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Just finished reading Eric Schlosser's Command and Control. Recommended reading for anyone interested in the "blow-by-blow" narrative of the explosion and the underlying causes. The book also goes into detail about a) how nuclear warheads are designed and function; b) how the inflexible military mind-set (USAF Strategic Air Command) against reasonable safety measures contributed to the problem and how, to this day, it continues to resist control of nuclear weapons being put into the hands of civilians; and c) the continued threat of a nuclear Armageddon that persists despite the end of the Cold War.
E Chapman
Newland, NC

According to Eric Schlosser's book Command and Control, page 3: "inside it sat a W-53 thermonuclear warhead, the most powerful weapon ever carried by an American missile. The warhead had a yield of 9 megatons." Also: "The core of the W-53 contained highly enriched uranium, not plutonium, largely eliminating the inhalation hazard and the risk of radioactive contamination."

Larry Ellis
Dallas, TX

Just finished reading Eric Schlosser's new book: Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. As a TV news photographer who was there the night the missile blew up, I highly recommend this book. It is the most thorough narrative account of that tragic event yet written.

Larry Ellis
Dallas, TX

I was a nuclear weapons Spec 2 and stationed at Little Rock AFB 308 MIMS. I was there, and to set the record straight, the W-53 warhead was a 50 megaton warhead—that’s right BIG boom. We were down-grading all warheads to 20 Megs during this time. All silos were being modified because of SALT II. The careless hurry-up program to achieve this modification caused this situation. Yes, I recovered this warhead and it was breached. The tritium boost canister was leaking. Dead animals were everywhere, and the contamination was not from propellant.

I was forcibly discharged September 18, 1980; guess I had seen too much.

Many of us doing this downgrade were exposed to open warhead radiation and very dangerous situations. That’s why the Air Force abandoned this MOS and disbanded the teams under total secrecy warnings.

Orlando, FL