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.
Kane Farabaugh

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.  

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid