Ah, but first I should explain why I also mentioned missiles. A cool piece of history lies (mostly) buried here in the Dakotas. I'm referring to the Minuteman Missile silos, those Cold War era weapons which most of us from my generation know very little about. Kevin is a big war history buff, enjoying works by Herman Wouk and Stephen Ambrose, and being thus familiar with the Minuteman program. Otherwise we might never have seen this park unit. By design, these missiles were buried pretty much in plain sight.
The Dakotas and surrounding areas were chosen for a few reasons. First, missile silos became instant enemy targets and as there are more prairie dogs than people out here (oh, hey! Missiles and prairie dogs ARE related!) the location minimized the chance of a large civilian death toll in the event of war. Also, placing missiles here meant we could hit our target (at the time, Moscow) in less than 30 minutes. And lastly, being far inland meant the silos were safe from Soviet submarine attacks.
In 1991 the START Treaty was signed by Presidents Bush and Gorbachev, reducing the number of strategic offensive nuclear weapons to a mere (har) 6,000. Kevin and I talked about how it seems a bit ridiculous to bother limiting such weaponry if you don't plan to bring it well below the number required to annihilate mankind. Of course, the flip side (and where the whole debate gets difficult) is that in a broken world it isn't wise to make yourself too vulnerable to an attack by those few rogue nations which cannot be trusted to comply with a peace treaty. I guess the best offense is a good defense.
In the course of a tour meant to educate the visitor about the logistics of operating a missile program, we realized how little we knew about the Cold War. Our own children have yet to reach that portion of American history. When I took it as an AP course in high school my teacher was out sick for awhile and we had to breeze through the last fifty years in order to be ready for the test (reason #12 why we homeschool). Plus, I was about sixteen. I, like, so totally did not care (*big eye roll*). When we tried to give the kids the brief synopsis of the Cold War their response was, "That's just like The Butter Battle Book (by Dr. Suess)." Indeed, they were selling it in the visitor center. The best history lessons are not found in textbooks.