The Remains of Minot Air Force Station

The Remains of Minot Air Force Station

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.

Minot Air Force Station

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.

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

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.

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

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.

Minot Air Force Station

Check out a podcast about a famous UFO incident in the Minot area.

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

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.

Minot Air Force Station

This building was an interdenominational church which formerly served the base staff.  It’s now used for storage.

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Quite a few softball games happened here over the years.

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

Terry gets a photo from the top of the site.

Minot Air Force Station

Minot Air Force Station

This little guy pulled his leash free and came over to say hello.

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media

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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota.

10 thoughts on “The Remains of Minot Air Force Station

  1. 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!

  2. 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:
    http://minotafs.org/

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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…

  6. 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!

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