Air Force Bases

Minuteman II Legacy

With the implementation of the START Treaty, only Delta-01 and Delta-09 of Ellsworth Air Force Base and the Oscar-01 LCC at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri remain as examples of Minuteman IIs. A comparison of the Whiteman facility and former Ellsworth facility reveals some significant differences. First, Oscar-01 at Whiteman reflects the "controlled response" era of Minuteman design, with its ground support facilities hardened belowground. In contrast, the Delta-01 LCF, formerly of Ellsworth, belongs to the earlier period of massive retaliation, as indicated by the "soft" siting of its support facilities aboveground. Second, the Whiteman site is located on the Air Force Base proper, instead of being dispersed, like the Ellsworth sites, in a remote missile field, as was more typical of the Minuteman basing configuration. Third, Whiteman's Oscar-01 is not a complete Launch Complex. Not only does it lack a LF, but it also lacks an aboveground LCF support building. In a typical Minuteman Launch Complex, such as represented by the former Ellsworth Site Delta-01, the LCF support building provided accommodations for Air Force personnel stationed in the missile field, and served as a security control center. Since the surrounding air base provided Whiteman's Oscar-01 with these services, a separate LCF support building was considered unnecessary. The Delta Flight Launch Complex in South Dakota is the only surviving intact example of the original Minuteman configuration, designed to implement the Cold War policy of massive retaliation and is also the only intact formerly operational Minuteman II site remaining in the United States.

Since the successful completion of the START Treaty, the United States and the Russian Republic have continued their efforts aimed at further arms reductions. A 1994 agreement between the two countries resulted in reprogramming the targeting system of United States and Russian ICBMs and SLBMs. This important though largely symbolic policy shift meant that United States and Soviet nuclear missiles were no longer aimed at each other. The START II Treaty, ratified in 1996, mandates elimination of all land based ICBMs with multiple independently targeted warheads and a sixty-five percent reduction in each country's remaining nuclear arsenal. The signing of the Helsinki Protocol by the United States and Russia in 1997, better known as START III, established a framework for future arms reduction negotiations that aims to reduce the number of nuclear weapons held by these two countries by an additional thirty to forty percent.

Clearly the international legacy of the Cold War, at least in terms of its nuclear component, remains. The first two generations of Minuteman, however, do not. Having negotiated an end to the Cold War, Soviet and American leaders recognized a need to remember this crucial moment in global history. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is one such piece of the past and place of memory, and in the next section we will explore this site's origins as a public space.