Titan ICBM Missile Silo, 2006
Remember National Lampoon Vegas Vacation?
"I am your dam guide. Please don't wander off the dam tour. Please take all the dam pictures you want. Are there any dam questions?"
No, this isn't the Hoover Dam. But that's how I felt at the Titan Missile Museum in Sahuarita, Arizona. The guides are a plucky and seriously patriotic bunch of 70-somethings, full of spurious military minutia and talk about "peaceful deterrence." It's not the kind of place you'd want to mention that you're a subscriber to The Nation magazine for fear of being slapped in irons or staked out in the Arizona desert for the buzzards to eat.
This is said to be the only Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) silo complex in the world that is open to the public. The facility consists of three underground structures, connected by tunnels. Most of the hardware is still in place, including the 110 foot tall Titan II rocket. (There's even a hole in the top of the missile to prove to Soviet spy satellites that the nuclear weapon in its nose cone has been removed.)
The whole installation is underground and you probably wouldn't notice it even if you walked right over top of it. Its location was considered top secret until it was decommissioned in the 1980s. Truth be told, it probably wasn't much of a secret locally, though, because the silo crew had to made frequent calls to the local county animal control officer whenever a rattlesnake wandered into the portal staircase and blocked the only way out of the silo that didn't involve riding a rocket like Slim Pickins in Dr. Strangelove.
The control room is stuffed with the best and most modern computer technology of 1965. No one was ever allowed to be alone in the control room for fear that he or she might have a bad hair day and spark a nuclear winter. Today you could probably run the whole place off the technology in a cell phone.
During my visit to the Titan Missile Museum I couldn't help but be reminded of Lee V. McCullum great old song, "Jesus Hits Like an Atom Bomb," most popularly performed here by the Blind Boys of Alabama:
Everybody's worried about the Atomic Bomb,
but no one seems worried about the day my Lord shall come.
You'd better set your house in order, he may be comin' soon,
and He'll hit like an Atom Bomb when He comes, when He comes.
In nineteen-hundred and forty-five the atom bomb became alive.
In nineteen-hundred and forty-nine, the USA got very wise:
They found that a country across the line had an atom bomb of the very same kind. People got worried all over the land, just like folks got in Japan.
God told Elijah he would send down fire, send down fire from the sky.
Showed ol' Noah about that sign, won't be water but for next time.
Now don't get worried, bear in mind: Trust King Jesus and you shall find
peace, and happiness and joy divine with my Savior by your side.
He said he wouldn't, buy I believe he will; He'll fight your battle if you'll keep still.