Sunday, May 25, 2014

Atlas Missile Silos Historical Marker: Chaves County

During the height of the Cold War, the United States developed a series of intercontinental ballistic warheads called Atlas Missiles. The missiles were made in series, the primary series of deployment were D, E, and F. The Atlas D missiles were housed in various silos through 3 main locations.
Series E missiles were also housed in 3 main locations run by different bases of operations. Then came the final series, series F. The Series F of the Atlas Missiles were housed in silos out of 6 bases. First, there was Schilling AFB in Kansas. Next up, Lincoln AFB in Nebraska, Altus AFB in Oklahoma, Dyess AFB in Texas, Plattsburgh AFB in New York, and finally, Walker Air Force Base in Roswell, New Mexico. Each of these bases would have various silos spread throughout the surrounding country side.

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:

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