Bellevue, Washington – Police responded to a call from a Washington state man who discovered an unexpected item in his late neighbor’s garage – a rusting nuclear missile.
The man contacted the Air Force Museum offering to donate the military-grade rocket, which he said his neighbor had purchased at an estate sale. Much to his surprise, the donation offer prompted a visit from the Bellevue Police Department’s bomb squad.
Upon examination, technicians determined the device to be an inert Douglas AIR-2 Genie missile, originally designed to carry a 1.5 kiloton W25 nuclear warhead.
“It was basically just a gas tank for rocket fuel,” said Bellevue Police spokesman Seth Tyler. “There was no warhead attached and no danger of an explosion.”
With no risk identified, officers left the inert missile with the man to potentially restore for museum display. Tyler noted the event was “not serious at all,” downplaying the discovery given the advanced age and considerable oxidation of the device.
Decommissioned Cold War-Era Nuclear Air Rocket
First entering service in 1957, the AIR-2 Genie was an unguided air-to-air rocket deployed by the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War era. The short-range weapon was designed to be launched by interceptor aircraft at incoming Soviet bomber formations.
Upon detonation, the 1.5 kiloton W25 nuclear warhead would destroy swarms of enemy planes with blast and radiation effects. The Genie was intended to provide an extreme last line of defense against a potential communist nuclear strike.
Over 3,000 Genie rockets were manufactured by Douglas Aircraft Company before production ended in 1962. The advent of more sophisticated guided missile technology quickly eclipsed the unguided, free-falling Genie.
By the 1980s, the obsolete air rockets were retired from active service as nuclear brinkmanship tensions began to ease between the U.S. and Soviet Union. Despite the missiles’ brief operational window, the powerful Genie warhead could inflict tremendous damage, holding strategic importance as a nuclear deterrent during the height of Cold War tension.
Washington Man “Extremely Irritated” by Media Attention
The Washington state man who sparked a police response by reporting the missile discovery was reportedly “extremely irritated” by resulting media coverage.
Police stated the man was “not expecting a call from us” in response to his attempted donation. The museum had apparently failed to provide any warning regarding potential actions prompted by his offer.
Despite frustrations over unwanted publicity, the man graciously allowed police access to examine the inert device found in his late neighbor’s garage.
Authorities confirmed the rocket carried no functional nuclear warhead and posed no risk of hazardous radiation exposure. With the situation resolved, the odd discovery became an anecdote in the lengthy history of America’s nuclear defense protocols.
“We think it’s gonna be a long, long time before we get another call like this again,” the Bellevue Police Department tweeted. The inert missile was left in the possession of the startled local man.
Cold War Artifacts Occasionally Resurface
As remnants of the Cold War era, nuclear missiles and other military artifacts periodically resurface in surprising places. These discoveries often spark a rapid response from authorities until the items are confirmed to be inactive and safe.
In a similar 2018 incident, a 50-year-old Honest John nuclear rocket was discovered under the back porch of a home in Jacksonville, Arkansas. Built to deliver nuclear payloads without active guidance, the obsolete missile was another specimen of early weapons technology rendered inert long ago.
After an initial alarm, officials were able to quickly confirm the rocket carried no functional nuclear core. While not armed, the discovery served as a striking reminder of the once omnipresent threat of nuclear war.
As decades pass since the Cold War, more decommissioned weapons may yet appear in unexpected civilian settings. In most cases, the outdated technology presents little physical danger, instead recalling a tense period of history defined by apocalyptic threat.
The Lingering Legacy of Nuclear Deterrence
The discovery of the Douglas Genie missile in a Washington man’s garage conjures uneasy feelings despite the absence of true risk. While no longer a threat, the very existence of such powerful weapons reflects the ideological standoff that gripped the world throughout the Cold War.
The nuclear arms race between the U.S. and Soviet Union prompted the creation of hugely destructive weapons as each nation sought to deter the other’s use of force. Driven by fear and suspicion, the unchecked proliferation of nuclear missile technology inflicted a psychological toll even without actual deployment.
While disconcerting to stumble upon, inert rockets like the one found in Bellevue represent obsolete remnants of a bygone era. The tense military stance of the Cold War has long since softened, allowing such historical artifacts to emerge as intriguing curiosities rather than imminent dangers.
The lingering unease speaks to the traumatic impact of nuclear brinkmanship on the public psyche. But with no active weapons remaining in the Washington man’s garage, the strange discovery served as a peaceful close call reminding us of what could have been, but thankfully never was.