We lived a mile west of the missile base between Bee Branch and Damascus, Arkansas. Since the missile base explosion September 20, 1980, we had seen a lot of craft. We had a 240 foot chicken broiler house, and coming out around 2:30 several afternoons a week we would see the cigar shaped craft going by overhead heading NNW which is the course they used nearly every time. Mother had one come right by the broiler house one afternoon, I was not there to see it..but she tells of how it scared her, just last Sunday even.
By Lyle Lathem
By Lyle Lathem
Nine of us were under the big mimosa trees in the front lawn of our farm house.. .when from the south lined up with the Damascus water tower came this huge craft so low I had thought I could have hit it with a rock had I wanted to, not really but it was so low I could see the hull protrusions, and markings on the underbelly of the craft. It made a whirring sound as it went overhead, and it had rows of multiple lights along the starboard side I was seeing. I felt like they were port holes, and several rows of them. I could hardly see underneath to the port side, it was so wide. There were rows of big pipes underneath, which were orange, grey and blue, the full length of the craft.
As it passed overhead, I remember seeing the two rectangular exhaust drives, but as I think back I cannot recall if they were blue of a whitish orange. It’s been too many years I guess. The front of the craft was snub-nosed like a van in front. I looked up and could see what I assumed was the bridge that went all way across the craft. My thoughts at the time were loneliness at the thought they were relatives checking on us.
Fox hunters at night at the creek not far from our old dairy farm, see craft often over our old farm. Now the reason so many craft come over that area, I personally believe it’s because the warhead that shot off when the base silo exploded, I was told by an Arkansas State Trooper the warhead was still in the silo. They tried to take it away in a dual wheeled ambulance and it got to leaking so bad, they just brought it back. They put it in the hole on level 5 and built a platform above it, and blew the outer rim down on it and covered it up.
Excerpt From Lawsuit: TAPLEY/LATHEM Plaintiffs, v.UNITED STATES of America, Defendant
"The explosion occurred at 3:00 a.m. o'clock. Missile and missile complex debris were "ejected as far as 2,100 feet from the silo."
An intercontinental ballistic missile located in Missile Complex 374-7, which is located 3.6 miles north of Damascus, Arkansas, developed a low pressure fuel condition, in the stage II oxidizer tank, on September 18, 1980. Air Force personnel, propellant transfer system team (PTS), consisting of eight individuals . . . were dispatched to correct the problem. There had been a similar malfunction at least two days earlier. . . .
. . . While in the process of fitting the socket on the pressure cap, the socket, weighing approximately nine pounds, disengaged from the ratchet wrench and fell through an opening between the platform segment, a deck for PTS team to stand on, and the missile striking a part of the missile, stage I, approximately 66 feet below, puncturing the missile and resulting in the emission of missile fuel "in a stream the size of a garden hose or larger." The PTS team, after reporting the leakage and activating the automatic detection and warning systems, evacuated the complex at approximately "midnight" and returned to the Little Rock Air Force Base. . . .
. . . A second PTS team arrived at the complex, hours after the departure of the first team, wearing gas masks and protective clothing. The team obtained readings from the interior of the control center in order to determine the concentration of vapor in that area and to minimize any actual or potential hazards.
. . . The Titan II missile is powered by liquid propellants, hydrazine (UDMH) and an oxidizer, nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4). The Titan II missile consists of three stages, namely, stage I, stage II and the warhead. Stages I and II contain the propellants. Stage I, in the instant case, contained 11,300 gallons of UDMH and 13,500 gallons of oxidizer.
UDMH is highly toxic and the fumes are flammable or explosive when in high concentration. However, when UDMH is diluted one part fuel with two parts water, the fuel becomes non-flammable. The oxidizer, N2O4, when released into the atmosphere is a reddish-brown fume and is highly toxic.
. . . Between 2:25 a.m. and 2:53 a.m., on September 19, 1980, Sergeant Kennedy and T-Sergeant Hanson re-entered the complex in order to obtain readings in the area "between blast door 6 and blast door 7." Upon entering the area, Sergeant Kennedy reported "heavy fog" and could not see the light on the "VDAP", but as he went closer, he observed all "PTM" readings were at maximum level and "the explosive level was at 21,000." Kennedy was told to leave the area.
. . . The explosion occurred at 3:00 a.m. o'clock. Missile and missile complex debris were "ejected as far as 2,100 feet from the silo." Part of the silo closure door, which weighed 740 tons when intact, was blown 625 feet to the northwest of the missile complex.
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