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MSR End of Life Events / Effects

Ves Fulp

Salvage Operation

I stayed on for several months following deactivation of the MSR site to write physical and technical descriptions of transmitter equipment to be used by the government agency responsible for disposal of the MSR hardware (I think it was GSA). At that time, all equipment was offered to other agencies using a pecking order of who gets what. First priority was military agencies, then government agencies, then state agencies, then universities, and finally, junk dealers.

Missile Removal

When the MSR site shut down, the SALT treaty dictated that all nuclear warheads had to be removed from the cells, and the cell covers had to be open so as to permit Russian satellites to verify they were empty. This was done and there was a daily convoy between Nekoma and the Grand Forks Air Base transporting the missiles for shipment to storage somewhere in Georgia. Each convoy had 4 helicopter escorts. As I recall, the Russians never did remove their missiles.

Gold Recovery

There is a government requirement that gold, regardless of quantity, cannot be discarded, abandoned, or destroyed, it had to be recovered. In the MSR, gold was used in the electronic equipment throughout most areas, mostly in the receiver, BMDOC and MSDP areas, with a lesser amount in the transmitter. All equipment containing traces of gold was removed and shipped to a smelter somewhere in the midwest to recover the gold. It didn't matter that the cost was far greater than the value of the gold recovered.

Technologically Sensitive Equipment

There was a lot of technologically sensitive equipment that could not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. Once it was identified by the various design groups and the Army, the plan was to either destroy in-place before GSA invited bidders to come in or remove to a secure location for storage. The only equipment in the transmitter that I remember being labeled for destruction-in-place was the high power face switches using sledge hammers. The klystrons were to be shipped back to Varian Associates, the tube manufacturer, for storage. I'm only glad I wasn't there to see it.


Several days prior to shutdown, a paint company had begun painting all non technical equipment areas. When the Army ordered this work to be stopped, the company demanded the full contracted amount as there was no cancellation agreement in the contract. The Army forced them to go ahead and paint per contract, so while everyone was closing down, the painters were working away.

Technical Talent

The contractor civilian technical talent and expertise that existed at the MSR and PAR sites and associated backup home locations was second to none. Most all managers, engineers and technicians from the likes of Western Electric Co., Bell Telephone Labs, Raytheon, McDonnell Douglas and Martin Marietta each had an average background of over 20 to 25 years experience in the radar and missile field. We were a close family and most had worked together on many previous missile related projects at the White Sands and Kwajalein Missile Test Ranges.

With the cancellation of the North Dakota ABM program, one of the greatest technical teams ever assembled on one program (in my opinion) was allowed to dissolve. Personnel from the different companies were dispersed in many directions, many going to non defense activity type work -- thus, the demise of a team that was many years in the making. Western Electric and Bell Telephone Labs had very little work available in defense activities, so placement was difficult. Western Electric had one Department Chief whose full time job was to place our employees. Most were placed with various telephone operating companies throughout the USA or in new telephone related design programs in the Chicago and Whippany areas. A few were laid off or retired. Paul Tudor went to Southwest Bell in Louisville, KY and I was transferred to Burlington, NC to support the updating of the Nike Hercules radars from vacuum tube technology to solid state technology. Others went to telephone operating companies in Birmingham, San Antonio, Seattle, Atlanta, and others elected early retirement. Raytheon and the missile companies did have ongoing defense activities contracts to absorb most of their engineering expertise.

I'm sure the US Army went through similar loss of talent and placement problems, especially in the command and control group where most were West Point graduates.