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Historic event: Corps turns over ‘key’ to base 67 years ago

MDN File Photo Lt. Col. T.W. Roe, left, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, turns over the “key” to Minot Air Force Base to Maj. Joe E. Roberts, first base commander and first Air Force officer assigned to the base, during a small ceremony in front of base operations in February 1957.

February is a significant month in the history of Minot Air Force Base.

The U.S. Air Force took up occupancy of the base in February 1957.

According to The Minot Daily News’ Feb. 16, 1957, edition, “It wasn’t much of a ceremony when Maj. Joe E. Roberts, acting base commander, started moving operations from temporary quarters in the Chamber of Commerce (in Minot) to the base but to commemorate the occasion Lt. Col. T.W. Roe, area engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, presented Roberts a large cardboard ‘key’ to the base.”

Earlier, on July 12, 1955, ground was broken for the base. At the groundbreaking ceremony, Brig. Gen. James Guthrie, commander of the 29th Air Division at Great Falls, Montana, described the project to build an Air Force base as “North Dakota’s first major military installation” and the “culmination of a two-year dream.”

Roberts and a noncommissioned officer were the first two Air Force members to arrive at the base, The Minot Daily News reported in October 1956. Roberts was assigned to Minot as a project officer for the Air Force, with the job to coordinate matters between the military and civilian groups. Minot AFB was his duty station but he was to spend most of his time in the city, meeting with civic groups, boards and other organizations.

Today, Minot AFB is the only dual-wing, nuclear-capable base in the U.S. Air Force hosting two legs of the Strategic Triad. The 5th Bomb Wing operates B-52 bombers and the 91st Missile Wing operates, maintains and secures Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles in underground facilities in several counties.

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