Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Kadoka in Jackson County, South Dakota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

Closer than You Imagined

 
 
Closer than You Imagined Marker image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, August 6, 2010
1. Closer than You Imagined Marker
Inscription. ...for years, countless travellers had driven across Interstate 90 in western South Dakota, en route to Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, or Yellowstone National Park,...within sight of nearly a dozen nuclear missile sites....
Tim Pavek, Ellsworth Air Force Base,
Minuteman Program Deactivation Manager & Missile Engineer


Are you on your way to or from the Black Hills or Yellowstone? You may be surprised to learn that during the Cold War parts of South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado hid some terrifying secrets--hundreds of Minuteman II missiles were scattered across ranch and prairie grasslands.

Here at Minuteman Missile National Historic Site you can find out how important these Cold War era weapons were to the safety of the United States. Learn how each Minuteman missile carried on its tip the potential for unimaginable destruction. Missiles installed here on the Great Plains deterred nuclear threats from the Soviet Union for more than 30 years.

Photo caption:
Duck and Cover?
Does someone in your family remember going through duck and cover drills at school?

Visitor Services
Tours of a launch control facility, as well as a missle silo are available throughout the year. Check at the visitor center, or by calling (605) 433-5552.
 
Erected by
Closer than You Imagined Marker image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, August 6, 2010
2. Closer than You Imagined Marker
Caption on marker map: "Minuteman missile sites were established in Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, as well as Missouri in the early 1960s. Most Americans bound for vacations in the West never suspected they were so close to the Cold War front lines."
National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
 
Location. 43° 50.007′ N, 101° 54.033′ W. Marker is near Kadoka, South Dakota, in Jackson County. Marker is on Badlands Loop (State Highway 240), on the right when traveling south. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Kadoka SD 57543, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 4 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Civilian Conservation Corps Camps (approx. half a mile away); Typical Sod House Homesteader (approx. 0.8 miles away); The Badlands Wall (approx. 3.3 miles away); Cliff Shelf Nature Trail (approx. 5.9 miles away).
 
Categories. War, Cold
 
Closer than You Imagined Marker image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, August 6, 2010
3. Closer than You Imagined Marker
The marker is in front of the Minuteman Missle National Historic Site Headquarters. The related markers are on the right between the two buildings.
Related Markers image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, August 6, 2010
4. Related Markers
Looking out over one of the Minuteman Missile sites, with peaks of the Badlands on the horizon.
Related Marker image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, August 6, 2010
5. Related Marker
The Front Lines of the Cold War
...with the Russians maybe breathing down our neck, it was probably pretty clear to everybody that we had to do something.
Tim Pavek, Ellsworth Air Force Base,
Minuteman Program Deactivation Manager & Missile Engineer

But do what? Planting 150 Minuteman II missile sites across South Dakota was part of the answer. Within two years these Cold War weapons stood ready to stop the Soviet Union from launching its nuclear weapons to strike American cities and military targets. Each Minuteman II missile could deliver a payload equal to 60 percent of all the bombs used during World War II. And the Soviets knew it.

The sparsely populated Great Plains provided an ideal place. The missiles were far from the oceans where Soviet submarines prowled. A missile fired from a Soviet sub could not take out a Minuteman missile before it was launched at the Soviet Union--just 30 minutes flight time over the horizon.
Related Marker image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, August 6, 2010
6. Related Marker
From Nuclear Threat to Nuclear Treaty
Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.
Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet Union Premier

We are going to have peace, even if we have to fight for it.
Dwight Eisenhower, United States President

In 1957 the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite into space--the first man-made satellite to ever orbit the earth. The Cold War, which many Americans then thought of as resistance to Communism in far away Europe or Asia, suddenly came uncomfortably close to home. If Soviet rocket boosters could launch a satellite into orbit, they could easily heave a nuclear warhead across the skies and into the United States.

The Pentagon scrambled to look for ways to deflect the threat of increased Soviet firepower. A missile arms race between the two superpowers was on.

Construction of the Minuteman Missile network began in the fall of 1961. Within two years the force was fully operational. As a nuclear deterrent these missiles helped keep the Soviet Union at bay during the Cold War.

1957
Radio brought the news of Sputnik directly into the homes of Americans. People could listen in their living rooms or in their cars to the beep-beep-beep signal the Soviet satellite transmitted as it passed over their heads.

1961
The missile test (right) took place at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. No Minuteman II missiles were ever fired at their intended target.

1962
At the height of the Cold War the Cuban missile crisis (below) was one of three times the U.S. military was on high alert to launch Minuteman missiles.
Related Marker image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, August 6, 2010
7. Related Marker
Ranchers Meet Missileers
...a lot of people that were having these sites put on their place had settled in this area in horse and buggy....now you're putting a hole in the ground for a missle that could launch and go...5,000 miles and blow up millions of people...those types of things were hard for people to even put their arms around.
Gene Williams, South Dakota rancher

I feel what we did, we won the Cold War without firing a shot....you notice the Berlin Wall is down....we were there at a time when we needed to be there. And I think we made a significant contribution.
Alonzo Hall, Ellsworth Air Force Base missileer

Photo caption: Homesteaders filed claims in South Dakota as late as 1910. Ranchers in the 1960s used tools and followed seasonal patterns well known to their grandparents. Few families ever imagined that the federal government would install the latest intercontinental ballistic missle silos here.
Photo on Ranchers Meet Missileers Marker image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, August 6, 2010
8. Photo on Ranchers Meet Missileers Marker
Missileers worked 24 hour shifts underground in the command center. Few officers ever dreamed they would be defending the United States from the wide-open spaces of South Dakota.
Closer than You Imagined : Minuteman 1B Launch image. Click for full size.
By Mike Stroud, March 1, 1965
9. Closer than You Imagined : Minuteman 1B Launch
Operation Long Life: November 2 launch site launched a missile with 7 seconds of fuel, on March 1 1965. In part, to see if silo was reusable after a launch.
This contributer was a part of the Operation in a military capacity and in which schools in the area were closed for the day and the kids had a field trip to watch from nearby hillsides, in western South Dakota
http://www.strategic-air-command.com/wings/0044bw.htm
44th Strategic Missile Wing On 1 March 1965, “Project Long Life” took place. This was the first of three scheduled launches of the Minuteman system. A missile with seven seconds of fuel was launched. With the test proving successful, the additional two launches were canceled. This was the only test launch in US ICBM history to be fired from an operational site.
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William J. Toman of Green Lake, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 1,124 times since then and 4 times this year. Last updated on , by William J. Toman of Green Lake, Wisconsin. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on , by William J. Toman of Green Lake, Wisconsin.   3, 4. submitted on , by William J. Toman of Green Lake, Wisconsin.   5, 6. submitted on , by William J. Toman of Green Lake, Wisconsin.   7, 8. submitted on , by William J. Toman of Green Lake, Wisconsin.   9. submitted on , by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
Paid Advertisement