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tv   History of Ellsworth Air Force Base  CSPAN  February 27, 2021 9:43am-10:01am EST

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american history tv on c-span three, created by america's cable television company. today, were brought to you by today's television companies to provide american history tv as a public service. >> the c-span cities tour traveled the country, exploring the american country. since 2011, we have been to more than 200 communities across the nation. like many americans, our staff is close to home due to the coronavirus. next, a look at one of our cities tour visits. >> welcome to the south dakota aerospace museum. when people think about south dakota they don't always think about a great aviation state, but we have a huge aviation heritage in the state. over the years, we have played a huge part in our national defense. ellsworth air force base began
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in world war ii and its purpose in world war ii was to train bomber crews, specifically b-17 crews. if you are going to learn to navigate a world war ii bomber over long distances and expenses of territory, south dakota is a great place to put the base. that was the beginning of ellsworth air force base. the connection from world war ii to the cold war is really represented in our museum. the 44th bomb group was trained here at oles were the air force base. -- ellsworth air force base. when the cold war came around, that came -- became the 44th wing -- missile wing. that is really part of the cold war narrative. when you think about cold war, you think about the b-52s based here and the ready responses, strategic air command, but you also need to think about the men
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and women today who are in these missile capsules, underneath the ground, waiting for the unthinkable, and that is the command turn keys and launch nuclear war. our museum is an important part of telling that story. >> i'm kim lori, currently the president of the south dakota aerospace foundation where the nonprofit supports the south dakota space museum here outside of ellsworth air force base. i spent 20 years in the air force and retired as a captain. i entered in 1971 and was initially trained as a gunner on a b-52. after serving about 10 years as a gunner, i was able to complete the requirements for a commission in the air force, and then became an officer. i served my last -- my next 10
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years in the air force as a launch control officer on titan to missiles and the minuteman to missiles and required -- minuteman two missiles and retired as an officer. i came to ellsworth as a gunner and came back as a missile launch officer. in all of that, when i was here as a gunner, i became involved in the museum and remained connected to the south dakota aerospace museum for about the full 35 years of its operation. one of the reasons i am so connected to it is that, now, many of the things that are on display here are items that i once used in my career. what i would like to show you,
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at this point, is the missles procedure trainer that is on display here at the south dakota air and space museum. this is the mockup we used to train the missile crew members to do their jobs out in the missile field. if you come in, the missile procedures trainer was located on ellsworth air force base. there were 15 much control centers located throughout western south dakota. missile field covered approximately 14,000 square miles. it was large and spread out. the best way to train the missile crew members was to have a simulator on base. it is also a lot safer since this is a simulator not the actual launch control center. we were able to train and evaluate people in their ability to do the job of a launch control officer.
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the station here is a deputy crew commander station. the panels to his right our communication systems. the panels are critical because the crews were in no way authorized or able to take any action that would release any nuclear weapons so they had to get the proper messages and instructions from the president of the united states ultimately. that would direct you what to do with the launch control center. we had a rack of equipment that
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was for communicating with the missiles. each launch control center primarily monitored 10 minute man two missiles. those 10 missiles were assigned to one of much control center. each launch control center at the commanders console had the ability to switch the missiles that they were viewing so they could monitor 50 missiles in the squadron. one of squadron of missiles consisted of five launch control centers and 50 minute man two missiles. the commanders console here was where the commander kept track of the general status of all of the missiles at all time. each one of these vertical columns is a -- shows a variety of different states of the missiles.
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the situation that is depicted on this launch control center, and any indication, other than the green lights across the top, would indicate there was a system problem where the possibility someone was trying to get into one of the remote launch facilities. -- communicating back to be launch control center. any indication other than the green lights across the top would indicate there is some sort of system problem for the possibility that someone was trying to get into one of the remote launch facilities. the minuteman two was in a all caps that was in an isolated area and it was not command. there were never any people on that site, unless the missile needed some sort of missile attention. there were tremendous redundant security measures that would make sure nobody could get unauthorized access. if someone should try, there would be an indication here long before they could have any
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success getting to the vessel and that was a big part of what the missile crew did on a daily basis was to make sure the missiles were all secure. the ultimate responsibility of the launch control through was if the national command, the president of the united states, if the national command system made a determination that the united states was actively under nuclear attack, then the united states would launch a retaliatory attack.
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the concept was referred to at the time as mutually assured destruction. primarily, it was the soviet union at the time. the chinese had a little bit of influence in that as well but it was the usa against the communist primarily. the europeans also had some play in that but what happened, the idea was that anyone who would choose to attack the united states with a nuclear weapon would have to live with an almost certainty that the united states would be able to retaliate with nuclear weapons thus creating a situation where nobody wins. the theory was mutual assured destruction. it would create a situation where nobody would do that awful thing of start world war iii. from this point, it looks like it might have worked but the interesting point about the acronym for mutual assured destruction is it is mad. in that situation where an enemy may decide that they were mad, and they were going to attack us, the crew would have received the instructions with a very strict regimen but very
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carefully followed and able to be authenticated in a timely fashion. the crew would have received this instructions and at the appointed time, the crew would then release some or all of their weapons on this particular enemy. there would be a lot of processes they would go through efficiently and quickly, and they would arrange their weapons so that they would launch. when that secondhand hit zero at the appointed time, the group -- the crew would then set their lunch command to the missiles for them to go. the commander would watch the clock, stand and look in the mirror so they could have eye contact with the deputy crew commander, and they would do a count down. the commander would have his or her hand on this key.
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the deputy crew commander would have his or her hand on this key. as the commander counted down, it would say, on my command, three, two, one, turn keys now. the deputy and the commander would turn their keys simultaneously. if they did not turn them simultaneously, there would not be a launch command. in addition to that, one other launch control center would have to do the same thing before the missiles would launch. that would provide the nuclear a -- nuclear surety that we needed. as you can see, the way the keys are positioned, it takes two people. one person cannot turn that key and run back and turn this key
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or vice versa. there were tremendous amount of built-in security measures that made sure that our nuclear weapons were never launched by some crazy person's action or anything on that order. >> the cold war narrative is really part of south dakota. it is part of the dakota ethos. if you want to study aviation history or even world history, you end up drawing lines back to ellsworth air force base. back to the prairies of south dakota, north dakota. it is important for us to tell the story to the world. >> you can watch this and other programs on the history of communities across the country at
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this is american history tv, only on c-span. >> the struggle for the american freedom compares and contrasts the stories of two men in their different approaches to the question of slavery. here is a preview. >> so john circulated in the north and among the abolitionist community as far east as boston. he was mostly raising money. he was raising money for his new project, an attack on harpers ferry. because there was a federal arsenal there. john brown's idea was to seize the arsenal and distribute them into the vicinity. they would rise up against their
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masters, if necessary, to -- this would so shake the institution of slavery that the slaves would lose their value in the slaveholders would say we have to give up this institution. so this is john, and he is trying to start a war. it turns out to be a fiasco. without getting into details, he is captured, arrested, tried, hanged. in going to the gallows, he slips out a note to his jailer, which he prophesies that the evils of this country would be purged only by blood. well, this sent shockwaves, as you can imagine, through the south. his attack was on virginia. he was convicted of treason against the commonwealth of virginia and murder. and some people who were killed in the raid. southerners began to think, my
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gosh, if the people like john brown are running around, we are not safe in the union. what made it worse was people in the north, the northern abolitionists, they hailed john brown as a martyr upon his as -- his execution. they say not only do we have this murderer but we have people in the north praising this murderer. and it was not outlandish for southerners -- southern slaveholders to thing, if they remain in the union, first of all the institution of slavery would be in jeopardy and possibly their own lives. if there are more people like john brown giving guns to slaves who would kill them in their bed. so this is the situation. but it is not the entire situation. abraham lincoln is watching all of this and he shakes his head and shuttered when he hears of john brown, because abraham
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lincoln looked at slavery and said this is evil and must be undone. it must be undone lawfully, thus be undone under the constitution. lincoln conceded nothing to john brown and his belief, but lincoln believed in the short run, people like john brown would make the situation for slaves worse. john brown's movement freed no slaves. he was far more successful than harriet tubman in freeing slaves. slaves realized this was probably a suicide mission. lincoln thinks first of all people like john brown and actions like that are bad for the slaves in the short run but also in the long run because they would cause southerners to circle the wagons and to resist any idea or any arguments that it might be in their own
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self-interest to end slavery. >> learn more about abraham lincoln and john brown today at 6:00 p.m. eastern, 3:00 p.m. pizza pick -- 3:00 p.m. pacific. >> located about 100 miles from washington dc on the eastern shore of the chesapeake bay, the harriet tubman underground railroad visitors center opened in the spring of 2017. a half hour tour of the grounds and exhibits to learn about the life of escape slave abolitionist civil war spy and suffragist harriet tubman. welcome to harriet tubman underground railroad state park. my name is ranger crenshaw and here we highlight harriet tubman's early years. she was born not three miles east of here in the town of madison and then she spent a lot of time in this area as well as in bucktown a few miles west of here. it was here in this area of dorchester county that she learned this skills that were vital to make her a successful conductor on


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