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By Art Cashin
On this day in 1965, a bunch of workmen were repairing a silo in Arkansas - Searcy, Arkansas to be exact. So….you say to yourself what's so unusual about guys in Arkansas working in a silo. Didn't we see some of those images in the last election campaign?
Well....this silo was a little different. No corn! No wheat! No alfalfa! Just a Titan II Missile with nuclear warheads. Now, lest you think that your government doesn't care about you - let us assure you that officials at the highest levels ordered that while those guys were welding, hammering and blow-torching, the multiple atomic warheads would be marginally disarmed. (Marginally - did he say marginally? Does that mean…..oh well! Never mind!)
Anyway, despite the careful controls imposed by your government, somehow a fire broke out in the bottom 1/3 of the silo. Not to worry the multiple warheads was already "marginally disarmed" (what the heck does that mean anyway??). With the warheads certified "non-worrying" by your government, what could go wrong? Unfortunately, at the silo command center they began worrying about two small items.
Number 1 - no one had drained the rocket fuel from the missile. Number 2 - if the fire got real hot, could it "cross short" the wires to other command sites setting off a.....but you already saw that movie. Nonetheless, the fire smoldered and the smoke and heat made concern #1 a problem. Given the risk/reward analysis (an errant "marginally disarmed" nuclear missile versus sealing the lid and thus, the doom of scores of workers), the commander opted for the latter.
About 50 workers died in the closed silo. The sealing shut off the oxygen for both the fire and the victims. Recognizing the damage that might have been done by an explosion in the silo or a random blastoff; a government group found the decision correct. Correct maybe, but certainly not painless!
And since it was mid "Cold War", it never made it on the TV Expose' shows (oh yeah, I forgot.....back then there were no TV Expose' shows).
Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.