The Odessa Record -

Former missile site tour, background on Peter Davenport, summer reading

Series: Harrington News | Story 40

August 1, 2019

Courtesy photo

10 children showed for the conclusion of the Summer Reading Program, many bringing their pictures of what aliens would look like.

Correction from last week

In last week's Harrington Public Development Authority notes, this writer erred in attributing comments about painting, learning to tuck point bricks and painting the caterpillar sign to Tim Tipton when in reality they were offered by Nathan Luck. Apologies to both men.

Peter Davenport's former missile site

On Tuesday, July 23, Peter Davenport, Harrington resident and owner of the decommissioned Atlas "E" ICBM missile site (Site #6) located between Harrington and Davenport, had the pleasure of hosting a tour of his site by USAF Colonel Derek M. Salmi, Commander of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing based at Fairchild AFB. Col. Salmi was accompanied by two officers under his command, USAF Col. Michael Johnson and USAF Col. Michael O'Conner, as well as by two members of the Fairchild AFB Public Affairs Office, Staff Sgt. Nicolo Daniello and A1C Kiaundra Miller, who served as photographers during the visit. Col. Salmi's son Josh also accompanied his father during the tour.

Also attending the tour was John Davis, who until recently worked as Veterans' and Military Liaison in the Spokane office of Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (5th Congressional District). Davis, a former ICBM Launch Control Officer for the U.S. Air Force, was instrumental in arranging the tour, and he provided detailed information during the tour about the history and operation of the Atlas "E" missile and launch sites, as well as information and anecdotes about other ICBM missiles that entered the U.S. arsenal during his service.

During the tour, Davenport conducted the group through the missile room, where the missile and its warhead were stored in readiness alert, as well as through rooms used for the storage of both kerosene (fuel) and liquid oxygen (oxidizer). In addition, the group toured the separate launch control room, where launch team members and support personnel worked and lived on a rotating 24-hour emergency alert status. Davenport also played a slide presentation during the tour, which consisted of photographs that had been taken during the construction, operation and decommissioning of Site #6.

Davenport's site is one of six decommissioned Atlas "E" sites located in Lincoln County. The other inactive sites are located near the cities of Wilbur, Egypt, Reardan, Sprague and Lamona. In addition to the six sites in Lincoln County, there are three other launch sites in the 567th strategic missile squadron, two in Spokane County, located in Deer Park and Newman Lake, as well as a ninth site to the south of Spokane, located just inside Idaho. All nine sites were commanded out of Fairchild AFB, and were part of the Strategic Air Command.

Site #6 was commissioned in late April 1961 and remained operational until mid-1964. The missile that was removed from the site was stored for almost two decades and was later used in 1983 to launch a satellite into low Earth orbit. Each of the nine sites had to undergo a readiness alert at least once a month, during which the Atlas missile had to be raised to a vertical orientation, fueled, loaded with liquid oxygen and made ready for flight in every other respect. Site #6 maintained a 100 percent readiness record, never having failed to be ready for launch within 30 minutes of the issuance of an alert command.

Davenport purchased the site in March 2006. In 2013, Davenport gave a tour of his site to nine pupils in Mike Cronrath's Current World History, WW II and the Cold War classes. During that tour he expounded on the difference between the six Lincoln County sites and the "launch control site" which was located in the Rocklyn Zion district, presently owned by the Mielke family. It was from the Zion site that missiles located in any of the other six sites could be launched. Crews would prepare the missiles for launch, and then remove themselves from the immediate area. The missiles were Atlas E Missiles that had a 3.75 megaton warhead 180 times more powerful than the blast at Hiroshima. These sites contain two to three million tons of concrete.

Davenport has had a diversified and fascinating work history. In 1977, he taught at Peninsula College on the Olympic Peninsula in Fishery Science, Fishing Anatomy, Net Mending and Weaving and Micro-technique. In 1987 he was a Flight Instructor for gliders. He also taught International Business at the University of Washington that year. During the Cold War, he was a Russian translator in 1970 and 1971 when he was stationed on the Elbe River in Germany for two years. In his semi-retired life-style, he is often seen gathering information to participate as one of Harrington's City Council members. He volunteers his time and knowledge to make presentations at the Harrington Opera House, the school and the Summer Reading Program. Thank-you, Peter, for co-authoring this article.

Summer Reading, conclusion

Ten young students turned out for the conclusion of the Summer Reading Program at the library. Several brought in their depictions of what they thought an alien might look like. Peter Davenport poked his head in to greet the students and cheers rose from the group. He engaged them in a brief conversation and encouraged the children to find answers about their universe. Kris Moritz, instructor, read a few pages of scientific information to the students whose ages ranged from Pre-K to 6th grade. The older students were very attentive and presented the instructor with some challenging questions. YouTube films were shown on the library's computer which featured how astronauts brush their teeth in space, life on the International Space Station and how water behaves in zero gravity. Moritz demonstrated how craters are formed on the lunar surface by filling an extra large stainless steel bowl with flour, then had the students drop a wet tennis ball into the bowl. Squeals of delight filled the air. Juice and treats followed by a good-bye ice cream bar from the librarian ended this the last day of the 2019 summer program.

Saturday rummage

Courtesy photo

Harrington resident Peter Davenport, owner of decommissioned Atlas E Launch Site #6, describes elements of the launch control room to Col. Derek Salmi and Col. Michael O'Connor, visiting from Fairchild AFB.

A "surprise sale" was made available to the local residents at the Opera House Art Room with leftovers from previous sales being offered for a donation of $2 per box. It was a fun and profitable day, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with quite a number of shoppers. Items included a toaster, an iron, crock pots, silverware, glassware, fabric, books and VHS tapes. No new items were offered, as these are being carefully sequestered until the big two day rummage sale at Fall Fest in September. Donations of additional items were also accepted during the sale, as well as monetary donations from individuals who couldn't find anything they really needed but wished to support the Opera House.

In leaving the sale, it was noted that the Hotel Lincoln was doing some construction and even had a tractor in active duty.

And for those that do not live locally, the "Vacant Lot" had a face lift Saturday, July 20, and although harvest is in the air, people made time to level the lot. Progress on all corners.


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