In 1960, Fairchild Air Force Base’s 567th Strategic Missile Squadron went live with their Atlas E Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (IBM) sites. Each Atlas E was outfitted with a 4-megaton nuclear warhead. Site 6 is located near the small farming towns of Davenport and Harrington, WA. Eastern Washington is pockmarked with empty missile silos, relics of the Cold War.
Spokane was a priority nuclear target for the Soviet Union. Each of the 9 missile sites is 18,000 square feet of underground concrete, built to withstand an atomic blast 50 times larger than Hiroshima.
Airmen were able to launch an Atlas E within 15 minutes of receiving the order to do so. Dick Mellor an airman stationed at one of the missile sites was interview by the Spokesman-Review, “It’s kind of scary going into one of them now,” Mellor said. “Because, really, we were 15 minutes away from letting one of those missiles go. That would have changed the world as we know it."
The missiles were removed from the sites in 1965 but for Atlas E IBM Site 6 that was not the end of the story. Since their decommission all of the silos have been purchased for private use. One site is used by the federal government for noise testing. Farmers use the silos as storage and for farming needs. However, Site 6 became a private residence.
Ralph Benson, a long-haul truck driver, called Site 6 home until 2002 when he was convicted of first-degree murder in the death and dismemberment of Roger Erdman. Erdman an auditor with the Washington Department of Licensing visited Benson to inspect his business records and determine if he was delinquent on fuel taxes.
Shortly after his arrival, Benson shot Erdman in the back of the head and dismembered his body inside the sprawling underground concrete silo. Erdman’s precisely dismembered body, minus the upper torso, was found south of Cheney, about 40 miles east of Benson’s home. After inspecting the Benson silo, police found blood along with 320 other pieces of evidence. Benson, who died in prison in 2004, was suspected of similar crimes from Texas to Nevada.
Peter Davenport of Harrington, a nationally prominent UFO investigator, bought the site from Benson’s sons in 2006. Davenport is the director of the National UFO Reporting Center. Over the last 25 years, Davenport and the Reporting Center has recorded and compiled data relating to UFO sightings. He uses Site 6 to hold records related to this research. He frequently gets requests for tours.
Davenport, whose colorful careers include being a Russian translator in the Soviet Union, a commercial fisherman, a college professor, and president of a Seattle-base biotech company admits that "it took a while for folks to warm to me," in the small town of Harrington. ‘I mean, a UFO investigator from Seattle and buys an abandoned missile site? Come on!’”.
From the terrifying days of the Cold War to the murder of an auditor to the warehouse of UFO research, Atlas E Missile Site 6 has certainly not faded into farm storage. These former IBM missile sites make Eastern Washington singularly unique.