Nuclear Secrets

Minuteman National Historic Site

Your intrepid travel blogger risking "deadly force" to uncover and document nuclear secrets.

Judging by how hard a time we had finding the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site you’d think its location is still a national secret. Directions from the National Parks Service lead you to a small building so cleverly hidden I drove by it, twice. Once inside, a park ranger hands me a photocopied map with directions to the actual minuteman missile silo. “You mean it’s not here?” I ask. “No, sir. Launch facility Delta-9 is located another 15 miles west.”

Back in the car, back on the highway, down a dirt road to a chain-link fence sporting a sign informing me that I’d likely be shot if I ventured inside. But while the sign said “no” the partially ajar gate said “yes.” So in I went.

I don’t know what I expected to find, but a Plexiglas covered hole in the middle of nowhere wasn’t exactly it. For something with so much destructive potential it seemed completely benign – even small and inconsequential. And yet the ground I stood on, with no other visible structure for miles around, was almost certainly a higher priority Soviet nuclear target than any city I’ve ever visited.

Hidden in plain sight, visitors can find the “Delta-9” missile by exiting South Dakota’s I-90 at 116 and heading south about a mile and a half. Just ignore the warning sign.

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6 Comments on “Nuclear Secrets”

  1. john October 31, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    I was a Minuteman Missile repairman in the Air Force… kind of funny to see them all out on display as they were very top secret back in the day…


    • Brian October 31, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

      Wow, that’s a neat job!


  2. customtripplanning November 1, 2011 at 7:24 am #

    In an earlier chapter of my life I was a real estate appraiser in Connecticut. Once, while working on an assignment for a condo in Connecticut I learned that condo complex had been the location of a missile site. In fact, the educational science center on the top of the nearby hill where my kids went to summer camp had been the command center and there was another removed missile site on the other side of the hill also. They were everywhere! We may not live in a peaceful world today, but at least that kind of nuclear war threat is gone.


    • Brian November 1, 2011 at 7:40 am #

      Very interesting. I’m not old enough to have lived through the nuclear air raid drills of the 50’s but it’s something I think about whenever I hear someone suggest that life was so much better in the “good old days.” Things aren’t perfect today, but I have a hard time believing they were really better in any previous generation.


  3. Atari November 2, 2011 at 1:02 am #

    The Cold War and MAD has always kinda fascinated me. My friends and I would sit around for hours and contemplate scenarios, playing war games and all that. My roommate (who I still play the occasional round of DEFCON with) and I even completed the Junior Ranger activity packet for the park and got the coveted patches (which I wear proudly on my flight jacket, lol).


  4. dhphotosite November 3, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    Very interesting indeed. When we were kids we used to play on what was once called a “Nikey site” It was another launch site that has since been converted to a daycare facility. Odd.


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