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Oscar-Zero Missile Alert Facility

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May is National Historic Preservation Month. Today, we celebrate a North Dakota example by highlighting a State Historic Site on the "National Register of Historic Places."

In August 1964, traffic in Cooperstown was stopped and power lines were even lifted to allow passage for a large truck pulling a load of intermeshed steel rods. The Griggs County Sentinel-Courier featured an image of this notable event with a cutline that stated: “No estimates of dimensions or tonnage were available. It was big.”

It was no secret to residents where these materials were going, nor what they were destined for: they would be used at the site that would become the Oscar-Zero Minuteman Missile Alert Facility.

This site and others like it were part of the intercontinental ballistic missile system scattered around the United States during the Cold War. A large number would eventually reside in North Dakota. In fact, at a Democratic rally in Minot, a pre-recorded message from then US Senator Quentin Burdick noted that North Dakota would soon have “one-third of the nation’s minuteman missiles” and that it had “become a major defense area.”

Oscar-Zero, just north of Cooperstown, was a control center for 10 missile launch facilities, and was one of 15 missile alert facilities associated with the Grand Forks Air Force Base. It was originally armed with Minuteman II missiles. In the early 70s, the updated Minuteman Missile III was deployed at facilities associated with both the Minot and Grand Forks Air Bases, Oscar-Zero included.

Oscar-Zero was staffed 24 hours a day from its activation in 1966 to its deactivation in July 1997. By 2009, the site was transferred to the State Historical Society of North Dakota and today is part of the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site. It’s also on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can learn about the complex construction, the operations, and even see large murals painted by the men who inhabited the space over three decades of operation. It remains a remnant of North Dakota’s involvement in the Cold War and arms race.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

Griggs County Sentinel-Courier, Thursday, August 27, 1964, p1
Ward County Independent, Thursday, September 17, 1964
Griggs County Sentinel-Courier, Thursday, November 26, 1964, p1

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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