The Cold War began in 1947 and ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Over those 44 years, the rivalry between the U.S. and Soviets manifested itself in a dangerous arms race and proxy wars fought in South America, Asia, and Africa. More than once during this period, tensions pushed the world to the brink of nuclear armageddon. (Read about these nuclear mistakes that nearly caused the apocalypse.)
Most locations linked to America’s wars – battlefields, cemeteries, ships, forts, or places where surrender took place – are designated by the nation as historically significant and are preserved. The Cold War is an exception. There are comparatively few traditional historical sites around the country associated with that ideological conflict.
There are some, however. To find Cold War sites you can visit in the U.S., 24/7 Tempo reviewed several sources, including the websites of the National Park Service, Smithsonian Magazine, HistoryHit, AtlasObscura, and We’re The Mighty. Our list includes sites of various types – missile silos, launch facilities, bunkers, nuclear reactors and plutonium production facilities, museums, and more, places that are either open to the public or can be viewed by scheduling a tour.
Of the 17 sites cited on our list, eight are located in the West. That is understandable since most of America’s nuclear defense systems are located west of the Mississippi River. There are seven missile bases that can be visited in Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, North Dakota, and South Dakota. (This is how an ICBM works.)
Four museums with a Cold War theme have been established: Titan Missile Museum in Arizona; The National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas; the South Dakota Air & Space Museum; and the Cold War Museum in Virginia.
Click here to see Cold War sites to visit around America
There are other sites of historical value as well. The Ambassador Romuald Spasowski House in Washington, D.C., was the residence of the former Polish ambassador, who applied for political asylum in the U.S. in December 1981, and became the highest ranking communist official to ever defect to the West. The Greenbrier Bunker, installed in one of America’s premier resorts, in West Virginia, was created to house the federal government in the event of a nuclear attack.
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