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EmP – Nuclear Spring, Author TD Barnes

This interview with Thornton D. (TD) Barnes is about “EmP – Nuclear Spring,” the sequel to Mr. Barnes’ popular fiction book, “EmP–Nuclear Winter.”

EmP – Nuclear Spring commences after four years have passed since the fateful EMP attack and the nuclear bombs that followed, destroying 90% of the earth’s population. For the first time since their subterranean lifestyle began, the survivors are able to come out of the Yucca Mountain underground complex initially constructed to store nuclear waste. They find themselves under surveillance by Islamic activists of the Islamic Brotherhood who survived in Central America. The Brotherhood is moving into Nevada to take control of the Hoover Dam, which gives the Brotherhood control of the Colorado River and the electricity it generates for the western United States.

Both the Brotherhood and the survivors in the mountain realize the jet stream is returning the fallout of the nuclear winter back to the region. Both must secure food and supplies to carry them through the return of the fallout. The survivors in the mountain repel attacks on the mountain by the Brotherhood and enter the next phase of nuclear winter prepared to battle the Islamic Brotherhood and drive them from the region.

TD Barnes, author and entrepreneur, was raised on ranch at Dalhart, TX, graduated from Mountain View High School, Oklahoma, enlisted in the Army and served in Army Intelligence in Korea. He attended and graduated numerous electronics schools in Army air defense missiles and radar at Fort Bliss TX. He served in Germany, attended OCS at Fort Sill OK. He became a field engineer at the NASA High Range facility in Nevada for the X-15, XB-70, Lifting Bodies, and Lunar landing Vehicles. He was a participant in the NERVA project at Jackass Flats NV (, on CIA special projects at Area 51, worked on Project A-12 Blackbird Oxcart, and was on the exploitation team assigned to study a captured Russian MiG aircraft and radar systems, assisted in the genesis of the Navy’s Top Gun program, and the USAF Red Flag program, and on the team initiating development of stealth technology.

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The CIA declassified Barnes’ record of participation in 2010, and authorized his disclosure of personal history in the projects at Area 51. He is extensively identified in the documentary “Area 51 Declassified” by the National Geographic Channel and numerous documentaries by the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, the Travel Channel and other news channels and magazines.

TD is the president of Roadrunners Internationale, and the first Executive Director of the Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame.

After retirement, TD formed a family-owned Oil and Gas Exploration company and mined uranium and gold.

TD has published two non-fiction books based upon the declassified activities occurring in Nevada. “CIA Bride” is a biography about the CIA commander at Area 51 and his wife who also worked for the CIA. “My Odyssey to Area 51” is a book about the de-classified aviation history of Nevada with his own experiences included to add a personal touch to this detailed account of previously classified activity.


He published “EmP – Nuclear Winter,” the first of a series about survival following a nuclear war based upon his experiences at the Atomic Proving Grounds in Nevada. TD’s book brings to reality the life of the survivors living underground in the aftermath of an EMP and nuclear attack that destroys electronic devices and the electric power grids over much of the world. A frenzy of nuclear bomb exchanges occurs a few days after the EMP attack, releasing nuclear fallout that creates a nuclear winter environment that worsens the hopes of survival, humans and animals alike. A group of survivors are sheltered in a highly technological environment inside the mountain to ensure their survival on a planet that in the time-span of one-second reentered the Stone Age. Outside their shelter, survivors fight for water and food that within the year results in the death of 90% of the people on earth.

EmP – Nuclear Winter” takes the reader through the attack and realistically addresses logistics, security, survivor selection, social, cultural, education, and other issues required to prepare a society capable of rebuilding a nation devoid of the technology they once depended on. The effects of an EMP attack as described in this EMP series are real and depict what to expect when the terrorist organization Al Qaeda, a radical religious group, or a rogue nation such as North Korea or Iran hits the United States with an EMP device aboard a freighter arriving in a major city. The possibility of this occurring is not a matter of if; it is a matter of when. No one talks about the consequences of such an attack because they are so horrific. You will find in this book that the aftermath of an EMP attack is not pretty.

In an extraordinary century, Mr. Barnes has lived an extraordinary life with legendary accomplishments. He began a unique and diverse career while in the U.S. Army where he advanced from serving in Korea as an Intelligence Specialist to attending years of formal electronics training in surface-to-air missiles that included the Nike Ajax, Nike Hercules, and HAWK. Thereafter, he advanced technologically and established many milestones in the forefront of the evolution of electronics and cutting-edge military technology during the space race with the Soviet Union. His is an epic story of becoming advanced in missile ECM and ECCM where he participated in a leading technical role in Army evaluations of Soviet aircraft ECM technology to apply to the HAWK missiles being deployed to Europe during the Soviet Iron Curtain crisis and to Key West, Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Barnes deployed to Germany with the first Hawk SAM battalion to be mobilized as a combat unit. During the course of his military career Barnes was awarded numerous missile man awards and was selected to attend Artillery Officer Candidate School in preparation for advisor duty in Vietnam. Barnes’ military career ended after 10 years due to permanently disabling injuries sustained during survival training while in Officer Candidate School.

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Honorably discharged from the Army, Barnes was recruited for an electronics engineer position at the Beatty station of the NASA High Range for flight testing of the X-15, XB-70, the LLRV (Lunar Lander prototypes), the lifting bodies, A-12, YF-12, and SR 71 Blackbird flights. He participated in establishing four world speed and altitude records in the YF-12A. He spent a year at the Flight Dynamics Laboratory at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio performing integrity tests on the Apollo space capsule. Concluding this project, he returned to the NASA High Range as a hypersonic and space flight support specialist for continuation of his high Mach and hypersonic flight testing. Barnes was instrumental in resolving a test pilot life threatening “inherent and unsolvable” altitude error problem that had for years existed in the radar data of Dryden/Edwards, Beatty, and Ely tracking station NASA High Range. Shortly thereafter Barnes was recruited to Groom Lake, Nevada as part of the most highly classified special projects team since the atomic bomb Manhattan Project.

Cleared at both “Q” and “Top Secret” security levels, at the Groom Lake facility Barnes, operated under a code name, serving as cadre for ultra-secret projects of the CIA, National Defense Agency, National Air and Space Intelligence Agency, Air Defense Command, Tactical Air Command, U.S. Air Force Foreign Technology Division, the Air Force Flight Test Center, the Naval Air Test Center, Naval Weapons Center, and the Air Tactical Command, most of which remains classified today. The few declassified activities that can be disclosed include CIA A-12 Project OXCART and the Soviet MiG exploitation projects Have Doughnut, Have Drill, and Have Ferry. The Soviet MiG exploitation projects were instrumental in reversing the 9-1 kill ratio against U.S. pilots in air combat in Vietnam and were the genesis of the Navy’s Top Gun and the Air Force’s Red Flag exercises that continue today. Following the MiG projects Barnes participated in Project Have Blue, the development of stealth technology introduced by the Air Force F-117. Details of Project Have Blue and the identity of other projects in which Barnes led or participated cannot be disclosed as they remain classified yet today.


Between projects at Groom Lake, Barnes was loaned to NASA’s Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application (NERVA) program at the Nuclear Rocket Development Station (NRDS), Jackass Flats, Nevada to develop a nuclear Engine for future manned flight to Mars. Also between projects at Groom Lake, he participated in the Atomic Energy Commission tests of the atomic bomb.

During his nearly half-century as a Nevadan, Mr. Barnes has made significant contributions to the civic life of the state, most significantly, his groundbreaking advances in the field of aerospace and education of Nevada’s youth. Since retirement Barnes has remained active with the Disabled American Veterans and numerous military and aerospace organizations and activities. He is currently the Director of the Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame and serves as president of Roadrunners Internationale, an association of the CIA, Air Force, and aerospace companies who built and flew the CIA’s early U-2 and A-12 Blackbird. He is an active member in various other associations that include AFIO (Association for Intelligence Officers), CIRA (Central Intelligence Retirement Association), the U-2 Dragon Ladies Association, the SR-71 Blackbird association, the Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation, Flight Test Historical Foundation, and the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Barnes is an active member of the Nellis AFB Support Team and Civilian Military Council, and an active participant in various oral history projects that include the UNLV Cold War Oral History project, historians at CIA, and historians at Fort Bliss, Texas for the early HAWK SAM deployment in which Barnes participated during the Iron Wall and Cuban Crises. Barnes is also an active member of the Army Artillery OCS Alumni.

Under the leadership of Barnes, the Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame is heavily involved with various universities and other learning establishments wherein their students are directly involved with the activities of the Hall of Fame. As leader of the Roadrunners he has made the recording of the individual legacies a priority project with the UNLV Cold War Oral History Project and the Library of Congress. Since declassification of some of the projects in which he participated with the U.S. Air Force and CIA, Barnes has participated in symposium panels and been a guest speaker telling the previously untold story of these secret heroes of the Cold War.

Barnes is also a successful businessman, forming an oil and gas exploration company in the 1970s, he served as its CEO until 1982 where he sold his oil business to divest in a mining company where he serves as President today. During his international business career, Barnes invested and participated in other diverse business ventures in the US, Switzerland, and the Dominican Republic to include gold and uranium mining, banking, and motel/restaurant businesses.

Note from TD Barnes’ Personal History

About TD’s recruitment to Area 51 Special Projects

Normal recruitment for duty at Area 51 commenced with the CIA scouring the military and corporate establishments for men of certain qualifications. Unlike the early U-2 program, married men were preferred, as they were considered more mature. Those selected for further evaluation were flown to Washington, D.C. for interviews and psychological evaluation. The wife was also interviewed and evaluated, but not told what her husband would be doing. The candidate was sent back to his employer not knowing what the job was or if he had passed or failed. As the selection field narrowed, those still being considered were called back to Washington, D.C. for more intense evaluations. Even then, the candidate or volunteer still thought he was being interviewed for astronaut service or something similar and equally special.

In my case, I had previously worked with the Agency while stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas with a Hawk air defense surface to air missile unit. Having become a specialist in ADA missile ECM and ECCM, I participated in the top-secret Project Palladium where we prodded the Soviets into activating their radar systems being placed in Cuba.

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Click Image for Full Size

Under the guidance of Bud Wheelon of the CIA, the covert objective was to test our missile ECM and ECCM capabilities against those of the Soviet SA-2 missile radar and the ECM and ECCM defenses of their aircraft.

When the Oxcart flights started at Groom Lake, I was working at the Beatty radar site of the NASA High Range, tracking the X-15, XB-70, Lifting Bodies, LunarLanders, etc. During idle times I often fired up our radar and scanned for something to track. One day I obtained skin track of a high and fast moving target in the direction of Groom Lake. Thereafter, I sneaked a track at every change and monitored the radio frequencies these mysterious missions were using. A few months later I was briefed by NASA that I would be instructed to provide tracking from time to time of an unidentified aircraft of which I was report only to this one contact at NASA. No one at the tracking station was allowed to monitor the tracking of this mysterious plane except me. I didn?t learn what I was tracking until my tracking station was officially invited to participate in the May 1965 speed record flight of the YF-12.

My secret tracking had continued for a couple years when we suddenly started getting cross talk on the HF radio channel we used while talking to the pilot of the X-15. Not realizing the source was the Area 51 facility from which my mysterious planes were originating, I complained to NASA who investigated the source. About a month later NASA told us that the source had higher priority and that we were not to mention it again. Shortly thereafter I was recruited for a highly classified special project of the CIA by a Mr. John Grace with EG&G in Las Vegas. I was not told what or where. Nonetheless, I associated my tracking of the fast targets and the UHF interference to my being invited to join that project, whatever it was. After the speed record run, I of course knew about the Blackbird and assumed that was the project to which I was being recruited. I was wrong. There were 3 separate Mach 3 projects at the time, the XB-70, the Air Force YF-12 project that I knew about, and the CIA’s ultrasecret A-12 surveillance plane that I had been tracking and wrongfully assuming to be the YF-12.
At the time I was working under the security classification level of Secret. I could not be told anything about the job until my previous military Top Secret clearance could be reinstated. While waiting for this to occur I was “loaned” to various projects in the area: the NERVA project, 4 or 5 atomic shots, even the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory in Wright Patterson to run tests on the Apollo One space capsule that eventually ignited and killed 3 of our astronauts. Ironically, I received a “Q” security clearance for the AEC side before completion of my Top Secret reinstatement on the DOD side.

I didn’t receive reinstatement of my Top Secret clearance until towards the end of the Oxcart program. It wasn’t until later that I realized the Agency was gathering qualified contract cadre for follow on projects to Oxcart. Concurrent to my arrival at Groom Lake was the arrival of one of my X-band Nike Hercules radar systems from Fort Bliss for which I’d spent a year in formal training while in the Army. I think it is significant to add that two of us were considered so mission essential in our radar and missile ECM/ECCM specialty that we were forbidden to travel together in the same common carrier, be it by plane or simply the same vehicle headed to the mess hall.

Prior to being accepted, my wife was evaluated almost as much as was I. Once I arrived at Area 51, I learned that each of my fellow special projects team of 30 specialists and their families had undergone the same evaluations. Besides each of us having a specialty needed for Oxcart and the upcoming projects, most of us were married with two children. Another thing we all had in common were our hobbies. About half of us had boats moored on Lake Mead and the other half had cabins on Mt. Charleston. Our common interests created the necessary bonding for what was to come. Our national security concerns created a cohesiveness where we worked together all week and then played together on at the lake or mountain during the weekends. Anyone outside our group was not invited. Even under these conditions, we never talked shop if any of the wives or children were present. We never snooped into what the other had done or was doing. A need to know criteria existed and was adhered to even within our special projects group.

Working environment

The CIA’s special projects cadre at Area 51 was virtually nonexistent, unlike the temporary projects such as the Air Force’s 4080th SAS U-2 Project Idealist, the Air Force’s 4070th SAS and CIA’s early U-2 Project Aquatone at Groom Lake, or the 1129th SAS for the agency’s A-12 Oxcart Project at Area 51 and Kadena during Operation Black Shield.

We seldom knew for sure how we were to be transported from Las Vegas to Groom Lake. EG&G Special Projects had a Beechcraft Queen Aire that some of us utilized at times. The Queen Aire was housed in a small, obscure hangar located towards the end of a McCarran International Airport runway. Other sources of transportation were a Twin Otter and a Martin 202 that we boarded and deplaned at Nellis AFB. At Nellis our plane took off from the most secure area of the base.

To access our transportation, we had to enter a secured and heavily guarded area along the runway. We often wondered what the Air Force personnel were told about us, a group of civilians driven into the most secure area of the base by our wives and then boarding an unmarked plane for destination unknown. Anytime we approached any Air Force personnel, they immediately dispersed and went to great lengths to not encounter us. Speaking to us or showing any interest in us whatsoever was unheard of.

Soviet satellite coverage of the Groom Lake area was very intense during this period of the Cold War. Somehow the Soviets always knew the day we were to conduct activities outdoors and would launch a barrage of satellites the night before, which prevented our conducting outdoor activities until one of the satellites dropped from orbit, thus providing us with a window of opportunity to conduct whatever we needed to do without being seen by the Soviets. Consequently, we had to be available at all hours should such a window of opportunity afford itself. As we had in Project Oxcart, we stayed at Groom Lake the entire week, going home on Friday evening. After the first 8 hours we would go on time and a half for 4 hours and then on double time pay straight through until we arrived back in Las Vegas on Friday evening.

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To accommodate us, the base had a small combination BX containing snacks and various personal hygiene items, swimming pool, exercise room, softball diamond, putting green, and poolroom. This facility was called “Sam’s Place.” Some of the CIA pilots and members of the 1129th SAS took up flying model airplanes. For some, that remains their hobby today. We were each assigned a room in a row of duplexes. Each duplex had a small living room where we played poker and watched 8mm movies played on a movie projector. Our special projects group usually banded in two groups even for our housing. One group was the boating enthusiasts, and the other being the Mt. Charleston cabin dwellers. Other personnel staying at Groom Lake, such as Air Force, Lockheed, Hughes, Pratt and Whitney, and our customer the CIA were all housed in similar duplexes, but clustered apart from the others. Very little association existed outside your group.

Ask anyone who worked at Groom Lake during the CIA era of the 1960s what he or she remembers most about their time at Area 51 they will tell you it was the quality of the food served at the mess hall. There’s not a hotel in Las Vegas whose food quality even comes close to matching that we enjoyed at Groom Lake while the CIA was running the show.


We referred to those for whom we conducted any type of service as the customer. We all knew we were working for the CIA, but that didn’t mean that the guy evaluating our data wasn’t from Lockheed, Pratt and Whitney, or some other contractor of the CIA doing so as part of their assignment. Since we didn’t ask questions, anyone with authority and clearance to watch or evaluate our work was the customer as far as we were concerned. In a security departmentalization sense, we embraced a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

CIA 60TH ANNIVERSARY – 19 September 2007

TD Barnes honoree at CIA A-12 Article 128 Dedication at CIA Headquarters

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Click on Image for Full size

Project Discussion

After the departure of the last A-12 in June 1968, we concentrated on special projects of the Foreign Technology Division of Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) who led the exploitation utilizing expertise from U.S. Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC), Air Defense Command (ADC), National Air & Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), Strategic Air Command (SAC), Aeronautical Systems Division (ASD), Tactical Air Command (TAC), Navy Weapons Center (NWC). The scope of our exploriation projection included Radar Cross Sections (RCS) evaluations and other technical evaluations of the Soviet MiG-17F FRESCO C fighter-interceptor code-named: Have Drill. Tactical evaluations of the MiG-17 were code-named: Have Ferry. We conducted similar evaluations on the MiG-21F-13 Fishbed E fighter-interceptor code-named: Have Doughnut.

Projects Idealist, Oxcart, Have Drill, Have Ferry, and Have Doughnut are the only programs in which I participated that have been declassified. Though there are some that I can name without violating my security oath, I cannot discuss any technical aspects of any other programs within Area 51.

A comment about security. From the onset I was given two contacts for emergencies. One was a resident CIA employee and the other a lieutenant based at Nellis AFB. The latter was in the event of an emergency at home; my family could get word to me through this lieutenant. We could call home from Groom Lake any time we desired, but could not reveal where we were calling from.

One day I called my wife and could instantly tell she was extremely upset. Seems my call was made immediately following her getting an obscene phone call from someone who knew her name. She had hung up and feared it was the caller calling back. I immediately informed security at Groom. Within minutes my home, my wife and both our daughters were under protective surveillance. This continued for about two weeks until all were comfortable that the call was not intended as a threat aimed at me because of where I worked. We never learned who made the call.


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Post Area 51

I left Area 51 in the early 1970s to form a business in Oklahoma. For 5 years after leaving Area 51 and Nevada, the FBI routinely visited the town in which we resided where they inquired of local businesses as to our business and personal status. The focus of these FBI visits was to determine if my family and I were experiencing any problems, financial or otherwise, that would make us a target for blackmail or extortion aimed at learning what I had done while at Area 51. After a week or so, the investigator would schedule an interview with me and my wife to determine if anyone had contacted us seeking such information.

Follow the links on the  to learn what has been declassified about these projects. You will find a brief story about each project accompanied with photos and film clips. As you tour the site, think of and join me in a salute to the heroic men and women who maintained the front lines on the battlefields of the Cold War.

James Talmage Stevens Host ImageJames Talmage Stevens, Host

James Talmage Stevens (aka Doctor Prepper™) began his career in the preparedness industry from the days of his youth. His family lived with his Grandparents immediately following the end of WWII. He learned the basics on the Pace farm in rural Guilford County (NC). Farm chores and gardening were standard fare––plowing the back 40 behind a stubborn mule was substandard!

In 1974, upon finishing graduate school with 4 young children and no prospects for a job due to economic conditions during a national economic slump, James reverted to his past experiences on the farm and chronicled in his notebook, along with some hand-me-down recipes from his mother and grandmother. Noting there were no viable books that dealt with all the basics, i.e.: a broad range of food products, he began to utilize his analytical skills, organizing handwritten notes, recipes, and food lore into one volume of information.

He spent his spare time while job-hunting, and Making the Best of Basics was created. Before going to press, the subtitle Family Preparedness Handbook was added to distinguish Basics… from the emergency preparedness genre of the existing Civil Defense and governmental agency information.

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