Minuteman at Whiteman Air Force Base
Originally a World War II glider base, SAC converted the facility for strategic bomber use in the 1950s. With the phase-out of B-47s in the early 1960s the future of Whiteman AFB was threatened with the loss of its bomber wing. However, in April 1961 test borings made in the area around Whiteman indicated that the terrain was geologically compatible to support Minuteman missile silos.
On June 14, 1961, the U.S. Government announced that Whiteman would serve as a support base for the fourth Minuteman strategic missile wing. After the announcement, there were second thoughts about the choice as original plans called for launchers to be spread into the Lake of the Ozarks region. Due to the terrain inaccessibility and the high water table, these plans were scrapped. Consequently, when the final approval came on January 17, 1962, the launchers were placed in the vicinity of Whiteman, making this the smallest Minuteman base with regard to area.
In February 1962, the Los Angeles-based Corps of Engineers Ballistic Missile Construction Office established a resident office at Whiteman. Meanwhile, the Real Estate Division of the Corps of Engineers Kansas City District set up an office in Sedalia to acquire the needed land.
The Morrison-Hardernan-Perini-Leave11 consortium submitted a low bid of $60.6 million and was awarded the contract on March 20, 1962.
Although construction commenced on April 2, official groundbreaking ceremonies occurred on April 14, 1962, with several congressmen and Governor John Dalton joining military officials at the event. The enormity of the ensuing construction effort encompassed not only installing 150 silos and 15 launch control complexes but also constructing/reconstructing numerous roads and bridges throughout rural western Missouri. The "Hardened Intersite Cable System," measuring some 1,777 miles, connected the launch control centers and required land rights-of-entry from more than 6,000 landowners.
During construction, management-labor relations were described as "excellent." With the exception of ironworkers, the local region supplied the project's manpower needs. There were five work stoppages, of which three involved union jurisdiction disputes. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service resolved one dispute while the others were handled at lower levels. In addition, there were only 11 "time-lost" injuries; no fatalities.
Activated on February 1, 1963, the 351st SMW traced its lineage to the 351st Bombardment Group, a unit that had seen extensive action throughout World War II. As the wing organized, construction accelerated. On June 10, 1963, the Army Corps of Engineers and civilian construction contractors turned the first flight of silos over to the Air Force Site Activation Task Force (SATAF). Over the next 5 months SATAF received responsibility for making final installations on the rest of the silos in preparation for final turnover to SAC. The keys to the final flight of silos were turned over to SATAF and the integration contractor (Boeing) on November 26, 1963.
The first Minuteman I missile arrived from the Boeing plant at Hill AFB, Utah, on January 14, 1964. Soon the holes dotting the Missouri landscape were filled with ICBMs. By June 29, 1964, the last flight of missiles went on alert status, making the 351st a fully operational strategic missile wing.
Beginning on May 7, 1966, and throughout the rest of 1966 and into 1967, the Air Force replaced the Minuteman I "B's" with Minuteman IIs. The completed transition in October 1967 gave the 351st SMW the distinction of being the first wing to complete the Force Modernization Program. One of the retired Minuteman Is eventually found its way to a Bicentennial Peace Park located on base.
During April 1967, SAC sponsored the first missile combat competition at Vandenberg AFB in California. The 351st Strategic Missile Wing came home with the Blanchard Perpetual Trophy for recognition as the best missile wing within SAC. The Whiteman-based unit went on to receive many more such honors at these annual competitions that became known as Olympic Arena.
In October 1967, the 510th Strategic Missile Squadron received responsibilities for the Emergency Rocket Communications System (ERCS), which was mounted on Minuteman F missiles. Successful testing of this replacement for the Blue Scout Jr. rockets stationed in Nebraska had been completed at Vandenberg during the previous year. The ERCS mission involved the transmission of emergency action messages to United States nuclear forces in the event of an attack. The squadron maintained this mission until 1991.
During the 1970s Whiteman's missiles were involved in the integrated improvement program, which included hardening silos and installing command data buffers to facilitate quick missile retargeting. The completion of this program at Whiteman in January 1980, marked the end of the Air Force's last major Minuteman modification program. However, throughout the 1980s improvements to enhance missile accuracy, security, and survivability were made at the numerous launch complexes.
On November 12, 1984, four antinuclear demonstrators trespassed onto Launch Facility N-05 and caused $25,000 worth of damage. Arrested by SAC security police and brought before a U.S. District Court in Kansas City, the four demonstrators were tried, convicted, and ordered to serve sentences ranging from 8 to 18 years.
A SAC first occurred on March 25, 1986, when the first all-female crew manned one of the launch control centers. In 1988, for the first time, an all-female crew from Whiteman, along with a mixed-gender crew from Malmstrom AFB, Wyoming, competed in the Olympic Arena competition.
The September 28, 1991 order from President Bush to take Minuteman II missiles off alert status ended Whiteman's role as an active ICBM base. Subsequently, the Air Force removed Whiteman's 150 Minuteman II missiles from service. The vacated silos are scheduled to be imploded and graded over.
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