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Sunday, April 17, 2016

COMMAND AND CONTROL

A Tribeca Film Festival 2016 Selection

By D.E.Levine

Absolutely terrifying is the phrase that comes to mind in regard to the events chronicled in this Robert Kenner documentary.

Recounted in harrowing detail, an accident occurred at a Titan II missile silo in Arkansas when Bill Clinton was the governor in September 1980.

A mistake was made, something that seemed innocuous.  An airman doing routine maintenance dropped a piece of equipment.  The dropped metal socket fell 70 feet and punctured the Titan's fuel tank.

The film recreates the confusion that took place as unprepared officials tried to determine how to patch the fuel tank.  The Titan carried the most destructive nuclear warhead and could have wiped out a large portion of Arkansas had an explosion occurred.

Using archival footage that the military kept locked away until the Freedon of Information Act required it be released, we see a very young Governor Clinton broadcasting that there was nothing to be alarmed about and there were no evacuation plans put into effect.  Meanwhile, men who went back into the silo to perform containment were badly injured or killed and the entire incident was kept under military wraps.

Of particular interest is that the film brings to light how common such incidents were at the time, and what great risks were involved.

We live in a more sophisticated society now, and we have greater and deadlier nuclear weapons.  The question remaining is whether our officials are better equipped to handle the weapons and safeguard the nation.