Southern Arizona's 'nuclear' past at the Titan Missile Museum - Tucson News Now

Southern Arizona's 'nuclear' past at the Titan Missile Museum

Titan Missile Museum in Green Valley. (Source: Tucson News Now) Titan Missile Museum in Green Valley. (Source: Tucson News Now)
Control panel (Source: Tucson News Now) Control panel (Source: Tucson News Now)
GREEN VALLEY, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The talk about North Korea and nuclear weapons is a reminder to many in Tucson about the threat posed during the Cold War.

Tucson was surrounded by 18 Titan II missiles aimed, we are told, at the Soviet Union. Thirty-six were stationed elsewhere. That means Tucson was in the crosshairs if the Cold War got out of hand.

The missiles were not designed for a first strike but for a retaliatory strike if the U.S. was hit first. They were designed to act as a deterrent.

"We impressed on the Soviets, that the consequences of our retaliation with 54 nine megaton Titan II missiles raining down on them, the consequences to them would be so unspeakably horrible that maybe they would prefer not to get into it with us in the first place," said Chuck Penson, the historian for the Titan II Museum in Green Valley. "That is the essence of deterrence."

However, some people on the 1-hour tour of the museum seemed to think maybe the rhetoric is different this time.

"We've been talking rough ever since we could make a big boom like this anyway," said Gary Krasnow, a 44-year resident who has friends who worked at the silo when it was active. "Not to get too political, but yeah, I'm scared."

Penson and others agreed. Most of the people who fought in World War II and were alive during the devastation of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima are not alive today, so there are few who have seen the devastation.

It's likely because of that, that the social media conversations have been rather cavalier or flippant about the threat.

It's not a threat Penson takes idly because he knows the destruction one device can leave behind. One Titan II missile is 650 times more powerful that the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"It would destroy everything in a 17-mile radius, 34-miles in diameter," he said. "That is 900 square miles of destruction."

Despite the rhetoric and threats emanating out of Washington DC and North Korea, Pima County's Office of Emergency Management has not put itself on alert.

"We try not to get too worked up about things we don't have credible information on, so we don't react to rhetoric," said Courtney Bear, the operations manager for emergency management. "We try to react to credible threats."

But Bear says once a credible alert is issued, it would only take about two hours to be up and running.

She says the department has contingency plans for all potential disasters including a nuclear device.

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