NEAR TUCSON, Ariz. (KSAZ) - It's a one of a kind relic of the Cold War, right in Arizona: a nuclear weapon that was so powerful, it could have wiped out entire cities in the country once known as the Soviet Union.
Now, with more people now thinking about the frightening possibility of a nuclear war, FOX 10 Phoenix has sat down with someone who was behind the controls, and could have launched the doomsday missile. if that day ever came.
Location: a nondescript building in Green Valley, just south of Tucson, in the middle of the Sonoran Desert just off Highway 19. The only hint that something here might be unusual is a warning sign on the fence surrounding the property.
What makes the building truly unlike others actually lies underground. An elevator takes people below the surface, which is home to the only remaining preserved Titan II missile silo.
During the Cold War, the 110 foot tall missile would have been launched, if the Soviet Union initiated a nuclear strike against the United States.
At the top of the Titan II is a nine megaton nuclear warhead. The warhead could have wiped out an area of 900 square miles, a mere 30 minutes after being launched.
Yvonne Morris knows every inch of the building. She is the director of the Titan Missile Museum, and before becoming the director, Morris was a launch crew commander in the same facility.
Back then, a four-person crew was always on alert, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every week, from 1963. The facility was decommissioned in 1982.
"We need to make sure the missile is always ready to launch, and then, we would launch the missile if we were ordered to do so," said Morris.
If the launch alarm came over the speaker, a two-person launch crew would have only moments to authenticate the codes, inside a double-padlocked box. Then, each would have to turn a key simultaneously, and the missile would be on its way to the target within 58 seconds.
"Once you bring Titan IIs into play, it is because we are in all-out World War III," said Morris/
The missiles were not intended for a first-strike. Rather, it's a show of force to deter the Soviet Union from using their missiles against the United States.
"Mutually Assured Destruction -- deterrence -- can only work if both sides are reluctant to commit suicide," said Morris.
The museum has about 56,000 visitors each year. Morris said many of them who thought they would never have to worry about a nuclear war again are increasingly concerned about rogue nations with nuclear weapons.
Nations like North Korea.
"The possibility of nuclear war is sort of on everybody's mind, a little bit," said Morris. "I felt much more comfortable during the Cold War than I do now."
As the possibility of a nuclear war seems to be a growing concern, and as someone who once had the overwhelming responsibility of launching a nuclear weapon, Morris offers a unique perspective.
"I think that is a lesson that we need to remember from history, that there are ways to step back," said Morris.