Russell E. Hershey,
INTERVIEW WITH RAY HERSHEY AND ED MORAN - 27.08.1996
INTERVIEWER: Tape 10305. Gentlemen, first can I ask you a tricky one, can I have your name and titles for the transcripts?
ED MORAN: My name's Ed Moran and I was a captain in the air force from 1968 through 1972.
RAY HERSHEY: My name's Ray Hershey and I was an enlisted man on Titan missile from 1967 until 1976.
INT: First of all Ed, if I can ask you to start with to tell us [inaudible]?
EM: Well, running Titan to our missile complex, we're in the actual control center, which was the heart of our entire complex, we're connected through a key to lay which is approximately...
RH: (Interrupts) Two hundred and fifty feet...
EM: ...two hundred and fifty feet from the actual Titan 2 missile which was a two stage missile, perhaps best known for the Gemini program, which was the two astronaut launches into space which came before the moon launches.
INT: Ed, can I ask you that question again, where are we?
EM: Well, we're in the Titan Missile Museum in Green Valley, Arizona, which was originally five seventy-one dash seven, a Titan 2 ICBM launch site. We're in the control center, which is the heart of the whole operation, approximately a couple of hundred feet from the missile itself.
INT: And what was at the other end of the tunnel?
RH: The other end of the tunnel is a Titan 2 ICBM, perhaps best known for its use during the Gemini program, which was the two astronaut program that was the predecessor to the moon launch with the Saturn.
INT: The other missile that you had down at the end of the tunnel, it certainly didn't have room for astronauts on top. What was the role of the Titan 2?
RH: Well, the Titan 2 was one of the largest nuclear missiles in the United States military arsenal and it had a re-entry vehicle that did contain a nuclear weapon.
INT: Ed, can you tell me what the sort of tour of duty was here?
EM: Our tour of duty for a missile crew was a twenty-four hour tour. We would arrive at the base, back at support base, which in this case was Davis Mountain, an air force base in Tucson, Arizona, at approximately seven in the morning, get our pre-departure briefing and gather up our materials and food and drive out to the site and relieve the crew that was on duty at the time. And twenty four hours later another crew would do their pre-departure briefing back at the base and would come and relieve us. The Titan 2 crew, there were four crew members, two officers and two enlisted people and they were out to the site twenty four hours a day, a crew was out to the site twenty four hours of the day every day of the year, for all of the years that the Titan 2 was in commission.
INT: And can you take me through what an average day. I mean, it seems like you were sitting here, to me, doing nothing, you know, what were you doing here all day, can I ask first ofEd?
EM: Well, this had a title, it was called readiness monitoring and the various consoles, in addition to... critical launch illumination, if you can notice on the film, the red light and then on some of the equipment behind us, were indications of problems or hazards that might occur at the site, The sites were maintained a very excellent, safe manner, safety was paramount during every alert and part of all the crew members' training on a given day during the light hours, perhaps up to five o'clock, there might be up to fifty maintenance people at the site throughout the levels of the launch dock, working on various equipment, either on a routine basis or... if something were to malfunction, maintenance crews could be brought directly out from the base. Normally in the evening, the maintenance crews would return to Davis Mountain air force base and then the crew would be left by themselves for the evening shifts. The floor that we're on, the control center, there always had to be two people present and one of them had to be an officer, so this floor, with its access to the launch facility, was never for a second left unattended.
INT: Ray, if I can ask you what would have happened when an authorization or an indication that a launch might be given, what happened there, how did you get that information?
RH: Oh if a launch message had come in, it probably... it would have come in through a multiple pass, but the primary path for used for receipt of a launch message which referred to the primary alerting system and it consisted of these pairs of speakers, one pair over here on the commander's console and another pair over there next to the deputy's console. One of each pair was hooked to SAC headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, and the other of each pair was hooked to numbered air force headquarters - in this case it was Fifteenth Air Force headquarters at March Air Force Base in California. And they were hooked to the National Command authority, so we had direct voice link from the National Command Authority down to this site, and the message would come via voice on these speakers. It would have been copied in what we refer to as our fast reaction message books and subsequently and then decoded and then reacted upon. In addition to these speakers, we had number of other types of communications systems, where it would be sent down simultaneously, the primary alerting system was the primary means of receiving a message.
INT: Then what would your actions be? Ed, what happened once an alert came through?
EM: Well, the message, as Ray stated, would be copied in this emergency action message book and then if it meant certain top secret formats, the launch commander and the deputy would proceed to this red safe, which is behind me and unsafe, it says 'Entry restricted to M triple C, which was Missile Combat Crew Commander' and DM triple C, Deputy Missile Combat Crew Commander on duty. The two locks would be removed. Each officer did not know the other officer's combination, and then the decoding documents and the launch keys would be removed at that point and... from the point there would be given a launch time. It would be controlled by a launch check list and included in the message would be the decoding alpha characters that would go into a controlled butterfly valve lock panel that, if correct, would enable this valve to actually be opened on the missile and prior to that point, no launch could be initiated, because this valve would be locked shut.
INT: Did you know that it was a test? When these signals came through, did you know that it was a test that was coming through, or did you know that it was the real thing?
RH: If a real launch message came through, once again it would fit a specified format and have specific identifiers that would immediately alert the crew that it was a valid message. Normally, it would be expected over a period of time, during increased alert that messages previous to a launch message would be initiated to bring the missile force to a more alert status.
EM: Then when we received an in-coming message they would always start with a wobble tone kind of, you know, telephone ring, saying something's coming. Until we actually decoded the message and figured out what it was, we didn't know what it was until we figured it out ourselves, through the coding books.
INT: And would that decoding tell you that what you were doing was a practice run or did you not...?
EM: (Interrupts) Yes. It... Yes.
INT: That's the worst answer you can give me!
RH: Any practice runs where they would do what was called a launch verification were very tightly and safely controlled, in that there would be at a minimum, normally an instructor crew or a standardization crew, an evaluation crew present, along with possibly an IG team or a 39 0 First, they were the evaluating arms of our wing, that would come in on an no notice basis and test the missiles, so normally, in any kind of launch verification, it would be clear... although there would be simulated messages, it would be clear that it was a practice exercise.
INT: Supposing the real order had come through, would you have had any hesitation in launching?
RH: Um, no.