Titan I at Beale AFB, California
Originally a World War II Army bombing and gunnery range named for the founder of the U.S. Army Camel Corps, this base was declared surplus in 1947. However, the Air Force eventually reclaimed the facility, and in 1956, SAC took charge of this northern California installation.
On January 30, 1959, the Air Force announced plans to conduct surveys in the vicinity of Beale to determine the feasibility for missile bases. Site investigations, topographic explorations, and surveys were performed by the Corps of Engineers Sacramento District. On September 17, Col. Paul Calton, Commander of Beale's 4126th Strategic Wing, announced that the base would be the fifth Titan I missile installation.
Three complexes with three weapons each (3 x 3) were located 25 miles southwest, 37 miles west, and 71 miles northwest of Beale near the respective communities of Lincoln, Live Oak, and Chico. The Corps of Engineers also oversaw the construction at Beale AFB of mechanical, pneudraulics, cryogenic, propulsion, and liquid oxygen shops to support the nine deployed and one spare missile assigned.
Bids were opened on January 12, 1960, in the Empire Room of Sacramento's Hotel Senator. Peter Kiewit Sons' Company won the contract to build the silos after submitting a low bid of approximately $30.2 million. Before the job was completed, some 400 modifications to the original plans boosted construction costs to over $40 million.
Construction began on January 22, 1960. More than 600,000 cubic yards of rock and earth had to be excavated and reused as backfill. By the time the project was completed, each of the three complexes had received 32,000 cubic yards of concrete, 90 miles of cables, 300 tons of piping, and 1,800 separate supply items. Supervision of the construction initially fell on the Sacramento District; however, this responsibility was shifted on November 1, 1960, to CEBMCO.
There were six wild-cat work stoppages; only one caused an appreciable delay. In the wake of earlier labor strife at other missile sites, the Federal Government established Missile Site Relations Committees for each project. At Beale this mechanism contributed to successful management-labor relations and allowed construction to forge ahead. In addition to good labor relations, the Beale project enjoyed a good safety record. There was only one accident-related fatality.
The Air Force activated the 851st Strategic Missile Squadron (Titan I) on April 1,1961. The first missile was moved to the 4A complex at Lincoln on February 28,1962, where workers encountered some difficulty placing the missile in the silo. Follow-on missile installations went smoothly and the last missile was lowered into Chico complex 4C on April 20,1962.
With missiles in place, assigned crews participated in what was called the "activation exercise procedure" in which they worked with contractors to obtain hands-on experience in maintaining the Titan I.
On May 24, 1962, during a contractor checkout, a terrific blast rocked launcher 1 at complex 4C at Chico, destroying a Titan I and causing heavy damage to the silo. After the investigation, the Air Force concluded that the two separate explosions occurred because of a blocked vent and blocked valve. On June 6, trouble again struck as a flash fire at another silo killed a worker. Subsequently, Peter Kiewit Sons' Company received a contract signed on July 30, 1962, for an initial amount of $1,250,000 to repair the silo damaged in the May blast.
In September 1962, the 851st SMS became the last Titan I Squadron to achieve alert status. After damages were repaired, the Chico complex became operational on March 9, 1963.
Two months after the squadron became fully operational, SAC subjected the unit to an Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI). The 851st SMS became the first Titan I unit to pass.
On May 16, 1964, Defense Secretary McNamara directed the accelerated phaseout of the Atlas and Titan I ICBMs. On January 4, 1965, the first Beale Titan I was taken off alert status. Within 3 months, the 851st Strategic Missile Squadron would be deactivated.
Beale AFB also hosted another type of missile during this timeframe. On August 25, 1961, the first Hound Dog missile arrived and soon thereafter was mated to a B-52.
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