Who doesn’t want a missile in their backyard?

The “military-industrial complex,” as Dwight Eisenhower called it, refers to an unnecessarily high amount of military spending to establish a large arms industry. Eisenhower was adamant that the U.S. needed to maintain a balance between defense spending and the needs of the economy. This was harder to do in practice. As the new president Kennedy became more involved in the Cold War, nuclear technology was given priority, through the creation of programs like the Minutemen Missiles in South Dakota. In order to try to heed Eisnehower’s advice to keep spending down, places in the midwest like South Dakota were chosen as sites due to their pre-existing silos and the fact that “ten Minuteman missiles could be monitored by just one LCF” (Heefner). Not only were these cost savings extremely important to the defense spending budget, but the Minutemen missile programs actually helped to contribute to the Cold War economy. In the small town communities of rural South Dakota, organic job creation had always been limited. However, cold war deployment promised an economic boost. The Minutemen missile project “promised $60 million in construction contracts alone” (Heefner). This shows how the Cold War economy focused on catching up to the Soviet Union in nuclear technology, when managed correctly, could be beneficial to the local community. 

I think that it was important to preserve the silo from the Minuteman system because of its role in the Cold War and how it can contextualize that part of history in relation to the local experience. It would be very easy to overlook all of the small communities whose lives were actually significantly impacted by the Cold War. It also shows the integral role of technology in the war. Due to the nature of the war not having real battlefields or traditional “heroes,” the technology and the people who invented it were the ones who deserved to be commemorated (Heefner). By turning the silo into a national historic site that people could visit, the National Park Service not only managed to preserve a piece of the past, but also memorialize it and connect it to the present. 

I think that having a monument like the silo still doesn’t really seem to do justice to the fact that we, as a nation, had nuclear weapons housed all over the U.S. This was the same technology that could cause essentially total annihilation for an entire country in just thirty minutes (Heefner). The fact that the locals of places like South Dakota had to make room for the missiles in their towns and in their lives and live with the knowledge that they would be a prime target if the Soviet Union ever attacked is astounding to me. In my opinion, they should definitely get more recognition in the history books and when it comes to commemoration like the physical historic site. I understand that the narrative of national history is important, but I find that also being able to focus on how individuals are impacted by historical events is arguably more meaningful due to the personal connection. 

2 thoughts on “Who doesn’t want a missile in their backyard?

  1. I liked your article review! I agree with many points from your opinion paragraph. As you stated, having a silo as a monument doesn’t do the nation justice. It seems relatively small, like it’s still hidden in a way.
    I also found it interesting how quite a few locals felt it was their patriotic duty to house these silo, as if they really did have any control over their location. Maybe they were just trying to make the best of the situation.
    Your last point on the individuals’ story was good too. Heefner even mentioned in her article how the monument was required to say the official, national story- the pretty picture, not how some locals were forced to give up land or didn’t get a fair chance to buy their land back. Much less the possible destruction of water tables in these areas.


  2. I agree that it is important to preserve the silo from the minutemen system too. I think that it is a part of history, and for South Dakota this is a big deal. I think it is a great idea to preserve the silo because it also gives credit where credit is due, people in South Dakota were impacted by the Cold War, and even if it is just preserving the silo; it is remembering that time. I like how you said it is “contextualizing that part of history in relation to local experience.” Your last sentence stuck out to me “…being able to focus on how individuals are impacted by historical events is arguably more meaningful due to the personal connection.” I agree with this 1000%. I think unfortunately stories get lost because people do not think it is important, but I think it is more important because these people lived through these times, why we wouldn’t want to hear those stories is beyond me. It would be so hard to be a big target, at the time, for the Soviet Union, and I think it would be horrible living in fear for such a long time.


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