To the editor:
I read that the “rocket” in Centennial Park is getting a new coat of paint. Perhaps many Lawrencians don’t know that this actually is the shell of a Polaris missile, a true weapon of mass destruction. The missile was donated to the city in October 1964 by the Lawrence Navy League. It somehow was intended to honor those who served in the U.S. military during the Cold War. In 2011, the Kansas Cosmosphere asked us to donate the missile to them, but the City Commission rejected the request.
These submarine-based nuclear missiles were deployed from 1960 to 1974. The nuclear warheads ranged in power from 600 to 1,200 kilotons. By contrast, the atomic bomb we dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 was equivalent to 13 to 18 kilotons of TNT. That bomb thoroughly destroyed an area of the city about two miles in diameter. There never was an exact count of the number of people killed initially or later by burns, injuries and radiation, but 130,000 to 150,000 people had died by the end of the year.
Our “rocket,” then, could have killed well over a million souls outright if delivered to a large city. Are we proud of this? Do we want our children to look at this great white hulk and dream of the possibility of killing a million people in one blow? Nuclear war is too unthinkable, too horrific for us to use it in any way as some sort of misguided patriotic symbol.