The Hidden Weapons of South Dakota

During the early 1960s, the United States and Soviet Union were locked in an arms race to develop missiles capable of reaching either country in a matter of minutes. Known as Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, or ICBM’s for short. These missiles were strategically placed in silos the American midwest, specifically the states of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana. These sites were placed near major American highways. The reading focuses specifically on the missile sites located in South Dakota along interstate 90. These sites were home to the minuteman missiles They were placed in the midwest due to their remoteness and their distance from major American cities. In the event of a nuclear exchange between the two superpowers, large American Cities such as New York and Los Angeles would be prime targets, however more remote states would not be targeted as such due to their unimportance. The sites also provided another benefit. In case of an invasion by sea. The sites would be located far inland and safe from any physical Soviet threat. Minuteman missiles were developed by the aircraft manufacturer Boeing, with such weapons being developed by a private company, many were concerned with what President Dwight D Eisenhower referred to as the “Military Industrial Complex.” This phrase refers to the worry that military power could be put in the wrong hands. In his farewell address, Eisenhower refers to these powers as corporations that produce weapons. Many in the United State were worried that because Boeing produced Minuteman missiles for the United States government that they would have a say in how they were used. This idea of the “Military Industrial Complex” was prevalent in every sector of the United States military, and it represented some of the fears the United States public had with capitalism. Minuteman missiles were located along the Great Plains near military bases and represented the changing times of the Cold War. Many protests occurred in North Dakota and Nebraska over the placement of the missiles. Many were unhappy that such powerful weapons were located in such a peaceful part of the United States. Comparatively, most South Dakotans were proud to house such powerful weapons and felt that they were fulfilling their patriotic duty as soldiers defending the homeland. Many South Dakotans did not particularly fear death from a nuclear exchange, rather they feared surviving such an exchange as the fallout from such a disaster would lead to a nuclear apocalypse. Across the Midwest nearly one thousand Minutemen sites were constructed and armed. These sites were clumped together in groups however were also eight to ten miles apart from one another in case a nuclear exchange were to occur and hit one of the sites. Today very few minuteman sites still remain, however they have been preserved and are now owned by the United States National Parks Service. It is quite ironic that the service that protects our natural wonders also protects they very sites from which we could have ended the world. The Minuteman missiles brought upon a new age in America and changed the face of warfare forever. For the first time in history, us humans had the ability to destroy ourselves in a matter of hours from the safety of our home country.

One thought on “The Hidden Weapons of South Dakota

  1. I like how remoteness played a role in where the nuclear launch sites were. They chose a location in America that housed not millions, but hundreds of thousands. I understand why that makes sense, however, I would feel undervalued as a citizen of the Midwest if this happened today. Also, the locations of the nuclear launch sites remind me of jobs in the military that have to do with explosives. The men and women responsible for creating explosives and ammunition work on the side of the military base opposite of where most personnel and materiel are located in case of an accident. If an accident does occur, it doesn’t take out the whole base.


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