them in the movies, the ones with the keys, the launch codes and the crazy commanders; with the B52 always in flight with two thermonuclear bombs in the nacelle, that that of Hiroshima in comparison would have seemed a firecracker. The Russians, on the other hand, in addition to firing bigger and bigger bombs, for the purpose of advertising and intimidation, with Admiral Gorshkov, in a few years pulled up a powerful fleet for quantity and, above all, for quality; completely renewing the Navy, which became that of a great superpower even if at the service of a still underdeveloped country.

Well, if what I said was interesting, the story of this wheat may be even more so, then I'll tell it to you. But now we'll have to get out of here quickly and go to lunch, otherwise the cafeteria closes and they do not give us any more. The campagnola will be waiting for half an hour at the gate

  • Accidenti Parolini, she's like television series episodes. Still he has not finished telling me how he ended up working here and now he even leaves me with the history of propellant wheat. I'll have to invite her to dinner one of these nights. The port at Podenzana, from the "Gavarina" to eat the panigacci; now they have a young wine, they do it to Riccò and go down like a gun, a couple of glasses and I'll tell you also the things he thought he had forgotten.

  • Do not worry, we'll have time.

It will have been the suggestion but I felt a bit 'strange really, heavy legs and light head, all in all it was almost a pleasant feeling, apart from the fact that we had to walk quickly to hurry to the gate. Greetings to Capece and fast way downhill, on the Campagnola led by Renato, driver and lance sailor, up to the area adjacent to the canteen. There was almost no one but the doctor with farsighted foresight had phoned to let us put aside the lunch, pasta and stewed stew with potatoes, which we pleasantly consumed and which brought back the pressure (if anything had fallen) to normal values . Something also remedied for Renato who joined us.

Renato was a twenty year old from Friuli, from Codroipo. I think I never met a handsome and good boy like him. A face from the film of white telephones of the forties, black and shiny hair and blue eyes, generated by the marvelous cross of Sicilian mother and Friulian father. As was obvious, in a short time he had fallen prey to one of the numerous huntresses of her husband; fauna very common among those districts.

I think, having also had the opportunity to personally experience it, that for an instinctual genetic question, the females of that territory tend to reject the native males and are spontaneously attracted by those who come from outside, being carriers of genes different from the local and therefore precious for the improvement of the race, impoverished by centuries of isolation.

So Renato had been preyed, ending up in Luisa's chopper, the Workshop of the Control Workshop who, having evaluated the unrepeatable occasion, to the unfortunate, from Cupido had thrown a harpoon, instead of the usual arrow. Poor Renato, we had become friends and discreetly tried to convince him that he was only twenty years old and to run away with it, until it was on time.

He told me of when Luisa had taken him to her house in Barbarasco, to make it known to her after only three times that they had gone out together. To the future father-in-law, a small building contractor and father of three daughters, it seemed to him true to kill two birds with one stone: he definitively settled the eldest daughter who already had the state work and, being Renato practically without art or part, but with a fresh surveyor diploma; most likely he would get excellent help in the family business. If he ate it with his eyes, as if he were the lover instead of his daughter, palpeggiandolo shamelessly to verify, and appreciating a lot, the youthful vigor, which would have been necessary to load the many bags of cement that the future would have reserved .

But this is another story ...