The installation and maintenance for over three decades of 1,000 Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles over the Great Plains and western Missouri between the early 1960s and early 1990s has been the subject of very few academic studies. The author thus attempts to meet a genuine historical need. A major concern in the first half of the book is an attempt to understand why farmers and ranchers accepted the forced sale of a 2-acre plot for each missile in the middle of a field or pasture and sometimes near the owner's dwelling. Heefer seems not to understand that before Vietnam, Watergate, and Reagan, many Americans trusted their government, and especially the military, to a considerably greater degree than today. Moreover, Americans of that era were simply more accustomed to making personal sacrifices for the good of family, community and nation. In the early 1960s, especially in rural areas, local leaders and opinion-makers were often themselves veterans of World War II, who had personal experience in making sacrifices in defense of the nation.
She notes that there was little public attention to the issue of the missile fields as prime targets in a thermonuclear exchange. One presumes the Russians understood what the author ignores. If the Russians launched an ICBM first strike and the American radar stations in northern Canada functioned properly, then the Minuteman missiles would have been launched before Russian missiles could have arrived. Why would a rational enemy want to target empty silos? The Air Force bases themselves would surely have been targeted, but perhaps not the missile silos.
Most of the author's attention focuses on western South Dakota and the missiles managed from Ellsworth Air Force Base. She uses this area as a case study in both public acceptance of American militarism and, as the Cold War advanced, in the growing use of military activity as a kind of economic welfare for specified communities and for propping up the national economy. It is also a case study in the public's reaction to the environmental issues that accompanied building and decommissioning the missile silos.
Heefner gets an A+ for concern with fundamentally important issues, and her endnotes are filled with bibliographical references that will be of great value to future scholars. But the author's treatment of essential issues can seem brief, shallow, facile, and anecdotal. I can ignore a howling misuse of English, but I cannot ignore a basic factual error concerning the structure of the American government. The author tells us on page 37 that "the War Department existed only in wartime". The United States Department of War existed continuously from 1789 to 1947.
In short, if you want to know about how the Minuteman missiles came about and were received by the Americans who had to live next door to them, read this book. But don't expect more than a case study by a younger scholar can offer.