Plains of Death: Armageddon Up Close

Driving across the northern great plains of the United States many of us have seen the many missile silos scattered across such states as Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. It’s almost surreal to realize the weapons contained below ground at these sites are capable of ending civilization as we know it.

Because of the end of Cold War, tensions between the world’s superpowers, Russia and the United States, are very low at the present time. Most of the missile sites have been deactivated under treaty agreements, the missiles removed, and their nuclear warheads destroyed or put into storage. However, there are still over 500 of these missiles deployed across the norther plain states today. The Minuteman missiles in these silos are the backbone of the United States Strategic Air Command’s nuclear deterance force.

There is a new National Historic Site under the administration of the National Parks Service, Department of the Interior. This is called “Minuteman Missile” and is located in South Dakota about 75 miles east of Rapid City along Interstate 90. It consists of an underground missile control center and a missile silo. I intend to try to visit it soon to add to my knowledge of the Cold War era.


These missile sites are pretty inconspicuous. Not much is above ground, but they are heavily fenced with razor-wire and marked with ominous signs warning of the use of deadly force on trespassers. The military patrols the active sites and apparently there are movement sensors and cameras included in the site security. Stop and look if you want, but don’t approach the site or attempt to cross the fence.

The silos contain the Minuteman Inter-Continental Balllistic Missile (ICBM). Some chilling facts concerning these deadly arrows of destruction,

  • Can strike a target over 6,000 miles away in less than 30 minutes.
  • Have a speed of over 15,000 miles per hour. They can cross the United States from east to west in less than 10 minutes, The same distance by car takes over 40 hours.
  • The missiles are deadly accurate. Some say with 100 yards, although that is Classified.
  • Remotely controlled from an underground control centre.
  • Mass produced.
  • Solid fueled rockets. This meant they were ready to launch immediately. No complex preparation was required as with liquid fueled rockets.
  • Armed with nuclear warheads about 10 times more powerful than the Hiroshima or Nagaski bombs. In fact they are “city killers”.

At the height of the Cold War the missile fields of South Dakota alone covered and area of over 13,500 square miles. This is an area larger than the state of Maryland.

This site will be a sobering reminder of the Cold War and hopefully a warning to future generations of the potential to exterminate mankind. Up until now drivers on Interstate 90 have passed by without giving these installations a second thought. Now it is possible to get a chilling look behind the scenes. It will be a reality check for most of us. Remember the other side had and still has the same capability to destroy us.

Information can be obtained at:

National Park Service   (click on South Dakota on their map)



10 Responses to Plains of Death: Armageddon Up Close

  1. stamperdad says:

    It’s scary to think how easy smuggling a WMD into the country would really be. I think the only reason it hasn’t happened yet is that they don’t have the WMD as yet.

    Fascinating tidbits of history always put a more human feel on things. Appreciate your comments.


  2. Kip de Moll says:

    Yeah, I have read and seen the movie. I also ruined a day on the beach in Maine thinking how easy it would be to bring one onshore with a lobster boat and truck it down to NYC.

    Little known fact you might appreciate as an historian: One of the planes to hit the Towers was loaded with lobsters from Swan’s Island, Maine

  3. stamperdad says:

    I don’t worry as much about the missiles in the silos under control, but the ones that might soon be in the hands of terrorists.

    Watch the “Sum of All Fears” or read the book if you want to really be scared.


  4. Kip de Moll says:

    Even at the height of the Cold War (let’s see…was that in the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s?), I always worried it would actually be a spilled cup of coffee that would send us all over the edge. I’m not sure that’s not still a possibility today. The double negative inentionally demonstrates how confusing the issue is, and how scary that in some vodka or beer saturated hell hole in the middle of nowhere, some really bad people might suddenly appear and shock us all much worse than 911.

  5. stamperdad says:

    I sure agree with that Mary, but we shouldn’t just stick our heads in the sand like an ostrich either.

    Thanks for reading.

  6. Mary Lewis says:

    For me, nuclear missiles are the scariest thing in the world. Any time I read about them, a cold chill runs up my back.

  7. stamperdad says:

    As well they should Wendy. Yes they were and are deployed in other parts of the States, but far and away the most were in the Dakotas and Montana.

    Appreciate you taking the time to visit and comment.

  8. wendyCinNYC says:

    Interesting. I remember seeing a few of those growing up in Missouri. It always kind of creeped me out after I learned what they were.

  9. stamperdad says:

    I too believe they are a real deterant, but it would be best if they didn’t exist at all.


  10. Dennis Price says:

    Interesting information. I feel better knowing they are still there.

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