CONELRAD Atomic Testimony


Scenes from "Disaster at Silo 7"

Titan II Memories

The topside tour ended back at the shed, and after a quick, very formal, jargon laden, phone call requesting access to the underground facility the SPs escorted us down a metal staircase recessed in the ground. We descended what felt like two or three stories to a large blast door.1957 guide to our ballistic missiles - and the future Titan... Following another phone contact, the door slowly opened and we entered a large, dimly lit, concrete room painted in military mint green and gray. After the blast door closed behind us I noted the temperature was quite a bit cooler than outside and the air smelled of enamel paint, old bacon grease, stale cigarette smoke and hot electronics equipment. Here we were introduced to a 1st Lieutenant, who was not on duty and would be our guide for the tour of the launch control center. Our guide wore a green Air Force flight suit, with a missileer's insignia. He also had on a blue ascot which he explained was a regulation item of a launch officer's uniform. Impeccably groomed, trim and fit, he could have just walked out of an Air Force recruiting poster.

Our guide commenced the tour by noting that the only three exits from the room were the door we'd come in, down a long tunnel leading to the missile silo, or through another already open blast door that led to the launch facility and crew quarters. He explained the many large springs supporting parts of the structure acted as shock absorbers for the facility when firing the missile or in the event of the complex being bombed. Before entering the launch center we were again warned that during our stay there were likely to be a number of classified training alerts and that we must leave the launch center when these happened and proceed back to this room until we were invited back in. We were also given a number of impressive statistics on the blast-doors that protected the launch center, most important of which was that once it began closing it could not be stopped by just about anything until it was completely shut. This blast door remained open at all times and was only closed in the event of a practice drill, an actual launch or an impending attack.


The launch center was small, about six hundred square feet, and filled with old, worn, gray metal electronics equipment. Along one wall of blinking consoles and numerous phones sat the two launch officers in relatively modern high back rolling office chairs. The room was filled with bright fluorescent light and loud intermittent electronic buzzes and squawks. Upon entering the room the two launch officers appeared to be responding to a problem and did not register our presence until the commotion died down. When all was relatively quite they swiveled and rolled towards us and introduced themselves. A Captain and 1st Lieutenant, they were dressed as our guide but also wore sidearms. They, in comparison to our guide, appeared disheveled and ungroomed. Both were pale, in need of sleep, and explained they were nearing the end of a seventy two hour alert. At this point a very loud klaxon sounded, voices over speakers began chanting numbers and commands, and the phones began ringing. Both officers shot back to their consoles, and we were unceremoniously hustled out the door. Five minutes later we returned, and the officers showed us the launch consoles including the locked black and yellow striped boxes which contained their launch directives and firing keys, and the keys they wore around their necks which opened the boxes. They explained in very general terms the firing orders and sequence, then mimed the actual firing of a missile down to the key turn. They showed us how it took two people to fire the missile because the key turning points were separated by a distance that would make it impossible for one person to reach both, let alone turn them simultaneously. Hell broke loose again, and upon our return they showed us the targeting computers and equipment that monitored the different missile systems. The targeting console drew my attention because there were four cereal box tops hinge taped to the front of it. The Captain explained that the cardboard hid top secret targeting data and was only covered during tours. On our return following the next alert, the crew had forgotten to flip these covers back down revealing a series of letters and numbers. Noticing their goof they rolled their eyes at each other and wearily flipped them back down.

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