Oklahoma’s abandoned missile sites are getting above ground recognition after more than 50 years.

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WILLOW, OKLAHOMA -- They don't look like much of anything any more; concrete pads, metal buildings, and blocked doorways.

"These are huge structures," says historian Landry Brewer, "Made of reinforced concrete."

This site near the town of Willow in Greer County is home to a few granaries and some farm equipment.

The Granite School District uses this site to help train show pigs.

But Sayre, OK history professor Brewer sees these sites for what they used to be.

From 1962 to 1965 they housed nuclear missiles aimed at a country in the communist bloc.

"Late in the Eisenhower Administration we developed the first American intercontinental ballistic missile, which was the Atlas," he says.

They never looked like much from the surface, but back in 2009 we toured another for the 11 former Atlas missile sites with a man named David Johnson who wanted to turn it into an underground home.

he cleaned out the old command module but left the missile bay alone filled with more than a hundred feet of water.

Brewer says, "A five man crew lived underground 24 hours a day."

Landry's father actually worked on the construction o these sites, all situated in a concentric circle around Altus Air Force Base.

They worked in 24 hour shifts to dig the holes and pour all the cement.

Business in tiny Willow boomed for at least a year.

Brewer says, "A local cafe down the road decided to stay open 24 hours a day to accommodate all of the workers."

They were only active a few years.

The mothballed sites passed down to local school districts and farmers.

That bit of Cold War history ended, thankfully, with a whimper instead of a bang.

He marvels, "That missiles could be fired from southwest Oklahoma and they could land in the Soviet Union in less than an hour."

Brewer, though, researched and wrote an article about them.

He spearheaded an effort to mark the Willow site, at least, with a historical marker.

"It was a story that needed to be told," he says.

These Cold War relics still echo beneath the surface.

Marking them above ground after a half-century is a tiny pin in the map of state and world history too.

Landry Brewer's article "The Missiles of Oklahoma" will appear in the fall issue of The Chronicles of Oklahoma magazine.

His efforts at getting a marker placed along Highway 34 continue.

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