Air Force Bases

Atlas at Offutt Air Force Base Nebraska

Offutt became the headquarters of the Strategic Air Command on November 9, 1946. The new SAC headquarters building and command control facility opened late in 1956 and was subsequently expanded in 1964. In August 1960, the newly created Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff collocated with SAC. On November 1, 1975, National Emergency Airborne Command Post E-4 aircraft arrived on station.

At one time, during the early 1960s some of the missile forces that SAC commanded were located nearby at Arlington, Mead, and Missouri Valley, Iowa.

Throughout 1958, the Corps of Engineers Omaha District repeatedly received new construction schedules, design changes, and basing modes from the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division. Finally, the district received bidding documents in January 1959. The documents contained 359 sheets of drawings and 680 sheets of specifications. The project was advertised on February 6, 1959, and bids were opened in the following month.

Malan Construction Company of New York City won the contract with a bid of almost $12.9 million to build three missile complexes in the vicinity of Omaha. Notice to proceed was issued on April 6.

Unfortunately, because Malan subcontracted the work to 46 contractors for this complex project, the company created a coordination nightmare. Consulting firms were brought in to assist Malan, and eventually the contractors found themselves setting up 10-hour shifts, 7 days a week. Despite the effort, the project was completed on July 28, 1960, 4 months late. Thereafter the Corps of Engineers required primary contractors to complete at least 15 percent of the work themselves.

Other factors besides poor contractor management contributed to the project's failure to meet the intended deadline. There were 72 modifications and difficulties with the weather. Deterioration of access roads to the sites, especially those in Iowa, caused numerous delays in getting equipment and workers to the site. Labor strife was credited for setting progress back at least a month as some 20 work stoppages cost the project 1,645 man-days of work. A nationwide steel strike in 1959 also affected deliveries of important components. As with other Atlas sites, installation and testing of the propellant loading system proved a great challenge.

There were no construction-related fatalities during this project.

The local media gave the project mostly favorable coverage, highlighting visits by VIPs. However, not everyone was pleased with the ongoing construction. On June 24, 1959, peace activists converged at site "A" and picketed at the entrance for about 4 weeks. Some were arrested on occasion for scaling the fence or blocking traffic.

In November 1960, a pair of investigators from the House Appropriations Committee visited the Omaha District to look into the project's problems. One investigator questioned if political influence had been a factor in the award of the contract and asked about accusations of fraud in Malan's operations. The pair passed on Air Force accusations that the Corps of Engineers was "losing its shirt" when negotiating contract modifications. No doubt problems at Offutt contributed to the Army's decision to centralize its construction effort at a location close to the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division in Los Angeles.

In April and May 1961, the three complexes became the last Atlas D missiles to go on alert. On July 1, 1961, SAC redesignated the 566th SMS as the 549th SMS.

These Atlas Ds would be the last to be removed from alert status. The last Atlas D left Offutt on October 22, 1964.

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