Air Force Bases

Atlas Missile at Plattsburgh AFB Kansas

Plattsburgh has hosted military activities throughout much of the nation's history. An Army Barracks during World War II, the Air Force reclaimed the land in the early 1950s to host an Air Force Base for the Strategic Air Command. After extensive construction, the base received its first B-47 bombers in 1956. During the 1960s the base hosted the 556th Strategic Missile Squadron (Atlas F).

Initial plans called for three complexes with three Atlas F missiles per complex. Later, a fourth complex was added to the plans. Eventually "lift-launch" silos were placed at Champlain; Alburg, VT, Swanton, VT, Millsboro; Lewis; Au Sable Forks; Riverview; Redford; Dannemora; Brainardsville; Ellenburg Depot; and Moeers.

Construction began in June 1960, when groundbreaking occurred at a site near Champlain. Throughout the next year, hundreds of workers dug the 12,174-foot-deep, 54-foot-wide holes into the solid rock. In addition to the three launchers, each complex had an underground launch control facility.

The Air Force conducted "missile briefings" to educate area leaders and residents on safety measures, environmental impact, and the need for the missile program. As with other construction sites around the nation, Plattsburgh suffered its share of fatalities. Seven men died in accidents and many more were injured.

Despite the dangerous work, management-labor relations were amicable. As of March 1962 only 98 man-days had been lost due to work stoppages and that did not delay construction. The first missile arrived in April 1962, and the silos were declared operational in December. As a result of Defense Secretary McNamara's 1964 directive to decommission Atlas and Titan I missile squadrons, the Atlas F missiles were removed and the 556th Strategic Missile Squadron was deactivated on June 25, 1965.

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