[graphic] Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary
 [graphic]  Link to Aviation Home  [graphic] Link to List of Sites  [graphic] Link to Map  [graphic] Link to Essays  [graphic] Link to Learn More  [graphic] Link to Itineraries  [graphic] Link to NR Home

[graphic] Link to Previous Site

[graphic] Title of Property
[graphic] Link to Next Site

Missile in Delta-09 missile silo

Photo courtesy of Sue Lamie, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in western South Dakota is one of the Nation's newest national park areas. Established by Congress in 1999, the park consists of a nuclear missile silo and launch control facility. From this seemingly isolated patch of Midwestern prairie U.S. Air Force officers could have launched intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) at targets in the Soviet Union. With the simple turn of keys, nuclear missiles would have been exchanged with the Soviet Union, making real one of the greatest fears of the 20th century, nuclear war.

The park is not yet open to the public, but when it is, visitors will be guided through the launch control capsule and topside support structures of a Minuteman II launch control facility known as Delta-01. Visitors will be allowed access to an area that, although not secret, was seldom seen by civilians from the time it was completed in 1963. Modified only slightly through its 30 years of continuous service, the site is an excellent example of a Cold War missile system. Operated by crews from nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base, Delta-01 was part of the 44th Missile Wing. Known as missileers, these young men and women had the ability to launch 150 Minuteman II missiles, a small fraction of the 1,000 ICBMs that were once deployed in the upper Great Plains. Contractors built the sites, finishing three weeks ahead of schedule despite the enormity of the task, labor disputes and South Dakota's challenging weather.

[photo] Delta-01 Launch Control Facility
Photo courtesy of Sue Lamie, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Security was a serious concern in and around each of the silos and launch control facilities. Each "flight" of missiles was controlled and protected by a launch control facility from which security police closely monitored and controlled access to 10 missile silos (Delta 1 and Delta 9 are now protected as part of the park) and the launch control center. This security system included checking visitors' credentials, monitoring radio transmissions and observing microwave detection and seismic sensor systems, as well as armed response teams. The armed response teams patrolling the "flight" were dispatched by launch control facility personnel to any breach of security at the silos. Armored vehicles were used to respond to any security breaches. Known as Peacekeepers, these were usually Dodge pickup trucks with an armored body and a turret mounted M60 machine gun. The Peacekeepers were a common sight on roads surrounding each of the missile sites and Minuteman Missile NHS recently acquired two of these vehicles for display.

Peacekeeper armored vehicle

Photo courtesy of Sue Lamie, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), placing a limit on the number of ICBMs and outlining a process for the demolition of some existing systems, including the Minuteman II. Long since replaced by the Minuteman III at several other installations, the escalating repair and maintenance costs of the Minuteman II made it a likely choice for deactivation. As the demolition of the 450 sites proceeded, Air Force and National Park Service employees began to work together on preservation of two of the sites.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is located on the I-90 travel corridor in western South Dakota. This park is not yet open to the public, but will be administered with Badlands National Park to conserve dollars and share human resources. For more information on the upcoming Minuteman Missile National Historic Site visit that park's website on the National Park Service's Parknet or call 605-433-5552.

 [graphic] Idea of Flight Essay  [graphic] Wright Brothers Essay  [graphic] Aviation Pioneers Essay  [graphic] Modern Aviation Essay  [graphic] Air Power Essay [graphic] Space Essay

Aviation Home | List of Sites | Maps| Learn More | Itineraries | NR HomeNext Site
Essays: Idea of Flight | Wright Brothers | Aviation Pioneers| Modern Aviation| | Air Power | Space |

Comments or Questions



[graphic] National Park Service Arrowhead and link to nps.gov