A New (old) Kind of Battle Art...



Some things you just can't change.

Remember when the Pentagon got all up in arms after pictures of custom nose-cone art filtered into the mainstream media during the invasion of Iraq (and some in Afghanistan)?

God forbid the troops have a little fun with the idea of putting warheads on the foreheads of the "butchers of Baghdad"...wouldn't want to offend anyone, huh?

Well, here's a similar little piece on a far more, shall we say, "lethal" nose cone...or blast door...or...oh, come on, you get the picture:

At the back of what looks like an enclosed porch of an unpretentious ranch house near Wall, South Dakota, a steel-runged ladder leads down a 30-foot concrete access shaft. At the bottom, a massive, eight-ton steel-and-concrete door is painted the red, white and blue image of a Dominos Pizza box, with a slightly altered phrasing of the chains familiar promise: World-wide Delivery in 30 Minutes or Less; Or Your Next One is Free. But in this case the Next One is a Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). For almost three decades, the house was the Delta One Launch Control Facility (LCF) for ten Minuteman missiles armed with nuclear warheads. The massive blast door was designed to ensure that the underground launch control center survived a nuclear attack.

Welcome to the mordant, jingoistic and occasionally crude but rarely before seen world of blast-door art.

Like the garish and cheeky illustrations etched across the noses of World War II aircraft, these images in launch control centers across the United States testify to the bravado of the men (and, from the mid-1980s onward, women) of what has been called Americas Underground Air Force. But they also reflect the sometimes surreal pressures faced by two-person missile crews on 24-hour duty alerts, waiting for a call to turn their missile launch keys and perhaps end civilization as we know it. Youre sitting there waiting for the message you hope never comes, says Tony Gatlin, who painted the Dominos homage as a young deputy flight commander at Delta One in 1989. Thats a pretty screwed up way of looking at the world.

Now an Air Force major and deputy director of staff with the 100th Air Refueling Wing, based at the Royal Air Forces Mildenhall Base, in England, Gatlin was struck by the similarity of Dominos delivery time and that of his missiles. One went with the other kind of well, he deadpans. Gatlins painting is one of only a few the public can see, following the transformation in 1999 of the Delta One control facility and the nearby Delta Nine missile silo into an historic site by the National Park Service (NPS). Under the terms of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the then-Soviet Union and the United States, many Minuteman missile sites have been deactivated or destroyed.

(Thanks to CM for the gouge)

-- Christian

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