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Atlas D Missile Site


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#1 NebrPatch

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 07:10 PM

Recently, we made a trip to a former Atlas D missile site located near Arlington, NE. Closed in the mid-60ís, the site is due for a cleanup of toxic chemicals starting next summer. The cleanup is scheduled to take about 10 years at a cost of $6.5 million. The main toxic contaminant is tricloroethene.

The Atlas D sites in Nebraska consisted of 3 soft, above-ground launchers with a semi-hardened control bunker. The roof of the launcher would open down the middle, and the missile would be erected for fueling and launch. Members of the 549th SMS were stationed at the site.

You can drive right by the front gate on the south side, but the site is best viewed from the north side, only when thereís no corn to block the view. The launchers sit in the low area behind the trees shown in this photo looking south.

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  • missile_base_001.JPG


#2 NebrPatch

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 07:13 PM

The west launcher building and a few other buildings.

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  • missile_base_003_2.jpg


#3 NebrPatch

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 07:15 PM

A better view of the west launcher, it looks like the roof is partially open.

Tom

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  • base_4_2.jpg

Edited by NebrPatch, 01 December 2009 - 07:16 PM.


#4 hawkdriver

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 07:47 PM

Same thing happened here in Kansas with the Atlas-E silos. The Govt was quick to sell them off, then they found that the solvent used to clean the missiles was toxic and was being dumped in the blast pits, trichlorethane was the chemical used. The .gov tried to make the new owners clean it up, long story short, the people sued and the .gov had to do the clean up. The E silos here were all below ground with the sliding doors at ground level.

#5 gwb123

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 07:53 PM

Wow, history in our own backyard!

I grew up on the East Coast and can remember the old Nike missile bases that could be found outside most major cities.

#6 hawkdriver

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 08:07 PM

Wow, history in our own backyard!


We had six Atlas-E sites around Eastern Kansas. I took an interest in them and at one time, wrote a paper on the history of the silo's. I have been to each one of our six and have been down in all but two. We had one that some drifter took up residence in. When some kids come out to party in it, the drifter shot at the car and killed one of the kids. Almost bought one for $120,000 but didn't do it and I regret it as this next year, I would have had it paid off.
Here is the one that I was going to buy. The dark area above the light area is where the missile was driven down into the silo. The light area is the sliding roof of the launch silo. You can see the remenents of the sewage ponds. Should have bought it.
Posted Image

Edited by hawkdriver, 02 December 2009 - 08:19 PM.


#7 gwb123

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 09:07 PM

This has been enlightening for me. I've always wanted to see one of these sites. My father worked for GE Aerospace during the Cold War in the 1960's, so all of this is very real to me.

I've lived in Nebraska for over 10 years, but I'd always assumed the missile fields were further south in Kansas. Turns out there are plenty of them within a half hour of Omaha!

I found a couple of websites that provide details.

http://asuwlink.uwyo...kirk/atlas.html

http://www.nesilos.com/

Using the magic of Google maps, I believe these are overhead views of the site described by NebrPatch. It looks quite intact:

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  • Atlas_site_Arlington.jpg
  • Atlas_site_Arlington_2.jpg


#8 hawkdriver

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Posted 03 December 2009 - 03:48 AM

I've trained with the NEARNG on a couple occasions and one of their training sites is on one of these old missile sites. I got to walk through them and it is very interesting. When these sites were first developed, they were above ground as yours and NebrPatch depict. It took over 30 minutes to put these missiles into operations because they used liquid fuel and could not be left fueled laying down, so they had to be erected, fueled, then launched. Guess what the flight time of the Soviet ICBMs at the time was, yep, 30 minutes. These missiles were exposed and that wasn't a good thing, especially if they didn't get a launch code on time. The Kansas silos were a little better off, the launch bays were underground with the roof at ground level, but still had to be erected and fueled. The command bays were completely under ground.
These concepts were abandoned to a true vertical silo and in Kansas, 36 vertical silos were built with the horizontal silos being abandoned. When the SALT treaties were put into place, because these early Atlas silos were already abandoned, they were not a part of the talks, hence why they are still in place. The vertical silos were still in operation, so according to the SALT talks, they had to be destroyed. They were packed with explosives and detonated. They had to be left in the "smoking hole" condition until the Soviet satellites could verify they were destroyed. Then rubble was pushed into the holes, sealing them for good.
Unfortunately, our government did not see these Atlas silos as having any historic value and they were basically sold off to the public, or give back to the farmers that originally owned the land. In the Kansas system, based out of Topeka, several had their doors scrapped out for the metal, one has had dirt pushed into it so cattle wouldn't fall into the holes, one was made into a high school, two made into homes, one used by K-State university for storeage. A couple remain abandoned and the water levels have filled the command bays to the ceiling. The sad thing is that the dopers used a couple of them to grow pot, so they got a lot of attention of the law for awhile.

#9 Misanthropic_Gods

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Posted 03 December 2009 - 07:14 AM

On a slightly related note, I have been doing TONS of research lately on the Nike sites in and around Chicago. I have been totally surprised and also disappointed by the sheer amount of the Sites that were around here, and how many of them are gone without a trace.

I happened to also find one that I had been to and didnt even know it, the kicker is that it is 5 mins from my house!

I am planning to trek up to Waukesha, WI, Gary, IN and around Chicago documenting as many of the former Nike sites as I can, and provide old sat/aerial photos of the locations as they were and Take pictures of how they are now.

#10 NebrPatch

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Posted 03 December 2009 - 12:46 PM

This has been enlightening for me. I've always wanted to see one of these sites. My father worked for GE Aerospace during the Cold War in the 1960's, so all of this is very real to me.

I've lived in Nebraska for over 10 years, but I'd always assumed the missile fields were further south in Kansas. Turns out there are plenty of them within a half hour of Omaha!

I found a couple of websites that provide details.

http://asuwlink.uwyo...kirk/atlas.html

http://www.nesilos.com/

Using the magic of Google maps, I believe these are overhead views of the site described by NebrPatch. It looks quite intact:


Yup, this is the place. I first learned of the site last summer when the World-Herald had an article about the cleanup.
From Arlington it's about 2 miles east on Hwy. 30, then about 2 miles north on County Road 15. The best view is from the north on County Road 28.

Tom

#11 gwb123

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 07:23 PM

Thanks to the above postings by NebrPatch I decided to take a field trip this weekend.

There were initially three Atlas D sites. The one in Arlington that is described above, a second near Mead NE, and a third near Missouri Valley IA. Interestingly they each had different fates. The Arlington site looks in pretty good shape, or at least structurally intact. The Mead site is about 40% in ruins with the roofs removed from all of the buildings.

The Missouri Valley site was vandalized early on and became the scene for local debauchery. The town declared it to be a nuisance and has apparently razed it to the ground and replaced it with park land.

Below is a color 1962 vintage photo of a missile in the raised position at the Mead NE site. This came from the booklet The Strategic Air Command and Offutt AFB Guide, and was found on the site Siloworld.com. Note how the roof has been rolled back to either side. At the time it was operated by the 549th Strategic Missile Squadron and was one of 9 missiles (3 at each site) assigned to Offutt.

http://www.siloworld.....2 Reduced.pdf

The black and white views are from the same website, and show similar buildings at another site from other angles. Note the large dark blue storage tanks.

http://www.siloworld...ATLAS/ATLAS.HTM

Attached Images

  • A2_Launcher_UP.jpg
  • A1_Launcher_up.jpg
  • A3_Mead.jpg

Edited by gwb123, 07 December 2009 - 08:59 PM.


#12 gwb123

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 08:03 PM

Just to add a little color to this story, winter came to Nebraska this weekend. I left the house at 10 am knowing that snow was expected around 2 pm. The temperature was about 24 degrees, and the wind was 30 mph or higher. All that aside I knew this would be my last good chance to get out to these locations until spring.

The Mead site is about 17 miles from where I live, which is basically a suburb of Omaha. But what happens in that 17 miles is you very quickly tranform from town to country.

The good news is that most roads in Nebraska tend to run North/ South or East/ West. And that is a good thing, because after leaving the main route, there are not a whole lot of landmarks or traffic signs.

The other good news was that since it was winter, the crops were in and you could see for miles. If this had been August, you would not have been able to see past the side of the road due to miles of cornfields.

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  • aa_senD_8.jpg
  • aa_senD_7.jpg


#13 gwb123

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 08:08 PM

Despite feeling like I was in the middle of nowhere, I was pretty confident in my ability to follow the map.

Soon enough I found a wooded area with signs that I was on the right track.

I was a bit disappointed to see the US Property signs. I had read my background information wrong and thought the site had been converted to industrial use, and I was hoping to drive onto it. I took a closer look to see if perhaps these were Cold War remnants, but on inspection they all looked like they had been posted in the last two years.

The thought crossed my mind to jump the fence.... that was until I came across these man sized outline targets at intervals along the fence. That was a bit disconcerting, and pretty good encouragement to stay on the civilian side of the fence. At this point I was beginning to wonder exactly what I was stumbling into.

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  • aa_SEND_11__small.jpg


#14 gwb123

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 08:10 PM

And then... like a Cold War Stonehenge...

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#15 gwb123

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 08:13 PM

This was the western most launch building.

I already knew from looking at overhead photos on Google Maps that the buildings would not be in the best condition. The sliding roof portions have long ago been removed.
At least one of the buildings has trees growing in the middle of it.

That said, a significant amount of the structure remains. There is enough there to make it worth the view.

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  • aa_sEND_4.jpg
  • aa_sEND_3.jpg


#16 gwb123

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 08:20 PM

Continuing around the perimeter, you come to the classic Missile base front gate. I wasn't sure why I thought these were so distinctive until I realized it was the raised portion in the center. This of course was to allow the oversized load of a missile on a trailor to pass through.

Apparently the site is now used for training the Nebraska National Guard, who have an assembly point a few miles away. Despite the ruins of the launch complex, the area is well maintained with the grass cut, the fence intact, and the roads in good shape. About the only distinctive thing I could spot from the road was what appeared to be a rifle range complex. As a friend of mine noted, it was just large enough to run a squad or platoon field problem.

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  • AA_Send_13.jpg


#17 gwb123

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 08:23 PM

On the second swing around I was able to capture this shot showing the western most building along with the center building in the background.

Just out of telephoto range for my little point and shoot was the main control building. You can just make out a rounded turret like structure on the left corner upon which would have been a tracking radar.

Attached Images

  • AA_Send_56.jpg
  • AA_Send_58.jpg

Edited by gwb123, 07 December 2009 - 09:01 PM.


#18 gwb123

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 08:38 PM

After about an hour or so at Mead, I decided to try to find Arlington as well. Roughly an hour's drive north to Fremont NE and then swinging back east, I found it exactly as NebrPatch has described.

This site has been apparently converted to commercial use of some sort, or it is being kept as a private sanctuary. In any case the buildings are all in much better shape. The problem was as it was Sunday it was securely locked up behind two rows of fences... one from the Air Force and the other from the land owner.

I approached from the South side and found the main gate as well as a number of support buildings.

Going further East I found the three pole antenna that I believe NebrPatch mentioned... still strung and waiting decades for launch orders to come.

Attached Images

  • AA_Send_22.jpg
  • AA_s_end_28.jpg

Edited by gwb123, 07 December 2009 - 08:56 PM.


#19 gwb123

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 08:46 PM

Going along the western side, then onto the north, the views were much better.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned, the snow was coming and the light was fading fast. It was getting to the point that I really didn't want to get out of the car... without the crops in the field there was nothing to stop the wind. I shot my last few photos from inside the car with one window rolled down.

I wish the photos had turned out better. The good news is there was nothing to block the view of the buildings. In their silence, the launch buildings at Arlington looked like they were ready to continue with the mission. I believe in one of these photos you can see one of the large blue tanks we saw in the period photos.

Despite all of that, I really got a kick out of seeing a unique piece of history. The Atlas D sites were among America's first efforts at developing ICBM's. It was a major technical achievement that was continously refined during the Cold War.

Attached Images

  • AA_send_30.jpg
  • AA_send_31.jpg
  • AA_send_26.jpg


#20 gwb123

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Posted 07 December 2009 - 08:52 PM

As I got back to the main road, the snow was starting to come down pretty good. It was time to head for the house.

However, there was an unexpected bonus feature. I had been looking at antennas all along the way hoping to spot anything that was a
Cold War relic, even if it was just a signal relay. Really I wasn't sure what to look for. Travelling along Highway I came across the current communications station that serves Offutt.... ten years I have lived in this area and I had no idea it was here.

These huge towers may have been placed here on the optomistic belief that if Offutt were nuked the towers were far enough away to survive. These are not hidden by any means and are clearly visible from the road. This is just one of many.

As for this photo, it was taken at 3pm in the afternoon with the snow coming down... not the best shot, but it gives you an idea of what is out there.

I hope someone enjoyed this narrative...as for me I went home and put up the Christmas tree in the living room!

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  • AA_send_34.jpg

Edited by gwb123, 08 December 2009 - 03:22 PM.


#21 The Meatcan

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 12:31 PM

great stuff Gil! I enjoyed reading this from the heated comfort of my home :lol:
Terry

#22 hawkdriver

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 04:32 PM

Gil,
The Mead site is the one that I got to rummage through several years ago when I was bivouacing with the NEARNG. We staged just across the road in the field to the west of the complex. I guess when you have a uniform on, the US Govt signs don't mean much. I wish I would have taken pictures when I was there, we poked through all the buildings. As for the targets with the orange boxes, I believe that those are land nav targets for the PLDC or Warrior Leader Course from Camp Ashland.

#23 ithaca37

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 06:22 PM

This thread brings back memories of the site near Abilene, Ks. As a kid growing up there, we hunted and fished on the properties directly south and southeast of the missle site. One day going to fish, the missle was out of the silo in the "firing" postion. That was the only time I had seen the missle. It made us wonder what was going on. I remember my dad taking a picture of it. I think there may be a copy around here.

Just my memories of one of the missle bases.

#24 hawkdriver

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 07:13 PM

This thread brings back memories of the site near Abilene, Ks. As a kid growing up there, we hunted and fished on the properties directly south and southeast of the missle site. One day going to fish, the missle was out of the silo in the "firing" postion. That was the only time I had seen the missle. It made us wonder what was going on. I remember my dad taking a picture of it. I think there may be a copy around here.

Just my memories of one of the missle bases.


The missile base you remember was a silo of the Salina based complex. It was a Atlas E, but it was in a vertical silo, so it was one of the ones destroyed in the SALT that I mentioned earlier in this post. There were three complexes, Topeka, Salina, and then the Titans around Wichita. Do you remember exactly where the silo was? Most of the ones around Wichita were so completely destroyed that even the road beds were removed. I have never researched the Salina ones.

#25 ithaca37

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 07:34 PM

The missile base you remember was a silo of the Salina based complex. It was a Atlas E, but it was in a vertical silo, so it was one of the ones destroyed in the SALT that I mentioned earlier in this post. There were three complexes, Topeka, Salina, and then the Titans around Wichita. Do you remember exactly where the silo was? Most of the ones around Wichita were so completely destroyed that even the road beds were removed. I have never researched the Salina ones.



The base is 550-2 that is located about 2.5 miles NW of Abilene. It's north of I-70 on Fair Road (exit 272) about a mile and a half or so. This base was sold to a private individual in the early 70's as I recall. After the site was closed, I parked our pickup there, jumped the fence to hunt on the property directly south of the missle site. I had done this for a couple years or so until I found a note under the windshield wiper asking me not to hunt on his property. I had no idea the old missle site had been sold. I was hunting on the adjacent land, not his land. I found the owner at the old base, introduced myself, and explained I was hunting on the neighbors place with permission. I just parked there, because I didn't know the old site had been sold. He was satisfied and I didn't park there anymore.

The last I knew the site was still there and wasn't part of the sites destroyed for the SALT agreements. Next time I get back there, I'll check it out. One of the links posted earlier in this thread, I saw some photos of this site taken in 2001 or 2002. I've forgotten which link it was.

Edited by ithaca37, 08 December 2009 - 07:37 PM.



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