The Minutemen Missiles in South Dakota are an example of the Cold War economy, that is, it was a part of the Military Industrial Complex due to the fact that the construction of these silos helped to spur the local South Dakota economy. This was due to the fact that more construction permits were issued to local contractors to help build facilities and was promised to bring 60 million dollars to the West River region (Heefner, 2007). In contrast to the positive economic effects of the construction of Minutemen sites was the seizure of private land held by South Dakotans through the doctrine of eminent domain. According to Heefner, “To encourage patriotic participation, the Air Force issued a pamphlet to South Dakota landowners about missile deployment.” (Heefner, 2007) and “For landowners unwilling to negotiate sales, the pamphlet notes, “the land will be acquired through a condemnation proceeding.”” (Heefner, 2007). This is an excellent example of the Military Industrial Complex as the success of military projects in the interest of national defense were prioritized over the needs of the people of South Dakota. The danger of this behavior was noted by President Dwight Eisenehower, who in his farewell speech to the nation said that, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” (Eisenhower, 1961). We see the consequences of this danger in the actions of the US Air Force, as by taking away from the property rights of landowners in western South Dakota, they gained an unwanted influence over these landowners. We see this idea supported in the Heefner article as at one point he says that with respect to a landowner who opposed the Air Force building on his land that, “But as the “Facts about Land acquisition” warned, William’s land was instead seized by eminent domain.” (Heefner, 2007). I would conclude that the Minuteman Silos in western South Dakota were an example of the Military Industrial Complex due to the fact that it helped to promote the economic development of the area for certain contractors. At the same time we saw the unwanted influence of the defense establishment through the seizure of privately held lands in the name of national defense. To put it simply, the success of military projects were prioritized over the well being of South Dakota’s citizens.
I would agree with what Hefffner implies in his research, that is, that the Delta-9 missile was preserved due to the positive memories and nostalgia that service members who operated the site had. Heefner proposes this idea in his research where he says that, “Historians have long noted the power of memory and commemoration to solidify community identity. In a study of memory in the South, W. Fitzhugh Brundage notes that communities tend to create monuments in order to “anchor their memories in space and time.”” (Heefner, 2007). What Heefner is trying to suggest is that the missile silo was preserved in order to “preserve” the thoughts, memories, and experiences of those who worked at the silos. I would also argue that the preservation of these sites helps to create a visual understanding of the Cold War in South Dakota that transcends just images, video, and artifacts. The site, due to the quality of its preservation, allows those who see it to travel back in time and gain a concrete and experiential idea of the experiences of those who were a part of the era.
- Heefner, Gretchen. “Missiles and Memory: Dismantling South Dakota’s Cold War.” Western Historical Quarterly 38, no. 2 (2007): 181–203.
- Eisenhower, Dwight D. “Military-Industrial Complex Speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961“, 1961.
One thought on “Blog Post #3”
I really enjoyed reading your discussion post. I have to agree with you that I think the Minuteman Silos are an example of the Military Industrial Complex. I like that you brought up that military projects were prioritized over the wellbeing of South Dakota citizens. I do think we could expand that idea to almost any of the areas where military industrialization was taking place. Lastly, I also agreed with Heefner about how the silo was preserved because of all the memories, thoughts, and the impact the missiles had in South Dakota.