Jeffrey LewisAnother Foul-Up At Minot

This time, a truck carrying a MMIII booster overturned on a gravel road in North Dakota:

A truck carrying a rocket booster for an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile tipped over on a northwestern North Dakota road on Thursday, but no one was injured and there was no threat to the public, an Air Force official said.

The transport rig crashed on a gravel road at about 8 a.m. Thursday near Makoti about 70 miles from Minot Air Force Base, from where it departed, the Air Force said.

“There was no weapon present and no danger to the public,” said Maj. Gen. Roger Burg, an Air Force spokesman.

Here is an interesting question — do you think this represents a spike in incidents or is it simply the case that the media now reports even routine mishaps at Minot?

I don’t mean to diminish the very real organizational pathology that I believe afflicts the US Air Force (see the churlish comments but outgoing Secretary of the Air Force), but I wonder how many vehicle accidents Minot experiences every year.

Interestingly, the Air Force Safety Center publishes excellent aircraft accident statistics, but not other kinds of accident data that would permit a calculation. Isn’t that an interesting organizational bias?

Late Update Reader “Andy” points out that Air Force Major General Roger Burg said “We have had three or four similar accidents over the last 25 to 30 years.” The context of “we” is a little unclear, but given his organizational position — Commander of the 20th Air Force — I assume he means the ICBM force as a whole, rather than Minot. That means the entire force has experienced a comparable incident every 6-10 years. It has been 11 months since the Barksdale incident — so 9-15 percent probability of experiencing such an accident. Presumably the data is also skewed given that the Air Force today drives fewer miles to support a smaller ICBM force than the 1054 missile force at the height of the Cold War.

Also, thanks to “Andy” for the picture of the truck.


  1. Page van der Linden (History)

    Was the driver, er, asleep?

    (Sorry, that was terrible.)

  2. Rip (History)

    I’m starting a rumor the truck driver was on a cellphone when the accident happened!


  3. Andy Grotto (History)
  4. Joseph Logan (History)

    My first instinct was to dismiss this as a normal accident until I read Wynne’s comments, which are alarming evidence of the organizational pathology you suggest. While I am no expert in air force weapons security and am fully aware of different cultures among the services, it’s hard for me to imagine a “Navy perspective” on misplaced nuclear weapons. When what the public sees is a pattern of ineptitude—missing nukes, trigger parts sent to Taiwan, missile crews asleep on the job—Wynne doesn’t do himself or the Air Force any favors by looking outside the organization for someone to blame. His representation of his work is a distressing signal that the patterns of dysfunction in the Air Force go well beyond anything that can be taken care of by his dismissal.

    While we’re on the topic, does it not make sense that misplacing nuclear weapons is grounds for immediate dismissal?

  5. Sky (History)

    I think the increased scrutiny of Minot may play a small role in the ‘coverage’ of these issues, but for the most part this comes down to Minot being a metaphor of the Air Force as a whole.

  6. FSB


    These are the same dudes who cart around hydrazine and had the gall to say they intercepted NRO’s satellite earlier this year due to the hydrazine possibly maybe perhaps surviving re-entry and giving someone a cough or rash. Ha. Ha. More likely they’ve also split hydrazine countless times without it becoming public.

    Wasn’t there something in the constitution about no standing military?

  7. Major Lemon (History)

    Incidents like this occur every day around the world but thankfully they don’t always result in a catastrophic nuclear disaster. I remember several years carelessly crashing my Buick into a truck in my hometown. No one was hurt but the first thing I did was to make sure the other vehicle was not carrying an ICBM, a nuclear warhead or anything similar. A quick sweep with my Geiger counter confirmed the truck was a delivery vehicle only for washing detergent. Later, as police were assisting with the clean-up operation, the thought occured: “phew, that was lucky. I didn’t get a citation…”

  8. Andy (History)
  9. FSB

    Ok, so when I first read this I thought well maybe it was a complicated turn they were trying to negotiate….but the picture is a straight road! This cannot be attributed only to chewing tobacco…

  10. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    If I had to guess he was about to turn left off the road and moved to the right to make a wide turn, eg. caution, this truck makes wide turns.

  11. peter (History)

    Why aren’t all the tracks more or less parallel?

    Also, are there a pair of tracks that lead off to the left beyond the truck?

    Is it possible that a slower vehicle decided to make a left turn, and the rig, being quite heavy, couldn’t stop in time, and so attempted to maneuver to the right, resulting in the accident?

    Will the public be notified of the findings of an investigation? Or does someone have to make a specific FOIA request?