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The Military United States

FOIA'd Documents Give Tour of Minuteman Missile National Historic Site (muckrock.com) 85

v3rgEz writes: In the 1990s, during our nuclear disarmament initiative, the Congress preserved two intercontinental ballistic missile silos as historic sites. The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is one of them, and MuckRock used FOIA to take a tour of what's publicly on display, including a Domino's Themed Blast Door and probing questions guides are told to ask visitors, including, 'Could you turn they key?'
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FOIA'd Documents Give Tour of Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

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  • Hang on, before you start the 10% debating and and 90% trolling about whether you would kill millions to save hundreds of millions let me get my popcorn first
    • Crap, forgot to set the over under on the first personal insult... Let's say 3.5 comments.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Cue the people who can't tell cue from queue.

      • you could queue them instead

        • where are we, Britain? i hear even the football hooligans queue up before flipping cars and setting them on fire.

          • At least we have REAL football
            • Is it played on foot? Does it have a ball?

              You should be glad that every game played with a ball while on foot (rather than mounted) isn't called football. I would say that American football is much more of a real man's sport than European football though, so it is debatable which one is the real football.

              • by Anonymous Coward

                Yeah, real men with massive health problems, and wear body armour and can't run for more than 10 seconds at a time, and need constant breaks.

                Armored Wankball is more like it.

    • by Noah Haders ( 3621429 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @02:10AM (#51135247)

      Hang on, before you start the 10% debating and and 90% trolling about whether you would kill millions to save hundreds of millions let me get my popcorn first

      how could you save hundreds of millions? any nuclear salvo would be met by a return salvo. you could kill hundreds of millions and have your hundreds of millions die anyway. winning?

      • The relevant war-fighting strategies are decapitation and counter-force. They would be used in a first strike in an attempt to win the war quickly.

        A decapitation strike aims to destroy or disrupt the national leadership and military command so that they are unable to command and control their nuclear forces in particular, and the armed forces in general. It might begin with a high altitude large nuclear explosion to generate a large electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) to disrupt communications prior to main atta

    • At best, that's a loaded question.

      So, thanks but No, I won't be playing.

    • The argument that was made was that you "save" people by threatening to turn the key, not by actually turning it.

      If the order ever came down to actually launch the missiles, it would be too late to save anyone. You'd simply be killing millions of people. You'd be joining the ranks of the worst despots in human history, except that you would be killing them directly without the complicity of middlemen.

      And no, I would never sign up for that job. That's because no matter how much you argue that MAD ought to pr

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That's because no matter how much you argue that MAD ought to prevent a nuclear war, sometimes shit happens.

        And yet zero nuclear wars since a second nuclear power sprung into being.

        • Hiroshima/Nagasaki anyone ... ? Is your memory THAT BAD?
          • by Anonymous Coward

            Which was when there was one nuclear power...

          • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

            Hiroshima/Nagasaki anyone ... ? Is your memory THAT BAD?

            You mean the 2 events that killed a couple hundred thousand Japanese but prevented a US invasion that would have killed millions of Japanese? The invasion that was expected to cause the US roughly 500,000 casualties (including over 100,000 dead), in the 1st 90 days? I remember that. I also remember the thousands of Japanese civilians that killed themselves (whether willfully or under compulsion from Japanese soldiers) on Okinawa and Saipan, and that by 1945 the Japanese were training high school aged boy

        • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @03:37AM (#51135477)

          And zero wars between countries that have nuclear weapons. No-one dares risk escalation. The Cold War is called such precisely because there was no actual direct fighting involved - just lots of being prepared to fight, and a few proxy wars.

      • I would imagine that the higher-ups take the possibility into account, and run extensive screening to make sure any operators are well-trained enough to turn the key. They may even be able to run drill tests where the operators are not aware if the missiles are actually armed or not. Operators might be asked to fire on a regular basis, never knowing if the launch code they were given is genuine, or just some random numbers that the computer will reject.

        • by aslagle ( 441969 )
          This is *never* done. Operators are well aware that every drill is a drill. The only times keys are turned are in the missile procedures trainer or in carefully planned follow-on test launches from Vandenburg AFB, or simulated electronic launches.
          • I was only speculating - I said 'might' because that is how I'd consider resolving the issue of testing how the human element of the launch system would perform.

          • How can you be sure? If they ever do run 'psychological tests' of that nature, that's one thing those responsible for them would want to keep absolutely secret - so much that FOIA isn't going to find out about them. It seems to me this is the only way you can be absolutely sure that no operators will have a sudden onset of conscience when asked to push the button that kills millions.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        I'd turn the key if I took the job and an order came down to do so. I don't take jobs that I am unwilling to carry out. I did serve in the military but I'd absolutely not have taken that job (they don't let Marines play with that sort of stuff, as a general rule and for good reason). However, if I took the job then I'd do my duty which was to follow that order. I said I'd follow that order, I'll follow that order - assuming it's lawful. I could not turn that key, I would not take that job.

        • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

          (they don't let Marines play with that sort of stuff, as a general rule and for good reason).

          Knowing what I know about Marines (and from knowing several Marines), if they let Marines play with nukes eventually one would set it off just to see the pretty explosion.

          Stereotypes aside, pretty much every Marine I've ever met have been incredibly nice people and also rather intelligent. But they are all also a bit off. I've never been entirely sure if that last one is a requirement for recruiting or a byproduct of the training.

          • by KGIII ( 973947 )

            Funny you say that. I just stopped in at an old haunt and now the missus is driving us as we're out of DC traffic and back on 95 and headed due south for the duration. I check Maine's weather (I've been gone since September) and I'm quite pleased. My dog will be flying down tomorrow.

            That said, I stopped in at Quantico and visited a few old friends who are still, for some reason, slugging it out though they could have retired already.

            Now, you raise an interesting thought and not one I've not had before. I'd

            • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

              In high school I had two teachers who were Marines. One was the electronics teacher who fought in Khe Sanh and had basically written the curriculum for electronics courses for the whole school system. The other was the defensive coordinator and D-line coach for my football team and also happened to teach my sophomore level Honors British Literature class (not many people would be able to picture a Marine quoting from memory the introduction to Canterbury Tales in Old English). Also had a high school frie

              • by KGIII ( 973947 )

                My father was one of the ones who stomped ashore at Inchon and then was at Chosin. He's a Frozen Chosin or, alternatively, one of The Chosin Few. We are, almost to a man, all going to celebrate the USMC's birthday. "Back in 1775, my Marine Corps came alive." Alternatively, "November 11, in 75, my Marine Corps came alive in Tun's Tavern, PA."

                Quantico has a Tun's Tavern themed restaurant/bar. The original is no longer there in PA. I think it burned but I'd not swear to it. My memory is a bit fuzzy.

                I think, an

        • The kind of person the world needs in that position is one who will absolutely swear he / she will turn the key and will convince the enemy that the key will be turned if it needs to be turned. But at the same time, when it actually came time to do it, that person, for the sake of the world, should decline to turn that key. The critical part of the job, then, is convincing everyone else that you will turn the key even if you won't actually do it.
      • The sword of Damocles works because it hangs, not because it falls.

      • You'd simply be killing millions of people. You'd be joining the ranks of the worst despots in human history, except that you would be killing them directly without the complicity of middlemen.

        I'll play devils advocate: Think...1,000 years into the future. The progeny of mankind might thank you for not only stopping the initial wave of darkness, but setting the precedent that not only is MAD just a theory, but proven to take place!!!

        OTOH, with all the low hanging fruit of easily accessible resources now dep

        • OTOH, with all the low hanging fruit of easily accessible resources now depleted, once thermonuclear exchange commences, I doubt humanity will ever have the resources int he aftermath to reboot back to current tech.

          Some resources would have been "depleted", but others would have been "concentrated into convenient, usable form in industrial ruins".

          Once you grant the initial massive die-off, the survivors might be able to bootstrap via an economy based mostly on scavenging. It would still be hard and horrible, but not necessarily hopeless.

          • by Pascoea ( 968200 )

            Some resources would have been "depleted", but others would have been "concentrated into convenient, usable form in industrial ruins". Once you grant the initial massive die-off, the survivors might be able to bootstrap via an economy based mostly on scavenging. It would still be hard and horrible, but not necessarily hopeless.

            Didn't they make a video game about that at some point? That sounds familiar.

            • I don't know what weapons World War III will be fought with, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

              - A. Einstein

      • You'd simply be killing millions of people.

        You do'n't know if your target is a city (in which case you might kill a million or more) or some hardened military target (in which case you may just be killing a handful of people caught in the open, or even no-one if it was some kind of un-manned communications relay station).

        That's why turning the key is possible, because the reaspn you were turning it would have been very serious and vetted by a lot of people that thought the cost was worth it.

        • Then I suggest that you start playing a game that you'd probably enjoy: Russian roulette.

          • That's a pretty stupid response, can you please say what you mean? It didn't make a lot of sense on its own. Obviously if you are being told to turn the key your country is in dire straights anyway so it's not like the trigger on your own forehead has not already been pulled.

            • You were blithely dismissing concerns about the possibility of killing millions of people that you've never met because "I might not have any targets near civilian areas". Just like a revolver might not have any bullets in some of its chambers. No problem.

              (Also setting aside the fact that the indirect side effects of a nuclear exchange would kill far more people than those affected by the direct blast or fallout.)

      • by Toad-san ( 64810 )

        I would have absolutely, positively have signed up for that job .. if it weren't perhaps the most boring job in the entire world.

        Could I have turned the key .. knowing it was already too late, millions were already going to die and I'd just add (uselessly, I must agree) to the butcher's bill?

        Sure. You betcha. If nothing else than to go down on record, "You Communist sons of b*tches, we TOLD you we'd do this. But noooo ..."

      • Humans can be deceitful and self-doubting and are definitely the weakest link in the launch system. Thus we must eliminate the human element. I propose that effective immediately we put the War Operation Plan Response computer in charge of igniting the missiles when it comes time to do so.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @01:47AM (#51135171)

    The summary is really poor, ANYONE can go on the tour without invoking the FOIA - I did so a few years ago, and saw all the same things.

    If you read the article, it's just about how they used the FOIA to get the script for the tour, which while interesting is not exactly a Snowden level revelation.

    By the way, for whoever wrote the original article do you really not know why they would worry about oil from hands? Over time touches can easily corrode metal and paint, and at this point there is very little budget to keep up repairs to the site so they want to minimize how much they have to do touchups. Yes the facility is designed to withstand a nuclear blast, but the grand canyon was full of many hard rocks before thousands of years of slow erosion created a mighty chasm...

    • The canyon took about six million years to form. More than a few thousand.

    • Indeed, and I'm pretty sure if nuclear war broke out that the operators of the facility wouldn't be too worried about some switches looking worn once they still worked - there would be more pressing matters to worry about. But in the interest of preservation, every effort should be made to ensure the site is preserved in its original state.

    • Just wondering *why* they wasted an FOIA request on something that *isn't* classified (anymore).. Is the National Park Service hiding stuff like this, as though it *was* classified???

  • Editors... (Score:2, Insightful)

    Try pushing they key, samzenpus. The "Backspace" key, that is ("Del" may also work).

    Okay, I know Slashdot editing isn't known for its quality work. But come on... not even 70 words, a one-minute reading out loud of the summary makes a spelling error like that stand out like a sore thumb. Exactly what job does /. pay their editors for, again?

  • Crappy blog site takes a tour of a historic site? Is this an update on looking at the neighbor's vacation slides for 2015 or something?

    • We have a duty to inspire fear from every angle. Dead cop here. Dead black kid there. Dead folks at church. Gun this. Gun that. Fat warhead here. Mushroom cloud pictures there. Fuckers listening to my phone calls. Fuckers taking my pictures. ...FUCK YEA I COULD PUSH THE BUTTON!!!! /s
  • I don't think I could answer that question if the guides asked me -- cause I'd be stuck trying to figure out what they said.

  • by rickyslashdot ( 2870609 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @03:53AM (#51135513)
    ONE MAN COULD turn both keys in the activation sequence - which was NOT supposed to be do-able. During periodic testing of the control room -to- silo control links, a single man was left to activate the keys to test the wiring systems. The 2 consoles were 8 - 10 (or so) feet apart, and designed to REQUIRE 2 men to activate the firing sequence at the same time. Using 2 nails and a length of sting, the ingenious control house tech put one nail above the second key control, the second nail through the head of the key, tied the string to the second nail (key-head nail) and ran the string across the top nail and over to the second key station. BINGO! He could turn BOTH keys simultaneously - one by hand, the other by pulling on the string. When observed (caught) doing this testing, he was told to never discuss it, and the repercussions went like a silent tidal wave all the way to the top. I still don't know how this was resolved - but I imagine the key consoles were outfitted with additional locks that required pushing an actuator button or something, requiring 2 hands to activate.
    • Apparently, according to the longer document (which is an interesting way to kill an hour or two), there was also some kind of conferencing system between the individual launch control centers in each flight. The keys had to be turned at the local consoles, but at least one other control center also had to "vote" to launch, presumably by turning their keys as well.

      Later, this was augmented by the addition of a box with some thumbwheel switches that required the entry of a specific code from SAC as a condit

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Apparently, according to the longer document (which is an interesting way to kill an hour or two), there was also some kind of conferencing system between the individual launch control centers in each flight. The keys had to be turned at the local consoles, but at least one other control center also had to "vote" to launch, presumably by turning their keys as well.

        Later, this was augmented by the addition of a box with some thumbwheel switches that required the entry of a specific code from SAC as a conditi

        • Each warhead is manufactured differently and as a result, the timing of the operations needed to set it off differ. If the right key isn't present, then the timing parameters are decrypted wrong and the warhead doesn't go off.

          I'm not sure of the specifics of this case, but nuclear warheads in general will explode with inaccurately timed lens explosives. It will have much less mass go critical before the reactions start, and thus will go BOOM instead of BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM, but it will most likely attain some level of criticality and react.

    • I worked on this weapon system on an Electro-Mechanical Team. I recall one Capsule Jockey (that was our nickname for the officers in the control facilities - a lot of them seemed to have physical education degrees) telling us how he was able to figure out how to turn both keys with the aid of a broom handle. He started to demonstrate, but we told him we didn't need to see him do it. So I can neither confirm nor deny that a single person could turn both keys.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Domino's themed blast door was a nice touch. Gallows humor must have been fairly popular among the missile crews. I remember once seeing a patch (the military loves patches btw) featuring a cartoon grim reaper seated at the launch control panel and wearing pink bunny slippers with the caption, "death wears bunny slippers". I suppose that standing watch all day and night in an underground bunker waiting for orders to destroy the world gives one a rather unique perspective on the insanity of mankind.

    • I was a Missile Combat Crew member at Minot, ND in the mid 1980's. Served in the 741 Strategic Missile Squadron and in the Instructor shop. The standing motto among the crew members was "Run towards the light...." You really didn't want to survive if the SIOP was executed. Interesting tour of duty for a young lieutenant back in the days when the Russians were truly the enemy and the cold war was alive and well. The keys were a good 12 feet apart and had decent spring return mechanisms to foil the
  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Thursday December 17, 2015 @06:01AM (#51135823)
    Glory be to the Bomb and the Holy fallout. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen.
  • For a better tour, I recommend the Top-To-Bottom tour at the Titan Missile Museum near Tucson, AZ. 5 hours long and it takes you from launch control through all 8 levels of the silo itself. Nothing like standing at the bottom of the launch duct looking up at the missile.
  • One nuclear war would solve the global warming (*cough* "Climate Change") problem. It would put so much dust and debris into the atmosphere that the warming effect of the sun could be temporarily eliminated. A few hundred million dead humans and cows would also help.
    Of course "global cooling" would then become the crisis like it was back in the 1970s.

  • http://www.nv.doe.gov/outreach... [doe.gov]

    The Nevada Test Site has to be on every true nerd's bucket list. See places like Frenchman's Flat, Yucca Mountain and Sedan Crater for yourself. See what railroad overpasses, houses, buildings, and a grid of Fifties cars, lined up as though at a drive-in (ask Gramps what one of those was) looks like when nuked. See an original Cold War test control room, with all the Doctor Strangelove gear.

VMS must die!

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