North Korean nuke fears prompt interest in abandoned ICBM sites

As the owner selling an excavated underground Minuteman II missile site in Missouri on eBay, California investor Russ Nielsen reads the pulse of America’s darkest fears.

The number of people visiting the historic property’s eBay information page spikes like an EKG in a heart attack.

Ordinarily, the curious property located near Holden, MO, may get some 70 online views a day, Nielsen said by phone this week from California.

When Donald Trump won the presidency last November? Boom. The site was getting 140 to 150 hits a day.

And now, as North Korea’s volatile leader Kim Jong Un defiantly sends ballistic missiles over Japan, survivalists and the frightened are back at some 150 views a day.

“It’s definitely a ‘prepper’ kind of thing,” Nielsen said, referring to the slang term for people who want to be prepared in the event of widespread calamity and disorder.

Bomb shelter companies across the nation are reporting a boost in sales.

The selling price for Nielsen’s unique property, though, is steep for most people, he said. It’s going for $325,000. He’s had five potential buyers who were serious since he put it up for sale in the fall of 2015, he said. A couple of them are still trying to raise the financing.

Entrance to the "Mike 1" Minuteman II silo. Photo from eBay user russ3389's listing.

Entrance to the “Mike 1” Minuteman II silo. Photo from Russ Nielsen’s eBay listing.

What Nielsen recovered — at great cost and effort over a span of two years — is the “Mike-1” Minuteman II missile launch facility that housed the missileers who controlled the triggers to 10 of the 150 intercontinental missile sites scattered across central Missouri under the command of Whiteman Air Force Base.

Most of the Minuteman II sites — including all of the Missouri sites — were decommissioned some 20 years ago. Their shafts were buried under a mix of concrete, mud, and rock that was meant to deter any thoughts of reactivating them.

The project, including the maddening bureaucracy in getting his quixotic venture approved, turned into such a laborious boondoggle that Nielsen admits he wouldn’t have done it knowing what he knows now.

Russ Nielsen stands at the entrance of his Minuteman-II silo, before renovation. Photo by Joe Ledford of The Kansas City Star.

Russ Nielsen stands at the entrance of his Minuteman-II silo, before renovation. Photo by Joe Ledford of The Kansas City Star.

But, having endured it, he has relished the many inquiries he has received from veterans who served underground those many decades ago — “Ratmen,” they called themselves. The history of America’s Cold War has been fascinating.

The Minuteman II missiles represented the height of America’s Cold War arsenal, with about 1,000 of them forever ready to launch.

Some 450 sites with Minuteman III missiles remain ready in Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Image from the Kansas City Star

Image from the Kansas City Star

Not surprisingly, some of Nielsen’s most interested potential buyers have had an eye on the site’s unique history as well as its accommodations in the event of a national disaster.

One potential buyer has been trying to gather financing for an historical movie project, he said. Another has interest in turning it into a residential training facility for martial and military arts.

Not surprising for a property whose curb appeal requires a bit of imagination.

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