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FROM THIS EPISODE

We don't really think about them that much anymore, but they're out there. Men and women sitting in underground bunkers, ready to launch nuclear missiles and "mutually assured destruction." Little is known about the missileers, most of our images of life in the bunker comes from movies like War Games. Hear stories of the launch control center from John Gazelius and John Krumm, who both served as launch officers.

In the second half of the program, Ronald Gray and Greg Devlin talk about their jobs as maintenance workers on the temperamental Titan II missiles of the 60's through 80's. They risked their lives simply by working around the volatile rocket fuel, it could kill you with one breath. The two men tell the harrowing story of an accident in Damascus, Arkansas that killed a Titan II maintenance specialist.

Produced by Eric Molinsky. Editing, mixing and music by Bob Carlson.

Eric Molinsky is a public radio reporter based in New York. He has produced stories for Studio 360, Marketplace, WNYC, NPR, 99% Invisible and Tablet magazine, among others. He also sketches subway commuters on his iPhone, you can check them out on his Tumblr page. 

Additional resources:

The song at the end is "Escape" by Kongos. 

An informative website built by a former missileer

The Titan Missile Museum in Sauarita, Arizona 
 
titan.jpg
Titan Missile
Courtesy of the Titan Missile Museum

 
launch-key.jpg
Launch Key
Courtesy of the Titan Missile Museum


Devlin13.jpg
The silo hole, after the 1980 Damascus, AR explosion
Courtesy of Greg Devlin

 

Devlin12.jpg
Aerial view of the 740 ton silo door found 700 feet off the missile complex.
Courtesy of Greg Devlin

 

Devlin15.jpg
Greg Devlin standing near the chunk of concrete that almost hit him.
Courtesy of Greg Devlin

 

Devlin3.jpg
After the explosion, Greg Devlin had a shattered ankle, a severed Achilles tendon,
and burns on both hands, face and back.
Courtesy of Greg Devlin

 

Banner image: Launch Control Center, Courtesy of the Titan Missle Museum

Producers:
Bob Carlson

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