“It’s quite exciting to think about — or maybe scary to think about — the role that this area had in the Cold War,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “Especially in the early years of the intercontinental ballistic missiles — nukes, as we probably heard about as kids. One of them was based in Alburgh. The sign behind us notes that, and we’ve received special permission from the town to walk onto the site.”

“A lot of people may know that the silo is subterranean,” Mike Hoey said. “It’s directly underneath us, in fact, topped off by these huge blast doors.”

“So it held what was called an Atlas missile,” Perkins continued. “The silo goes down approximately 100 feet. This is a tall missile, and it was raised via an elevator once the blast doors were open. It goes back to German technology from World War II, and the U.S. brought a number of German scientists here after the war and started developing rocket systems.”

“(Like) Wernher von Braun,” Hoey noted. “A lot of people may have heard of him.”

Perkins replied, “Yes, certainly! There came to be a point when you could put a nuclear warhead on a missile, and the Atlas missile project was started by the Convair (Corporation), which ultimately was owned by General Dynamics.”

Hoey asked, “Steve, it might not make sense to some people why Alburgh might be home to an Atlas ICBM silo, so why did the Pentagon build one here?”

“Plattsburgh Air Force Base was a very important air base — and, I think many folks may say, one of the most important air bases east of the Mississippi — relating to nuclear deterrence,” Perkins answered. “Part of the defense, or response, to a potential Soviet strike was to build missile silo emplacements around key Air Force bases. They weren’t here for long — (they) started to build these facilities in 1960.

“There’s another one in Swanton as well, only two in Vermont, and they had missiles here from roughly 1961 until 1965, when the Atlas missile was abandoned as a nuclear delivery device. It used a liquid fuel and it had a self-supporting fuel tank, so the fuel itself supported the tank and the fuel was somewhat volatile. You had to raise the missile out of the ground, fuel it and then launch it. When minutes or seconds matter in the idea of nuclear war, that was a problem.

“It was a very valuable delivery system, so instead, they were repurposed for NASA! These facilities were abandoned and they were given to the towns that they were in, so this is still owned by the Town of Alburgh. You can’t get into the silo anymore; this one is full of water. There were Air Force members who lived here and were ready around the clock to launch these missiles towards the Soviet Union.”

“Particularly during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the fall of 1962,” Hoey said. “I can only imagine how tense a period of time that must have been right here.”

“I can only imagine,” Perkins agreed. “And I’m sure there are folks in town who could talk about this — and maybe could write into the station!”