Nerve Gas ThreatI share the concerns expressed in your...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

November 09, 1992

Nerve Gas Threat

I share the concerns expressed in your Oct. 26 editorial, "Russian Nerve Gas Threat," but I am not surprised by the research efforts reported.

The threat and role of chemicals in war are not very well understood or appreciated by far too many. No treaty will ever eliminate the threat, just as treaties have not eliminated war itself.

The impacts of chemicals on unprepared or poorly trained and ready forces are so great that the threat will prevail as long as chemistry and chemical industries continue to exist.

In addition, efforts to prevent cheating or provide adequate verification are certain to have a tremendous negative impact on national defense and business and industry.

The news media and the politicians are certain to have a field day some time down the road, should things go as they are most likely to go. What is most likely to happen will not be in the best interest of our nation or business and industry.

To date this matter has received little attention, as treaty efforts are being based more on fear, hysteria and theory than on facts, reality and common sense.

General Pershing's statement following World War I was wise and still prevails. He said, "Whether or not gas will be employed in future wars is conjecture, but the effect is so deadly to the unprepared that we can never afford to neglect the question."

Maj. Gen. John G. Appel (Ret.)

Churchville

Shipbuilders Face Struggle to Keep Work

Each morning streaming down Bethlehem Boulevard toward the shipyard is a new day, and passing the bagpiper was a refreshing sight and certainly a different, delightful kind of sound amid his sparse surroundings.

The shipyard is a vast site, and its closed buildings are certainly a painful reminder of what once was a prosperous and lucrative industry. A painful reminder of how the American plants and factories are disappearing from these American shores.

Is it possible for one person to work for one summer and be capable of realistically evaluating the entire operation? Many of my co-workers, both hourly and salaried, think not.

The shipyard workers' daily life is definitely an eye-opening experience (especially for one who only works as an outside contractor to elicit information for a story.)

Men and women working here get to experience Mother Nature at her worst. Working outside most of the year, they subject themselves to winter winds creating wind chills well below zero and the steel beneath their feet feeling at least 20 degrees colder.

Summertime is little better, clothing saturated from the heat of the morning sun and knowing that it's only going to get worse as the day goes on, but not daring to remove any clothing for safety's sake. The elements are a constant battle to the hourly worker's day and also the salaried worker's schedules and budgets.

What would the average person envision the inside of a ship's ballast tank to look like? Steel 10 to 20 years old being subjected to the constant flow and discharge of salt water and the degeneration of its very own elements, creating algae and rust and unidentifiable smells.

One repair ship is the same as the next one, only the demanding completion schedules are different. But alas, our job is to fix them, that's what we do.

Working conditions are not the best, not because of some sinister evils of management, but because of the type of work that we perform, and in the atmosphere where we work. Precautions are taken, if indeed the worker's health is strained or endangered.

Disgruntled workers are a dime a dozen on the streets of Anytown, U.S.A. The majority of our shipyard workers are conscientious people, taking pride in the work they complete and turn over to satisfied customers.

Are they working themselves out of a job? No. Each ship or job they work on, they are trying to work toward a delivery date set by our customers.

With each completion comes the challenge that our government will realize how very hard we are trying to stay alive despite an increased willingness on the part of the U.S. Navy to put work into the shipyards of subsidizing nations.

All we want is a chance to improve and change with the times. We all work for the same reasons everyone does -- white or blue collar -- we are just trying to survive, trying to make a home for our children and just plain make a living.

The company and workers certainly do not have one instantaneous solution. The solutions are a combined effort on our parts, but also on the part of the government to give American work back to the American worker.

Maybe this letter is not as eloquent as that of a student pursuing his master's degree in writing at Johns Hopkins University. But the opinions stated here are as honest as our daily efforts to keep the shipbuilding business alive and prosperous at Sparrows Point.

Leslie L. Golden

Baltimore

Basic Research

Your Oct. 26 editorial, "Combating Breast Cancer," unfortunately sends some wrong messages.

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