Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Audio Available:

OVERVIEW: About this Audio-Described Brochure

Welcome to the audio-described version of Minuteman Missile National Historic Site's official print brochure. Through text and audio descriptions of photos, illustrations, and maps, this version interprets the 2 sided color brochure that park visitors receive. The brochure explores the history of the park, some of its most interesting and unique highlights, and information for planning your visit. This audio version lasts about 33 minutes and is divided into 26 sections, which are organized beginning with details of site facilities and ending with quotes about living with the missiles today, as a way to enrich the listening experience. Sections 2 thru 18 cover the front of the brochure and include information regarding the missile fields, the people who served in them, and the Minuteman Missile itself. Sections 19 thru 26 cover the back of the brochure and include information regarding accessibility, safety, and planning your visit. Highlights include descriptions of the launch control facility and missile silo, arms race, and timeline; all of these accentuated with an anxious understanding of the anxiety of the moment, uncertainty of the decision, and necessary immediacy of the action.


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OVERVIEW: Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, located in western South Dakota, is a unit of the National Park Service, within the Department of the Interior. The 18 acres of park sites are situated on Interstate 90 between Wall, South Dakota and Interstate 90 Exit 13. This park, established in 1999, is the only National Park Service unit dedicated to the events of the Cold War and the Minuteman Two missile system’s role in nuclear deterrence. Each year, over a hundred thousand visitors come to enjoy the unique experiences that can only be had at Minuteman Missile. We invite you to explore the park's preserved historic sites of the Delta-01 Launch Control Center and the Delta-09 Launch Facility. For an overview of the whole story, visit the park’s visitor center with its museum and view the park film. Take a tour of the underground control center where Air Force officers sat ready to unleash the ten Minuteman Missiles of the Delta Flight or experience the stark vistas of the great plains at the Delta-09 silo and view a missile that could deliver 80 times the destructive force of an atomic bomb to the far side of the world in thirty minutes or less. To find out more about what resources might be available or to contact the park directly, visit the "Accessibility" and "More Information" sections at the end of this audio-described brochure.

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OVERVIEW: Front Side of Brochure

The front of this brochure covers the park’s preserved sites, the personnel who worked at the sites and the missile fields, the driving thought behind the creation of the missile fields, the power of the missiles as weapons, and missile deployment in the American Midwest. The two preserved historic sites of the park, the Delta 1 launch control facility with its underground launch control center and Delta 9 launch facility, dominate most of the front, displaying the above and below ground features. Pictures and graphics with their accompanying text speak of the Air Force personnel and some of the equipment that was essential to their work in the missile fields. The bottom portion on the front helps visitors understand the immense power of the Minuteman Two warhead and how the missiles were placed in their units throughout the nation's midwest.

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TEXT: Minuteman Missile

When Gene Williams was growing up in the 1960s, he knew that his family’s farm held a dangerous weapon, a nuclear missile that could reach the Soviet Union. ”You were always aware of the fact that the awesome power that was there could end the world,” he recalls. 

The missile was one of hundreds of Minuteman missiles hidden beneath the sunflowers and wheat, the cows and corn of  America’s Great Plains during the Cold War. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site commemorates this perilous period of world history and explores the choices a nation faces.

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QUOTE: President Ronald Reagan

The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. 

-President Ronald Reagan 

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IMAGE and TEXT: Launch control

DESCRIPTION: [Color illustration displaying an above and below ground view of launch control site. A single story yellow building in an open grassy plain is surrounded by a chain-link fence that is 8 feet high and topped with barbed wire. The yellow building has a brown roof with banks of windows that look out over a blacktop parking area. The blacktop parking area runs two-thirds the length of the building. The building is about the size and style of a small ranch home and has four green doors and four double doors. Below the building is a cutaway of the launch control facility. An elevator shaft goes 31 feet underground and opens onto a hallway that leads to a larger room. Between the hallway and the room is a door that resembles one from a bank vault labeled "blast door." The room is oval shaped and is 8 feet high, 8 feet wide and 40 feet long and is lined with green-colored computer racks. In the center of the capsule between the racks is the deputy commander's console with a person in a dark blue uniform sitting in a red chair. At the left end of the capsule is the commander's console which is colored blue. There is a person in a dark blue uniform sitting at the console in a red chair. Above the oval room is silver duct work that runs the 40 foot length to a yellow air supply tube.  The yellow tube extends to the yellow building above ]

CREDIT: Nicolle R. Fuller, SAYO-Art LLC


RELATED TEXT:
An unmarked building encircled  by a tall fence gave little hint this was a LAUNCH CONTROL FACILITY. Above ground, security guards and other staff worked, stood watch, relaxed, and rested. Below ground, two US Air Force officers were always ready to launch nuclear missiles. All they needed was the command from the US president.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Missile silo

DESCRIPTION:

This image displays and diagrams components of the missile silo. The top portion of the image displays the above-ground section with a prairie stretching out in the background, including two cows in the mid-ground and a barn and thunderstorm in the distance. In the middle of the image is a large round concrete pad on a gray gravel surface surrounded by a secure six-foot chain link fence topped with barbed wire. 

In the center of the concrete circle is a hexagonal concrete and steel hatch directly above the missile, and orange tracks that run to the south allow the hatch to slide off the silo to expose the missile within. All Minuteman Missile silos are oriented north-south so that the hatch goes south clearing the way for the missile to go north. On the north side of the hexagonal hatch are two large steel pivot lockdowns that allow the missile to be placed in the silo from the transport trailer. To the northeast of the pivot lockdowns is a circular hatch to access the subterranean missile silo.  

To the northwest of the hexagonal hatch is a smaller concrete circle with an antenna protruding from the center. The antenna is one foot tall and has a rounded pyramidal shape. To the east of the hexagonal hatch is a motion sensor. It is a tall, skinny post with a pointed top measuring 18 feet tall and 8 inches round. A gravel pad extends to the east where there is another concrete pad with two metal squares on top. 

The bottom portion of the image displays a cutaway directly below the hexagonal hatch showing the missile silo and missile. The silo is 80 feet deep. The top 25 feet of the silo is 25 feet wide and the bottom 55 feet of the silo is 12 feet wide. The missile is alternately striped green and white. The missile rests on a suspension system that elevates the missile 12 feet off the bottom of the silo. 

The wider portion of the silo shows a green computer system and a yellow air supply tube to the right of the missile. At the top of the missile, a cone-shaped nuclear warhead rests upon a section housing the guidance computer. The wider missile body extends below another 50 feet.]


RELATED TEXT:
At the LAUNCH FACILITY a few miles away,  a nuclear missile waited in a silo. Its solid fuel was stable enough to last decades while still making the missile able to launch in minutes. The tall motion sensor would alert Launch Control of intruders. The cone-shaped antenna communicated with airborne control centers. If the command came from Launch Control, the 90-ton silo cover would slide out of the way and the Minuteman missile would blast off to a target thousands of miles around the Earth.

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IMAGES and TEXT: The missileers who work the shifts

DESCRIPTION: [There are two side by side color photographs showing the missileers at their consoles.

The left photo displays the commanding officer seated in a red chair at his console. He rests his left elbow on the arm of the chair while holding a telephone to his ear. He is writing notes with his right hand on a white sheet of paper in a grey three ring binder.

The commanding officer is a white male with mid-length brown hair. He wears a dark blue uniform with a sewn name bar above his left pocket. The name bar is partially obscured by his left wrist, and it’s blue with white embroidered lettering.

The console desk is dark blue and has various papers on it. The upper portion of the console is light blue and has four pairs of rows with black buttons. In the area where the upper console and lower desk part meet there are several knobs and switches, including the phone cord attachment.

The wall in the background is white and has a small shelf containing 17 black binders.

The right photo displays the deputy commander standing at his console looking at the camera. The deputy is white with mid-length hair and dark brown glasses. The deputy commander is wearing polished black shoes, navy blue pants, and a navy blue button up uniform shirt with long sleeves. The shirt has a patch on the right shoulder featuring the missileers insignia. He is wearing a black thigh holster with the brown pistol grip exposed. He is standing immediately to the left of the missile console and holding a phone to his left ear while he points to his console with his right hand. There is a red chair in front of the console. 

The deputy commander's console has a flat desk component and a raised back panel. The console is light blue and there is an open three ring binder with paper and a pen resting on the desk component. The lower portion of the back panel is four inches tall and contains buttons, lights, and knobs. Above the panel are five evenly spaced rows of paired black buttons. 

Above the back panel is another panel angled downward. The panel is one foot tall and wider than the image. The panel is white and on the left are two small grey squares that are vertically oriented. To the right of the squares are a series of black switches on a grey backing.]

 CREDIT: N P S . Wilderman Collection



RELATED TEXT:
Two people worked twenty four hour shifts in a control center that was designed to protect them from a nuclear blast. It was inside a capsule made of four foot-thick concrete reinforced with three inch thick steel bars, and was suspended from shock absorbers. The crew had survival gear to last two weeks, and an escape hatch in the event of disaster. What kind of world would have awaited them? 

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IMAGE and TEXT: Launch facility

DESCRIPTION: [This is a graphical illustration of a vertical black rectangle that contains a red bracketed text bubble at the top and 10 vertical red missile graphics aligned in a row below it. Text contained in the red text bubble is below.]


RELATED TEXT:
Each launch facility had 10 missiles to control. The missiles were about 3 miles apart, grouped around the launch control facility.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Those who maintain

DESCRIPTION: [This is a black and white photo of a semi truck with trailer entering the launch facility through a gate in a chain link fence. 

The barbed wire fence gate is open and a semi truck with a black cab is driving through. The small semi cab has enough room for the driver and one passenger. The 14 wheel semi is hauling a large white container. The container has a rectangular shape except for the front end which curves upward. The trailer and container are slightly taller than the truck. The container has stenciled lettering on the side that reads U.S. Air Force.]

CREDIT: Library of Congress


RELATED TEXT: 
Missile technicians drove more than 60 miles from Ellsworth Air Force Base to maintain the missile. While the technicians worked, armed guards watched over them and ensured the security of the facility. 

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IMAGE and TEXT: Those who deliver

DESCRIPTION: [This is a horizontal rectangular drawing of a large grey and white 18 wheel semi truck and trailer containing a minuteman missile. The cab of the truck faces left with the missile trailer extending above and over the cab. The missile is visible through the trailer. The top of the missile is above the truck cab. The missile is white with a blunt front end, indicating the warhead is not attached.]

CREDIT: Library of Congress


RELATED TEXT:
Rural roads were specially maintained for the massive truck and trailer delivering a missile. This ”transporter erector” could erect the container over the silo and lower the missile into place.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Those who protect

DESCRIPTION: [This is a black and white image of three school children crouched under a table with their heads down and hands over their neck in a “duck and cover” pose. The children are wearing boots, tall socks, and uniform shirts with sweaters. The photo has a sepia tint, vignette, and is on black background.]

CAPTION: Children practiced “duck and cover” in school drills. 

CREDIT: State Library of Victoria


RELATED TEXT: 
People heard about ”civil defense”  from radio, TV, films, magazines, newspapers, and booklets. They learned how to build and stock a private bomb shelter or where to find a community shelter. And they hoped to never need one.

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IMAGE and TEXT: It was a mad world

DESCRIPTION: [In this black and white photograph, a large white and gray mushroom cloud rises into the sky on a black background. Smoke from the blast disperses horizontally outward across the ground like lava and expands upward like branches from a tree trunk as it stretches up and out into the atmosphere. A dull haze emanates from the cloud and muddies the sky behind it.]

CREDIT: Library of Congress


RELATED TEXT: 
From the 1960s to the 1990s, the United States and Soviet Union followed a strategy called MAD, or MUTUALLY ASSURED DESTRUCTION. Neither side would risk launching an attack because the other side would launch an equally destructive counterattack. 

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IMAGE and TEXT: What does an arms race look like?

DESCRIPTION: [A black and white aerial photograph of the Washington, D.C. area, oriented north, from several thousand feet up displays the burst radii of two hypothetical nuclear strikes. The District of Columbia is labeled toward the bottom center of the photo. Maryland is labeled to the northwest and Virginia to the southwest. Two rivers form a "V" shape in the photograph and meet below the District of Columbia before flowing off the bottom of the map. Two red rings depict hypothetical burst radii of nuclear strikes in the District of Columbia area. The first and smallest ring is labeled "Little Boy, Hiroshima, Japan" and is just above where the two rivers meet. The larger ring surrounds the smaller one, with three times its diameter, and is labeled "Minuteman II Missile Burst Radius." This ring covers the river confluence and most of the District of Columbia area, and it stretches into the areas close to Maryland and Virginia.]

RELATED TEXT:
”Little Boy,” a World War II era atomic bomb,  could have destroyed the center of Washington DC. One Minuteman missile could have taken out most of the city plus adjacent cities and towns. If that happened today, at least one million people would die.

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IMAGE: 80 equals one

DESCRIPTION: [This graphic, which overlays the left side of the aerial photograph, depicts 80 small World War II atomic bombs equaling the explosive power of one minuteman missile. Small red bomb shapes in eight rows of ten form a square shape on the left side of the graphic. To the right of the square is a red shape that depicts a missile. An equal sign is between them. The missile is as high as the square depicted by smaller bombs and is about as wide as two of the small bombs.] 

CAPTION: One Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima

RELATED TEXT: 
80 Little Boys equals 1 Minuteman Missile 2
totalling 1.2 mega tons of TNT

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MAP: 10

DESCRIPTION: [This map depicts the Delta Flight control and launch facilities and is oriented north. The Delta 1 launch control facility is shown in the middle of the map. Dotted lines run out from Delta 1 to the ten Launch Facilities like spokes from a wheel. Each launch facility is numbered, D 2 through D 11. The numbering corresponds with the hour numbers on a clock face. The missile silos are arrayed around the launch control facility in an irregular ring and separated from the control facility and each other. The area covered by the Delta flight control and launch facilities is depicted by a yellow line forming a polygon. Three roads are labeled that run east to west across the map. The top road, labeled 14, passes through the town of Quinn on the west end of the map and through Cottonwood on the east end. D 3 is just a little west of Cottonwood. The middle road, labeled 90, has D 1 in the middle. A few miles east of D 1 is the park visitor center. The bottom road, labeled 40, is also known as the Badlands Loop road. It runs into 90 at the park visitor center and is the primary access road to Badlands National Park.]

CAPTION: Each FLIGHT had 10 missiles. 

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MAP: 150

Description: [This map shows three missile squadrons in western South Dakota, covering an area 200 miles wide, and is oriented north. These three squadrons equal one missile wing. The Wyoming and South Dakota border is on the left side of the map. Interstate 90 runs from Wyoming eastward across South Dakota through the bottom center of the map. Rapid City is on I90 60 miles east of the border. Ellsworth Air Force Base is 20 miles northeast of Rapid City. Wall is 55 miles east of Rapid City on I90. The squadrons resemble misshapen squares that are about 60 miles wide by 60 miles long. The 66th Missile Squadron is east of Wall. The 67th Missile Squadron is north of Ellsworth Air Force Base. The 68th Missile Squadron is north of I90 near the Wyoming border. Grey dashed lines surround each squadron. A squadron contains five flight areas that are marked with grey lines. Each flight area contains a launch control facility displayed with a white dot and ten launch facilities (missile silos) displayed as red dots. The Delta flight from the previous component is displayed in yellow. A green square and callout displays the location of the Minuteman Missile Visitor Center, which contained within the yellow area. The visitor center is 21 miles east of Wall on I90.]

CAPTION: One WING had at least 3 squadrons and 150 missiles.

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MAP: 1,000

DESCRIPTION: [Map depicting active and decommissioned missile fields in the Midwestern and Western United States. The map stretches from Montana on the top left to Missouri on the bottom right. Three active missile fields are depicted in a red overlay. Three decommissioned missile fields are depicted in a grey overlay. Important nearby cities are also labeled on the map. The map is dark grey and state outlines are shown in light grey. 

The active missile fields are located in:

The decommissioned fields are located in: 

CAPTION: Six WINGS had a total of 1,000 missiles. 

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IMAGE: US East Coast

DESCRIPTION: [This is a grey drawing of the east coast of the United States from Maine to Florida and as far west as the Appalachian Mountain Range. 100 red circles are visible on the map.  The red circles represent the blast radius of a Minuteman II missile. On the map each circle measures one quarter inch in diameter representing 40 miles. The circles line the the east coast states from the coast to approximately 300 miles inland.]


RELATED TEXT: 
With 1,000 Minuteman missiles ready,  the United States was ready to strike back if the Soviet Union struck first. But how many Americans would have already died?  In the map at far right, each circle equals one missile strike, which would create a crater 200 feet deep and 1,000 feet wide. One such strike could kill as many as two million people, including people in civil defense shelters. Imagine how many would die if 100 missiles struck at once along the US East Coast.

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OVERVIEW: Back Side of Brochure

The back of the brochure is a photograph of a Minuteman Missile launch from Vandenburg Air Force Base serving as the backdrop for the whole page. At the top of the page, In a Minute’s Notice covers the differences between a Minute  Man and Minuteman. Below that is a timeline and text covering events of note during the Cold War, the major political players for both the Soviet Union and the United States, as well as the periods of service for different intercontinental ballistic missiles of the United States. The timeline also includes pictures of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Carter along with quotes from each of them. Running down the left side of the middle of the back are a series of quotes about the Cold War or the Minuteman Missile. At the bottom there is a map showing the location of all three units of the park and text about planning your visit to Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.

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TEXT: Minute man definition

Minute Man.  A member of the 1770s colonial militia trained to respond in a minute’s notice of an attack. 

Minuteman.  A nuclear missile that a missileer can launch with less than a minute’s notice.

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IMAGES and TIMELINE: In a minute's notice

IMAGE 1 of 3: Dwight D. Eisenhower

DESCRIPTION: [Square blue-shaded black and white portrait of Dwight D. Eisenhower from the chest up. He is a white male and has thinning white hair on his head. He is looking slightly up at the camera with a straight face and is wearing a dark army jacket that has pins that say "U.S." on the lapels, white undershirt, and tie.]

CAPTION: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex."

CREDIT: National Archives

IMAGE 2 of 3: John F. Kennedy

DESCRIPTION: [Square blue-shaded black and white portrait of John F. Kennedy's shoulder and face from the side, taken from waist-height. He is a white adult male with combed hair to one side and is looking to the right with a straight face. Bright light reflects from his forehead. Kennedy is wearing a dark suit jacket.]

CAPTION: "Mankind must put an end to war—or war will put an end to mankind."

CREDIT: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum

IMAGE 3 of 3: Jimmy Carter

DESCRIPTION: [Square blue-shaded black and white portrait of Jimmy Carter's shoulder and face from the side. He is a white adult male with hair combed back and is looking to the left with his mouth slightly open and a determined look on his face. Bright light reflects from his forehead. Carter is wearing a grey suit jacket, white undershirt, and tie.]

CAPTION: "In an all-out nuclear war, more destructive power than in all of World War II would be unleashed every second during the long afternoon it would take for all the missiles and bombs to fall."

CREDIT: National Archives

TIMELINE: 

A timeline broken into three parts runs across the top third of the brochure. On top of the timeline are US. presidents and the lengths of their terms in office. Small square photographs and quotes from Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter are above these terms. Woven within the presidential terms are the names of Soviet premieres with the lengths of their terms in office. Under the timeline are the names of types of ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles). Each type is depicted by a single horizontal line and the time it was active. Underneath the whole timeline is a bulleted list of events that happened in each decade. The timeline ends mid-2018.

Timeline with the names and terms of U.S. presidents and Soviet premieres: 

Timeline of ICBMs in place in the United States:

Timeline featuring a bulleted list of events that happened in each decade:

1940s:

1950s :

1960s :

1970s :

1980s :

1990s :

2000s :

2010s :

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IMAGE and TEXT: Living with missiles

DESCRIPTION: [A long-exposure color photograph in landscape orientation of a launched missile taken at dusk. A plateau covered in grass and sagebrush is in the bottom fifth of the photo. Behind the plateau on the right there is a bright yellow and white glow indicating the origin of the missile launch. From the origin of the glow, a white arcing line travels upward and to the left into a clear dark-blue sky in a parabola shape before ending at a point.]

CAPTION: A test launch of a Minuteman III  missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, in 2016.

CREDIT: Brian Webb

Several quotes are overlayed in white text on the sky in the left part of the photo: 

We would always go out to the missile silos and . . .  listen to the machinery that’s humming . . . and it just reminded me of Darth Vader. 
—Lindi Kirkbride, rancher in Wyoming and antinuclear activist 

It was kind of like this macho competition, but it was never like complete hatred.
—Valeri Bochkov, artist and writer who grew up in Russia during the Cold War 

You had a bathroom at the end that looked like something out of Alcatraz [prison] . . . and the bed was right there. There is really no changing area. . . . no privacy whatsoever in a Minuteman capsule. 
—Linda Aldrich, missileer 1982–98 

That’s what the nuclear forces have done is created that  environment where there generally has been peace at the highest levels, and that’s what we continue to do today. 
—Tucker Fagan, missileer 1968–73 

The best type of war to have is one that you never have to  fight, and this is one case where we fought a war and we never actually fired a weapon in anger. 
—Gene Williams, who had Delta-06, a Minuteman launch facility, on his ranch

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MAP and TEXT: Planning your visit

DESCRIPTION: 

This three inch by three inch map displays the locations of Minuteman Missile National Historic Site facilities along I-90 and their proximity to nearby communities such as Wall, Cottonwood, and Interior. The map is oriented north with a scale of  five-eights of an inch equals 5 miles, and its extents stretch from Wall in the top left corner to Interior in the bottom right corner. Park facilities are located off highway exits, with Delta-09 located off Exit 116, Delta-01 off Exit 127, and the Visitor Center off Exit 131. Badlands National Park, the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are labeled and the map displays their extents and the location of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center in the southeast corner of Badlands National Park.


RELATED TEXT:
The park’s three sites are along I-90 between Badlands National Park and Wall, South Dakota. We recommend you begin your visit at the visitor center, located  off Exit 131. There you can watch the park film and explore exhibits interpreting the Cold War. 

The Delta-01 Launch Control Facility is open only during ranger-led tours. Reservations are required and can be made on the park website or calling the park. 

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TEXT: Safety and regulations

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OVERVIEW: Accessibility

Unfortunately, the small elevator and need to climb ladders means that the Delta-01 underground compound cannot be made fully accessible. The park offers an alternative tour that focuses on the topside structure and uses accommodations to explore the underground launch control facility. Virtual tours are available for the visitor center, Delta-09 missile silo, and Delta-01 topside, support building, and launch control center. We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For more information, please ask a ranger, call, or check our website.

For emergencies call 911

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OVERVIEW: More Information

ADDRESS: 24545 Cottonwood Rd., Philip, SD 57567

PHONE: 605-433-5552

WEBSITE: www.nps.gov/mimi

Follow us on social media.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. To learn more about parks and National Park Service programs in America’s communities, please visit www.nps.gov.

You might also want to visit the South Dakota Air and Space Museum at Ellsworth Air Force Base located outside Rapid City. The museum has a launch control simulator and a Minuteman II missile, and the base tour includes an opportunity to go inside a missile silo. Visit their website at www.sdairandspacemuseum.com or call 605-385-5189 or 605-385-5188.

National Park Foundation. Join the park community. www.nationalparks.org
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