News / USA

    Cold War Legacy a Tourist Attraction in Rural North Dakota

    Cold War Legacy a Tourist Attraction in Rural North Dakotai
    X
    Kane Farabaugh
    July 14, 2014 9:59 PM
    The United States plans to shrink the total number of land-based nuclear missiles by 2018 to comply with an arms treaty signed with Russia in 2011. North Dakota has been a traditional home to many of those land-based missiles. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it is a part of the state’s Cold War legacy that officials - and tourists - embrace.

    The United States plans to shrink the total number of land-based nuclear missiles by 2018 to comply with an arms treaty signed with Russia in 2011.  North Dakota has been a traditional home to many of those land-based missiles.  It is a part of the state’s Cold War legacy that officials - and tourists - embrace.

    Among amber waves of grain in a remote part of North Dakota, the fate of millions hinged on the deployment of the lethal object housed below this concrete and metal barrier.

    Code-named November-33 during the Cold War, this site was home to an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear-tipped warhead that once waited to launch death and destruction to a destination unknown.

    “I think there was kind of a standing joke that North Dakota was actually the third largest power in the world in terms of the nuclear capacity that we had here," said Alvin Jaeger, North Dakota scretary of state.

    Growing up in North Dakota in the 1950s, Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger remembers the Cold War fears of a nuclear holocaust.  With more than 1,000 such missiles deployed around the state, he says there was reason to worry.

    “We all realize that we would have been a big target, but we just kept on," he said.

    "The threat was high enough that they had their keys in the consoles," said Supervisor of the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site, Gwen Hinman.

    While the threat is now gone, the keys are still by the consoles of the Oscar Zero Launch facility outside Cooperstown, North Dakota.

    Decommissioned by the U.S. Air Force in 1998 as part of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty 2 - or START 2 - Oscar Zero is now called the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site.

    Supervisor Gwen Hinman offers tours below the surface, taking visitors into the heart of the front line of the Cold War, where a small crew of missileers waited behind thick steel blast doors and reinforced concrete, for the fateful decision to launch their nuclear missiles.

    “We like to say they were training for a job that they hoped to never have to do," he said.

    But it is a job someone still has.  About 150 active missile sites remain in North Dakota, although Jaeger says few know about them.

    “Within 100 miles there is an active operating nuclear field that exists, and, again, people just go about their daily lives and we don’t give it a lot of thought," he said.

    And although the active facilities are closed to the public, Hinman says they aren't too different from Oscar Zero.

    “Most of this equipment is still the same.  This is what they still use.  It’s all offline so it prevents hackers from hacking the system and potentially sending a missile," he said.

    There are 450 land-based nuclear missiles currently spread across the United States.  Earlier this year, the Pentagon approved a plan to remove 50 of those missiles from their silos, bringing the total down to 400, the lowest number since the height of the Cold War in the 1960s.  


    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    What Your First Name Says About Who You Support for President

    Bobby, Betty and Curtis tend to support Donald Trump while people named Juan, Liz or Mohammad are more likely to lean toward Hillary Clinton

    South Pole Diary: In Round-the-clock Darkness, Radiant Moon Shines Like the Sun

    You hear more and see more when the moon first comes out; it’s your senses in overdrive, tuning into a new world.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora