If you’re passing thru South Dakota you really should stop in and see an amazing relic of the Cold War: a preserved American Minuteman Missile bunker and silo. You’ll get to see the spartan living quarter that housed the troops, the subterranean launch capsule filled with retro computers, and an actual missile silo – all for free.
The launch capsule is the most interesting of the lot. I was struck by how much it looked as they were portrayed in the movies. Our guide told us the US Government had granted filmmakers access to them for reference while specifically omitting key bits of information. One, for example, was that it requires two separate modules from two different geographic locations to launch a missile. So the overused movie scene where one soldier forcing another to turn his key with him to launch a missile would never work. It required two men in two different modules (thus 4 people all together) to send a nuke on its way.
Note that the missiles themselves were located several miles away from the bunkers that controlled them. Thus to visit the Minuteman sites requires you travel to three different locations:
- The ranger station to sign up and get a free ticket.
- The bunker (located about a mile away) to see where the missiles were activated.
- The missile launch site (located a few more miles away) to see where a missile actually would have fired from.
Most people sign up and then go see the missile launch site while waiting for their tour time to start.