Minuteman and Minute Man

A tall missile model stands behind a revolutionary war soldier statue at sunset
Minuteman Missile model on the Lexington Green, 1960. The Boeing Company toured a Minuteman Missile around the United States in the early 1960s to build support for the program.

Boeing Company Archive

Minute Man—A member of the 1770s colonial militia trained to respond to a threat at a minute's notice.
Minuteman—A nuclear missile that a missileer can launch with less than a minute’s notice.
During early development of the solid fuled ICBM that would become Minuteman, the program's first designation was "Weapons System Q." Lieutenant Colonel Edward Hall’s final feasibility study, produced in 1957, outlined a missile powered by the new fuel technology he named the “Minuteman” as a symbolic reminder of the country’s military past and to reflect the quick response time of the missile system.

The liquid fueled missiles that preceded the Minuteman were all named for Greek and Roman Gods (Atlas, Titan, Nike, and Hercules). in addition to the technological differences, the name Minuteman distingished the missile system precisely because it described both the performance of the system and connected to the founding mythology of the United States.

The Revolitionary War Minute Man was an ideal symbol for Cold War America - the individual rising to the common defense of the fledging nation - and an excellent contrast to the image of Soviet Russia. One year after the new missile was named Minuteman, in 1959 Congress authorized the establishment of Minute Man National Historical Park in Massachusetts to protect the the battlefields and structures associated with April 19, 1775.

Last updated: July 28, 2018