Lost Missile Coffins Of Eastern Washington - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Lost Missile Coffins Of Eastern Washington

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During the Cold War, the federal government commissioned nine missile coffins to be built around Eastern Washington. Beginning in 1960, atomic warheads were placed in each coffin. During the Cold War, the federal government commissioned nine missile coffins to be built around Eastern Washington. Beginning in 1960, atomic warheads were placed in each coffin.
SPOKANE, Wash. -

Beneath the golden fields of Eastern Washington, a piece of Cold War History has hid for fifty years.

During the Cold War, the federal government commissioned nine missile coffins to be built around Eastern Washington. Beginning in 1960, atomic warheads were placed in each coffin.

For five years, Air Force crews occupied those sites 24/7, ready to fire at a moment's notice.

“We were sitting in the missile site scared to death we'd have to use them,” Dick Mellor said. Mellor worked on an oversight crew that monitored the workers inside each coffin. He says the launch sequence would have taken only 15 minutes if the President gave the order to fire one of the warheads, each of which were 50 to 100 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

“Thank God we didn't have to use them,” Mellor said.

But many feared we would during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when Eastern Washington's warheads were pointed at the Communist nation. The reason Washington's sites played that role was the state's distance from Cuba. Other sites around the country were either too close or too far to hit the small island.

In 1965, the sites were decommissioned, and the coffins were cleared out.

Today those sites are mostly privately owned. In 1969, Mark Kramer's family bought one a coffin in Lincoln County.

“It boggles the mind when you think about it,” Kramer said. “We keep learning more and more.”

Kramer's enthusiasm shows when he tours guests inside his family's site. But the Kramers didn't buy it for its historical value. Rather they spent the $2,500 for the storage space – roughly 18,000 feet of it.

“We know the missile was intended for destruction, but you don't think about that,” Paula Kramer said. Paula and her husband Bob, Mark's parents, first took interest in the space because it's only a quarter mile from the home where Paula grew up.

Touring the space, there's little indication it once housed a weapon capable of leveling entire cities. But all who lived through the Cold War can imagine the tension of the men inside those coffins ready to unleash untold devastation.

“If we had to push the button, then 15 minutes later this world would have been burning up,” Dick Mellor said.

“That's how close we were to extinction.”

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