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History of Subterra


Below are pictures of the progress of the Atlas E missile site now known as 'Subterra'.  Built in 1960 by the government for 3.3 million dollars, it was operational in the 1960's, abandoned in the 1970's, purchased by Ed Peden in the 1980's and renovated to a spacious underground home by the 1990's.  More details of these types of sites and other are on our page: History of Missile Bases.                        

Click here for the link to the Peden's other website:

Click here to purchase a fascinating and informative video about the history and making of this site.  Video includes several clips from foreign press covering the site and what the Peden's have accomplished.

 construction of atlas E atlas e above view
 The building of this site.  Note the tunnel culvert in place. An aerial view of the completed site, ready for nuclear action.
 missile on truck  crew at Subterra
 A nuclear missile being shipped to its bay in the 60s. Crew at Subterra, 1971.
 atlas E missile in bay  orig photo
  The active missile raised.
  The tunnel.
military crew at Atlas E drawer notes from soldier stationed at subterra
Army men at work.
Notes scrawled in a drawer from the original office left when the site was abandoned - refers to the soldier's countdown to leave and highlights, "only 13 days to go". 
 control panels, subterra  computer control room
 A photo of original control panels for missile launch This is the computer control panel in the original photo to the left, on display at Subterra now. 
 Overgrown Entrance





These three images are from another abandoned  Atlas E site.  This is very much like what the Peden's site "Subterra" looked like before they began to make it into a home.  

Overgrown Missile Base site 

before pic of subterra tunnel
sub terra up top  subterra missile bay entrance outside
This is the exterior view of the greenhouse and current entrance into the underground home.  The castle turrent (one of two on the site) are old grain silos that Ed Peden cut to be reminecsent of a castle and erected.  This one is over an escape hatch, and includes a spiral staircase inside it.  At the top, one can see for miles across the plains.
This is the door to the missile bay, where the actual missile was stored.  It also leads to the tunnel entrance, which is now the secondary entrance since the greenhouse was built. The second castle turret is in view too.
Ed working on tower
 castle tower currently
More recently, Ed and friends have begun the project to add stones to the exterior of the turrets.  Here is Ed at work. Here is the most current view of the north tower.
 stone circle at subterra stone circle in fog
To further engender a change of focus at this site, the Pedens have set a large stone circle in place just beyond the old missile bay. Here is a mystical view of the same stone circle, engulfed in morning fog.
 missile bay at subterra ed and diana peden in their entrance tunnel
548th Strategic Task Force reunion tour views the old bay where the missile was stored. The ceiling is a massive door that would pull back and allow the missile to be erected.  
Here stand Ed and Diana Peden at the entrance to the tunnel.
double toilets  Diana in her living room
These two toilets were originally separated by a 'men's room' stall divider.  The Pedens kept them as they were for simplicity sake, and created a luxury bathroom around them.
Here Diana greets the 548th Strategic Task Force reunion tour in her living room which used to be the Launch Control Center.
stairs to the sunroom  sunroom interior
548th Strategic Task Force reunion tour: this is the interior of Subterra with the spiral stairs leading up to the greenhouse. This is the interior of the above ground greenhouse. 



548th Strategic Missile Squadron. 
548th insignia

The 548th SMS was based at Forbes Air Force Base in Topeka, Kansas from 1961 thru 1965. 

There were 9 sites built in a ring around Topeka.
These sites were manned 24 hours a day, 365 days a year during the time the Squadron was active. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, all 548th sites were at a high level of alert and were ready to launch the Atlas missile should it have become necessary.  The squadron was armed with the SM-65 weapon system, more commonly know as the Atlas. 

The 548th was an Atlas E unit which meant the missile was housed in a "coffin launcher" style complex.  The missile was kept in a horizontal position.  In order to launch, a 400-ton overhead door was rolled back after which the "bird" was raised to a vertical position.  Once upright, the rocket was fueled with RP-1 and Liquid Oxygen after which it would then be made ready for launch.  The Atlas E was equipped with a Mark IV re-entry vehicle developed by General Electric and carried a type W-38 warhead which had a yield of approximately 4 megatons of TNT.  It had a range of approximately 6,000 miles.  Developed by General Dynamics, the Atlas weapons system became a national priority during which no expense was spared in the development, testing and implementation of this first generation ICBM system.  The Atlas rocket was also used by NASA during the early days of manned space travel and was the booster used to put John Glenn into Earth orbit.

548th reunion

During the 2003 Labor Day weekend,  many of the members of the 548th SMS attended the first reunion ever held for this squadron.  Many of these people had not seen each other since the deactivation of the unit in 1965.  During this reunion the 548th SMS Association was formed in order to continue the research for more members and to have a central organization for those who served to contact their fellow missileers. 

A Members Only section of this web site allows those who served in the 548th to find the people with whom they served.  Any squadron members who are not currently in the database are urged to contact the 548th Association so that they can be included.

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