The Missile Next Door

The Missile Next Door

The Minuteman in the American Heartland

Book - 2012
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Harvard University Press
In the 1960s the Air Force buried 1,000 ICBMs in pastures across the Great Plains to keep U.S. nuclear strategy out of view. As rural civilians of all political stripes found themselves living in the Soviet crosshairs, a proud Plains individualism gave way to an economic dependence on the military-industrial complex that still persists today.

Between 1961 and 1967 the United States Air Force buried 1,000 Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles in pastures across the Great Plains. The Missile Next Door tells the story of how rural Americans of all political stripes were drafted to fight the Cold War by living with nuclear missiles in their backyards—and what that story tells us about enduring political divides and the persistence of defense spending.

By scattering the missiles in out-of-the-way places, the Defense Department kept the chilling calculus of Cold War nuclear strategy out of view. This subterfuge was necessary, Gretchen Heefner argues, in order for Americans to accept a costly nuclear buildup and the resulting threat of Armageddon. As for the ranchers, farmers, and other civilians in the Plains states who were first seduced by the economics of war and then forced to live in the Soviet crosshairs, their sense of citizenship was forever changed. Some were stirred to dissent. Others consented but found their proud Plains individualism giving way to a growing dependence on the military-industrial complex. Even today, some communities express reluctance to let the Minutemen go, though the Air Force no longer wants them buried in the heartland.

Complicating a red state/blue state reading of American politics, Heefner’s account helps to explain the deep distrust of government found in many western regions, and also an addiction to defense spending which, for many local economies, seems inescapable.

Book News
Tracing the Cold War history of the Minuteman nuclear missiles buried in silos across the American Great Plains, Hefner (history, Connecticut College) explores three related thematic arguments. First, she considers how local response to the installation of the missiles intersected with rural Western ideas about property, land ownership, citizenship, and relations with the federal government and served to contest and help shape the national security state in practical and ideological ways. Secondly, she addresses the way that the Minuteman system served as means of persuading Americans to embrace the arms race as a legitimate means of waging war in a way that would have minimal impact on their own lives. Finally, she considers the Minuteman system as it manifested dynamics similar to other aspects of the military industrial complex, with many local communities becoming dependent on the local military facilities that accompanied the installation of the missiles and sometimes lobbying to acquire more of them. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. ; London, England : Harvard University Press, c2012
Description: 294 p., [18] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 22 cm
ISBN: 9780674059115
Branch Call Number: 358.1754 Hee


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