If you were unable to attend the Memorial Day services at the Veterans' Memorial Cemetery this year, you missed the stirring words of C. Emerson Murry, former Major General of the ND National Guard. He was the keynote speaker of the event, and a very memorable one at that.
The words that struck me the most from his keynote address are best paraphrased as follows: "To be born free is an accident. To live free is a responsibility. To die free is an absolute obligation." That made me set my camera in the grass and hastily type it into my phone so I wouldn't forget it. Maj Gen Murry fulfilled that obligation, and it's due to such men and women of our armed forces that we enjoy the freedoms we take for granted.
You ought to take the time to read about the life of this remarkable man by clicking here.
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Actually the second stop on what we later termed "the Cold War Mancation™" was here: NCTAMS LANT DET LaMoure. Leave it to the military to throw more acronyms at something than you can shake a 1,200 foot stick at. This is that 1,200 foot stick, by the way.
As this sign indicates, the alphabet soup above stands for Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area, Master Station Atlantic...DETachment LaMoure. This is as close as you'll probably ever get to it, too. It's surrounded by signage typical of a national security site, and a guy on duty here assured me that civilians are definitely NOT allowed access.
This tower used to be part of the OMEGA Radionavigation system. This was a worldwide navigation system for aircraft which was begun in the 1960s and 1970s. It operated at a very low frequency, around 14kHz. Compare that with the beginning of your AM radio dial, which starts at 530kHz, and you'll see how low that is. One of the first things you may notice about this tower is the odd attachments on the guy wires. They look like insulators, and I think I know why...more on that in a second.
One other feature is the "top hat" of guy wires attached to the top of the tower. I believe some of the guy wires on this "umbrella type" tower become part of the array. I think that has a lot to do with the additional care to insulate the wires. If they're not insulated, they can affect the capacitative load of the tower, making it very hard to tune. This may be even more difficult with VLF (very low frequency) signals, I'm not sure.
Depending on who you ask, there were only eight or nine OMEGA towers functioning around the world when GPS stuck a fork in it. The only other one in the USA was/is in Hawaii. These towers were no longer needed for navigation, since GPS assumed that responsibility. Instead of the Coast Guard operating this facility, the Navy now runs operations here.
So what does this tower do now? It still sends VLF frequencies, but it's used to guide submarines now at I think 150kHz. Some of the other former Omega towers were destroyed when we started switching to GPS, this one was fortunate enough to survive and serve our nation's submarine fleet.
In a way, it's sad that this facility has been retasked. The Omega Inn in LaMoure? Renamed. Omega Cafe? Couldn't find it. There is an Omega Cinema in the mall, however, and a listing for an "Omega room" on the mall directory board. Since the term "Omega" no longer applies, I suppose that's to be expected.
Here's some background information about NCTAMS. (Link)
I've also added this place to my Google Maps, too. Click here for an aerial view. (This has been fixed.)
Never fear, there's more Cold War Mancation™ coming soon!
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A sunset photo is not much of a sunset photo at all when all the clouds flee, leaving a clear sky. It's the interaction of cloud and sun that makes a sunset truly dramatic. Having said that, the setting sun did provide me with a gorgeous gradient as backdrop to this, one of my famous local windmills.
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This giant pyramid is about the last thing you'd expect to find out in the middle of the North Dakota prairie... yet here it sits. It's part of the defunct Stanley R Mickelsen Complex, part of the Safeguard anti-ballistic missle program.
The pyramid is the most striking feature of this complex, which operated for about four months before being closed. It housed the Missile Site Radar (MSR) with circular antennae on all four sides of the pyramid. This phased-array radar allowed tracking of incoming ballistic missiles as well as control of the ABMs.
Sadly, this structure has seen better days. The inside is flooded and the equipment has been removed. The outside is beginning to show its age as well. Can you imagine the power needed to operate these huge arrays?
That's what these giant structures are for. Among the more confusing of the site's many protuberances, these are actually the intakes and exhausts for six absolutely monstrous engines, used to spin generators capable of powering the facility.
Without an aircraft I can't give you a photo of this that does it justice. It's the missile field, which at one time contained both Spartan and Sprint anti-ballistic missiles. The Spartans were designed for long-range interception, and in case of failure the Sprints would be deployed. Both used nuclear blasts to knock out an incoming warhead, which due to EMP concerns really isn't practical. One cool thing is that the Sprint missiles went from zero to Mach TEN in five seconds. How do I strap one of those to my Suzuki?
This base was built in the 1970s, operated for a matter of weeks, and was then shut down. The town was all set for the boom of having a military base next door, and then suddenly it all evaporated on them. Here's a must-read article about the impact of this base's construction and subsequent closure on the little town of Nekoma.
The Library of Congress has a small collection of photos from the site's construction available online. A really nice aerial photo of the facility is available on Wikipedia and I think may come from the LoC collection.
Here's a link to a Google Map I'm working on with various photo sites marked for your enjoyment. This link will allow you to view the site from above via satellite. This gives a good idea of what the missile fields look like.
Many more mundane buildings still inhabit this facility, although the base housing has been moved away. Various shops, administrative buildings, the security station, the chapel, and other such buildings are still maintained on site in case the Army chooses to return.
This base, while abandoned for purposes of the Safeguard program, is still a US Army facility and protected government property. YOU MAY NOT ENTER THIS PROPERTY WITHOUT PERMISSION. PERIOD. I don't know what the punishment is for trespassing on a site like this, but I don't recommend it. You can get really great views from the road on the south side. While doing so you'll see signs indicating that this still belongs to the Army. Take them at their word.
I wish I'd taken photos of some of the other buildings in the area, including the chapel with the Christmas decorations still hanging in the window. If I find myself in the area again, I'll be more thorough.
(UPDATE) I came across this website today, srmsc.org. It's got a ton of information about the entire Mickelsen Complex and its function. Check it out!
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There are a lot of places in North Dakota which, sadly, I've never visited. One objective of my recent photo vacation, since dubbed the Cold War Vacation, was to rectify that. So here we are, at the Valley City railroad trestle bridge. If memory serves me correctly, this is North Dakota's longest bridge. Since I'm sure it's been photographed to death, I thought I'd try for some unique angles to show off its geometry.
Not a lot of words today, just some fun shapes and lines compliments of one of North Dakota's many interesting sights. I'm still just scratching the surface of the Cold War Vacation photos, but more are on the way very shortly. Have a great weekend!
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