UNSUNG!  Songs of the Missileers

A Song Cycle

                                           1.     RIGHT NOW

                                           2.     IT’S A NO LONE-ZONE

                                           3.     [DEEDLE DEEDLE]

                                           4.     IN A HEARTBEAT

                                           5.     MISSILE MINDSET

                                           6.     DARK THOUGHTS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT

                                           7.     UNSUNG

                                           8.     STILL THERE [reprise]

 

Command Console, OSCAR-0 Minuteman Alert Facility, Cooperstown, North Dakota

Right now. 

 

At this very moment, there are pairs of highly trained of U.S. Air Force Officers on hair trigger alert across a network of Minuteman III Launch Control Centers. Isolated deep underground, these young officers, many of them in their early twenties, have the responsibility, and the ability, to launch upwards of 450 ICBM’s within thirty minutes of receiving the nuclear codes.  Minuteman III nuclear missiles in their latent form are buried, invisible, silent. Their minders, the Missileers, fly under the radar, denied the attention and the glory assumed by their airborne colleagues. Trained, and determined, to perform the unthinkable, the Missileer acts as the human component in the cold war strategy known as MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction. Post Cold-War, as the world confronts the reality of nuclear weapons, the futility of deterrence, and the danger of hair-trigger nuclear alerts, the Missileers continue to perform their duty as it was defined over a half century ago.  Out of sight, the geography of nuclear war mirrors the darkest corners of our souls, we don’t want to go there.  UNSUNG: Songs of the Missileers is based on interviews, oral histories and writing of former missileers. 

 

 

 

You are on a trolley car buried sixty feet underground in a remote part of the country. It is going nowhere. You decode a message validating a command from the President to flip a switch which will launch a series of nuclear missiles towards a target thousands of miles away. Not turning the key would be a dereliction of duty but save millions of lives. There’s a safety catch; your partner, at a prescribed distance from you but in in the same trolley car, must turn another key simultaneously.  Your partner is turning the key.


                               

                                4. IN A HEARTBEAT

                                Would you do it?

                                     Absolutely, without a doubt.

                                     No mental hesitation about that whatsoever

                                     In a heartbeat.

 

                               We were tested.

                                     We were trained.
                                     Programmed to not even hesitate

                                     Part of the ethos, to do what you have to do

 

                               You didn’t play games out there.

                               You do what you have to do.

 

                               Would you do it?

                                     Yes. Without any hesitation.

                                     Yes. In a heartbeat.

 

                               Would you do it?

                                     Would have done it in a heartbeat, even today

                                     I would have launched, I have no doubt

 

                               If they told us to launch we would launch,

                               If the message comes, I’m not going to think, I’m going to act

 

                               Come hell or high water

                               You had to be ready to do it.

 

                               We were          

                               We are          

                               100% committed. 

 

                               You didn’t play games out there.

                               You do what you have to do.


                               Would you do it?

                               Absolutely, without a doubt.

 

                               In a heartbeat.

 

 


 

                               5. MISSILE MINDSET

 

                               I make a point of not remembering

 

                               That night I thought long and hard about what exactly my job was out there

                               We were trained,

                               Programmed to perform

                               We were the finger on the trigger

                               The human component

 

                               I make a point of not remembering

 

                               I put in the key once

                               That was different

                               The longest eight or nine minutes of my life

 

                               Nobody knew what was happening next

 

                               Is there more?

                               Is this it?

                               Is it done?

 

                               I make a point of not remembering

 

                              You sit here in the middle of the night

                              And you look at the little red box

 

                              And then

                              It’s absolutely real

 

                              And what you’re doing is crystal clear

                              And it ought to scare you

 

                              I make a point of not remembering

 

                              Nobody knows what is happening next

                              Is there more?

                              Is this it?

                              Is it done?

 

                              We are trained, drilled

                              Programmed to perform

                              We are human component

                              We are the finger on the trigger

 

                             I make a point of not remembering

UNSUNG: Songs of the Missileers, is based on interviews, oral histories and writing from former Missileers. 

Photographs: HAER, Historic American Engineering Records Grand Force Air Force Base Painted Murals  ND-13;

Command Console and “Who Ya Gonna Call” Mural, Peggy Weil

 

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