'Command and Control' Features Strategic Air Command

News Release Date: 
December 29, 2016

For Immediate Release
‘Command and Control’ on NET Features Strategic Air Command

LINCOLN, Neb. (Dec. 29, 2016) –  The premiere of a new high-stakes documentary about a freak accident involving a Titan II missile shows what can happen when the weapons built to protect us threaten to destroy us. Airing on NET at 8 p.m. CT, Tuesday, Jan. 10, the film “Command and Control” recounts in chilling minute-by-minute detail the feverish efforts to prevent a nuclear explosion.

On the evening of Sept. 18, 1980, Airmen David F. Powell and Jeffrey L. Plumb were performing routine maintenance at the Titan II silo in Damascus, Ark. when a socket fell from Powell’s wrench, plummeted 70 feet and, shockingly, punctured the missile. A stream of highly explosive rocket fuel began pouring into the silo.

Nothing like this had ever happened to a Titan II before and the Air Force had no procedures in place to deal with the event. For the next eight hours, the leadership of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) based at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska frantically struggled to figure out how to prevent a massive explosion and retain control of the thermonuclear warhead — a weapon so powerful that it could destroy much of Arkansas and deposit lethal radioactive fallout across the East Coast.

“The story of the Damascus accident is one that nobody really knows, and in fact, I’m not sure anybody’s supposed to know,” said Mark Samels, executive producer. “As safe and secure and as well-designed and well-operated as our nuclear weapons system may be, it’s subject to the x-factor. And the x-factor is human fallibility. The most powerful weapons that we’ve ever created as human beings have a threat built into them. And that threat is us.”

The film was produced by AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, television’s most-watched history series which airs nationally on PBS.  For more information, visit pbs.org/americanexperience.

NET operates the statewide public service network which includes NET Television, NET Radio, NET Learning Services and NET Technology Services. For more information about NET, Nebraska’s PBS and NPR stations, visit netNebraska.org.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Jane Winquest, 402-470-6247, mjwinquest@netNebraska.org.

NET, Nebraska’s PBS Station
NET is Nebraska's first public television broadcast service and includes PBS and award-winning, locally produced public television programming since 1954; NET World (NET2) offers live coverage of the Nebraska Unicameral, and other news and public affairs programming; NET Create (NET3) is a 24-hour channel featuring the most popular how-to, travel and lifestyle series.