Roswell and Walker Air Force Base was home to the 579th Strategic Missile Squadron (579th SMS for short). The 579th SMS consisted of 12 Atlas F complexes spread throughout the countryside of Chaves County surrounding Roswell.
These silos were 180 feet deep, and housed missiles capable of reaching over 9,000 miles and dropping nuclear payloads. These silos were a major player in the tensions of the Cold War, and the nuclear threat posed by the United States.
The Atlas Program was phased out in 1965. Walker Air Force Base in Roswell was closed due to funding cutbacks during the Vietnam War in 1967.
The interesting thing here is that these silos are still out there, either shuddered permanently by the government, or are owned privately. The silos that have been sealed are inaccessible due to their sealing by massive concrete doors (check out some very cool photos of a now closed silo outside of Roswell at The Military Standard photo gallery HERE).
The historical marker is located at a rest stop approximately 15 miles west of Roswell on US Highway 70 headed to Ruidoso. It's hard to imagine when driving through these rolling hills that such a sinister and interesting past exists in those hills, a past that held the power to forever change the face of the planet.
I recommend the following sources if you'd like to pursue more information on the Atlas Missile Program, the silos, or the history of the program overall. These are also the sources I consulted for this post:
- Atlas Missile Silos .com: This site contains information on the program, and on each Strategic Missile Squadron across all series of the Atlas program. I also found the map of the silos here.
- The Military Standard: Atlas Missile Silo Tour, Roswell: This interesting site shows photos of the now abandoned sites around Roswell. I included a link to this site above. It's worth a look.
- The 579th SMS: This is where I found the map shown above.
- Albuquerque Journal, October 25th, 2009 article: Home Sweet Missile Silo: An interesting article on the history of some of the Roswell silos since their closure in 1965.
- Released Articles on the history of the silos: Two pdfs I consulted, the first is titled Ready for Reuse Determination, EPA, and the second is a site inspection report prepared by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 2005.