Today we visited the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site near Cooperstown, ND. It was once operated by the 321st Missile Wing of the Grand Forks Air Force Base. A crew of 10 Air Force Officers monitored 10 nearby Minuteman III missiles and were trained to launch them if they received orders to do so. The site was in operation from 1966 to 1997. When the site was shut down in 1997 the crew packed up their personal belongings but everything else was left untouched so it really is like walking through a time capsule.
This is a view from the security officer’s desk.
If you were a visiting the facility you had to remove your ammunition clip from your weapon and then fire your weapon in here. This would ensure that no live rounds were on site. You would then hand over your weapon to the security officer who would lock it up until you left.
The security officer would give you an authorization code for entrance to the facility. You would use this phone to convey that code to the officers inside. You were not to converse with the officers, you would only give them your code.
The mascot for the site was Oscar the Grouch because their site was known as Oscar Zero. This Oscar was done by one of the officers. Notice the emblem that says “Kremlin Krushers”…this was the era of the Cold War after all.
After a tour of the above ground area we took an elevator ride down 46 feet to the underground capsule. It was here where the two missileers on duty spent their time. They worked 24 hour shifts and never left the capsule. Here is one of the two stations in the capsule.
The site closed on July 17,1997. Notice the clock. It was stopped as the last man left the station.
This bulletin board was signed by the crew of the last alert (or shift) on July 17,1997.
If the President sent the orders for a missile to be launched the officers would go to this red box to get their authorization codes. Launch required a total of 4 missileers to authenticate. Not only would the two officers at this site need to enter codes but also two officers at a second missile site would need to do the same. Those codes would allow them to access keys which would then need to be used simultaneously.
If the site was attacked the crew would have all gathered down in the capsule and closed this blast door behind them. The crew would have had about 6 weeks worth of food and water available.
Here is a look down the hallway past the blast door.
Just a bit of fun trivia…According to several “authoritative sources”, in August of 1966 three UFOs were spotted near the Minuteman Missile Site. Because there was a fear that the UFOs could disable the nuclear weapons, “immediate measures” were taken. An F-106 Interceptor was launched and a ground strike team was dispatched. One of the witnesses, a site activation team member, made a drawing of the object which resembled a “classic flying saucer shape”.
I promise, I am not making this up! Perhaps in some secret realm North Dakota is known as Area 52.