When we ran our Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of our first book, we offered supporters the opportunity to name a location they would like us to photograph in exchange for their support. One of our supporters asked us to visit and photograph the former Minot Air Force Station, about 14 miles south of Minot.
Minot Air Force Station was the first major Air Force installation in North Dakota, predating the other Minot and Grand Forks bases. It was originally a radar base intended to detect and identify unidentified aircraft in American airspace — a relic of the age before ballistic missiles, when the Soviet threat was from long-range bombers.
Several dozen workers were stationed at the base at any given time from 1952 to 1979 — enlisted, officers, and families. There were also civilian contractors who worked on the base every day. The base was closed in 1979, but after five years of inactivity, a portion of the base was reactivated in 1984 and used as the Minot Communication Site. It was deactivated for good in 1997 and subsequently sold to a private owner.
I was excited by the opportunity to photograph Minot AFS since I grew up in Minot, in a military family, and I had spent considerable time on the base in the mid-70’s when it was still active. My primary memories of the base were of spending a night at a babysitter’s house watching “Planet of the Apes” on TV, and on a separate occasion, I had a bad bike accident because my kid brain didn’t comprehend that going downhill on a bike with no chain meant I also had no brakes (no handbrakes on most bikes in those days). Formative memories for me, so I was interested to revisit a place I had not been since about 1975-76.
The former family housing units on the base are now rental properties (example shown above), and every home appeared to be occupied.
At the crest of the hill on the north side of the base, we saw several inhabited housing units sprinkled among a dozen abandoned military buildings — family residences we assumed, since we saw multiple groups of children playing. Demolition debris and broken glass littered the streets in places. There were travel trailers parked in close proximity to one another in one section of the base — possibly housing for workers traveling to the oil patch.
With the demolition of all but one building at the former Fortuna Air Force Station, and the conversion of the former Finley Air Force Station to a landfill, the Minot Air Force Station is the most complete remaining radar base in the state, a relic of the time when North Dakota’s northern location put us on the front line of the US military’s radar warning network.
Check out a podcast about a famous UFO incident in the Minot area.
It’s an eye-opening experience to visit a place like this. Where once gates were locked and uniformed guards checked your military ID and looked for a government-issued sticker on your bumper as they decided whether to allow you access to the base, now the gates stand open and the guards are long gone. It’s a vivid reminder of how quickly technology progressed in the nuclear arms race, and by the 1980s, made this place obsolete.
This building was an interdenominational church which formerly served the base staff. It’s now used for storage.
Quite a few softball games happened here over the years.
Terry gets a photo from the top of the site.
This little guy pulled his leash free and came over to say hello.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © Sonic Tremor Media
18 thoughts on “The Remains of Minot Air Force Station”
It was nice to read the commentary on the pictures from someone who spent time here when it was active. Some of the old base housing from Minot AFB was bought by a private party and relocated out there semi-recently. There is a small part of this area at the top of the hill that is still in use by Minot AFB, fyi. I went there once and thought the whole place was very “The Hills Have Eyes.” Since I’d never been there, my colleague drove us around, and people literally came out of the houses and buildings to look at us. It was … quite the experience. But your pictures are beautiful!
Here’s a link to a website about the unit stationed at this base, it has pics from people who were stationed there (shots of holiday parties, the base, people in their rooms etc.) as well as some cool history, like the itinerary for their armed forces day event where they would show the people of Minot what they do. As a retired Air Force man, I spent most of my time overseas (over 13 of my 20 years), but it is interesting to look at this site and still feel a connection to how the AF was before I joined. I’m from Mandan, and we used to drive past this site going to visit relatives in Rugby back in the 70’s when it was still open, and I remember always having been curious about the place. There was a detachment of the same radar network just outside of Bismarck which gave my Cub Scout troop a tour in probably around 1978 (very cool, very high tech), so after that I had a much better idea. Anyway, here is the link:
My late husband Bob Wallace was stationed here twice during his 26 year career in the A.F. I met him while on his 1st tour. We lived in Housing from 71 to 74 and enjoyed our time here. Our girls roamed the housing area many times along with all the other “Rug Rats” ,”Curtain Climbers” as the children of military were called back then!! Glad to see this place included in the Ghosts of North Dakota. All my family is from the Benedict area.
I slso. Was. Stationed at minot. I also was ask. To be in shirley an bobs wedding. I. Also shared. 30 pictures on minotafs
Site. Ed Dzurko
Hello! First off I love all of your pictures. My husband is Active Duty Air Force and we just arrived up to Minot, AFB from Little Rock AFB. Is part open to the public? I’ve falling in love with exploring this area I’d be very interested in looking around! Thank you so much!
Was stationed here in ’69 for a year. A DC command. Lived in the barracks. My job was communications, locked in a little vault with a teletype machine and old school telephone operation system. On Sundays, half the town of Max would be at the NCO club for beers. Thanks for the memories…
Steve… I was a 291X0 at the 786th from ‘65 to ‘67….. Lived in the barracks… Use to visit the bar in Max, but spent more time in Minot either at the skating rink or at Larry’s Palm Cafe… The guys from South Base (AFS) were sure more popular with the local ladies than the guys from the North Base (SAC and TAC)…. All in all it was a good tour but it seemed like the winters would never end…. Regards…
My dad use to live here back in the 90’s for a while. In fact, I think it was the blue house you have a picture of above! It was a nice little area and I wish I was kept up more. But I use to have a great time just walking around, looking at all the buildings!
i used to live there. I actually lived in the house to the right of the blue house. i basically grew up there i lived there for 8 years.
I was one of the last Air Force guys off the station in 1979. The station officially closed in July, but I remained till September due to delays in starting a second tech school. I arrived on station in 1977, and quite frankly it was hard to leave. I had grown very attached to the area, and at least one of its residents. During my stay, I was a radar tech in the AN-FPS-27A Search Radar tower. In the pictures above, all that remains of that building is the concrete 1st floor walls, and the square four-story metal structure inside. That structure was the support tower for the massive radar antenna that was always hidden inside a white, inflated radome bubble. I have lots of pictures from the site’s last few operational years, and so many great memories there. I returned once in 2003 to check out what had become of the site. The owner actually let me go through some the building on the north side of the base, including the barracks where I lived. It was hard to see it in such decay, but time marches on and sometimes the old gets left in the past. Thanks for selecting the site as one of your Ghosts!
I was at Minot AFS from mid 69 through 1971, I was in radar maint as a 30352, lived on North Base. Never developed a real love for the area. Married a lady from North Bend Oregon (a Radar site) in 1967. Minot was a place that you learned to make friends out of winters of boring nothingness, summers it did not get much better, but friends and family made the stay bearable. I got out in 71, went to work for Raytheon Company, AF gave me the opportunity to take my military education and turn it into a career of that lasted a lifetime. I still keep in touch with the lot old timers via a Radar Station Veterans web site. I am rewarded by the memories the military gave me, on days when I need something to make me feel better, I think of my time in the Air Force.
When my father was sent there in 1956 (or perhaps 57), our house wasn’t finished yet, but we moved in anyway. I was able to go up into a ray dome once. It was called a bubble back then, and was a big ballon and you had to get in through an airlock. I later found out that this was part of the first internet and I was able to use the first mouse on a computer screen. We fished a lot of junk out of the base trash, such as crates, old vacuum tubes and grease pencils. We made rafts out of the crates for use on the ponds around there. One time my brother and I snuck up on base and stole these really cool wheel castors. My father later caught us and made us sneak up there again and put them back.
I got stationed at the 786th. in Jan 1970 and was there until Nov 1972 when I got out. I worked in the diesel power plant (the little white building) we were between the north radome and telemetry on the right, I didn’t mind the isolation so much as my previous station was Johnston Atoll the entire year of 1970. Johnston was located 800 miles southwest of Hawaii. at first I lived in the barracks just to the left of the entry gate. room 105 first floor. Later I got married and was given the second house on the right on Maple St. as I needed to be on site whenever I was on duty. Dan Schneider was my supervisor A really nice man, Back then and still now the wind never seemed to stopped blowing not to mention the many severe thunderstorms that would almost always knock out a fuse or transformer , the phone would ring and you had 15 minutes to get from the house to the power plant and get the four diesel engines on line It seemed every time the lights would flicker it would usually be followed with the phone ringing. My favorite memories were the NCO club and the little auto hobby shop I enjoyed going to Minot where I was a member of the Random sports car club I use to race my 72 Chevy Nova in the gymkanas (slalom races) most sundays in the summer.I want to ride my 97 Honda Valkyrie from Lake City MN up there this summer. My hope and dream is to be allowed for a few hours to tour and video the entire site. If anybody knows who to contact for permission It would be greatly appreciated Ron Holst 1971-1972
Was up there couple of years ago, gates were somewhat open but didn’t know if we could enter to get a closer look at the buildings. Didn’t want to get into trouble for entering. Is it considered private property?