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Stuck in a hole with a leaky nuclear missile
National Post ^ | MARCH 24, 2014 | Eric Schlosser

Posted on 03/24/2014 6:17:05 PM PDT by rickmichaels

On Sept. 18, 1980, at about 6:30 in the evening, Senior Airman David F. Powell and Airman Jeffrey L. Plumb walked into the silo at Launch Complex 374-7, a few miles north of Damascus, Arkansas. They were planning to do a routine maintenance procedure on a Titan II missile. They’d spent countless hours underground at complexes like this one. But no matter how many times they entered the silo, the Titan II always looked impressive. It was the largest intercontinental ballistic missile ever built by the United States: Ten feet in diameter and 103 feet tall, roughly the height of a nine-story building. It had an aluminum skin with a matte finish and U.S. AIR FORCE painted in big letters down the side. The nose cone on top of the Titan II was deep black, and inside it sat a W-53 thermonuclear warhead, the most powerful weapon ever carried by an American missile. The warhead had a yield of 9 megatons — about three times the explosive force of all the bombs dropped during the Second World War, including both atomic bombs.

Day or night, winter or spring, the silo always felt the same. It was eerily quiet, and mercury vapour lights on the walls bathed the missile in a bright white glow. When you opened the door on a lower level and stepped into the launch duct, the Titan II loomed above you like an immense black-tipped silver bullet, loaded in a concrete gun barrel, primed, cocked, ready to go, and pointed at the sky.

(Excerpt) Read more at fullcomment.nationalpost.com ...


TOPICS: History; Military/Veterans
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 03/24/2014 6:17:05 PM PDT by rickmichaels
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To: rickmichaels

for later


2 posted on 03/24/2014 6:24:13 PM PDT by F15Eagle (1Jn4:15;5:4-5,11-13;Mt27:50-54;Mk15:33-34;Jn3:17-18,6:69,11:25,14:6,20:31;Ro10:8-11;1Tm2:5-6;Ti3:4-7)
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To: rickmichaels
“Oh man,” Plumb thought. “This is not good.”
3 posted on 03/24/2014 6:25:28 PM PDT by RightGeek (FUBO and the donkey you rode in on)
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To: rickmichaels

Go away....


4 posted on 03/24/2014 6:27:37 PM PDT by SgtBob (Freedom is not for the faint of heart. Semper Fi!)
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To: rickmichaels

Oh man, what a tease... the piece ends right when things got “interesting”. Boo!


5 posted on 03/24/2014 6:28:44 PM PDT by Rodamala
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To: Rodamala

I used to work with a guy who worked on the Titans. Not sure you really want to know what happened to these two.


6 posted on 03/24/2014 6:35:23 PM PDT by driftdiver (I could eat it raw, but why do that when I have a fire.)
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To: Rodamala

More details: http://www.leagle.com/decision/1986721636FSupp85_1714


7 posted on 03/24/2014 7:15:52 PM PDT by Western Phil
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To: Western Phil

More details yet: http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=2543


8 posted on 03/24/2014 7:20:14 PM PDT by Western Phil
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To: blueyon; KitJ; T Minus Four; xzins; CMS; The Sailor; ab01; txradioguy; Jet Jaguar; Defender2; ...

Active Duty/Retiree ping.


9 posted on 03/24/2014 7:22:20 PM PDT by Jet Jaguar
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To: rickmichaels

I wonder if this was the incident when the Titan II exploded in the silo, and the W53 warhead was found in a nearby field.

UDMH/hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide coming in contact is lethal.


10 posted on 03/24/2014 7:22:23 PM PDT by Fred Hayek (The Democratic Party is now the operational arm of the CPUSA)
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To: rickmichaels

the book is a good read and a bit scary. talks about other near incidents and you ccan imagine how much worse it was in the soviet union.


11 posted on 03/24/2014 7:28:43 PM PDT by bravo whiskey (We should not fear our government. Our government should fear us.)
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To: Fred Hayek
UDMH/hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide coming in contact is lethal.

Either one of them alone is lethal.

12 posted on 03/24/2014 7:37:30 PM PDT by Steely Tom (How do you feel about robbing Peter's robot?)
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To: rickmichaels

Titan missiles were no fun, as the article states.

Someone should do a piece on the old Bomarc aerial defense missiles.


13 posted on 03/24/2014 8:06:08 PM PDT by Terry L Smith
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To: Fred Hayek

Someone forgot to ping me to this thread!


14 posted on 03/24/2014 8:29:08 PM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; We need a second party!)
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To: Terry L Smith

My dad worked on Bomarcs when he was stationed at Suffolk County AFB, LI from 1961-1964. We were there during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was in lockdown in the warhead bunkers for three weeks.


15 posted on 03/24/2014 8:35:21 PM PDT by TADSLOS (The Event Horizon has come and gone. Buckle up and hang on.)
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To: rickmichaels

I first worked on the Titan II ICBM while in the USAF at VAFB, CA. and then again on it’s last Operational Test Flight as a Martin Marietta Electronics Tech, in the Summer of 1976 (ITF-1).

(E-4, 46350)


16 posted on 03/24/2014 8:45:55 PM PDT by G Larry (There's the Beef!)
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To: rickmichaels

In the run-up to the awarding of the Lionel Gelber Prize, the National Post presents excerpts from all five nominated books. In today’s edition: Author Eric Schlosser recounts how routine maintenance work became a life-and-death crisis for two U.S. Air Force missile technicians


17 posted on 03/24/2014 8:50:22 PM PDT by logi_cal869
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To: Rodamala

On September 19, 1980 during routine maintenance in a Titan II silo, an Air Force repairman dropped a heavy wrench socket, which rolled off a work platform and fell toward the bottom of the silo. The socket bounced and struck the missile, causing a leak from a pressurized fuel tank. The missile complex and the surrounding area were evacuated and a team of specialists was called in from Little Rock Air Force Base, the missile’s main support base. About 8 1/2 hours after initial puncture, fuel vapors within the silo ignited and exploded. The explosion fatally injured one member of the team. Twenty-one other USAF personnel were injured. The missile’s reentry vehicle, which contained a nuclear warhead, was recovered intact. There was no radioactive contamination. According to the Center for Defense Information(CDI): The explosion of volatile fuel blew off the 740 ton silo door of reinforced concrete and steel and catapulted the warhead 600 feet. It is estimated that Titan II ICBMs carry a 9 megaton warhead.


18 posted on 03/24/2014 9:00:03 PM PDT by Cold Heat (Have you reached your breaking point yet? If not now....then when?)
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To: rickmichaels
If only they had one of those Ifixit MacGyver toolkits they could have saved the day!


19 posted on 03/24/2014 10:08:51 PM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; We need a second party!)
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To: Western Phil

Thanks for “the rest of the story”.


20 posted on 03/25/2014 12:15:30 AM PDT by Rodamala
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To: All

21 posted on 03/25/2014 12:20:14 AM PDT by F15Eagle (1Jn4:15;5:4-5,11-13;Mt27:50-54;Mk15:33-34;Jn3:17-18,6:69,11:25,14:6,20:31;Ro10:8-11;1Tm2:5-6;Ti3:4-7)
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22 posted on 03/25/2014 12:22:26 AM PDT by F15Eagle (1Jn4:15;5:4-5,11-13;Mt27:50-54;Mk15:33-34;Jn3:17-18,6:69,11:25,14:6,20:31;Ro10:8-11;1Tm2:5-6;Ti3:4-7)
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To: Fred Hayek

second day warhead found just to right of access road in the drainage cut. Yes it did explode in silo and AF relied upon CBS station video to recreate what happened because of lousy communication headset when ventilation switched moved


23 posted on 03/25/2014 7:22:40 AM PDT by snoopy 'n linus
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To: Terry L Smith

When I was young there was a Nike Zeus AA site in the Highlands, to our north.


24 posted on 03/25/2014 1:15:44 PM PDT by JimRed (Excise the cancer before it kills us; feed & water the Tree of Liberty! TERM LIMITS NOW & FOREVER!)
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To: JimRed

JimRed wrote:
“When I was young there was a Nike Zeus AA site in the Highlands, to our north.”

In the 1960’s, I lived on Otis AFB, MA. My father was a member of the refueling team, that frequented the Bomarc missile site on the base. The Bomarc missile was a solid-fuel booster-equipped ramjet-propelled delta-winged aerial vehicle, not unlike an unmanned plane, nuclear warheaded design, meant to air-burst, in the middle of a flight of attacking bombers, some 200 miles off the coastline of the Cape. You can see that there are all sorts of nasties, just waiting to pop up. Solid rocket fuel, hydrazine for the ramjets, nuclear warheads, rubber protective suits, and the like.


25 posted on 03/25/2014 3:12:28 PM PDT by Terry L Smith
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To: TADSLOS

Dear TADSLOS,

That is now Francis S. Gabreski airport. I lived on LI for a while, near “ron-kon-coma”, as the Manhattanites called it. I am familiar with both the former Grumman fields in Bethpage and Calverton.

I was on Otis AFB during The Cuban Missile Crisis. That was an interesting moment in time.


26 posted on 03/25/2014 3:45:37 PM PDT by Terry L Smith
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To: Terry L Smith
Ref the Cuban Missile Crisis - Yes, it was, although I barely remember much of it. We lived in family quarters on base. I was only 7 years old at the time. I just remember my dad being away for a few weeks and my mom being very pensive. My dad explained it all from his viewpoint years later when we kids were old enough to understand the seriousness of the situation. Must have been mental and emotional hell on both of them.

Ref Gabreski Airport - I just watched a show on AHC last night about Gabby Gabreski. What a great story of a great ace! The man was fearless.

27 posted on 03/25/2014 3:56:50 PM PDT by TADSLOS (The Event Horizon has come and gone. Buckle up and hang on.)
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