Visitor Center Audio Described Tour

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site


#1 Lobby Entrance Visitors to Minuteman Missile National Historic Site enter an open, brightly lit lobby. Large replicas of civil defense banners hang from the ceiling. One urges citizens to participate in civilian defense; the other outlines air raid precautions. A display case sitting in the middle of the lobby houses artifacts rotated from the historic site's large archival collection. The site's small bookstore, offering t-shirts, books, and Cold War memorabilia, is located to the left. Just past the bookstore is a display of other parks and attractions in the Dakota area. The first display on the right side of the lobby is a large map. Entitled “Great Plains or Ground Zero” it illustrates the location of the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, Delta-09, and Delta-01 in relation to the visitor's center. The next display, “The Nation's Nuclear Defense,” gives an overview of the 44th Strategic Missile Wing. It includes a brief description of the unit, its crest, and a map illustrating its reach. Two large photos show the missile in Delta-09 and the huge hangar at Ellsworth Air Force Base, which was the 44th Strategic Missile Wing's home. A graphic along the bottom of the display illustrates the 44th's three squadrons, the 66th, 67th, and 68th, and how the missiles associated with the Wing were distributed among the flights in each squadron. A display case located in the center of the lobby displays objects from the museum collection. Hanging from the ceiling are two oversized fabric banners featuring civil defense messages issued during the Cold War. Between the banners are three TV screens that play video footage starting with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan and ending with images from modern-day missile fields. The exhibit room is located in the far right corner.

#2 When the Home Front Becomes the Front Line To the right of the exhibit entrance is a graphic panel titled “The Nation’s Nuclear Defense.” The panel displays a large map showing the location of the 15 launch control facilities and the 150 missile silos that were based in South Dakota during the Cold War.

A diagonal 11-foot wall creates a loop through the exhibit room. Display areas chronicle the history and events of the Cold War. A 12-foot graphic wall panel, titled “When the Home Front becomes the Font Line,” begins the exhibit loop. The panel features black and white historic photos of school-aged children crouched underneath their desks and a Minuteman Missile launch. This area explains how nuclear weapons turned the home front into the front line of the Cold War.

#3 Blast Door A replica blast door, 5 by 7 feet, is used to introduce the work performed by missileers in underground launch control centers. The door is painted like a Domino’s pizza box with the words “World-wide delivery in 30 minutes or less or your next one is free.”

#4 Meet the Missileers Opposite the blast door is a replica of a gray metal storage locker holding a blue Air Force uniform. To the left of the locker is a historic stainless steel toilet/sink combination. A large graphic panel titled “Meet the Missileers” shows historic black and white and color photos of men and women at work in underground launch control centers. A small table below the panel holds a flipbook of historic photos depicting a day in the life of missileers who worked in South Dakota missile field. A historic red missileer chair sits to the left of the graphic panel. In front of the red chair is a TV monitor that plays a short video featuring interviews with retired launch control officers.

#5 Freeways and Shelters The area opposite the missileer area covers how Americans reacted to the threat of nuclear weapons at home. An exhibit case holds a gray metal shelving unit stacked with large historic 1962 cardboard boxes, barrels, and metal tins of original civil defense supplies.

To the left of this display, a graphic panel shows how American households prepared for nuclear attacks through historic photos and a colored poster. A map of the interstate system is also shown. Below the panel, a black and white drawing depicts a cut-away view of a family inside a basement bomb shelter made from sandbags.

A mid-twentieth-century-style television set in the corner plays a black and white video that switches back and forth between US and Soviet Union civil defense footage created during the early years of the Cold War. To the left of the television set is a replica table. The table sits under a window draped with red curtains and with a view of a sunflower field. The table holds a flipbook describing the reaction of landowners to the missiles in their midst.

#6 We Will Bury You This 9- by 9-foot area covers the Cold War experience in Berlin, Germany, and the Soviet Union. To the left, a graphic wall covering replicates the Berlin Wall. A small triangle piece of concrete from the Berlin Wall, which visitors can touch, is displayed on a graphic panel that describes Berlin as a divided city. Straight ahead, a panel shows images of Soviet military parades from Moscow.

To the right, a narrow graphic panel and TV monitor show Soviet civil defense propaganda posters. Another display compares the United States’ Minuteman to a Soviet missile, nicknamed Satan.

#7 Timelines Continuing to the next space, visitors see a two-story semicircular display that visually represents the buildup of nuclear weapons. A Cold War timeline is laid out on the lower reader rail. Events relating to nuclear weapons are listed by year starting with 1945 and ending with the current year. Behind the timeline sits a 3D nuclear arsenal bar graph. Colored cylinders are used to represent the size of each country’s nuclear arsenal: the United States is represented in blue and the Soviet Union in red. Behind the cylinders, orange bars represent the size of the world’s combined nuclear arsenal.

#8 Scale of Destruction Two ceiling-high graphic panels are positioned opposite the timeline. The lower graphic panel, titled “Scale of Destruction,” features a large gray map of the United States, Mexico, and Cuba. Concentric circles made by small red lights emanating from Havana, Cuba, show the range of Soviet Union missiles if launched from Cuba. A TV monitor below the map plays images and footage from World War II bombs and nuclear tests through 1963. A small table below the TV monitor holds a flipbook that shows the range of destruction a 1-megaton nuclear blast would have on well-known cities in the United States. Visitors can use a push-button light-up display to show the range of damage caused by various sizes of nuclear warheads. The upper panel is a color photo depicting a fiery yellow mushroom cloud exploding into a dark orange-tinged sky. To the left of the display is a seven-foot-tall, pale-green re-entry vehicle for a Minuteman II Missile. #9 Split- Second Decision This ceiling-high area, titled “Split-Second Decisions,” is broken into two sections. The upper section has a 30-minute timer and a graphic showing the flight path for a Minuteman Missile from silo to target. Below the flight path diagram, the seven-step communication process for sending the launch message to launch control centers is shown using colored pictures. The table below the graphic panel has a TV monitor that plays a simulated animation of a Minuteman Missile launch. Visitors can pick up a red phone receiver and listen to recorded reflections from missile crew members.

#10 What Do You Think? The exhibit loop ends with a black sign. Colored writing on the sign reads, “What do you think? Where are we now? Where do we go from here?” Visitors can add their comments in a book that rest in front of the sign. A doorway to the left leads you back to the lobby.


An audio described virtual tour of the visitor center at Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. The only sound is a description of the rooms with basic context of what you see. A written transcript is available.


8 minutes, 22 seconds


NPS/Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

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