Air Force Bases

Titan II at McConnell AFB

Located southeast of Wichita, this base has a diverse history, starting with the construction of a Boeing plant during World War II. SAC assumed jurisdiction of the base for 5 years commencing on July 1, 1958, and reassumed command on July 1, 1972. Besides hosting bombers, McConnell spent a quarter century supporting 18 Titan II missile silos of the 381st Strategic Missile Wing that were planted in the surrounding region.

As with Titan II projects at Davis-Monthan, Arizona, and Little Rock, Arkansas, the construction at McConnell used a three-phase approach designed to cut down additional expenses caused by "concurrency." Using this approach, 18 silos were constructed, forming a rough horseshoe around Wichita with the open end pointing slightly to the west of north. Launcher locations for the 532nd Strategic Missile Squadron included Wellington (2), Conway Springs, Viola, Norwich, Rago, Murdock, Kingman, and Mount Vernon. The 533rd Strategic Missile Squadron would have responsibility for silos at Potwin, El Dorado, Leon (3), Smileyville, Rock, Winfield, and Oxford. Additional support facilities were constructed on base.

On December 10, 1960, the Corps of Engineers notified the joint venture of Fuller-Webb-Hardeman that its bid of nearly $30.8 million had earned them the contract for Phase I. The Corps of Engineers Ballistic Missile Construction Office (CEBMCO) considered the performance of the contractors in their site excavation work to be above average. Despite weather problems and some major modifications, the joint venture completed their phase 6 days before the original deadline of February 15, 1962.

On June 26, 1961, CEBMCO notified the joint venture of Martin K. Eby, Incorporated and Associates that their bid of nearly $37.6 million had earned their selection as the contractor team for Phase II portion, which entailed installation of mechanical, electrical, water, and other systems at the semi-completed sites. Work began on Phase HA on December 4, 1961, and finished 12 months later.

Phase III involved systems contractor Martin Company and the Site Activation Task Force (SATAF) who completed the final preparations needed before turning the silos over to Strategic Air Command.

Through all three phrases a noteworthy safety program kept fatalities to just one over a timespan in which over nine million man-hours were worked. At the peak of the program, approximately 2,200 workers were on the job. Timing helped in the recruitment of experienced workers who had recently finished work at Atlas sites at Schilling and Forbes AFBs. A proactive missile site labor relations committee stemmed management-labor difficulties.

The Air Force accepted the final silo on January 31, 1963. With the arrival of the Titan II missiles from the Martin plant near Denver, the 381st Strategic Missile Wing focused on bringing the weapons to alert status.

On August 24, 1978, an accident involving an oxidizer leak at launch complex 533-7 killed two Air Force personnel, caused the temporary evacuation of local communities, and damaged the site.

A more positive event occurred during the following month as First Lieutenant Patricia E. Dougherty became the first female officer to perform SAC Titan II alert.

On October 2, 1981, Deputy Secretary of Defense Frank P. Carlucci ordered the inactivation of the Titan II weapon system. For McConnell, the end began on July 2,1984, when Launch Complex 533-8 was removed from alert status. This silo would be placed in caretaker status on August 31st. The deactivation process received a setback on November 2, 1984, when fire broke out at Launch Complex 532-7 after liquid fuel had been unloaded from a deactivated Titan II. As a result of the ensuing investigation, Headquarters Strategic Air Command and the Ogden Air Logistics Center determined that the accident could have been prevented if different procedures were followed. With implementation of these procedures, Titan II deactivation continued.

On August 8, 1986, the 381st Strategic Missile Wing became the second Titan II wing to be deactivated.

For general information on McConnell AFB look here.