Nuclear holocaust was a distant but very real threat for those us growing up in the 1950s/60s. We practiced ducking-and-covering when citywide air-raid sirens were tested once a month. We were also intrigued by rumors of people building bomb shelters in their backyards. Ever looming nuclear war was just part of everyday life. However, as I grow older and learn more about the U.S.'s Cold War with the Soviet Union, I marvel at how we even survived that period.
Tim and I usually travel to Arizona every other year to see baseball spring training. While there, we like to take in some of the local attractions, such as the Pima Air Museum & Boneyard or the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. This year we decided to visit the Titan Missile Museum, site of the last remaining nuclear missile on "alert" from 1963 until 1987.
Located outside Tucson, about two hours from our hotel in Tempe, this unassuming museum is home to one of the 54 nuclear missile launch sites that used to operate in Arizona, Kansas and Arkansas. Housed underground, the mega-ton Titan IIs, which were also used to propel Gemini capsules and their astronauts into space, could be airborne within a minute of receiving launch orders. Once detonated, the missile's nuclear warhead would kill everything within a 900-mile radius. But as our tour guides kept emphasizing, the main purpose of the missile program was to deter enemies from launching their own missiles. Luckily the ploy worked, leaving just one unarmed missile site to serve today as a museum and important cautionary history lesson.