South Dakota: Minuteman National Historic Site

A look inside one of the major programs of America’s Cold War defense system

Location: Hours: Fees:
Located at three sites along a fifteen mile stretch of I-90. The Visitor Center is located immediately north of I-90, exit 131 Open daily, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m (Mar to Dec). For Winter hours see website Access to the visitor center is free. Tours of the Launch Control Facilities range from $8.00 to $12:00

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 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.

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.

 

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