No Lone Zone


At the height of the Cold War, the United States deployed thousands of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) in a network of underground complexes across the American landscape. These nuclear weapons made up one part of America’s vast deterrent force as it faced off against its ideological rival, the Soviet Union, until its collapse in 1992. And as the Cold War itself has faded from memory, so too have the lessons and fears these weapons once elicited in the general public. Yet the issue of unchecked nuclear proliferation has returned that fear to the forefront.


With much of America’s Cold War era nuclear arsenal deactivated and dismantled today, there are a growing number of former missile sites whose mission is to preserve the history and memory of the period. These frozen time capsules are open to the public, catering to an array of nostalgic “nuclear tourists.” As “Shrines to an Armageddon,” they preserve the dramatic vestiges of a power that can destroy the world. The sites stand sentinel as potent reminders of American military might, but also serve as a cautionary tale for future generations.


Two such sites, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota and the Titan Missile Museum in Arizona, are the only remaining ICBM sites in the United States that not only allow visitors into the underground launch control center, but also to come face to face with a (nonfunctioning) intercontinental ballistic missile as well.


The project’s title refers to the Air Force’s mandatory two-person buddy system in place at all ICBM sites. This applied both to the on-duty officers on 24-hour alert in the launch control center and to the work crews tasked with maintaining the missiles. The policy was intended as a safety precaution and as a safeguard against potential sabotage. The images pair America’s most prolific ICBM (the Minuteman II) with its most powerful (the Titan II) and offer a calculated look at the nuts and bolts of Mutually Assured Destruction, the mad logic behind nuclear deterrence.   

Blast door that seals the two person crew inside the underground Launch Control Center Delta-01 at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota.
The game of Battleship is set up in the day room of the Delta-01 Launch Control Facility at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota.
Various antennas cluster on the surface of the underground Titan II missile silo at the Titan Missile Museum near Tucson, Arizona. Operationally known as complex 571-7, it is the last remaining intact Titan II missile site in the United States.
Row of telephones in the Security Control Center at the surface level Launch Control Facility Delta-01 at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota.
Crew lockers outside of the underground Launch Control Center Delta-01 at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota.
RIFCO (rocket refueling) suits for the maintenance crew hang outside of the cableway tunnel that leads to the missile silo at the Titan II missile silo at the Titan Missile Museum near Tucson, Arizona. Operationally known as complex 571-7, it is the last
Crew quarters in the underground launch control center in the Titan II missile silo at the Titan Missile Museum near Tucson, Arizona. Operationally known as complex 571-7, it is the last remaining intact Titan II missile site in the United States.
Blast door as seen from the inside that seals the two person crew inside the underground Launch Control Center Delta-01 at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota.
Launch Control Center Delta-01 at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota.
Deputy commander chair in the underground launch control center in the Titan II missile silo at the Titan Missile Museum near Tucson, Arizona. Operationally known as complex 571-7, it is the last remaining intact Titan II missile site in the United States
Computer rack inside of the Launch Control Center Delta-01 at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota.
Missile command console and launch control equipment in the underground launch control center in the Titan II missile silo at the Titan Missile Museum near Tucson, Arizona. Operationally known as complex 571-7, it is the last remaining intact Titan II mis
Computer rack inside of the Launch Control Center Delta-01 at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota. The Deputy would insert the key at "COOP LAUNCH," had the orders ever come to launch the missile.
Elevator to the underground Launch Control Center Delta-01 at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota.
The first blast door leading into the underground Titan II missile silo at the Titan Missile Museum near Tucson, Arizona. Operationally known as complex 571-7, it is the last remaining intact Titan II missile site in the United States.
Cableway tunnel leading from the underground launch complex to the missile silo itself at the Titan Missile Museum near Tucson, Arizona. The tunnel is lined with large shock absorbers designed to withstand an incoming nuclear blast. Operationally known as
Minuteman II training missile at Delta-09 at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota.
Detail shot of a portion of a Titan II missile in its silo at Level 5 of the underground Titan II missile silo at the Titan Missile Museum near Tucson, Arizona. Operationally known as complex 571-7, it is the last remaining intact Titan II missile site in
Backup battery bays ring the edge of the Delta-09 Missile silo at the Minuteman Missile Historic Site in South Dakota.
Elevator, emergency shower, and access door to the lower Level 8 of the Titan II missile silo at the Titan Missile Museum near Tucson, Arizona. Operationally known as complex 571-7, it is the last remaining intact Titan II missile site in the United State
Water pump that floods the missile silo at the time of an actual launch on Level 8 of the Titan II missile silo at the Titan Missile Museum near Tucson, Arizona. Operationally known as complex 571-7, it is the last remaining intact Titan II missile site i
The bottom of a Titan II missile as seen from inside of the silo at Level 8 of the Titan II missile silo at the Titan Missile Museum near Tucson, Arizona. Operationally known as complex 571-7, it is the last remaining intact Titan II missile site in the U
Detail shot of the interior of a Titan II turbo engine at the Titan Missile Museum near Tucson, Arizona. Operationally known as complex 571-7, it is the last remaining intact Titan II missile site in the United States.
Storm clouds gather behind a communication antenna rising above the underground Titan II missile silo at the Titan Missile Museum near Tucson, Arizona. Operationally known as complex 571-7, it is the last remaining intact Titan II missile site in the Unit
Personnal access hatch ladder leading to the inside of the Delta-09 Missile silo at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota.
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