"American Experience: Command and Control," a documentary that focuses on an almost deadly accident in 1980 at a Titan II missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas, premiered Wednesday in theaters.

The film will premiere on the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) in early 2017 after a brief run in theaters this fall.

"The events of 1980 in Damascus, Arkansas, strike close to home, especially because AETN headquarters is less than 30 miles away from the site of the disaster," AETN Executive Director Allen Weatherly said. "We believe ‘Command and Control’ will help all Arkansans to understand the events that led to the explosion and to recognize the heroic work required to deal with the nightmarish situation.

"I had the opportunity to read the book the film is based upon and found the history riveting. We expect the same reaction to this superb film."

Through its first-person Air Force personnel accounts, the film depicts the unlikely chain of events that caused the near accident and the feverish efforts to prevent the explosion of a ballistic missile carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead built by the United States — 600 times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

"The story of the Damascus accident is one that nobody really knows and, in fact, I’m not sure anybody’s supposed to know," Executive Producer and Director Mark Samels said.

The film focuses on the Sept. 18, 1980, incident where Airmen David F. Powell and Jeffrey L. Plumb were performing routine maintenance at the Titan II silo in Damascus, Arkansas. Twenty-one-year-old Powell was considered a highly experienced missile technician at the time of the incident. Plumb, who had just turned 19, was still in training.

As the two stood on a platform near the top of the Titan II, a socket fell from Powell’s wrench, plummeted 70 feet and, shockingly, punctured the missile. A stream of highly explosive rocket fuel began pouring into the silo.

Nothing like this had ever happened before, and for the next eight hours, the leadership of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) frantically struggled to figure out how to prevent a massive explosion and retain control of the thermonuclear warhead — a weapon so powerful that it could destroy much of Arkansas and deposit lethal radioactive fallout across the East Coast.

"Today the U.S. still has approximately 7,000 nuclear weapons," Kenner said. "‘Command and Control’ teaches us that these weapons not only pose a threat to our enemies, but also to ourselves. After an accident, everyone will be asking why we didn’t do something. We need to be asking these questions before it’s too late."

(Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached by email at marisa.hicks@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)