Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Minuteman oh Minuteman..... 10.2.10
What a combination, beautiful desert and the Cold War! When we first came out here, we had no idea there was a missile silo to be seen, who would have thunk?? We knew of course about the history of it all, but coming across one and getting, almost, up close and personal with it? Well, that was indeed a wonderful treat! Not to mention it tied in real well with the intro to the Cold War we had at the air and space museum.
So what is this place?
Formally, it's the Delta-09 launch facility which held the Minuteman II intercontinental nuclear ballistic missile during the Cold War. Missiles that were meant to only be used in retaliation. In that sense, this facility, along with the other 999 like it spread across middle America, helped guard this country from a Soviet Attack. Yes, they represented the potential for horrific destruction, but that threat, in reality, helped keep the peace during that period.
"The minuteman could be launched in a matter of minutes. It would soon be soaring at speeds of over 15,000 miles per hour to strike targets six thousand miles away. The threat of their explosive force started a new era of history, making a hot or "shooting" war nearly unthinkable." (Text from the visitor center.)
The Minuteman program was authorized by Eisenhower in 1958 and began deactivating in 1991 with the signing of the treaty between Bush and Gorbachev. In 1993 this site, along with others, was inactivated. According to the treaty, all silos were to be emptied, sealed up and covered up. Literally. All but those designated as museums, like this one.
We began, as per usual, at the visitor center picking up our Jr. Ranger activities. This is a National Historic Site, part of the national parks system so, it has its own 'stuff'.
At the center we also watched a brief introductory movie and spent quite a bit of time talking with the ranger/police officer on duty.
From there, we drove approximately a mile to the launch site out in the middle of absolutely nowhere......When they built these sites 50 odd years ago, the government just came in and announced to the local ranchers that they were taking some of their land and utilizing it for 'matters of national security'.....ranchers had no say in the matter.
At the time of course no one was allowed anywhere near the fenced area. Deadly force was to be used without question......
Tours of the underground site itself are offered, but given the time of year, it's only offered once a day and they were already full for the time we were going to be there. That was a huge bummer! Think how cool that would have been! Remember that the underground site was only comprised of the missile itself (which you obviously cannot go down into) and the so called pod (not visible from above of course) where the 'minutemen' sit 24/7 ready to turn those keys. Luckily we at least got to see the set up the other day at the air and space museum.
Here we are, peering down into the missile silo itself. It is of course just a dummy now, but is identical to the real thing.
All in all, it was pretty neat, even if we didn't actually get to see a whole lot. The whole notion is fascinating and the situation unfathomable. A lesson in modern history, even for those of us who lived through some of it.