Air Force to dismantle Chanute missile

The Minuteman missile erected in the mid-60s will be dismantled this month. The missile is located at the west entrance to the former Chanute Air Force Base.

RANTOUL — One of the last — if not the last — symbols of Chanute Air Force Base’s presence in Rantoul will be destroyed this month.

Mayor Chuck Smith said the Air Force has informed him a contractor will begin the decommissioning and destruction of the missile on Borman Drive at the west entrance to the former base.

Smith said the mobilization will take place Sept. 14, and the demolition of the missile is scheduled for Sept. 15 and 16. Cleanup will take place Sept. 17.

Smith said the road will be closed during the demolition and cleanup, and the public will not be allowed in the area.

“I’m encouraging all of you, if you want to take the last remaining pictures of the missile, to do so now,” Smith said at Tuesday night’s village board study session.

His voice faltering, Smith added, “This is an item that’s been a part of our community for a long time. It was standing when I got here in 1966 as an airman. Due to weather and being in disrepair, it’s not salvageable to us, and the Air Force has refused to give it to us.

“You can tell I’m emotional because it’s my Air Force out there.”

Smith said he has asked Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer to begin the process to make it a historical site and to install a plaque.

Chanute was a prime location for Minuteman missile training.

Former Chanute Air Museum curator Mark Hanson said in a 2014 Press article the LGM-30 Minuteman land-to- ground missile was probably used for training or possibly brought in specifically for display.

“Though we don’t know the details for this specific missile, it was built by Boeing and was a first-generation ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile),” Hanson said.

“Minuteman I missiles went into active service in 1962. Chanute became the prime center responsible for Minuteman training in 1959. By 1965 the Minuteman I was being replaced by the Minuteman II and by the 1970s, the Minuteman III.

The Rantoul missile was erected in 1966. Getting the missile down won’t be an easy task. Its base is filled with 20 tons of concrete.

In 2014, the village was considering having the missile removed to modernize that area with the pending construction of the new Lincoln’s Challenge Academy. But before a decision was made, officials asked for public opinion. The consensus was that residents wanted the missile to stay.

The missile was on loan to the Chanute Air Museum from the National Museum of the Air Force. With the closure of the air museum several years ago, the Air Force sought bids to dismantle the remaining Air Force planes and the missile. The planes have been scrapped.  

The Press welcomes people's comments/recollections of the missile and what it means to them. Letters/comments for publication may be sent to dhinton@rantoulpress.com or mailed to the Press at 216 E. Sangamon Ave., Rantoul, IL 61866. Please include your name, town of residence and phone number for verification. The phone number won't be published.