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Doomsday Machine Visited

The Titan Missile Museum is the only remaining Titan II site open to the public allowing you to re-live a time when the threat of nuclear war between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union was a reality. Officially known as complex 571-7, this is all that remains of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert across the United States from 1963 to 1987.

We visited this one-of-a kind museum on Saturday, January 28 and got a rare look at the technology used by the United States to deter nuclear war. What was once one of America’s most top secret places is now a National Historic Landmark, fulfilling its new mission of bringing Cold War history to life for millions of visitors from around the world.

We went underground and back in time on the 45-minute guided tour. Descending 35 feet into the missile complex, visiting the launch control center, and experiencing a simulated launch of the missile. Then we journeyed down the cableway to level 2 of the missile silo to get an up-close look at the Titan II missile itself. This tour lets you experience Cold War paranoia and American ingenuity while walking in the footsteps of the brave men and women who operated America’s largest land-based missile ever deployed.

The Titan II was capable of launching from its underground silo in 58 seconds and could deliver a nine megaton thermonuclear warhead to its target more than 6,000 miles (approximately 10,000 km) away in less than thirty minutes. For more than two decades, 54 Titan II missile complexes across the United States stood “on alert” 24 hours a day, seven days a week, heightening the threat of nuclear war or preventing Armageddon, depending upon your point of view.

Each site consisted of a missile silo, a launch control facility, and an access portal. The sites were staffed 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, by 4-person missile combat crews who deployed to the missile sites for 24-hour shifts, called alerts. Each crew pulled an average of 8 to 9 alerts a month, meaning they often worked the equivalent of 5 weeks in a 4-week month. Crew members consisted of two officers — the Missile Combat Crew Commander (MCCC) and the Deputy Missile Combat Crew Commander (DMCCC), and two enlisted personnel — the Ballistic Missile Analyst Technician (BMAT) and the Missile Facilities Technician (MFT).

While in the launch control center during the tour I got to play the role of the Deputy Missile Combat Crew Commander (DMCCC) in a simulated launch sequence. Sitting in that seat gave me a sobering sense of the weight these young people had on their shoulders. As we received the coded message by radio to initiate the launch procedure, my voice actually trembled as I spoke to the acting Missile Combat Crew Commander when we turned the launch keys simultaneously. Imagine the psychological pressure they would have had to actually go through?

No amount of training could possibly prepare you for the reality of a nuclear exchange between the superpowers!

This wasn't a movie set, this was the real deal! As a Navy veteran who served from 1972 to 1976, seeing this site truly drove home the reality of that period of history. I came away from the tour appreciating the literal miracle that we avoided a nuclear war or accident during the cold war era.


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