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At the height of the Cold War, a Soviet nuclear attack was a genuine threat and the United States decided that a defense program was needed that could protect the country’s own intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities, particularly the Minuteman missile fields based at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, as well as civilian population centers. In 1969, President Nixon announced the “Safeguard Program” that would consist of several Safeguard systems at various locations around the country to protect important strategic weapons assets.

The first, and the only such site deployed, was the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex that went up in Nekoma, North Dakota, approximately 100 miles north of Grand Forks. The site was named after the Army Air Defense Command’s third commanding general, Lt. Gen. Stanley R. Mickelsen. The Safeguard complex became operational on October 1, 1975. Twenty-four hours later, Congress decided to shut the program down, deeming it militarily ineffective. Five months later, the Army began pulling the complex down. Today, a couple of buildings and a giant, hulking pyramid is all that remains of the USD 6 billion project.


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