Minuteman Missile Site: What to See and Do

Last updated: December 19th, 2023 | Originally published: March 7, 2023
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Visitor Center

In order to prevent a nuclear war, US military personnel buried 1000 Minuteman missiles in the plains of America during the 1960’s. Landowners and residents in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Colorado, and nearby states have lived amongst these devastating weapons of war the past sixty years. Today we can relive this fading chapter in US history at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in SD.

From 1947, shortly after the end of WWII, until 1991, when the USSR dissolved, the United States of America and their Russian contemporaries enmeshed themselves in a geopolitical, economic, and ideological struggle known as The Cold War. The period was characterized by an aggressive arms race and ideological bids for world dominance.

Everyone’s way of life was at stake as two world superpowers stocked warhead upon warhead. Because of the proximity to Russian targets — a short path up and over the north pole — nuclear weapons of nation-ending authority were buried in silos across middle America.

These days it is hard to imagine the stress everyone must have felt during these uncertain years. The threat of complete, nuclear destruction perpetually loomed.

Artwork — Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

The Minuteman Missile Site was established in 1999. It consists of three facilities: Minuteman Missile Site Visitor Center; Launch Control Facility Delta-01; and Launch Facility (Missile Silo) Delta-09. The park presents an opportunity to reflect on a peaceful prairie that once held the power to destroy the world. It serves as a public venue for examining the challenges and paradoxes of Cold War. It is located an hour east of Rapid City, South Dakota.

Here is a Map of the Facilities.

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Minuteman Missile Site SD Visitor Center

The Minuteman Missile Site Visitor Center is packed with historical information. There is an entertaining film that breaks down the Cold War Era to a child’s level.

They have placards and models (some shown on this web page), that explain the finer details of the situation, including: ideological differences between the two countries; the US defense system; protocols for a return assault; life for the service men and women who waited at the ready; the uneasy times for US citizens; and stories of how our leaders narrowly avoided the greatest calamity the world could have ever known.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Visitor Center
Russian Propaganda — Minuteman Missile Site SD

The purpose of the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site SD is to tell the story of the missiles and the lesson learned in nuclear deterrence. 

Two powerful nations fought an unwinnable war. They pushed it to the brink.

It isn’t hard to see how this could happen — it was the ultimate showdown between the two toughest kids at school.

All of mankind learned from this situation. We discovered the approach was flawed beyond usefulness. The world is a better place because of this traumatic event.

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Launch Control Facility Delta-01

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Launch Control Facility, Delta-01
Minuteman Missile Site

For a moment imagine how a nuclear launch would transpire. What would happen if the US military learned one minute ago that Russian “Satan missiles” had been deployed?

What would be the protocol for our response? Who would push the button to counterstrike?

The Delta-01 launch control facility (shown above) is where the answers lie. In the western part of South Dakota there were 15 launch control facilities. Each facility commanded ten ballistic Minuteman missiles housed in individual silos.

The launch control facility looks like a heavily guarded house. Inside the house is an elevator that descends deep into the earth. At the bottom of that elevator is a small control room behind heavy doors. In that control room sit two service men or women who wait for a very serious phone call. Their ultimate job is to push the button.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Launch Control Facility, Delta-01
Minuteman Missile Site

Thousands of Air Force personnel throughout the Great Plains worked and lived around these nuclear weapons. One of the most serious responsibilities was to be part of a missile crew.

These servicemen and women held the ability to initiate the use of nuclear weapons with complete seriousness. These crews ensured the sights were secure and functioning, and were ready to respond at a moment’s notice.

If you would like to tour the Delta-01 Missile Launch Facility book ahead of time.

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Launch Facility (Missile Silo) Delta-09

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site,  Launch Facility (Missile Silo) Delta-09.
Minuteman Missile Site

Most Soviet ICBM’s delivered 10 megatons, almost 10x the yield of a Minuteman II missile. At its height, the Soviet ICBM arsenal targeting the US totaled 1,400 missiles. The Minuteman Missile was smaller and less powerful, yet much more accurate.

The missile field was operational, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for thirty years.

If you would like to look down into a missile silo, Delta-09 is just off the highway for public viewing.

An Honest Conclusion for the Minuteman Missile Site

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Visitor Center

If you’re wondering if the Minuteman Missile Site in SD is worth visiting, the answer is yes… if you like reading placards. We found it to be one of the most interesting museums we’ve explored in the past couple of years. You’ll want to take your time and read all the placards and watch the videos to get the most out of the experience.

The Cold War era was a remarkably apprehensive time to be alive, and it is fading fast in our historical rear-view mirror. The Minuteman Missile Site SD is our best reminder of this time in our history, and is one of the best things to do in South Dakota.

Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!

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