A Cold War era US Army Missile Site in North Dakota is up for grabs in an auction. Covering 50 acres and long since abandoned, it’s an imposing slice of American history with enormous potential in Fairdale, ND. Atlas Obscura describes it as “a gargantuan fixer-upper”!
Pifer’s Auction and Realty are handling the sale. They refer to the site – Remote Sprint Launcher 4 (though it could be altered to something more catchy) – in their listing as “a nostalgic Cold War experience”. The Brutalist architecture still stands, though interior metals and paint have seen far better days. Exterior-wise, new owners face a 21st century threat in the form of weeds.
“There is a cement entry building, a command bunker, and 14 sprint launch tubes” Pifer’s write. Sprint missiles were short range, designed to counter potential Russian strikes should the bigger Spartan projectiles not do the job.
Luckily there wasn’t open warfare between the USA and USSR, though things came perilously close via a false alarm in 1983. Moscow believed that American missiles were incoming and prepared to launch a deadly payload – duty officer Stanislav Petrov worked out the so-called attack was a technical error just in time.
Back in the present day, Pifer’s outline energy deployment of a more modest kind. “Current owner utilizes portable power and water tanks: Power is available nearby and a well could be drilled for water requirements.” Silos now contain water rather than explosives.
Overall, Remote Sprint Launcher 4 was part of the state-wide Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex. According to Atlas Obscura, other locations included “a six-billion dollar pyramid in Nekoma that looks equal parts Giza and Death Star, and a nearby 30-missile site that is still open for tours today.”
These Missile Sites diligently watched the skies between the 1950s and the ‘70s. Writing about the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site tourist attraction down in South Dakota, the National Park Service states it “was operational, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for 365 days a year, for thirty years.” Over a thousand defensive missiles were primed along the Great Plains, in anticipation of an assault which never arrived.
South Dakota endured extremes of hot and cold throughout the year, during which operations had to be kept running. It was an age of contrasts, where “local landowners and members of small towns in the central and northern Great Plains lived literally side by side with nuclear weapons.” The Cold War itself didn’t end till the start of the 1990s. By that stage, Remote Sprint Launcher 4 had been dormant a couple of decades.
In 2012 the site was bought by Mandan-based handyman Leslie Volochenko. He intended turning it into a catastrophe-proof hideaway, but eventually ditched the ambitious project. Volochenko is relocating to Texas, reportedly taking with him happy memories of watching the stars from his unique and remote vantage point. “They twinkle” he says, quoted by the Bismarck Tribune. “You don’t get to see the stars here in Mandan as much. There’s a lot more of them.”
Pifer’s are holding their auction on August 11th, reporting lots of interest. Atlas Obscura writes,“Some calls have been from history buffs, some from entrepreneurs, and some from doomsday preppers, seeking a solid foundation on which to build their bunkers.”
Dave Keller of Pifer’s is happy to explore the possibilities, thinking the former Army stronghold could have a practical use today. Talking to Atlas Obscura, he believes Remote Sprint Launcher 4 represents “the ultimate in social distancing”.
Once bidding opens for this missile site in North Dakota, the price is sure to take off like… well, a rocket!
Steve is a writer and comedian from the UK. He’s a contributor to both The Vintage News and The Hollywood News and has created content for many other websites. His short fiction has been published by Obverse Books.