Date: Mon, 30 Nov 87 02:46:45 pst
From: Joe Dellinger <joe@hanauma.STANFORD.EDU>
Subject: Minuteman and Falling Trucks
I was curious to find out how often incidents such as the "truck
parked on the missile silo door" one mentioned here really occur, and
how stupid this response really was. As it happens, my brother was until
a few years ago the commander in charge of missiles at a Missouri base.
While the answers to some of my questions were classified, here's what
he said (as I understood it):
False "launch in progress" status warnings aren't that rare. He
saw about one per year at his base. There is a definite set of procedures
to perform when this happens. Parking a truck on top of the silo door such
that it will fall in on top of the missile if the door opens is one of them.
The people that did this were doing the officially approved thing! The truck
is to be parked such that one set of wheels is on terra firma and the other
set is on the silo door. The truck is to be left in neutral with the parking
brake off. The door itself is designed to open despite any debris on it, and
there is a lip of sorts on the door to keep the debris from falling off the
door and onto the missile. However, this lip can't handle more than a few
inches worth of debris. The truck, properly parked, has no way of riding
the door and will fall something like several hundred feet onto the missile.
The damage thus inflicted should serve to "keep the missile in the hole".
Worst possible outcome (unlikely to happen) is that the missile detonates
its nuclear warhead in the hole, resulting in a quarter-mile wide crater
and some local contamination.
The silo door can be opened and closed with a hand crank, but even
if you know all the required access codes (which no one person does) you
don't have time to get to the crank before the security people have time
to get to you.
I've seen a field where missiles are kept. Looked just like any
other farmer's field in the area to me, except that the "keep out" signs
were especially intimidating and there were no cows in it. I was amazed
to discover that the missile field was right next to a state highway!