Site   Index,   Search,   Glossary

Home > Miscellaneous > Guestbook | Safeguard Personnel > Walter C. McKinney

Walter C. McKinney


Guestbook Entry

From Walter C. McKinney, 3 October 2006:

I was looking for info on the ABM sites in North Dakota and came upon your excellent site.

I worked for Martin-Marietta from 1972-1974, and was a member of the Sprint Site Activation Team from August 1973 to October 1974. Your photos of the site and especially of RLS#2 brought back many memories.

Shortly after arriving at the site in August of 1973, I was assigned to RLS#2 as the Martin-Marietta on-site rep. At the time there were civilian guards assigned to the post, and I stayed at the site with them during the day to monitor activities involving Martin-Marietta subcontractors working there finishing up the site. There was a lot of idle time, and I filled it reading, working on my car in the LASS garage, phoning my folks in Orlando on the Martin toll-free line, playing cards with the guards, etc. That site was completed, I believe, in October of 1973, and I began working with a Sprint Installation Group putting the launch electronics into the silos. We had a Service Vehicle, which was a large truck with an outer shell which slid back and formed an environmental enclosure over the silo area. The vehicle was designed in Florida, and the winter weather conditions, especially the ice build-up around the tie-down points for the enclosure caused problems not anticipated in Florida. This vehicle was oversize, in that it was more than 96" wide, and hence required a special travel permit to be on the ND roads. The vehicle was based in the Motor Pool building at the MSR site, and had to travel out to all the remote sites. The special travel permit only allowed travel between sunrise and sunset, which in the winter was from about 9:00 am to around 3:30 pm. It took about 45 minutes to go from the MSR to RLS#2, and even longer to get to #3. We had to take a van out with us because sometimes we spent almost all of our workday just getting the Service Vehicle set up, and had to come back the next day to finish up the task we had been assigned. On very cold and windy days we were only allowed to work 15 minutes out of each hour, and this also ate up time.

I had my family with me, and we lived in Langdon in a complex on the NW side of town. If you look up Langdon on Google Maps, you can still see the street layout, with the building pads and parking lots still visible. Each building was made from 16 modular units, with 2 units making up an apartment. I think there were 12-15 of these buildings in that location. There was another similar complex in Cavalier, about 30 miles east of Langdon, for those people working at the PAR site. I may have some photos of this area taken when we lived there, and I'll try to scan them and send them.

The basic missile installation work was completed in September of 1974, and the only thing we had left to do was install the warheads. I wasn't selected to be on that team, and returned to Orlando in October of 1974. I had broken my leg in March of 1974 in a fall on the ice, in the street at the MSR site, and had not fully recovered my mobility. I spent a lot of time working on vehicles and dispatch tasks, and did a lot of paper work while laid up with my leg.

I liked the photo of the "hitching posts" in the parking lot. These electrical connections were a lifesaver, since we probably would not have been able to start our cars without them. I bought a new car in Langdon, and it did not have a block heater. The first time it got real cold, it wouldn't start and I got a pan full of charcoal bricks and lit them. After they burned down to coals, I slid the pan under the engine and warmed it up. As soon as I could start it, I immediately took it to the dealer and had a heater put in.

This was a good time in my life, as I was young and was able to get out and enjoy being in a place I'd never been before. We did a lot of traveling, and groups of us would go to Grand Forks, Fargo and Winnipeg for the weekend. A great time.