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Oops… they (almost) did it again

5 May 2022

“Former President Donald J. Trump asked Mark T. Esper, his defense secretary, about the possibility of launching missiles into Mexico to ‘destroy the drug labs’ and wipe out the cartels, maintaining that the United States’ involvement in a strike against its southern neighbor could be kept secret, Mr. Esper recounts in his upcoming memoir,” Maggie Haberman reported for The New York Times.

Raw Story

Maybe Cinco de Mayo … commemorating an unexpected Mexican victory over what at the time was considered the world’s best miliary… wasn’t the day for this to come to light, but hey… the US has indeed rained missiles down upon Mexico before.

ON 12 September 1967, a Pershing I missile, fired from the Black Mesa test site when “astray”, landing in Chihuahua, just south of Van Horn, Texas. At the time, other than a few more or less dismissive items in the newspapers (including the New York Times), the story was largely ignored, both in the U.S. and Mexican media, given that the missile was an unarmed test missile, the US (quietly) paid compensation and no one was unduly inconvenienced. HOWEVER, it might be noted that Pershing I was taken out of the US arsenal soon after, and all Pershings were later removed around the world in the late 1970s.

A much more serious… and nearly disastrous incident… occurred just three years later, when an Athena missile, in the early morning of 11 July 1970 had a systems failure… According to a later report by the Air Force Systems Command:

An inflight malfunction, fourth stage motor ignition on V123D, caused both stage four and the payload to fly off course; for ignition of the fourth stage occurred prior to mid-course guidance maneuvers and provided a range extension of approximately 400 (nautical miles) and subsequent impact in Mexico.”

While, again, the missile landed in a relatively isolated area, there was a HUGE problem. First, the Air Force couldn’t find it… not the US, not the Mexicans. The best anyone could figure at the time was that it was “somewhere” 150 miles south of Juarez.

Secondly, something no one wanted to think too much about, the missile included radioactive Cobalt-25 and was …somewhere. It wasn’t found, that somewhere turning out to be about the Durango-Cohuala border, the nearest population center being Torreon.

Cleanup took months. Not only the missile debris, but much of the topsoil having become while not glowing, at least radioactive enough to raise health concerns, had to be carted away by the US government (which also had to build a temporary railway to the site).

Once is an accident. Twice is happenstance… though it’s definitely noticed. A third time would have been enemy action… and whether Trump really suggested this, or whether or not anyone would have complied with that insane sounding plan (how would missile strikes NOT be seen as coming from the US?), Mexico should never take US good will at face value. Nor, consider itself an “ally” rather than a neighbor, of a nuclear power.

see also: 11 September 1967, New York Times (“Errant Army Missile Takes Mexican Trip”); Chicago Tribune (“US Missile Off-Course Hits Mexico”; White Sands Missile Range Museum (“In 1970, An Athena Missile Went Deep Into Mexico“)

One Comment leave one →
  1. Chris Kellogg permalink
    6 May 2022 6:58 am

    There was a misfire of an American version if not actual German V2 Rocket that landed in the central Park in Juarez in the forty’s.

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