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Launch Control Station.

Nuke Site Saved By Ghost Of Reagan

For years the Historical Society of North Dakota has fought to preserve that state's last Minuteman missile launch complex, hoping to open it as a Cold War tourist attraction. In February 2007, their hopes were crushed. The Historical Society asked the North Dakota House of Representatives for funding to save the site -- and lost the vote. A December 31 deadline essentially meant that their chance of getting the cash that they needed -- $250,000 -- was gone.

Then, in the words of Historical Society superintendent Merl Paaverud, "something happened."

Control center gates.

That something was a provision, inserted into the funding bill, that specified that if the missile complex were saved, it would be grandly renamed the "Ronald Reagan Peace Through Strength Missile Silo Historic Site." The House of Representatives -- which is almost two-thirds Republican -- reconsidered the bill in late April, and approved it.

Merl was generous in his assessment of the North Dakota representatives, attributing their flip-flop to sagacity and serendipity, rather than cheap politics. "They rose to the occasion after having some second thoughts," he told us. "Strange and wonderful things happen during a legislative session." Frankly, Merl doesn't care what the launch site is called, as long as it's preserved. "I just want to get it opened," he told us. (Update: The opening finally came in July 2009, when RRPTSMSHS joined America's only other nuclear missile tourist attractions in Arizona and South Dakota.)

The Ronald Reagan Peace Through Strength Missile Silo Historic Site is actually in two places, several miles apart, four miles north (the control center) and two miles east (the silo) of the town of Cooperstown. All of the other 14 control centers and 149 silos in North Dakota were destroyed, thanks to a treaty signed by Ronald Reagan's chosen successor, George Bush, in 1991. This awkward fact has been cited by critics of the representatives' decision, as have the facts that Reagan only visited North Dakota once in his 93-year life, and that the silos were built in the 1960s -- under Democrat presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

Hwy. 45, Cooperstown, ND
Around 3.5 miles north of Cooperstown on Hwy 45, on the west side. Surrounded by open fields, so it's easy to spot. November 33 site is two miles east of Cooperstown on Highway 200.
April-Oct M-Sa 10-6, Su 1-5; Nov.-March by appt only. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
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