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Military Removes Missile From First ICBM Silo To Be Deactivated

December 4, 1991

RED OWL, S.D. (AP) _ An Air Force crew on Tuesday pulled a Minuteman II missile from the first ICBM silo to be deactivated in the plan to cut back on the country’s nuclear weapons.

On a windswept hilltop about 100 miles northeast of Ellsworth Air Force Base, a truck with a winch removed the 57-foot long intercontinental ballistic missile from its underground silo. The operation took much of the day.

″It went real smooth,″ said Maj. Steve Slough of the 44th Missile Wing. ″As cold as it was, I’m surprised we didn’t have some kind of equipment failure.″

Staff Sgt. Michael Rose, chief of the team handling the missile, said temperatures in the teens slowed the work.

″You’ve got to take care so you don’t get frostbite,″ he said.

All 150 single-warhead Minuteman IIs at Ellsworth, plus another 150 each at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, will be removed in the next few years. The missiles at the Montana base will be replaced by newer multi-warhead Minuteman III missiles. Two bases in North Dakota already have the newer weapons.

The missiles and warheads will be shipped to other locations for dismantling and storage. The underground silos scattered across the western South Dakota prairie will be filled and covered.

″We won the Cold War, and this is sign of it,″ said Maj. Steve Slough of the 44th Missile Wing. ″The best weapons system is the one you never have to fight with.″

President Bush announced plans to phase out the aging missiles when he proposed his 1992 budget. Officials said deactivating the Minuteman II system was for budgetary reasons and not part of an arms control agreement with the Soviet Union.

Lt. Warren Gray, flight commander at the center that controls some of the missile being deactivated, said his crews no longer have the keys and codes required to launch missiles. ″At this point, we couldn’t launch them if we wanted to.″

The 44th Missile Wing at Ellsworth became operational in 1963.

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