Hubby has wanted to visit the Titan Missile Museum for a few years now and I have always found other things for us to do during our time in Tucson, but I could no longer put it off. Can you tell I really had no interest in going? But hubby does go to places with me that he has no interest in, so in all fairness I had to go with him. It helped that on the way to the museum we were going to pass the Mission San Xavier del Bac so we stop there and went to mass 🙂
We arrived at the museum about 10:45 but by then the 11:00 tour was full so we bought tickets for the 11:30 tour. Tickets are pretty reasonable, $9.50 each. We spent forty-five minutes wandering around the display in the visitor center, which I guess was interesting, at least hubby found it interesting 🙂
The tour started with a seventeen-minute video and then we headed outside to enter the missile command centre.
During the Cold War there were fifty-four Titan II nuclear installations in the US, eighteen in Arizona, eighteen in Arkansas, and eighteen in Kansas. Construction of the eighteen sites around Tucson began on December 9, 1960 and all eighteen were declared combat ready in December 1963. Fortunately none of the fifty-four missiles where ever launched!
In September 1981 the missiles were deactivated and over the next few years they where removed and placed in storage. In order to assure the Soviet Union that the missiles had actually been deactivated each silo was first stripped of useful equipment. Once that was completed the top twenty-five feet of the missile was blown apart using 2,500 pounds of explosives. They were then left exposed for several months so that Soviet satellites could verify their destruction. The area was then covered over and made to look like the surrounding area. At the request of the United States the Soviets allowed the missile location in Green Valley near Tucson to remain intact so that it could be used as a museum. In order to keep this missile site the US was required to secure the blast doors open halfway, place plexi-glass over the opening, and cut a hole in the side of the warhead so that Soviet satellites could ensure the missile was deactivated. I wonder if they still fly their satellites over today to check the missile?
The entrance to the command center requires walking down (and eventually back up) fifty-five stairs, although there is an elevator for those that can’t do the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs we reached a three-ton blast door, over a foot thick, that sealed the four-person crew into the launch bunker. The crew was made up of two officers and two enlisted personal who worked a twenty-four hour shift.
It was interesting to hear that in order to protect the structure in the event of an attack, the walls of the control center are not connected to the floors, and everything is mounted on giant springs.
We arrived in the control room, where one person was chosen to sit at the desk and turn the launch key.
We then walked down a long cableway to view the missile, and you could feel movement in the cableway from the springs.
Then back up the fifty-five steps to the outside where we were able to view the missile through the plexi-glass installed at the Soviet’s request.
After a quick look at an old military police vehicle, we were on our way. I have left out so much information, mostly because it went over my heard, but also I don’t want to completely spoil the tour for you. And to be fair, it wasn’t as boring as I thought it would be 🙂
Until next time …