Sunday, February 5, 2012

Surprises upon wandering

Joe and I went for a little drive yesterday - we decided to take some of the "back roads" near the north shore.  As we were driving along, we saw a really old looking water tower hovering over the treetops.

Mysterious water tower of mysteriousness
"Let's see if we can get to that water tower," I said.

"Sure," said Joe, always up for an adventure.

We wove through the woods and eventually came upon what looked old military base.  Warning signs and barbed wire surrounded the outside.  Rows of identical, squat buildings that looked like barracks huddled inside, along with the water tower and some other larger squat buildings.  Everything looked old.  There was a guy running a backhoe on the road right next to the mysterious structure, so we decided not to do any further investigating.  But we did say that we'd remember to look it up on the map when we got home.

And we did.

Mysterious structures of mysteriousness

Dang.  What the hell is this thing?  After looking at the way it was laid out, I thought for sure that it had to be military.

A little bit of searching online and I discovered that it abandoned cold war USAF missile base.


Holy shit, how cool is that??

Here's a little Wikipedia page about  the 74th Air Defense Missile Squadron.  The "barracks" I saw were actually homes for CIM-10 Bomarc supersonic missiles.  The roofs were split-fold so that the missiles could stand up and pew-pew-pew, shoot off into space to knock down incoming nuclear warheads.

The base was in operation from 1960 to 1972.  There were only eleven Bomarc missile sites in the US, all inactivated when the missile became obsolete.  Now it's being used as storage for private businesses, and it looked like there were a couple manufacturing companies up there too.

Bomarc Missile, ready to go
Both this picture and the one above it shamelessly stolen from a website,
which in turn stole them from the Duluth News-Tribune archives, 1972

So, you may be asking yourselves, will I go back up there and investigate again?  The answer is YES YES YES.  I'm going to tell a few of my friends about it - my friend Jeff is a military buff, he'd get a huge kick out of it - and I'll head to the library to see what more I can dig up about it.  Trust me: we'll go back, and I'll have plenty more to say and show about it.


  1. Was surfing and noticed a picture of what used to be my home as a missile mechanic from 1960 thru 1968. We were housed at Duluth International Airport and were bussed to the site for duty each day. The 28 structures in your picture used to house the Bomarc B missile during the cold war in the event of a possible attack from the Russians.

  2. I was looking up my old house and decided to research the missle base I used to live near (less than a mile away). I was in first grade and remember when I heard the guys at the missle base on my walkie-talkie and they were NOT happy that I could talk to them! Years later, I also walked through the then deactivated missle base and got some great signs to hang in my dorm room at UMD. Now, I am reading about the 10 kiloton nuclear warheads that these babies carried and my family and I were just 1 mile away.


  4. I was stationed there from 1960 thru 1966 with the CIM10B Bomarc missile for the 74th Air Defense Missile Squadron.