What Is So Special About This Place

View of Delta 9 missile site looking south. Chainlink fence around gravel in the middle of a field.
A view towards Delta-09, looking south towards Badlands National Park

NPS/E. Watson

View down a cylindrical hole with a tall missile suspended inside it
Delta-09 is one of two places in America where the public can view a Cold War era missile silo.

NPS/J. Milbrath

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site protects two facilities that were once part of a Minuteman Missile field that covered the far western portion of South Dakota from 1963 through the early 1990s. There were 15 Launch Control Facilities that commanded and controlled 150 Launch Facilities (Missile Silos) holding Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. The park preserves two of these facilities in their historic state—Launch Control Facility Delta-01 with its corresponding underground Launch Control Center and Launch Facility (Missile Silo) Delta-09. These two sites, along with the Minuteman Missile Visitor Center, comprise Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.

During the Cold War thousands of Air Force personnel in Minuteman Missile fields throughout the Great Plains worked and lived around nuclear weapons that held unprecedented destructive power. It was these nuclear weapons that constantly threatened devastation of any aggressor nation that might consider launching a nuclear attack against the United States or its allies. This threat of destruction acted as a deterrent to enemies while paradoxically preserving an uneasy peace.

One of the most serious responsibilities during the Cold War was to be part of a missile crew with the ability to initiate the use of nuclear weapons from a Launch Control Center. These crews were ready to respond at a moment's notice. At the same time, maintenance and security police ensured that the sites were totally secure and always functioning.

two paintings are seen in a reinforced underground room
1980s morale art on the tunnel junction wall and blast door at Delta-01.

NPS/M. Hosking

The missile field was operational, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for 365 days a year, for thirty years. Despite the searing summer heat and brutal winter cold of South Dakota, operational status of the missiles was maintained at all times. Meanwhile, local landowners and members of small towns in the central and northern Great Plains lived literally side by side with nuclear weapons. In the background to all this, were the American people who enjoyed unsurpassed freedoms and prosperity yet also knew that their way of life could be destroyed in a matter of hours by nuclear war. This same harsh fact was true for nations all around the world.

The democratic capitalist system of the United States and its allies vied with the communist totalitarian system of the Soviet Union and its allies. The Cold War was fought through economics, politics, culture and indirect military confrontation. The Soviet Union eventually collapsed, but not before the world had come close to destruction on several occasions.

A large building rises above a prairie landscape
The visitor center serves as an orientation site to learn more about the Cold War

NPS/J. Milbrath

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site's purpose is to tell the story of Minuteman Missiles, nuclear deterrence and the Cold War. Delta-01 and Delta-09 are striking examples of the alert status of United States nuclear forces during this time period. These sites, along with the exhibits in the Minuteman Missile Visitor Center, help visitors understand the story of one of the most important eras in both American and World History.

The park presents an opportunity to reflect on a peaceful prairie that once held the power to destroy the world, serving as a public venue for examining the challenges and paradoxes of Cold War. Exhibits share stories of the technology that made it possible, service men and women, citizens near and far who feared the worst, the call for civil defense, and leaders at home and abroad who led the world to the brink and back.

Last updated: January 31, 2023

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Mailing Address:

24545 Cottonwood Road
Philip, SD 57567


605 433-5552

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