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July 19: Radar Naming Contest

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North Dakota holds a number of remnants of once-active radar and missile sites established during the Cold War. One of these sites was near Fortuna.

The Fortuna Air Base was already active by 1951, but in the summer of 1961, local interest in the site abounded as construction of a radar tower began. Citizens knew about its construction and could monitor the development through reports in local newspapers. And there was no hiding the project. It was a five-story concrete tower. It cost close to a million dollars, with an additional $5 million appropriated to equip the structure.

As the tower neared completion, a ribbon cutting was scheduled. And, on this date, a competition for naming the tower was advertised in local papers. The “Name the Radar Building” contest was sponsored by Crosby Business Builders and Fortuna Merchants, as well as the Fortuna air base. Anyone could submit a name; they just had to bring their suggestion to any store in Fortuna or to any member of the Crosby Business Builders by the first day of August. Three people would serve as judges. Air Base Commander Major Harold Daniel, Crosby Legion Commander L. A. Rutherford, and Crosby Mayor, Orville Tryhus.

One stipulation was that the title had to “be in line with the mission of the tower,” which was to detect aircraft. The public was invited to the facility during an open house on August 4th. Around a hundred people took advantage of the occasion, getting a guided tour of the facility. Among the attendees was Miss Northwest of 1961, Lloydine Poling, of Crosby, a runner up in the 1961 Miss North Dakota contest. She came to unveil a tower plaque, and was escorted by Captain Bardy Miracle for a personal tour of the building. She also had another special role to play -- presenting J. A. Joraanstad of Crosby with $75 for his winning entry in the radar-naming competition. It’s not a name that would win these days. The tower was dubbed the “Sioux Sentinel.”

Refreshments followed.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

Divide County Journal, July 19, 1961, p1
Divide County Journal, July 13, 2011, p3 (50 years ago / it was news column)
Divide County Journal, August 2, 1961, p1
Divide County Journal, August 9, 1961, 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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