Whoever said there’s nothing to do in North Dakota?
On this day in 1965, over two thousand people had plenty to do. It must have seemed funny to have such a large crowd out visiting the little site about five miles outside of Michigan, North Dakota. The object of the many visitors was even more unusual, though. They were going to view a Minuteman Missile launch control facility.
The Minuteman missiles were nuclear and were installed around the United States. North Dakota is not generally known for its nuclear activity, but it actually had several Minuteman missile sites. And as it was the midst of a generation poised for nuclear war, an exhibit of this type would hold great interest.
Of course, the Minuteman missiles were not completely installed at the time of the open house. So when the visitors “peered down the open mouth of an underground silo,” which would eventually hold the intercontinental ballistic missiles, they had to use their imagination. But that didn’t make the exhibit any less interesting.
A total number of 2,904 people visited this site over the two-day open house. Most of the day before was reserved for military personnel and their families and for local businesses. However, from 10 till 4 on this day, the general public was invited to the viewing.
Visitors were to be taken by bus to the Launch Facility H-21, one and a half miles East of Whitman at the Sherman Moen farm, where they would then visit the underground ‘silo’ in which the Minuteman missiles were to be stored.
Various pieces of equipment and displays were set up for the event as well, so that all visitors could become more familiar with the construction of and operation of the missiles.
However, the public invitation to this event, printed in the Nelson County Arena, was published with a caveat. “Due to the potential hazards at the partially completed facilities,” parents were asked not to bring their children, if they were 12 years old or younger. Ladies were also advised to wear low-heeled shoes.
Moreover, officials urged everyone planning on visiting to form car pools, since parking was limited.
It wasn’t all serious, though, and a refreshment stand was to be operated there during the open house by members of the Dads’ Club, an organization of Air Force dads who promoted youth activities.
It was a blast for all—but if you listen on July 14th, you’ll learn that wasn’t the end or even the beginning of the experience.
By Sarah Walker
Nelson County Arena, Friday, July 9, 1965, p.1
Nelson County Arena, Friday, July 16, 1965, p.1