Minutemen: The Missiles Among Us

In his farewell address, President Eisenhower coined the term “military-industrial complex.” Eisenhower created this label to refer to the relationship between the military and the defense industry that was being fortified in the post-WWII era. Because both the military and the defense industry benefit from an alliance, Eisenhower feared that this would lead to the creation of unnecessary weapons that could both “skew national priorities” and negatively affect the “direction of American foreign policy” (Digital History). Despite the pressure to increase defense spending, Eisenhower fought to balance the budget between defense and other national needs. However, as Eisenhower left office and JFK entered, Americans would experience the full effects of the military-industrial complex.

            Heefner’s narrative of the building, maintaining, and eventual destruction of the Minutemen Missiles demonstrates the military-industrial complex and the actualization of Eisenhower’s fears regarding it. With the idea of the missile gap in mind, the Minutemen Missiles were built. Heefner writes that “the major priority and high expectations placed on the Minutemen system are evident in the fact that it took just four years for the missiles to go from the Air Force drawing board in 1958 to first deployment in the ground” (186). This timely building of this meticulously planned system of missiles demonstrates the “skewing” of national priorities that Eisenhower mentioned. Secondly, Heifer discusses how the building of these weapons undermined the rights of citizens. As the missiles had to be built in precise locations for optimal protection, South Dakotan landowners were given the option of direct purchase but if they refused, the government would seize the land through the right of eminent domain (187). Heifer writes that many landowners were severely affected by the predetermined placement of the silos as the “sites were chosen in the middle of valuable fields rather than in corners or on less valuable grazing land (187). Here, we again see the distortion of priorities caused by the military-industrial complex as the need for these missiles outweighed the protection of these farmer’s livelihoods. Lastly, the Minutemen represent the military-industrial complex as their role in the arms race demonstrates the negative effect on foreign relations that Eisenhower warned against. In his speech, Eisenhower stated 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” (National Archives). The arms race and the threat of mutually assured destruction that the Minutemen held showcases the danger that the military-industrial complex poses on foreign relations.

            While I think the main push for the preservation of Delta-9 should have simply been its importance for historical education, I think there are a lot of underlying patriotic and persuasive reasons for the keeping of it. Heefner reveals these patriotic reasons by writing that “monuments are markers of the sacrifices made by others to make the present possible and a reminder that sacrifice may need to be made again” (198). Heefner’s remark on the purpose of monuments shows how Delta-9 both celebrates patriotism and also persuades people into future patriotism. The Cold War was undeniably a dark time for the United States and the memorial of Delta-9 is too idyllic in that it puts too much emphasis on nostalgia rather than the scary reality that the Minutemen represented. A reality of mass destruction.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. “Farewell Address (1961).” National Archives, December 2022.

One thought on “Minutemen: The Missiles Among Us

  1. I agree with Abigail’s assessment of the reading. In particular I agree with the part where she argues that the military had misplaced priorities due to the fact that it allowed for the seizure of the property of South Dakotan landowners in order to build the Minutemen launch sites in optimal positions. I agree that this is definitely a moral trespass on the part of the Air Force and is an example of Eisenhower’s description of the Military Industrial Complex as there did definitely exist an unwanted influence by the military establishment on the population of South Dakota. I think that Abigail did an excellent job of connecting the reading to the Eisenhower speech and I like her usage of quotes to support her argument.


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