It Was Scary Down There…”




n response to a request and to insure accuracy as much as I can, I called Mr. Robert (Bob) Mauldin of North Little Rock to verify the information that I remembered from the day of the missile silo accident. He was one of the two elevator mechanics sent to the site to repair the elevator and restore elevator service.  The elevator was needed to expedite the cleanup of the silo. The Air Force wanted new hoist cables installed and the electrical components checked out for safety reasons.

Bob confirmed the details as I remembered them. So I will make an attempt to briefly restate the details as the men that restored the service told the story to me and others that worked there at the time.

I was working for Hartenstein Elevator Company as a service and repair technician at the time of the explosion. I was in downtown Little Rock when I noticed a lot of sirens and ambulances hurrying out of the city to the north. I had no idea of course what had happened for some two hours. We soon learned there had been an explosion but not much detail until the news was announced to the world.
           Within hours Mr. Hartenstein received a call from the Air Force base at Jacksonville that a team of repair men was needed to go to the site to assess the damage done to the elevator and to acquire the needed materials to effect the repairs.

           Bob Mauldin and Dean Nier, a White Countian (now deceased), were selected to do the repair. Upon their arrival they were immediately escorted to the silo elevator and subsequently down into the silo to see what work would be required.

           They returned to the shop at work time the next morning with a list of required materials and, of course, telling the rest of us what they had observed. Bob said, “It was scary down there,” as they had observed the outline of several bodies on the floor near the ladders. The inside of the silo was covered with soot and one could observe soot on the floor where the men were found but much lighter shades that left outlines indicating that they were not there when the explosion happened. He also said there was evidence a scramble had occurred as people were desperately trying to get out.

          Please understand that I did not personally go to the site and this information is second hand but I believe reliable as I have known and worked with these men for many years.  It was shop talk at the time … while the whole thing was fresh and ongoing.


(The author is a resident of Judsonia and occasional visitor at Historical Society meetings. He attended the program by silo survivor Gary Lay.)