At one time, the United States and the former Soviet Union aimed nuclear-loaded missiles at each other. During the height of the Cold War, that went on from the late 1940s through the late 1980s, the two nations and their allies had thousands of Cold War Missile Silos, buried beneath the ground, next to wheat fields and corn fields.
Ultimately, you might be living near former Cold War Missile Silos and have no idea it is there. By pure chance I founded out that I have one of those twenty minutes away from my house. That made me wonder, how many more are out there?
After the collapse of the communist system, the United States and Russia agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenal. Remember the collapse of the Berlin Wall? Hasselhoff was in attendance singing the anthem for freedom. After several treaties both sides agreed to remove several missile sites and decommission the missiles.
Cold War Missile Silos in the United States
While the United States has placed missile silos around the country, most of the missile bases were located in the Midwest and Northern plains. Most were positioned in Missouri, Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
Several bases later lost their missile assignments and got new missions assigned. However, the stories of the American military missile silos continue to circulate from abandoned sites to museums.
If you attempt to get into some of these sites, you might be apprehend by security (or worse) for trespassing.
Here’s a look at some of the interesting missile sites to visit around the country.
Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site – North Dakota
Located about four miles north of Cooperstown (90 minutes from both Fargo and Grand Forks), you can tour the former Oscar Zero Launch Control Facility, aka the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site.
The LCF was the center of each of the 15 missile sites in eastern North Dakota. Each area, designated with a letter from the alphabet, was home to 10 missile silos.
Tours of Oscar Zero include a walk through the topside, where security and support staff lived during their weekly tours of duty. You’ll find the security control center, living area complete with a television, books and recreational options such as a pool table, as well as a kitchen and dining area.
The back of the building was home to bedrooms for people assigned to the area. Six members serviced the facility- a controller and two-person patrol for day and night shifts, cook, and a facility manager.
The lower level only allowed the two-person launch control team and the facility manager. It now shows a look into the daily operation managed by the commissioned officers during their 24-hour shift. If the message came to launch missiles, it took both people to work in tandem to launch the weapons.
Seven miles southeast of the launch control facility is November-33, a former missile silo. This is the spot where a missile would launch if necessary. A series of alarms secured each launch facility. If one sounded, a security patrol would be dispatched from the launch control facility.
You can check out the grounds of November-33, but not the silo.
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site – South Dakota
You can actually see an unarmed Intercontinental Ballistic Missile(ICBM) as a part of your visit to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site near Philip, South Dakota (an hour east of Rapid City).
Delta-9, part of the 15-area missile complex once assigned to Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City, has a glass top where the concrete blast shield would have been. You can safely look and see the tip of a missile in the 80-foot deep silo.
The silo is part of a three-unit museum complex, along with the Delta-1 Launch Control Facility, which was staffed 24 hours a day from the mid-1960s through the late 1990s. LCFs resembled ranch-style homes, only surrounded by security fences with use of force warnings.
In addition to the dedicated sleeping quarters for assigned staff, the LCF also had rooms set aside for maintenance teams, in case they needed to spend the night. Delta-1 tours include a look at the underground launch control center, where the two-person missile crew worked.
The Minute Man National Historic Site’s visitors center showcases the history of ICBM missiles and their role in South Dakota. You can watch videos and check out exhibits detailing the missile field’s history.
Cold War Missile Silos – Missouri
Western Missouri was home to 150 Cold War Missile Silos for about 25 years. The Department of Defense removed the last of the ICBMs in 1995. Whiteman Air Force Base, about a 75-minute drive southeast of Kansas City. It is home to Oscar-01, a launch control facility, where a two-person launch team oversaw 10 missile sites.
A tour of the Oscar-01 Launch Control Facility showcases the topside of the building, where the security team ensured the safety of the missile sites by dispatching a patrol whenever an alarm activated at one of the missile silos.
During their off-duty time, security and support staff could relax by watching television, playing games, or relaxing in the dedicated bedrooms.
Underground, the two-person missile crew monitored the safety of the missile sites. If war broke out and the need arose to launch the missiles, the crew would work in tandem to launch the missiles. Fortunately, that never happened during the Cold War.
Quebec-01 Missile Alert Facility – Wyoming
For more than two decades, Air Force members trekked from FE Warren Air Force Base near Cheyenne to rural outskirts of Wyoming, to provide security and standby in case war erupted and missile crews needed to launch Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.
This occurred on a daily basis regardless of weather conditions.
Today, you can tour Quebec-01, a missile launch alert facility that housed security and support staff, as well as the missile crew. A tour of the facility includes a look at the topside facilities, which resemble a home, and the underground launch control center.
The highlight of any alert facility tour tends to be the underground facility. In its heyday, it would have been closed to everyone but the missile crew and a few other people.
The LCC resembles an IT support room, with the two-person missile crew sitting at separate work stations, but always within view of the other, for security reasons. Control panels feature dozens of lights, switches, and knobs. A secured box held the keys to launch missiles in a case of the emergency.
Spending 24 consecutive hours in an enclosed concrete room could drive a person crazy. LCC so toss in some unique art to add some color and military humor, and the LCC is like home away from home.
Titan Missile Museum – Arizona
The Titan Missile Museum in Green Valley is the only place in the United States to learn abut the Titan ICBM missiles. Located about 30 minutes south of Tucson, the Titan Missile Museum takes you through the history of the missile, which was used by the Air Force from the mid-1960s through 1987.
Able to launch in less than a minute, the missile could travel about 6,000 miles within 30 minutes.
Open since 1986, the Titan Missile Museum includes exhibits highlighting its story, as well as access to a launch control facility and launch control center.
Besides a bird’s eye view of the missile silo from ground level it has a walk through the cableway for an underground view of the silo.
Nike Cold War Missile Silos – Illinois/Indiana
While several Midwestern states were home to underground missile silos, major cities around the country were protected by surface-to-air Nike missiles.
More than 250 missile bases were scattered around the country, with most “protecting” larger cities, such as Chicago.
In the Chicago area, you can visit a couple of sites where the above-ground missiles were located. Nike Missile base C-47 was located near Wheeler, Indiana, which is now a national park attraction.
You’ll tour the launch area, as well as the grounds. This area once was a home to a control area and radar towers. In Chicago, you can visit the former C-44 Nike Missile site at Wolf Lake. A launch site still exists, as well as a monument honoring the military members who served at the base.
The monument features a deactivated Nike Ajax missile.
As you visit the missile silos and support buildings, putting yourself in the shoes of a young Airman. Picture yourself making your way to a site for a security check or to descend 80 feet underground for maintenance.
Imagine being an officer and a member of the two-person crew responsible for the safety and defense of the country. The people who performed these duties were dedicated to their mission and well-trained to address any issue that could arise.
And if you are reading through this thinking how many Cold War Missile Silos did former USSR have? It is estimated that from 1949 to 1991 the Soviet Union produced approximately 55,000 nuclear warheads. And growing up in Russia I had no idea about it either.