Tour a nuclear launch control center

When Lesley Stahl and the 60 Minutes team went 70 feet underground inside a nuclear control center, they found a system dating back to the 1960s

By Evie Salomon

When Lesley Stahl and the 60 Minutes team ventured 70 feet underground into a nuclear control center, Stahl says what she found was "peculiar": a malfunctioning phone, floppy disks and an antique computer system without a monitor.

"These things were built in the 1960s, so just think about that," Stahl tells 60 Minutes Overtime. "Kennedy was president; Nixon was president. This is really peculiar."

Andy Court, the producer of the story, worked for months to get the team and its camera crews access to the facility.

"You feel like you're going back in time," Court says. "There's no question about that."

Stahl says she was also surprised to learn what surrounds the nuclear weapons silos in the U.S..

"I guess I thought that the missiles themselves and the silos would be in very isolated places -- very safe, nobody could get to them -- but this is in the middle of farms, right in the middle of a rural community," Stahl says.

In a helicopter ride with Colonel Carl Jones, Stahl pointed out the cattle grazing on the "doorstep" of the facility. When she asked if the farmers were troubled that the nuclear missiles were so close to their homes, Colonel Jones told Stahl that it was actually quite the opposite.

"They're very patriotic about it," Stahl says.

Stahl was also surprised to learn that our nuclear weapons system predates the missileers operating it, with some as young as 23 years old.

"I would have expected a veteran, somebody who'd been around a while, but they're young, some of them are right out of college," Stahl says.

Nevertheless, Stahl says she feels overall "reassured" by the visit.

"We met completely dedicated young people committed to what they're doing. The missileers, they're not confused about their mission," Stahl says. "They all said that the idea of maintaining a deterrent force was important."


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