South Dakota is home to some unique attractions, as you will see in this post and our last post. We have driven across North Dakota and just about fell asleep, well not in South Dakota- everywhere you turn there is something truly unique.
This post covers a National Park, Mt. Rushmore and some Nuclear Missiles hidden in the expansive South Dakota Prairies.
Lets start this post off with a Bang:
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site:
During the Cold War, the United States invested in an insurance policy of sorts. Hidden in the Central United States were 400+ Nuclear Minuteman 2 Missiles. These were rightfully called Minuteman Missiles because they could be fired in under 5 minutes. 5 minutes from the President giving the order, to takeoff. The takeoff sequence actually takes only a minute, but the order giving, code checking takes the extra 4. These missiles can be anywhere in the World within 30 minutes- now that is scary.
To visit Delta-1 (Launch Control) you need tickets. Plan to be at the Visitor Center no later than 8am for tickets, same day.
This building looks like an unassuming building. The chain link fence discounts it as a home, but perhaps it is a Local utilities water treatment center building, perhaps a weather station? No! far from it, this is World War Three. 30 Feet below this building is the control station for 10 Nuclear Missiles within a 10 mile radius.
It is deactivated today, so they don’t mind advertising the previous use of this building.
During its days in operation, this station controlled the launch of 10 Nuclear Missiles nearby. 10 Military Soldiers were stationed here, that its. 2 Officers would work 30 feet below in the launch capsule, and 8 enlisted Soldiers would work above. 6 on Security detail, 1 Station Manager, and 1 Cook. There were only 6 on Security, but they were armed to the teeth and an Air Force Base is only a 30 minute chopper ride away.
An Antenna outside Missile Control, if Control was knocked out for some reason, a B-29 Bomber could fly overhead and send a signal down to this antenna, that would launch the Missiles.
The interior (upstairs) was very similar to a house, beds, TV, couches etc.
This Station was responsible for security at the ten outlying unmanned missile facilities. If an alarm was triggered at a missile site, soldiers would be dispatched to check on it. It seems weird that the Nuclear Missiles would be at unmanned sites, but they were in silo’s underground so very hard to access.
Now the interesting part. After a short Elevator Ride we were at the actual Launch control facility. Of course this facility is underground and encased in concrete to survive an enemy Nuclear attack, although it could only survive a near miss, not a direct strike.
The rebar used in the Concrete is 10 times the size of standard rebar. This piece weighed about 25 pounds and was only 8 inches long.
The Launch Controller would sit at the end, and the deputy on the right. The Deputy had all of the actual controls to launch the missiles. Launching would go something like this.
Launch Approval and Code received from President of the United States. The President is the only person authorized to approve use of Nuclear weapons. When Codes are received, deputy and controller in this station would approve them. They would then need approval from another Missile Control Station. Once 4 people confirmed the codes were authentic, the Controller and deputy in this station would unlock these fancy high tech padlocks:
Once they unlocked these locks, two keys would be inside. These keys were inserted on different sides of the launch control room. They needed to be turned at the exact same time. The idea was that no one person could launch the missiles as the keys were spaced 12 feet apart. Once the keys were turned, it was the push of a button to launch each of the 10 Nuclear Missiles at their disposal. And that is only at the station, there were 40 similar stations in use, for a total of about 400 Missiles.
The launch codes would show up on this panel, they would confirm they were authentic with a book of codes they had. The codes changed daily.
The row of switches on the top controls each Missiles. Ten switches, ten Missiles.
If a Nuclear bomb detonated in the United States and everything outside of this capsule was annihilated, there was no plan B. They were not authorized to launch Missiles without Presidential approval. Chances are the elevator and building above would be wiped out. The best the U.S. Army could think up was an escape hatch- once the hatch was opened, you would find a shovel and 30 feet of dirt to dig thru.
Interesting stuff, and for your information, these Minuteman 2 Missile facilities have been deactivated since about 1991, but there are Minuteman 3 faculties still in operation somewhere in the United States. (450 Missiles total, ready at a minutes notice)
After leaving Delta One, We drove 9 miles away to a Missile Silo Site- Delta Nine.
There was not much to see here:
Now moving on to happier things, rather than death and destruction:
Geographically close by is Badlands National Park:
But when the sun sets on the prairies, that is when the magic happens.
The badlands were lit up across from the setting sun
Badlands National Park was very similar to others parks we have seen. So not overly exciting for us, but this sunset is one of the nicest we have seen.
Mount Rushmore is world known, and although it contains the faces of four US Presidents, it was still interesting to see.
Dennis Red Cloud put on an interesting talk, more storytelling, about the local Sioux nation and Mt. Rushmore. Interesting to note Dennis is the 5th grandchild of the famous Chief Red Cloud. If you visit Mt. Rushmore, seek out Dennis and ask him for a story- he loves to tell them.
South Dakota has so much to see! Even an 8 hour drive across the barren prairies is interesting.