"View Down The Muzzle of the Silo" by NPS Photo , public domain
Official Brochure of Minuteman Missile National Historic Site (NHS) in South Dakota. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).
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Minuteman Missile Minuteman Missile National Historic Site South Dakota National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. President Ronald Reagan When Gene Williams was growing up in the 1960s, he knew that his family’s farm held a dangerous weapon—a nuclear missile that could reach the Soviet Union. ”You were always aware of the fact that the awesome power that was there could end the world,” he recalls. The missile was one of hundreds of Minuteman missiles hidden beneath the sunflowers and wheat, the cows and corn of America’s Great Plains during the Cold War. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site commemorates this perilous period of world history and explores the choices a nation faces. NICOLLE R. FULLER, SAYO-ART LLC launch control Air supply Blast door Commander’s console Deputy commander’s console An unmarked building encircled by a tall fence gave little hint this was a LAUNCH CONTROL FACILITY. Above ground, security guards and other staff worked, stood watch, relaxed, and rested. Below ground, two US Air Force officers were always ready to launch nuclear missiles. All they needed was the command from the US president. missile silo Nuclear warhead At the LAUNCH FACILITY a few miles away, a nuclear missile waited in a silo. Its solid fuel was stable enough to last decades while still making the missile able to launch in minutes. The tall motion sensor would alert Launch Control of intruders. The cone-shaped antenna communicated with airborne control centers. If the command came from Launch Control, the 90-ton silo cover would slide out of the way and the Minuteman missile would blast off to a target thousands of miles around the Earth. Guidance computer Missile The Missileers Who Work the Shifts Two people worked 24-hour shifts in a control center that was designed to protect them from a nuclear blast. It was inside a capsule made of fourfoot-thick concrete reinforced with three-inch-thick steel bars, and was suspended from shock absorbers. The crew had survival gear to last two weeks, and an escape hatch in the event of disaster. What kind of world would have awaited them? Each launch facility had 10 missiles to control. The missiles were about 3 miles apart, grouped around the launch control facility. Missile technicians drove more than 60 miles from Ellsworth Air Force Base to maintain the missile. While the technicians worked, armed guards watched over them and the security of the facility. Suspension system Those Who Maintain Those Who Deliver RIGHT—© NPS / WILDERMAN COLLECTION; BELOW—LIBRARY OF CONGRESS Rural roads were specially maintained for the massive truck and trailer delivering a missile. This ”transporter It was a ”MAD” World From the 1960s to the 1990s, the United States and Soviet Union followed a strategy called MAD, or MUTUALLY ASSURED DESTRUCTION. Neither side would risk launching an attack because the other side would launch an equally destructive counterattack. What Does an Arms Race Look Like? ”Little Boy,” a World War II era atomic bomb, could have destroyed the center of Washington, DC. One Minuteman missile could have taken out most of the city plus adjacent cities and towns. If that happened today, at least one million people would die. 80 =1 One Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima 80 Little Boys = 1 Minuteman Missile ll totalling 1.2 megatons of TNT = Minuteman ll Missile Burst radius Little Boy Hiroshima, Japan 10 Each FLIGHT had 10 missiles. erector” could erect the container over the silo and lower the missile into place. LEFT AND ABOVE—LIBRARY OF CONGRESS Those They Protect People heard about ”civil defense” from radio, TV, films, magazines, newspapers, and booklets. They learned how to build and stock a private bomb shelter or where to find a community shelter. And they hoped to never need one. Children practiced “duck and cover� in school drills. STATE LIBRARY OF VICTORIA With 1,000 Minuteman missiles ready (below), the United States was ready to strike back if the Soviet Union struck first. But how many Americans would have already died? In the map at far right, each circle equals one missile strike, which would create a crater 200 feet deep and 1,000 feet wide. One such strike could kill as many as two million people, including people in civil defense shelters. Imagine how many would die if 100 missiles struck at once along the US East Coast. 150 1,000 One WING had at least 3 squadrons and 150 missiles. Six WINGS had a total of 1,000 missiles. In a Minute’s Notice Minute Man—A member of the 1770s colonial militia trained to respond in a minute’s notice of an attack. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. Dwight D. Eisenhower In an all-out nuclear war, more destructive power than in all of World War II would be unleashed every second during the long afternoon it would take for all the missiles and bombs to fall. Mankind must put an end to war— or war will put an end to mankind. NATIONAL ARCHIVES Minuteman—A nuclear missile that a missileer can launch with less than a minute’s notice. Jimmy Carter NATIONAL ARCHIVES John F. Kennedy JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY & MUSEUM Truman 1945–53 Stalin 1922–53 Eisenhower Kennedy Johnson 1953–61 Malenkov 1953–55 1961–63 Kruschchev 1955–64 Nixon 1963–69 1969–74 Ford 1974–1977 Carter 1977–81 Brezhnev 1964–82 Reagan GHW Bush Clinton 1981–89 1989–93 Andropov 1982–84 GW Bush 1993–2001 Obama 2001–09 2009–17 Trump 2017– Gorbachev 1985–91 Chernenko 1984–85 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) in place in the United States ATLAS TITAN l Timeline ends mid-2018. TI TAN l l PEACEKEEPER M I NU TEM AN 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s • Top-secret Manhattan Project develops a US atomic bomb. • “Duck and cover” drills and backyard bomb shelters become common. • Eastern Germany builds the Berlin Wall. • Strategic arms limitation talks (SALT) lead to the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, which further limits nuclear weapons. • South Dakota rancher hosts 10day rally against nuclear weapons. • Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) is signed. • US and Russia renew the START treaty. • Iran signs agreement that limits its ability to build nuclear weapons. • 1 million people demonstrate in New York City to support disarming nuclear weapons. • USSR dissolves and Cold War ends. • US withdraws from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty. • US and Russia complete START treaty requirements. 50 Minuteman III missiles removed, leaving 400 beneath the Great Plains. (None are in South Dakota.) • World War II ends after US drops two atomic bombs on Japan. • Tensions between US and USSR escalate. • The Cold War gets a name. • Soviet Union launches Sputnik, a small satellite, using a rocket powerful enough to carry a nuclear warhead into the United States. • US and Soviet Union develop more destructive thermonuclear weapons. • Titan I and Atlas missiles placed in 1959. • USSR brings missiles to Cuba; US prepares to launch Minuteman missiles. • Titan II missiles in place. • 1,000 Minuteman missiles in silos beneath the Great Plains. • Missiles in South Dakota upgraded to Minuteman II. • Minuteman III installed in some missile fields. • Peacekeeper missiles developed; each can carry 10 nuclear warheads. • Mikail Gorbachev comes to power in the USSR. • 189 countries sign nuclear nonproliferation treaty. • India and Pakistan test nuclear weapons. • Last Minuteman II missile launch facility deactivated. • North Korea tests nuclear weapons. • Minuteman Missile National Historic Site established. • Berlin Wall comes down. • North Korea continues testing nuclear weapons and missiles. • At least 8 other countries have nuclear weapons of some type. Living with Missiles We would always go out to the missile silos and . . . listen to the machinery that’s humming . . . and it just reminded me of Darth Vader. A test launch of a Minuteman III missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, in 2016. © BRIAN WEBB —Lindi Kirkbride, rancher in Wyoming and antinuclear activist It was kind of like this macho competition, but it was never like complete hatred. —Valeri Bochkov, artist and writer who grew up in Russia during the Cold War You had a bathroom at the end that looked like something out of Alcatraz [prison] . . . and the bed was right there. There is really no changing area. . . . no privacy whatsoever in a Minuteman capsule. —Linda Aldrich, missileer 1982–98 That’s what the nuclear forces have done is created that environment where there generally has been peace at the highest levels, and that’s what we continue to do today. —Tucker Fagan, missileer 1968–73 The best type of war to have is one that you never have to fight, and this is one case where we fought a war and we never actually fired a weapon in anger. —Gene Williams, who had Delta-06, a Minuteman launch facility, on his ranch Planning Your Visit The park’s three sites are along I-90 between Badlands National Park and Wall, South Dakota. Begin at the visitor center, located north of I-90 exit 131. A film and exhibits explore the Cold War. The Delta-01 Launch Control Facility is open only during ranger-led tours. Fee; reservations required. Go to the park website or call the park. • Delta-09, the missile silo site, is open daily; exhibits explain the site, you can look down into the silo. • Parking and facilities are limited at both sites. IGPO:2019—407-308/82428 New in 2018 Printed on recycled paper. Safety and Regulations The launch control facility tour is limited to six persons. It requires a ride in a small elevator; visitors must also be able to climb two long ladders. • Be prepared for sudden changes in weather and road conditions. • Check the park website for firearms regulations. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site 24545 Cottonwood Rd.; Philip, SD 57567 605-433-5552; www.nps.gov/mimi Accessibility We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to the visitor center, call, or check our website. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. To learn more about parks and National Park Service programs in America’s communities, please visit www.nps.gov. Emergencies call 911 Follow us on social media. You might also want to visit the South Dakota Air and Space Museum at Ellsworth Air Force Base. It has a launch control simulator and a Minuteman II missile. The base tour includes an opportunity to go inside a missile silo. The base is outside Rapid City. Go to www.sdairandspacemuseum.com or call 605-385-5189 or 605-385-5188.