This outing lead me and a small party of comrades to the above and under ground launch facility of the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Some of you may remember a particularly tense period of time in history, The Cold War, when the threat of nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States was constant. This experience brings to life the overwhelming fragility and intensity of life lived on the edge.
The journey starts at the Visitor Center just of Exit 131 on I90. The center is a bit small, especially to accommodate the large numbers of visitors who visit this historic site every day in the summer season. There are plans in motion to upgrade, by summer of 2015, the visitor center to a spectacular new building in the open prairie facing the Badlands.
Once we were all checked in and watched a short introduction video we met with our guide, Ranger Butch Davis. From beginning to the end of our tour, his knowledge and passion were clearly evident. I was completely drawn in…
The Minuteman Missile Visitor Center is separate from the launch facility Delta-01 and requires a little extra travel on I-90. Approaching the facility from the road really drives home how serious the circumstances were that this facility was designed to deal with.
Our tour started with a short tour of the above ground facility which took us through personnel quarters, kitchen and lounge area. As you meander through the grounds, you eventually reach the heart and soul of the tour, the security booth that leads to the underground launch facility.
You step into an elevator that dates right back to the Cold War. It is slightly cramped and can only accommodate groups of six, but this is the elevator that was only accessed by authorized personnel that would have done exactly what they were asked on a moments notice. As you step off the elevator you’re greeted by art that sums up the zeitgiest.
The only option left is to proceed past the blast door and into the underground control center. Anyone familiar with military procedure would expect nothing short of very specific set of rules that a crew of two missileers had to live daily. Just being such a significant room left me in awe.
There is so much intricacy that it is overwhelming, but being behind the camera allows me to segment the whole and focus on these details. Details such as, drab and lifeless boards and boards of buttons, knobs and switches and lights, phones that you would hope would never ring, and a very prominent red lock box that housed the keys to ultimate destruction.
As the tour at Delta-01 came to a conclusion and the fenced facility shrank into the distance in the rear view mirror I couldn’t help my mind from drifting back to what it might of been like to live during those times.
The Delta-09 missile silo was left as a historical link to the past after all ten of the missiles controlled by the Delta-01 Launch Center were de-comissioned after tensions ceased. This is where the missile would have left it’s underground slumber and been sent on its final flight towards mass destruction. The power to change the world was under that viewing glass. It really does bring into the forefront that it all hangs on such a fine balance and how quickly things can escalate and turn life into a nightmare.
Visitor Center: Open 7 days a week from 8 AM to 4:30 PM (May 19 – October 31)
Delta-01 Launch Control Facility Tours (May 19th – September 21st):
Ranger guided tours are approximately 30 minutes in duration.
Tickets for the Launch Control Facility are available at the visitor center, on a first come first served basis, on the day of the tour. Space is limited.
Launch Facility (missile silo):
Open daily from 8 AM to 4:30 PM (May 19 – October 31)
April 1- October 31, there is a self guided cell phone tour available.
Phone: (605) 433-5552