Southwest Oklahoma Was The Cold Wars Nuclear Secret
It wasn't until the 1950s that the Cold War really escalated in the United States. That's the decade when the Soviet Union started testing nuclear weapons, launched a very basic but scary "the worlds first" artificial satellite Sputnik, and developed the first missile on Earth that could reach out and touch someone. It was called the ICBM - AKA - Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. If you have Boomer parents, they probably have dramatic stories to tell about that point in time.
In response to the Soviet's lunges of technology, the USA hopped head over heels into the arms race. The world suddenly became a nuclear childhood playground, and he with the most toys would win... but there is an inherent problem in stockpiling big-boy toys... you'll need a vast toy box to keep them all in.
In a direct response to the Ruskie's ICBM, America developed a tremendous response, the famous Atlas Missile.
The Atlas, and different variants of design it offered, could carry a nuclear payload from the Great Plains to Russia in about forty-five minutes. Much was publicized about it because it was to be less of an offensive weapon, more of a defensive deterrent. After all, why would the Soviets provoke an attack if they knew we would just send our nuclear birds screaming back their way at a moment's notice?
The biggest problem with the Atlas was, where do you keep these secretive weapons?
Obviously, you don't want these to be located in or near any big population center that might be a target of attack. If the government put these in New York, they might fail to operate in the case NYC is attacked, or become the point of attack altogether. So where do you put something like this?
In the middle of nowhere.
There were ten actively armed Atlas missile silos that housed twelve Atlas-F nuclear missiles across Southwestern Oklahoma at the height of the Cold War. The Pentagon felt the safest place to nest these was among the endless fields of grain.
Using this chart, you'll see that Lonewolf, Mangum, Willow, Hobart, Snyder, Cache, Manitou, Frederick, Olustee, and Hollis all played their part. More were planned, they were nearly all built to keep at least two missiles at the ready, but about half of the silos stayed empty.
It was a common thing across the Great Plains. Other states joined Oklahoma's nuclear honor with additional missile sites in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, and Texas. Most sites shared a similar total of 12 Atlas-F missiles, others housed the older but still effective previous generation.
While Oklahoma's nuclear missile sites have all been shuttered and demilitarized, there was a period of time where these missile sites were offered up for sale to civilians. Some ended up the property of the counties they were built in, others became housing... which sounds awesome, but a lack of windows sure sounds depressing.
If you like to hike, you can actually visit the old missile site in Granite. There's a marker set in stone off the beaten path. If you're up for it, Google it yourself. You'll find it.
The next time someone says "Nothing ever happens in Oklahoma." Slap them across their stupid face and explain the role we played in preventing the dystopian future.