- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 14, 2009

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. — A former nuclear missile launch center that closed as the Cold War was winding down opened Monday to a public curious to see what life was like at the once top-secret site.

The Ronald Reagan Minuteman site, surrounded by corn and soybean fields in eastern North Dakota, looked much as it would have in 1997 when it was still active. The former living quarters, a building that stands about 60 feet above the underground nuclear missile control center, still has the kitchen equipment, televisions, pool table and magazines it did when the site was closed.

“It’s a true time capsule. It is furnished in ways that most sites could only dream of,” said retired Air Force Capt. Mark Sundlov, a former missile officer who manages the site.

The living area contains seven bedrooms, including one that Mr. Sundlov uses as an office, a commercial kitchen and dining room, a weight room with a stationary bicycle and a game room.

Visitors can go underground and view where Air Force officers once sat to wait for a possible nuclear war. It was their job to monitor 10 nearby Minuteman III nuclear missiles and to launch them if ordered.

A steady stream of visitors toured the site on its opening day.

Lari Helgren, 58, a former Air Force environmental maintenance technician, said his visit brought back memories from when he worked there on the launch center’s air handling systems, diesel generators and warning lights.

“I’ve slept in this site and eaten in this site, and I’ve worked down in this site many a time,” Mr. Helgren said.

“I’ve seen just about every problem that could have possibly happened out here,” he said.

The missile site, about three miles north of Cooperstown and about 70 miles northwest of Fargo, is one of a handful of U.S. locations that commemorate the Cold War.

The National Park Service operates a former Minuteman II launch center and missile silo in South Dakota. In Arizona, historic preservationists operate a former Titan nuclear missile site.