Reminder of the Cold War

You may be surprised to learn that during the height of the Cold War, South Dakota was one of the ten most dangerous places to live in the US in the event of a nuclear war. We had few people and, aside from Ellsworth Air Force Base, few strategic targets. But what my state had was thousands of square miles of range land peppered with nuclear tipped Minute Man missiles. These missiles sites were like lightning rods: their intent was to protect our nation, but they also turned their locations in to attractive targets.

This is one of several “missile flight” centers. These secured compounds were for maintenance and launch of nuclear warheads. Above ground, the places look fairly innocent. But deep underground in reinforced concrete bunkers, the launch commanders would receive their orders, program the flight paths of the missiles they controlled, and push the Big Red Button.*

Today, the missiles have been removed, their underground silos imploded, and the missiles flight centers sit vacant. (Here’s a broader view of the same site. Also, you can see this on Panoramio – perhaps as the Russians saw it on their own satellite photos.)

Incidentally, one of these flight centers has been turned in to a very unique Bed and Breakfast, but you have to go way off the beaten path in South Dakota to sleep there. It’s called Juliet 1 B&B and it’s located in Opal, SD.

(*Big Red Button is my very unofficial term for the launch mechanism.)

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