I’m not sure how many of you have ever visited a missile silo, but I certainly hadn’t before today. And I will tell you that it’s one of the most sobering things I’ve ever done.
One of the “must sees” if you are ever in or around the Tucson area is the Titan Missile Museum. We’ve all seen the movies, you know, the ones where the world is ending. Sometimes it’s zombies or some huge disease outbreak. But often it’s some kind of world-ending military conflict. And then there are the underground bunkers, missiles and whatnot. I have to be honest, for me, this is the stuff of movie legend. I mean, I know deep down that it’s real and I understand the Cold War and such. But I guess being a kid who grew up in the 80’s, my mind wasn’t framed around the threat of nuclear war.
The Titan II missile defense system was built as a retaliatory strike effort. In other words, if you were the guy pushing the button to launch a Titan II missile, then you knew that the United States is already under nuclear attack. There were 54 of these silos built in the US. 18 in the Little Rock area, 18 in Wichita, KS and 18 in the area surrounding Tucson, AZ. Each silo was loaded with one Titan II missile. These missiles were ready to go and manned 24/7 and could be launched in 58 seconds. From there, it could hit a target about 6,500 miles away in approximately 30 minutes within an accuracy of a 1-mile radius.
Let’s take a moment to understand the power behind this defense program. Each missile carried a 9 Megaton nuclear payload. What does that mean? Imagine all of the ballistic power fired on all sides for the duration of World War II. Now double that. That is the level of impact of only one of these Titan II missiles of which we had 54 powered up and ready to go throughout most of the 60’s through 80’s. Seems crazy right? So, why?
The military concept behind this kind of defense system is M-A-D, Mutually Assured Destruction. It’s important to understand that at this time, the Soviet Union had the same kind of power to literally melt the United States into the ocean. Neither side fires a shot only because it knows that even in the case of total annihilation, the other side will exact revenge of the same magnitude. Each side knows that once the first shot is fired, there are only losers. So, the existence of systems like Titan II simply keep everyone honest, so to speak. Thank God we never had to launch these missiles.
Something that our tour guide said really struck me. He said that peace can never be fully won. We are simply always tasked with preserving peace for as long as we can. So very true. Seeing Titan II is a sobering reminder of what it actually takes to protect our way of life and our freedoms that we take for granted everyday.