Who knew that someone who once lived in the communist bloc under the influence of the “Evil Empire” (Ronald Reagan) would one day visit a nuclear missile site on the other side of the Iron Curtain?!
While driving through Montana, Missouri, Wyoming and the Dakotas, the beauty of the Great Plains, open skies and the feeling of peace overwhelms your senses. What you may not know is that this quiet and grand land is home to one of the deadliest weapons human beings have ever produced.
Faced with the prospect of nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union, in the 1960s the U.S. Air Force implanted 1,000 Minuteman missiles capable of hitting targets in less than 30 minutes. The missiles could be deployed from underground launch facilities by crews stationed miles away. Each 1.2-megaton warhead held the explosive equivalent of one-third of all the bombs dropped during the Second World War (including both atomic bombs!).
Following the 1991 agreement and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, the majority of those sites were destroyed. However, there are still about 450 Minuteman III missiles deployed and ready to launch in the Upper Great Plains.
During our recent trip we had the chance to visit one of those sites, now turned museum – The Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site Historic Park near Cooperstown in North Dakota.
Since most facilities are underground, the lighting was very poor. We chose AUTO ISO MAX 6,400 and let the camera do the heavy lifting. Most of the images presented here were taken with ISO 4,000 or 6,400 and they turned out very well. They were all shot with the XF 14mm F2.8 and XF 35mm F1.4 lenses (Classic Chrome film simulation).
The Oscar-Zero MAF consists of an above-ground Launch Control Support Building (LCSB) that housed an eight-person security and maintenance team and provided access to the underground Launch Control Center (LCC).
“Support personnel remained topside, in the LCSB. Two two-person security teams were on duty day and night. A flight security controller coordinated response to alarms at the remote LFs as well as controlling the security of, and permitting access to, the MAFs. Along with these security forces, there was also a facility manager on site, responsible for the care of the entire MAF. A chef singlehandedly fed hungry team members several times a day as well as visitors such as the large maintenance teams or high-ranking officers.”
Heading to the underground Launch Control Center (LCC).
The two-member crews monitored the missiles and awaited orders twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“The site includes the above-ground concrete blast door that originally covered the missile in its silo. In the event of a launch, the door would be blown off the silo by sliding horizontally along rails, which are still in place. The access hatch for crews to service the missile is still there, and the whole site is surrounded by the original eight-foot security fence. The electronic surveillance system is also still in place.”
Thanks to the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site for providing access and information.
2016 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.