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Cold War Rising

Oscar-Zero at the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site

As we move further and further away from the end of the Cold War (which most historians date to the collapse of the Soviet Union in December of 1991), interest in Cold War history is rising. With this increasing curiosity in Cold War history, there is also a rise in historic sites, ‘alumni’ organizations, reunions, etc., that are doing their best to remember and make sense of the Cold War. At the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site we have been involved in a number of these efforts. Through our involvement with this history, we are often asked:

“Are there other nuclear missile sites that we can tour?”

Yes. Besides our Oscar-Zero and November-33 sites in North Dakota, those curious about the history of US nuclear missiles can visit three other sites in the US and one in the Ukraine.

The D-01 Launch Control Center at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Operated by the National Park Service, and located about 20 miles east of Wall, SD, the site operates the historic Delta-01 Launch Control Facility and the Delta-09 Launch Facility. Of the six Minuteman wings that were constructed, these facilities were part of the second wing and are examples of some of the earliest design features of the Minuteman system. (The historic facilities that we operate were part of the sixth and final wing to be constructed and thus are examples of some of the later technology and strategic differences in the then-evolving Minuteman system).

Titan Missile Museum. This launch control center and missile silo is truly an impressive historic site located just south of Tucson, Arizona. A visit to the Titan Missile Museum will bring to light the great differences in the Minuteman and Titan systems. Perhaps the greatest single difference that you’ll notice is that unlike the Minuteman system which separated each of its launch facilities (missile silos) by at least 3 nautical miles from the control facility, the Titan system co-located the missile silo and the control center. (Of course, there are countless other differences between the systems but this is perhaps one of the most noticeable).

Oscar-01 on Whiteman Air Force Base (Missouri). On Whiteman Air Force Base visitors can visit the historic Oscar-01 Launch Control Facility. Since I haven’t yet visited this site, I’ll limit my comments. But, like our site, and the NPS site in South Dakota, the Oscar-01 site was also a Minuteman control facility.

The 12th sector (for crew R&R) of Unified Command Post at the Strategic Missile Forces Museum

Strategic Missile Forces Museum. Located on the border of Kirovohrad and Mykolayiv regions in Ukraine, this historic missile site is the counterpart to our US missile sites. (It’s likely that our US sites and this Ukrainian site were targeting one another during the Cold War). I’ve never been to this site, but I certainly hope to someday. If any of you have been there, I think it’s safe to say that all of us would love a full report!

Of course, there are numerous museums that are hosting Cold War exhibits including our own neighborhood Northern Plains Cold War Interpretive Center which is located at the Griggs County Museum. These museums are recognizing the emerging interest in Cold War history and are taking measures to fulfill a growing public demand.

Another common concern we hear from guests, especially those that served in the missile systems, is:

“I want to be better connected.”

So, I’d like to do three things now. The first is to encourage you to spread the word that these missile sites are being preserved and reunions are centering around all of them–some folks due to countless reasons, just haven’t received the word yet.

Next, I’d like to encourage you, especially if you have a missile background, to get involved with the Association of Air Force Missileers. This outstanding alumni organization is open to anybody that worked any job at any time that was related to any Air Force missile system. It is a true hub of missile and cold war-related information and reunion information. The AAFM publishes an excellent newsletter that is full of personal stories and historical information. They will be hosting their 10th National Meeting in Montana in the fall of 2012–they’re taking registrations now.

Missile Crew Members from the 80s era reunite around the Oscar-Zero control console

Finally, if you were involved in the 321st out of Grand Forks AFB, I’d invite you to join their Facebook page “321 Strategic Missile Wing”. Setup at the time of the reunion, the page has become a ‘coffee shop’ of sorts where old friends mingle, share stories, post pictures, documents, etc. Check it out.

Well, that’s a very small start. If you’re interested in Cold War or missile history (which you must be if you’re reading this blog) visit those historic sites, check out the offerings of the Association of Air Force Missileers, and search Facebook for groups that interest you.

Also, I know I’ve left out a number of important and useful resources, historic sites, and museums. I invite you to post your additions in the comments below so other folks can take advantage of what you’ve already learned.

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