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Closings, Cancellations and Delays

Cold War on the Plains traces history of US nuclear program in western South Dakota

F.Ganje - June 4, 2019

STURGIS, SD – When the Sturgis & Meade County Historical Society was scheduling a presentation on the Titan Missile program for its annual History Day in June, organizers may not have known of the connection with another presentation planned for the same weekend at the Sturgis Public Library on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo program.

Presenter Tim Velder,  a historian and author Tim Velder, Sundance, WY, explains. “A lot of the technology used in the Titan Millile program went right into the space program that was launched during Kennedy’s time in 1963, continuing on into the 1970’s. They were able to shift the liquid fuel technology of the Titan missile over to the space program.”

Velder, a Newell, SD native and former newspaper editor,  began his research into the Titan missile program decades ago. A regular question he gets relates to the public’s confusion between the Titan weaponry and the Minute Man Missile program.

“The Titan missiles were developed in the late 1950’s as an interim nuclear deterrent before the Minute Man missiles came on line. The Titans were liquid fueled and the Minutemans were an innovation to a solid fuel rocket. So when you see a lot of abandoned missile sites around western South Dakota, those are Minuteman sites that have been decommissioned.  There were only three Titan sites in western South Dakota.” 

Why only three? What was the rush to build the sites when the more advanced Minuteman missile was close to being operational?  Why western South Dakota?  Velder will answer those questions and more during “Remember the Titans: Cold War on the Plains,” set for Sat., June 15, 2019 at The Local on Main Street beginning at 11:00a.m.

“The U.S. believed it was behind the Soviet Union in the arms race,” says Velder. “Installing the Titans was done as a show of force and a response to the Soviet nuclear threat at the time. Even though the Titan would take as long as eight minutes to launch – too long in terms of a nuclear strike – it was at least something.” He added, “The location of the sites at Sturgis, Wicksville and Hermosa had to do with proximity to Ellsworth Airforce Base that served as the control center.”

For a complete History Day schedule, see the historical society on line at http://www.sturgishistory.org and on Facebook.
Listen to the LIVE! interview ON DEMAND

Phone number: 605-347-4455
E-mail: [email protected]
Address: 1612 Junction Avenue, Suite #1
Sturgis, SD 57785