The Minuteman Missile NHS (National Historic Site) is the only NPS site dedicated to the Cold War. As a kid, the cold war was always present during the 1980s. There were numerous movies where the U.S. and Soviet Union started launching nuclear missiles at each other. Of course, many of these movies featured America’s great plains. Here the earth would open to reveal a weapon of inconceivable destructive power.
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Minuteman Missile NHS Locations
The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is located at three separate sites. They are all found along a fifteen-mile stretch of Interstate 90 in western South Dakota.
1. The National Park Visitor Center:
The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Visitor Center is on the north side of exit 131 Interstate 90.
2. The Delta-09 Missile Silo:
The Missile Silo Delta-09 is located on the south side of Exit 116, Interstate 90.
3. The Delta-01 Launch Control Facility:
Launch Control Facility Delta-01 is located on the north side of Exit 127, Interstate 90. No facilities exist at Delta-01 except for the ticketed, ranger-led tour; no entry to the facility is allowed without tour reservations.
Minuteman Missile NHS History
The Great Plains was the home to the intercontinental ballistic missile during the cold war. Here members of the Air Force staffed launch facilities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At all times a pair of missileers lived 30 feet underground ready to launch a missile at a moment’s notice.
The purpose of the Minuteman Missile NHS is to tell the story of the Minuteman Missile. In addition, it tells the story of those who stood to watch prepared to launch the missiles at a moment’s notice.
The end of the Cold War created a unique opportunity to preserve this minuteman missile complex. The National Park Service and the Air Force agreed to preserve two sites. This included the Delta One Launch Control Facility and the Delta Nine Launch Facility.
Minuteman Missile NHS Facts
Was established as a National Historic Site on November 29, 1999
Consist of three separate facilities
- National Park Service Visitor Center
- Launch Control Facility Delta-01
- Delta-09 Missile Silo
Delta-09 contains the only remaining intact components of a nuclear missile field that once consisted of 150 Minuteman II missiles, 15 launch-control centers, and covered over 13,500 square miles
Be Sure To Visit All Three Locations
We highly recommend taking the time to visit all three of the locations. However, to visit the launch control facility you will need to make a reservation ahead of time. Be sure to continue reading to learn about each of these amazing locations.
Site #1 The National Park Service Visitor Center
The visitor center is a great place to start. Here you can explore the entire story of the Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missile System. In addition, you will learn about the Cold War and the role of the Minuteman Missiles.
The visitor center is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. It is open 8:00 am-4:00 pm for the remainder of the week.
Although 30 minutes long we strongly encourage you to sit for the movie titled “Beneath The Plains: The Minuteman Missile On Alert.”. This is a great movie that provides an introduction to the history of the Minuteman Missile system.
In addition, you can receive a Junior Ranger Program workbook here. This is a great free program that helps teach about each location.
Site #2 Delta One (D-01) Launch Control Facility
Approaching D-01 from I90, it looks like a lone ranch house in the open grassland. Over the years, most travelers on I90 probably did not give the site a second look. Nor did they know what military capabilities lay there.
This small unassuming building served as a multi-purpose facility. There are two levels to this facility both with important missions.
We highly recommend touring the launch facility. However, you need to make a reservation ahead of time. Be sure to visit the NPS Minuteman Missile site to book a reservation.
Topside of Delta One (D-01)
The topside building functioned as support for the underground Launch Control Center which lay 31 feet below the ground.
The mission of the topside crew was to support the missileers stationed underground. There were always eight people on the topside. They were all enlisted Air Force personnel from Ellsworth Air Force Base, 60 miles to the west. This personnel included a top-ranking Non-Commissioned Officer, a cook, and six security police. They worked three straight days on, followed by three days off.
The topside building also housed a day room, dining area, kitchen, and recreation area for those staying there.
Underground Launch Control Center
The launch control center (LCC) is found 31 feet underground.
Here two missileers worked 24-hour alert duty shifts. An eight-ton blast door sealed the operators inside. This door had to be opened from within the launch control room before an oncoming Missile Combat Crew could enter.
A Domino’s Pizza logo covers the D-01 blast door. The door reads “World Wide Delivery In 30 Minutes Or Less Or Your Next One Is Free”
This two-person crew would spend most of their time monitoring the status of the 10 missiles they were responsible for. They remotely monitored maintenance at the silos and assisted with the dispatch of the security police.
The missileers would relax when not monitoring the launch controls. They did this by reading or watching television. A single bunk was also provided. Therefore, one missileer could sleep while the other crewmember kept an eye on the weapons system.
The Delta-01 Site is easily accessible from the highway. The site is visible to visitors from outside the perimeter gate. However, to tour the facility a reservation is required.
The Delta-01 tour requires advanced reservations and a small fee. The cost of the tour is $12.00 for adults and $8.00 – for children under 16.
This Ranger-led tour will last approximately 45-60 minutes.
Built for nuclear war Delta-01 features a small elevator and a tight underground space. Therefore, the underground launch facility is not accessible to wheelchairs and service animals.
Site #3 Delta-09 Missile Silo
Approximately 1,000 Minuteman missiles sat throughout the plains from the 1960s into the early 1990s.
From 1963 until the early 1990s, the missile silo at Delta-09 contained a fully operational Minuteman Missile. This missile carried a 1.2 megaton nuclear warhead. Equally important, the missile was never launched.
Visitors can now drive to the site and easily view a missile.
The Delta-09 facility consists of a silo 12 feet in diameter and 80 feet deep made of reinforced concrete with a steel-plate liner. The silo has been welded shut, and fitted with a glass roof. However, inside sits an unarmed Minuteman missile.
In addition to the missile silo, visitors will see support structures such as antennas and motion sensors.
Due to its isolation, there are no Rangers on site. Therefore, at Delta-09 there is a quick phone-led tour of the facility. This way you can learn all about the missile silo, and how it operated.
Our Experience at the Minuteman Missile NHS
Our stop at the Minuteman Missile NHS was a part of our cross-country trip to Yellowstone National Park. Originally we planned to just stop at the Badlands National Park for a few nights. Fortunately, we learned about this fantastic National Historic Site during our planning. Therefore, we were able to make reservations ahead of time and view all three locations.
We had a great time visiting this NPS site and were able to do it all in one day. Thankfully, all three sites are close to each other and easily accessible. This is a great way to get a look at the cold war, and the massive weapons in place to protect America.
If you are interested in learning about the Cold War, this is the only NPS site dedicated to it. Of course, it is in the middle of the Great Plains and not the most accessible NPS location to get to. However, if you are planning on traveling I-90 through South Dakota we highly recommend adding this to your plans.
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Have you visited the Minuteman Missile NHS? Do you have any tips for visiting this awesome NPS location? Do you have any questions about visiting?
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