20th Anniversary of 351st Missle Wing Deactivation
A quiet anniversary passed on Friday (July 31). If you were to ask many people around here, they may not be aware of the date, but they would be aware of the days of seeing missle silos, missle convoys across West Central Missouri. Those days have been replaced by the buzz in the air of the B-2 Stealth Bombers at Whiteman Air Force Base, but for over thirty years, the 351st Strategic Missle Wing, later the 351st Missle Wing, stood the course of the main wing at Whiteman.
July 31st, 1995 marked the inactivation of the 351st Missle Wing when the Minuteman II Missles were phased out. The 351st was assigned to the Strategic Air Command, 8th Air Force, Air Combat Command, Air Force Space Command and the Twentieth Air Force, before finally relinquishing the host wing of Whiteman to the 509th Bomb Wing.
Thousands of airmen went through Whiteman's gates over the years and the legacy still continues at Oscar 1 at Whiteman Air Force Base. Oscar 1 stands as a testament of the Whiteman Air Force history with the over 150 missles that were ready should the Cold War ever escalated to full out war.
Perhaps the 351st is most remembered in a fictional movie that aired on ABC in 1983, called the Day After. While the movie was fiction, it did bring over 100 million people to watch the movie based on a nuclear war, where missles from both the United States and Soviet Union were sent at each other. Whiteman also had another national headline when Mike Wallace, from 60 minutes was detained when they were covering a peace demonstration in 1986.
None the less when President George Herbert Walker Bush and Premier Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty on July 31, 1991, it was the beginning of the end of the Minutemen II missles. Within four years the missles were all gone.
You can drive around and still see the remnants of the silo locations, some have signs, others have gates, others are utilized by the nearby farmers, some have been totally destroyed or burned, but for all those years they were ready to go at a moments notice. It only took a push of a button and a turn of a key, make that two and the missles were on their way.
Twenty years have passed since the Sentinals of Peace, the 351st Missle Wing has deactivated, but take a look around at the many people that came around here and retired here after being stationed with the 351st. Their kids and grandkids also have come to call the Whiteman Air Force Base area home. It's safe to say the legacy will continue on for a long time to come and should be celebrated more.
If you get the chance take a tour of Oscar 1 at Whiteman and enjoy the history.