Mixed Emotions – Road Tripping through the 321st Missile Field

Just over a year ago I went road-tripping on a tour of the former 321stStrategic Missile Wing. I wanted to get a good look at the 14 other Missile Alert Facilities (or Launch Control Facilities). I had a few reasons for doing this. One reason was that I was deeply curious—I wanted to see firsthand what had become of the facilities since their deactivation in the late 1990s.

321st Strategic Missile Wing (copyright SHSND)

I-0 (India-Zero)

The road trip and discovering the condition of the facilities ended up being much more emotional than I ever could have imagined. And my emotions were all mixed-up. It was a powerful trip. As I drove from abandoned facility to abandoned facility there were overriding similarities. The sites were overgrown with grass and weeds. Siding had been ripped from their sides. Basketball hoops had fallen into rusted, bent heaps. Rooftop security lights were precariously hanging by their last few bolts. Piles of old farm implements and rusting vehicles cluttered the parking areas (left their by their new private owners). Critters and raccoons had set up residence and taken their part in the deterioration. It was an ugly picture all throughout the missile field.

In one sense, I felt perfectly fine with all of this deterioration. In fact, it felt somewhat gratifying. The nuclear weapon is the most powerful and lethal weapon that mankind has ever devised–the deactivation of this missile field meant there were 150 fewer of these most deadly weapons standing on ready alert. Additionally, there is certain victory in their closure–the deterrent force of these sites brought the Cold War to a cold, peaceful conclusion. In other words, it is perfectly fine that these sites are now slowly rotting away because they had done their job and they had done it well—they had brought the long Cold War to an end, and they were no longer needed. There are definite reasons for rejoicing in their deterioration–but those reasons focus on the military and political mission, purpose, and capabilities of the sites.

K-0 (Kilo-Zero)

However, when my thoughts shifted away from the structures of these sites and focused on the people of the sites, the deterioration became deeply saddening. I couldn’t help but think of the many dedicated, hard-working, well-trained people who for over 30 years kept these facilities, this tip of the US nuclear sword, in immaculate and razor-sharp condition. I couldn’t help but think of the countless Air Force inspectors who visited these sites and demanded nothing but excellence and perfection—I couldn’t imagine how their stomachs might turn at the sickening sight of these rotting facilities. I couldn’t help but think of the many young Air Force members who put gallons and gallons of elbow grease and sweat into the maintenance of these facilities. I couldn’t help but think of the thousands of hard-working civilian contractors who built these sites and especially of the seven men who died constructing the sites. I couldn’t help but think of the families and the real impacts that these sites had on their personal lives—the spouses who spent Christmas at home and alone while their loved one fulfilled a duty to the nation at these isolated facilities. I couldn’t help but think of all of the laughter, tears, struggles, and successes that were wrapped up in these facilities—facilities that were now simply and slowly rotting away.

A-0 (Alpha-Zero)

J-0 (Juliett-Zero)

G-0 (Golf-Zero)

F-0 (Foxtrot-Zero)

E-0 (Echo-Zero)

C-0 (Charlie-Zero)

C-0 (Charlie-Zero)

So, while I appreciated the fact that the sites had effectively fulfilled a national military and political strategy and it was gratifying to set aside a tool that was no longer needed, I saw these facilities as much more than tools or objects. When we build structures, we typically build them to fulfill a necessity. But, as we build and use them we can’t help but embed ourselves into them—the structure will always hold countless human stories—that ability to hold our stories is their very real power. And it’s these personal stories, these very real but invisible human connections, that makes me something of an historic preservationist, or a building hugger as some might joke. There is an incredible amount of power in place. This is why I take a great deal of pride in the historical preservation and interpretation work that the staff and I take on everyday at Oscar-Zero.

Well, those are my ramblings. What are your thoughts on the deterioration of these missile facilities? Or your thoughts on the historic preservation of buildings? I’d love to hear your thoughts—I’m sure they’d help us all further shape our own thoughts and maybe even help straighten out some mixed emotions.

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The 321st Strategic Missile Wing became fully operational in 1966. Operations began with a missile crew force that was comprised solely of male missile combat crew members. In 1975, the Air Force began to examine the possibility of bringing women into that crew force. Thirteen years later, in 1988, the first women “pulled alert” in the control centers of the 321st. Below is a very brief examination of some of the issues surrounding the inclusion of women onto the crew force—this is not meant to be a full and comprehensive treatment of what may have been the most significant social change to happen in the missile field during its over 30 years of active operations. Our goal is to simply remind all of us that things do change and that some things that we now simply assume were not always so.

The Status Console (typical working station for the on-duty Deputy) of the Launch Control Center

Working 50 feet below ground, in the small Launch Control Center (LCC), for a twenty-four shift, awaiting orders to launch the world’s most powerful and destructive weapon isn’t the description of an easy job. Missile crew members required discipline, integrity, attention to detail, and a constant awareness of the destructive power that was in their hands. Missile crew members did their jobs in two-person crews. Each individual crew member brought different strengths, weaknesses, and dynamics to the table. For years these crew members were strictly males. One of the most significant changes to the missile crew force was the integration of women into the crews. For the 321st Strategic Missile Wing, that moment came in 1988 and followed a thirteen year long debate that weighed the pros and cons of females becoming launch officers.

There were a number of questions that the Air Force had to address prior to assigning women to Missile Combat Crews (as they were officially titled). One of first questions was short but somewhat complicated: Is missile duty actually combat duty? When the conversation began in 1975, women were not yet allowed in any type of combat duty. Although women had officially been serving in the armed forces for decades, they filled roles that didn’t put them in the direct line of fire. Since missile crews were considered “combat crews” could the Air Force place women onto these crews without violating prohibitions against women serving in combat roles? After all, the crews that would be called upon to turn the keys to launch a massive nuclear strike were certainly participating in nuclear combat. Eventually, the Air Force determined that the indirect nature of the nuclear strikes that the crews could launch, meant that serving on a missile combat crew wouldn’t actually put women in the direct line of fire.

Another issue that arose concerned a stereotype that deemed women to be too “fragile” or “emotional.” Some leaders asked: If women were called upon to launch a massive, retaliatory, nuclear strike, could they follow through with the orders—or would their emotions prevent them from launching their weapons. Eventually, this irrational stereotype was seen for exactly what it was and it also was defeated during the debates surrounding the integration—women obviously had all of the characteristics to make successful and reliable combat crew members.

Jeff Langley, a Flight Security Controller in the missile field and a member of the 321st from 1983 until 1993, recalls women’s ability to perform their duties in the missile field: Jeff Langley Interview (Audio)

The bed in the Launch Control Center was modified to add additional privacy for the sleeping crew member

While there were many proponents advocating for the addition of women to the Minuteman crew force, there were also many opponents. Perhaps some of the most significant opposition came from the spouses of male crew members. Many wives of the male crew members adamantly opposed the idea of their husbands being enclosed in the small, underground, LCC for 24 hours (or more) with another woman. In turn, this opposition drove a fear that the addition of women could lead to male missileers feeling pressured to avoid or leave the missile career to appease their spouse. The Air Force also considered the appearance of impropriety with a male and a female isolated together in the small space. In order to alleviate some of these concerns, and to provide additional privacy, when women were eventually added to the Minuteman force, the Air Force  changed the physical landscape of both the LCC and the Launch Control Support Building (topside). In the LCC, both the sleeping area and the lavatory were modified—most significantly walls, with a door, were erected around the lavatory to increase privacy. Topside, the Air Force eventually modified a utility closet to serve as a women’s bathroom.

Dennis Almer, interviewed with his wife Gayle Almer, served  as a missileer in the 448th missile squadron from 1975 to 1979. This was a key time during the debate surrounding the transition to mixed-gender crews–Dennis and Gayle reflect on the different reactions and responses to the proposed transition: Dennis and Gayle Almer Interview (Audio)

Although the Air Force listened to the complaints of those who thought women didn’t have what it took to be successful crewmembers and those who argued that women would cause unnecessary disruptions to the spousal relationships of the male missileers, the change moved forward. The Air Force determined that the positive effects that the addition of women to the Minuteman force could have outweighed the concerns. Equal treatment for men and women was of the utmost importance as women’s rights continued to expand in all career fields during the 1980’s. Career progressions for women in the military had been stagnant and creating new opportunities for women were critical at that time.

James Lancaster, a Flight Security Supervisor during the mid to late 70’s, details the transition of women into the missile field. Before women served as missile crew members in the below ground control centers, they filled topside roles, including roles on the security response teams. Lancaster worked with the first women who served as security forces in the 321st Missile Wing. In the clip below, he details the different attitudes that came with that transition and how things changed: James Lancaster Interview (Audio)

Responding to the addition of women to the missile field, the Air Force converted a utility closet to the women’s bathroom

Women were first officially assigned to Titan missile crews in 1983, and found their way to Minuteman Missile wings three years later in 1986. Then in 1988, the first women “pulled alert” in the Grand Forks missile wing. Women were first assigned to all female crews. The Air Force attempted a “separate but equal” approach in order to appease some of the opponents of the new policy. However, gender specific crews created a great number of difficulties. Traditionally, new crew members were assigned to a seasoned crew commander—the crew commander was responsible for mentoring the new missileer and providing a sort of on-the-job training—because there were no seasoned Minuteman female crew members, this became exceedingly difficult (or nearly impossible). Additionally, some male missileers began to resent their female counterparts because the gender specific crewing often meant that women sometimes couldn’t pull as many alerts because of scheduling. And, finding a gender-specific replacement during emergencies (or illnesses) was near impossible. Faced with the numerous difficulties posed by gender specific crews, the Air Force determined that mixed gender crews was the next, and obvious, step for the wise utilization of military personnel.

Serving as a Missile Combat Crew Commander and also as a Flight Commander, Warren Tobin recalls the variety of ways the missile field changed when women began active duty: Warren Tobin Interview (Audio)
Dennis Burdolski, a maintenance team member and team chief from 1985 until 1997, provides a missile maintainers perspective about women in the field and details some of the difficulties that maintenance work presented to female service members: Dennis Burdolski Interveiw Audio

The debate over bringing women onto the nuclear missile forces raged for over a decade. Eventually, women entered the missile combat crew force. Since their entry, women have served our nation with distinction and have played a vital role in our nation’s policy of nuclear deterrence.

During the writing of this blog, we realized that we have zero images of women serving in the 321st Strategic Missile Wing. If anybody out there can help us fill that gap in our historical record, we would greatly appreciate the help. Also, if anybody would like to add to this blog, please post  in the comments area!

Sources: Although, there aren’t any published sources that deal directly with this topic, a couple of Masters Theses which tackle this issue have been completed. Those works, along with a number of oral histories that we’ve conducted, were the basis of much of this blog.

John L. Donovan, Captain, USAF. “The Integration of Women onto Minuteman Missile Crews.”  1991, Masters Thesis, Central Missouri State University.

Duane A. Carolus, Captain, USAF. “A Study of the Attitudes of Married Minuteman Crewmembers and their Wives Concerning Female Minuteman Crewmembers.” 1978, Masters Thesis, School of Engineering of the Air Force Institute of Technology, Air University

The Association of Air Force Missileers, published an edition of their newslestter that dealt specifically with “Women in the Missile Force”. AAFM Newsletter, Volume 16, Number 2, June 2008.”

“Memories of the Missile Field” Collection, Property of State Historical Society of North Dakota. Created by the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site.

Self Sufficiency: Oscar-Zero’s Secret Weapon

Self- Sufficient: able to maintain oneself or itself without outside aid; capable of providing for one’s own needs.

Being prepared for anything has been a tactic employed by everyone from ancient warriors to the Boy Scouts. The Oscar-Zero Launch Control Facility (LCF), like many other Minuteman LCF’s, is a shining example of self sufficiency in the defense network. “The function of the LCF is to provide housing, protection and support to launch control operating personnel and equipment.”Constant connection with Grand Forks Air Force

The generator system is strategically discussed by the Air Force and the manufacturer in a 1964 mock up.

Base (GFAFB) created a constant supply chain of personnel, equipment, food, etc to Oscar-Zero (O-0). Inversely, O-0 sent back trash, used recyclable materials, and, of course, personnel that were going off-duty, creating circular chain of functioning. O-0 was self-sufficient at any given moment (a snapshot in time so-to-speak), but it could not be so without its strong connection to the GFAFB. Once that connection broke, the clock would begin running on O-0—it would survive for quite some time but eventually it would be depleted of supplies. Strategically created this way, Oscar- Zero relied on self-sufficiency to both protect itself from being infiltrated and to assure constant survivability in isolated conditions.

Strategic planning created the ability to sustain Oscar-Zero in a variety of conditions. Items like on-site fuel tanks kept gasoline for maintenance, security, and crew vehicles. While isolated, there was never fear of running out of fuel and becoming stranded at the site. On-site water tanks provided guarantee that water never ran out for showers, bathroom facilities, drinking, and most importantly fire fighting. Facility Managers checked these gauges on a daily basis to confirm all were working at a full level. If something was below regulation standard of operating, more was brought out and attended to immediately. On a regular basis, the site operated on power supplied by the local power company but there were two backup generators on site—one above ground and one below ground. These generators were available at any time to power the facility. Should the below ground

This gauge on a water tank was checked daily by the Facility Manager, to assure there was enough water for the site. The green was the ideal amount of gallons.

generator fail, the computers in the Launch Control Center would be powered by batteries—this backup to the backup ensured that the critical link between the control center and the missile silos was never broken. A large kitchen inventory that was carefully monitored by the on-site cook and regular replenished by vehicles from Grand Forks AFB. Also on site was a fully stocked linen closet that always had an abundance of supplies to keep the site comfortable and operational. Why the full capacity?

The next generation of present day Minuteman missiles still function off of self sustaining Launch Control Facilities. This Minuteman III missile is the next generation of the Minuteman missile.

A variety of reasons dictate the preparedness of every LCF. The missile field was a place where being prepared for anything was a requirement. The Air Force operated and maintained the world’s most powerful weapon–running out of things like fuel, water, food, or power while operating and securing those weapons was simply not acceptable. Additionally, the more things the LCF could do for itself, the less contact with the outside world the site required. Security was an essential priority, and the less movement through the gates of the facility required a lesser chance for infiltration by any potential security threats. Most importantly, preparing for the worst was required. In a worst-case scenario, the ability to keep the facility running to operate and secure the missiles would be of the highest importance. While some of the dooms-day scenarios seemed like unlikely occurrences, they also had practical applications when weather turned for the worst. Many former employees remember being trapped at the LCF for what seemed like days on end during winter months, and the independence of the site set their minds at ease.

Self sufficiency allows the Launch Control Facility, and therefore the missile field, to run smoothly. This system is in practice at active missile sites today, and has positively served the nation’s ICBM force for over forty years.

1.  Technical Manual, Operation Instructions, Minuteman Weapon System T.0.21M-LGM30F-1-13, 1986.

All Photos Courtesy of Association of Air Force Missileers

Constructing a Missile Field

On February 28, 1963, the US Army Corps of Engineers selected Morrison-Knudsen and Associates as the general contractor for the sixth and final Minuteman missile wing to be constructed. (Although the Corps was responsible for coordinating this massive project, the end product would be operated by the US Air Force). Like the five missile wings which preceded it, Wing VI would be configured with 15 launch control centers and 150 missile silos (each silo containing one nuclear-tipped Minuteman missile).

The Launch Control Equipment Building (left) and the Launch Control Center (right) are clearly seen in this image. Between '64 and '66, 15 such facilities along with their above ground support buildings were constructed in the Grand Forks missile field.

A year later, on March 5, 1964, Morrison-Knudsen broke ground and construction was underway. At the time, the Grand Forks Herald correctly asserted that the project “will go down as eastern North Dakota’s most colorful and largest construction project.” The project had a tremendous social and economic impact on the area. Anybody living in the construction area could not escape its presence—the area covered 7,500 square miles (running east-west from Grand Forks to Devils Lake and north-south from the Canadian border to I-94). During the peak of construction, nearly 7,000 persons were employed. Sadly, the sometimes dangerous work took the lives of 7 of those construction workers. While many employees were local North Dakotans, many others came from across the nation. Schools quickly filled to capacity (many schools have never surpassed their enrollment numbers during those years). The Herald reported that the project injected over $35 million into the local economy in 1965 alone. The project cost the nation nearly one billion dollars ($600 million for structures and equipment and another $255 million in missile hardware). Incredibly the project was completed in just over two years and on December 7, 1966 the 321stStrategic Missile Wing became fully operational.

The supporting equipment building (left) and the top of the cylindrical missile silo are seen in this photo. Water naturally inundated many of the sites and needed to be constantly pumped out to allow construction to proceed.

Charles Parkman was a civilian construction worker that was employed in the project. Charles was the foreman of a de-watering crew. Perhaps one of the greatest struggles during construction was against the flooding waters of breeched groundwater tables, spring snow melts, and regular rains. De-watering crews kept up the struggle in order to keep the deep excavations dry enough that work would not be delayed and concrete could be poured. Today, Charles is a tour guide at the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site and regularly relates his first-hand stories to guests. In 2010, we interviewed Charles as part of our on-going oral history project (“Memories of the Missile Field”). Click below to listen to Charles discuss his earliest experiences as a foreman on a de-watering crew for the Morrison-Knudsen construction company. 

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.

Crew Commander’s Tour

We held another “Crew Commander’s Tour” this past Saturday (January 21, 2012). These recurring tours have proven very fun, educational, and successful. We hold the tours during our winter months (Nov-Feb). Because the site is only open by appointment during these winter months, we have the time and opportunity to offer these in-depth tours of the site to a limited number of guests. The long-length tour (about 2.5 hours) enables a relationship to develop between us and our guests and that relationship really opens up the dialogue. Because the site is otherwise closed during the tour, we can dedicate the site strictly to that tour—in other words, we have the place all to ourselves. But, perhaps the real highlight is the presence of a former Air Force member who joins Site Supervisor Mark Sundlov (himself a former missile crew member) to act as a second tour guide. This past weekend, former Facility Manager Joe Conzo joined Mark on the tour. Joe supported the site when it was an operational Air Force site and he has also been helping the site since its earliest days of becoming a historic site. Joe shared a number of great stories this past weekend from his unique perspective as a former Facility Manager (FM). It’s always a real treat to see guests light up when Joe nonchalantly tells of his days at Oscar-Zero and his time as FM NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge) in the 448th Strategic Missile Squadron. After all, how often do we get to visit a historic site where the first person interpretation is not provided by a costumed guide but by the actual first person? What a cool experience!

Seeking qualified Facility Managers, the Air Force posted this ad on the bulletin board at Oscar-Zero in March 1992

Another great aspect of the “Crew Commander’s Tour” is the follow on lunch that the Friends of Oscar-Zero host at the Griggs County Museum. This collaboration helps highlight the activities of the GCM including their newly established Northern Plains Cold War Interpretive Center. It also gives the Friends of Oscar-Zero another opportunity to directly fulfill their mission of supporting Oscar-Zero and the GCM. This weekend the Friends hosted a very tasty lunch catered by “Wooden Gardens”—a great little coffee shop, gift shop, and lunch spot in Cooperstown.

This past weekend, Melanie Orlins from WDAZ, Channel 8, in Grand Forks joined us on the tour and then reported the story on the Saturday evening news. It always feels good to have the media on site to help spread the story of the site and the preservation work that the State Historical Society of North Dakota has been doing here. Here is the link to that video…

Tour Offers Recent History Lesson of ND Nuke Site

Remember—the Crew Commander’s Tour is not the only way to see the site. We transition to our spring hours on March 1 and then to our summer Hours on May 16. If you’re interested in visiting the site, click on “The Historic Site” tab at the top of this page for the fine details or just call us at 701-797-3691 or write to the Site Sup (Mark Sundlov) at msundlov@nd.gov

Annual Report (Jul 2010-Jun 2011)

We were busy in our second full year* of operation as a historic site. Below are some highlights from our July 2010-June 2011 Annual Report…

After first opening its doors on July 13, 2009, the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site enjoyed its second full year of operation from July 2010 through June 2011. Operations at the site during this second year primarily focused on the continued restoration of the site and the delivery of new and effective interpretive programs for guests.

  • Two significant special programs were developed for the site. A fun, family-oriented, “Children’s Rocket Day” hosted nearly 100 guests and treated families and children to a fun day at the site.

    Children's Rocket Day at Oscar-Zero was a real blast for the kiddos!

    An ongoing, wintertime “Crew Commander’s Tour” offers extended-length, in-depth tours of the Oscar-Zero facility from former Air Force members who worked in the missile field. These collaborative tours conclude with lunch offered by the Friends of Oscar-Zero at the Griggs County Museum.

  • The site launched the youth-oriented educational program, “Youth Missile Commander.” All visiting children are provided with the challenge to complete workbook activities in reward for a special “Youth Missile Commander” patch (similar to patches worn by Air Force members who served at Oscar-Zero).

    Children who complete the special youth program earn the coveted "Youth Missile Commander" patch

    The site also continued development on History, Math, Science, and Language Arts educational lesson plans that are targeted towards secondary school children and will be available on the internet and on-site.

  • The ongoing oral history project, “Memories of the Missile Field,” was formally planned and launched. Nearly twenty interviews were recorded. As the project has progressed, new techniques and new equipment have been incorporated to ensure recordings of high quality will be captured.
  • Significant improvements were made at the site to improve the guests’ experiences. Improvements included: additional directional signs for Oscar-Zero and November-33, outdoor brochure distribution boxes, a new digital frame displaying historic photos and a new exhibit case in the orientation room, and a new kiosk for brochure and information distribution.
  • Using historic inventories, on-site user manuals, and other supporting historic documentation, numerous pieces of equipment were restored to Oscar-Zero. Restored equipment included: an original Chelsea US Government 24-hour clock (located in the Launch Control Center),

    One of many restorations at the site included the restoration of the 24-hour clock to the Launch Control Center

    exterior security light fixtures, a basketball hoop, two televisions, one VCR, a digital alarm clock, one refrigerator, a personal computer (with monitor, keyboard and mouse), and a computer monitor.

  • A number of projects were undertaken and completed to preserve the historic condition and integrity of the site. These projects included: installation of acrylic over vulnerable historic wall-hangings and the Security Control Center desk; cleaning of sludge and decay from the bottom of the elevator shaft way and beneath the tunnel junction floor; restoration of below-ground drainage lines (to allow ground water to reach the sump pump and be evacuated from the below ground area); a significant cleaning of the site’s garage; an inspection and testing of the historic (and still functional) cathodic protection system; and, extensive grass cutting, spraying, and tree removal from the sewage lagoon to restore it to its historic state and improve its functionality.
  • Site library resources continued to expand with the acquisition of numerous secondary sources and primary documents that relate to nuclear weapon systems and the Cold War. The site continued to pursue acquisition of primary documents relating to the 321st Strategic Missile Wing from the Air Force Historical Research Agency. Once obtained, these documents will serve as an invaluable on-site resource for future historical research and current interpretive understanding of the site.
  • The site continued to receive positive recognition as it won the Mountain Plains Museum Association’sTechnology Competition for its orientation video,“America’s Ace in the Hole: North Dakota and the Cold War.”

    Guests enter Oscar-Zero at the Orientation Room where they have the opportunity to watch "Ace in the Hole," take in an educational exhibit, chat with tour guides and buy something to take home.

  • The site continued to expand its community involvement with a presence on the Cooperstown Economic Development Council, Cooperstown Community Club, and the Cooperstown Area Strategic Planning Team.  Additionally, the Site Supervisor attended the Association of Air Force Missileers’ annual conference in Tucson, Arizona and presented on the site’s preservation efforts, solicited input on historical resources, and developed relationships.
  • The site continued to work closely with the Griggs County Historical Society to assist them with the development of the Northern Plains Cold War Interpretive Center. The site also assisted the GCHS as it began participating in the American Association of State and Local History’s StEPs program.
  • The site pursued and achieved formal certification from the National Museum of the US Air Force under its official loan program. With formal certification, the site is now eligible to borrow objects from the NMUSAF. These objects could potentially include a Minuteman missile, Peacekeeper armored vehicle, UH-1N helicopter and others.
  • Marketing and advertising efforts continued with a regular Facebook presence, regularly scheduled summertime weekly radio interviews, and special interviews with local and distant radio stations (including Chicago’s WGN and Prairie Public Radio).

*As part of a state agency, the site operates on a fiscal year that runs between July 1 and June 30.