Hard to believe that during the cold war years from 1963 through the early 1990's the western half of South Dakota was littered with 150 Minuteman Nuclear Missile sites. They were about as common to see as prairie dog mounds in portions of the state during that time.

It's also both scary and strange to think that people throughout the state would work and live side by side next to weaponry that possessed the destructive power to wipe out an entire civilization. Not to mention give you a wicked tan and a permanent orange afro.

Fortunately, a lot has changed since those days. There is no longer an active nuclear arsenal within the state of South Dakota.

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At the present time, the United States Nuclear Triad is composed of roughly 400 Minuteman III ground based missile sites located in the Great Plains states of Wyoming, Montana, and in our neighboring state of North Dakota at the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base.

The remaining portion of the country's nuclear arsenal can be found on ballistic missile submarines and long-range B-52 bombers and the B-2A Spirit stealth bombers.

According to the South Dakota Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, during the cold-war era, the missile fields here in the state were operational 24/7. Missile crews would man the various silos 365 days a year during the brutally cold winters and scorching summers that South Dakota is famous for.

Each missile was targeted with its own special set of coordinates, capable of striking any would-be aggressor nation world-wide in 30 minutes or less. Or the next one is free. (That was their motto!) Hey, you gotta maintain a sense of humor when you're talking about the destruction of civilization, right?

These days it's still possible to get up close and personal with a nuclear missile when you take a guided tour of the remaining Delta-09 Minuteman missile site and see the Delta-01 launch control facility in South Dakota.

Just another little something to add to your vacation to-do list the next time you and the family decide to head west to check out the faces and do the tourist thing. Now you can also swing on by Phillip, South Dakota, and take a look at Armageddon straight in the face.

Visitors can go inside the protected fenced compound and look down into the silo at a Minuteman missile in its historic state. A narrated ranger guided tour of Delta-09 silo is available year-round by using your cell phone as well.

Advance reservations are required for the Delta-01 launch facility. Those tours are limited to 6 visitors at a time.

Get hours of operation and more information on both tour opportunities here.

Source: National Park Service

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