Minuteman at Minot Air Force Base
Built in the mid-1950s to host a Semi-Automatic Ground Environmental (SAGE) complex and Air Defense Command fighter aircraft, Minot became a Strategic Air Command base on July 1, 1962, pending the imminent activation of Minuteman I-B missile launchers.
The Corps of Engineers Ballistic Missile Construction Office (CEBMCO) oversaw the construction of the 150 silos and 10 launch complexes spread over a 12,000-square mile area. The prime contractor was the Peter Kiewit Sons' Company, which received the contract on December 22, 1961, with a bid of $67.8 million. At the peak of construction, Kiewit brought in 6,000 men with 1,100 vehicles and 115 cranes to ensure on-time completion of the contract. Relations between management and this work force were amicable as there were only two work stoppages that cost 58 man-days lost.
To manage the project, CEMBCO used a "critical path" method, which is essentially a daily charting of progress geared to project future needs. However, despite improved management techniques, CEMBCO and the contractors faced challenges from the severe weather and logistics support for the remote locations. Recordbreaking spring rains turned roads and work sites into quagmires, making excavation and transport dangerous. Severe winter cold with temperatures as low as -35 F tested worker endurance. In the autumn, dust storms made travel hazardous.
Despite these challenges, Peter Kiewit Sons' Company used accelerated construction procedures and completed the project 51 days ahead of schedule. Two workers died in construction-related incidents and there were 36 disabling injuries. Four private citizens died in various traffic accidents with project construction vehicles.
With construction under way, the Air Force activated the 455th Strategic Missile Wing and component 740th Strategic Missile Squadron on November 1, 1962. During the following 2 months, the 741st and 742nd Strategic Missile Squadrons administratively came into existence.
To preserve the continuity of units with distinguished histories, on June 25, 1968, the 455th Strategic Missile Wing was redesignated as the 91st Strategic Missile Wing. The 91st had organizational roots dating from World War II and had gained recent fame as a B-52 wing operating over Vietnam.
The first Minuteman III missile to arrive in the field was accepted by the 91st Strategic Missile Wing on April 14, 1970. The following August, the first Minuteman IIIs were placed on alert status. By December 1971, the switchover to the new missile was completed.
In addition to Minuteman ICBMs, Minot AFB hosted another type of strategic missile. Assigned B-52H bombers were modified to carry Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs).
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