SEDS Tours Former Missile Base

The Titan Missile Museum brings the reality of the Cold War down to earth; specifically, to a missile silo preserved in Green Valley, Arizona (about 20 minutes south of Tucson on I-19). Apparently, there were more than a dozen of these underground silos scattered around Tucson, and at a couple of other cities in the U.S. The Titans remained active for about 25 years, from the early sixties to the mid-eighties. The site is preserved exactly as it was during this time, with the exceptions that the missile is not fueled or armed and that expensive T-shirts and coffee mugs are now sold on the premises. The tour proceeded around the base, and into an underground bunker where I swung a 6000 pound door open, leading to the control room. In a simulation of apocalypse, I got to turn they key that would launch the Titan, sending the warheads on an inexorable trajectory to some unknown Russian city or military base. There is a nice collection of surrealistic objects such as awards for best missile silo, an "explosion-proof" flashlight, and military code conversations reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove.

I was struck by the reality of the whole thing--the state our world was in for so long. When you look at the Titan rocket engines, it's hard not to imagine all the hours of design, testing and engineering that went into every little component, each a piece in the puzzle of how a world was consumed by paranoia for four decades.

I wondered how the Cold War got started so quickly after WWII ended. Was it a holdover of the Red Fear of the Thirties, fueled by the Russian test of a nuclear weapon? Was it the Soviet expansion into Eastern Europe left ravaged by the fall of the Nazis? What was it that took hold of public perception and turned it to Communist paranoia? The short video we saw after the tour gave me some answers. Near the end, the video presented a litany of corporations who participated in the Titan Missile project. In my opinion, big industry defense contractors are at least partly to blame for the Cold War. What better way to keep the money rolling in after the war ended than to portray an even bigger menace?

Excuse me while I stop editorializing. If you haven't visited the Titan Missile Museum, I highly recommend it. It's thought-provoking, and seeing all the old technology is pretty cool. Needless to say, it's a good thing that we never had to use it.

Guy McArthur