U.S. Army engineers Wednesday began dismantling Pershing 2 missile launchers at a base in West Germany, the first launchers to be destroyed in the country in accordance with a Soviet-American nuclear weapons treaty signed last December.
Nine trailer-mounted launchers, built at a cost of $830,000 each, were cut up with acetylene torches at the base at Hausen in southern West Germany. They will be sold for scrap.
The launchers are the only American weapons to be destroyed outside the United States under the terms of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which calls for the elimination of land-based intermediate-range weapons.
On Tuesday, the first of 443 cruise missiles were destroyed at a base in Arizona. Last month, the first Pershing 2 missiles were destroyed in Texas.
On hand at Hausen were 10 inspectors from the Soviet Union, who were allowed to enter West Germany in accordance with a provision of the treaty.
“For the first time ever, our mission is to eliminate, not maintain,” the site commander, Christopher Evans, declared.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Joseph Wagovich said the Soviet inspectors were “not stiff, but not chummy, either; just very professional.” He added, “We are surprised it has worked out as well as it has.”
The Soviet inspectors took photographs of the launchers being destroyed.
“The work may seem routine,” Vyacheslav Lebedev, head of the Soviet delegation, said, “but never before did humankind know any work which would be more creative.”