Nation: Minutemen & the Gap

Along the ancient bed of a glacial lake, U.S. 89 runs eastward out of Great Falls, Mont., and climbs into the Little Belt Mountains. There, above the once prosperous coal-mining town of Belt (pop. 757), a plain link fence encloses two acres of barren land and Russian thistle, four watchful electronic sentinels, and a few drab slabs of concrete. Beneath that concrete is buried an Air Force Minuteman missile—one of the most efficient instruments of intercontinental destruction the U.S. possesses.

The Belt site is just one of many Minuteman installations either built or...

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