LAWN, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Just outside the City of Lawn, a relic of the cold war was nearly lost to time. Sitting as a landfill, the Lawn Atlas Missile Base (LAMB) was resurrected by the efforts of Larry Sanders.
“There was a national museum for the Titan ICBM (Intercontinental ballistic missile), a national site for the Minuteman ICBM and nothing had been done to preserve the heritage of Americas first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile system, the Atlas. And I thought that’s inappropriate,” recalled Proprietor and Director of LAMB Cold War Center, Larry Sanders.
The Atlas ICBM program was the first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile System in America. Deployed operationally from 1959 to 1965, it was used as an intercontinental deterrent against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
“It was aggressively campaigned for by the people of Abilene,” Sanders said. “In fact, ACU’s Dean of Students, Garvin Beauchamp, who was mayor pro tem at the time, actually wen to SAC (Strategic Air Command) headquarters and campaigned personally with SAC leadership for the location of the Atlas ICBM in Abilene, Texas.”
The Lawn base is one of 12 in and around the Abilene area built to withstand a nuclear attack and respond post-haste by dispatching an 82-foot nuclear tipped Atlas ICBM to just about anywhere in the then Soviet Union.
“During the Cuban missile crisis, all of the Atlas sites went on immediate launch alert,” told Sanders.
Once the program ended in 1965, most all of the silos nationwide were either donated for other uses or sat dormant. In 1998, Sanders became aware of the Lawn silo and began work to acquire and restore it.
“We found an ideal site outside of Lincoln, Nebraska, but we discovered quickly that no one in that region was interested in a preservation effort,” Sanders looked back. “So we came back with a defeated attitude, and the Mayor of Lawn approached me and said, ‘hey, why haven’t you done something with the Lawn site?'”
Through his efforts, the site has attained historic status as one of the first ‘under-told Texas history’ sites. Several restoration projects and even the naming of the Atlas ICBM highway were all achieved under Sanders’ motivation.
Now, preservation and education continue as Sanders conducts tours, sleepovers, event scheduling and reunions at the site. A 50th anniversary celebration of the Cuban Missile, crisis which several former operators of the site attended, was a most notable event.
“It was a delight to see those guys talk together, literally, for the first time since and share stories that had never been shared,” Sanders reminisced.
Along with ongoing restoration, Sanders told KTAB/KRBC he is campaigning to have the site become the first 20th century addition to the Texas Forts Trail – a trail of historic Texas forts from the days of the frontier, which he believes would benefit from an extension into the modern age.
“This would unite that heritage to more contemporary military history,” added Sanders.