Unfamiliar Land

Oscar-Zero Missile Alert Facility

Cooperstown, ND


The opening of the 80’s movie WarGames takes place deep underground in a nuclear missile command bunker. In a tense scene, two Air Force officers struggle to decide if they’ll follow a launch order when they can’t contact the outside world. Drama aside, the scene is very close to what a real-world nuclear missile control center looks like — and if you find yourself in North Dakota, you can see one for yourself up close.

The Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site is composed of two locations from the decommissioned 321st Missile Wing. The November-33 launch site is one of many former nuclear missile silos, a fenced-in plot of land with a massive blast door surrounded by corn fields. A self-guided above ground tour is free, but the real attraction is a few miles away at the Oscar-Zero Missile Alert Facility. Down below in the underground Launch Control Center, a two person crew was responsible for overseeing and targeting ten remote Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles, waiting for the day when a launch order would arrive. Very little has changed since the Cold War. The tour takes you through the recreation area, crew quarters, security desk, and down below past the blast doors into the Launch Control Center and maintenance area.

The 321st Missile Wing was decommissioned long ago, but the Grand Forks Air Force Base still maintains active nuclear launch sites in North Dakota. You might see some as you drive by.

# Posted on February 4, 2020 by Marc Charbonneau.