Urbanista #13 Plokštinė Ballistic Missile Launch Base-Cold War Museum, Lithuania

With the help of European Structural Funds today the former underground missile base is newly opened after the reconstruction and hosts the Cold War Museum in Lithuania.

When the United States started building underground military bases, the Soviet Union felt it had to maintain its military advantage. For that reason in September 1960 in the village of Plokščiai the Soviets began to build rapidly an underground military base, one of the first in the S. U. The shore of the nearby Plateliai lake and the Plokštinė forests were ideally suited for the construction of the military base. The location was 170 m above sea level, the soil was easy to excavate and the local population was small. The local inhabitants were poor farmers who were paid 4.5 thousand rubles to move their farms. Further, from this location all of Europe could be covered by the missiles which could reach Turkey and southern European countries.

Ten thousand soldiers, mostly Estonians, constructed the base. The missile silos were dug out with shovels which took approximately 6-8 months. Simultaneously, in the centre of the four silos they excavated a large hole for the support structures – electrical and radio stations, control rooms and recreation areas for the soldiers who would be on duty. All of these underground facilities were waterproofed and covered with earth. They were constructed so that under normal conditions a personnel could survive in the silos for 15 days, or in extreme conditions with the silos hermetically sealed, 3 hours.

A 2.5 km water trench was dug to the Plateliai lake, and a water pump station was constructed. The earth which had been excavated was used to lay the foundation for the new road to Plokštinė. Earlier travellers had to get to the base by going through Jogaudai. On December 31, 1962 the construction was completed; at 10 p. m. – just before the New Year – the “rocketeers” accepted their military duties.

Four R12 nuclear missiles, 23 meters high, including the 4 meters warhead, were installed in the silos. The rockets were fuelled with a mixture of kerosene and nitric acid. They were intended to last 10-15 years; in Plokštinė they were changed once in 16 years. The rocket launching facilities were guarded by 6 security systems including barbed wire, alarms, 1700 volt electric wires, etc. The rockets were aimed at diferent western countries: Norway, Great Britain, Spain, West Germany and Turkey. Every 3-4 years the targeted countries were changed.

Eight missile warheads were stored in the ammunition depot in Plokštinė. Extra rocket carries were stored in the ammunition depot specially build in nearby Šateikiai. Šateikiai also had eight surface missiles which had been deployed the year before those in Plokštinė.

These two bases together comprised the 79 th rocket regiment, headquartered in Šateikiai. The first commander was Kalisnicenko. After his refusal to participate in the Cuban operation, he was relieved and replaced by Sidorov. Other regimental commanders included Saloha, Ramaniuk and Jereskovskij.

They all lived in the town of Plungė, travelling to the base for duty. Only in cases of increased military readiness, such as the events in Czechoslovakia in 1968, did they move to the officers quarters on base. The personnel of the 79 th Regiment participated in the deployment of rockets to Cuba. In the centre of Cuba they poured a concrete for the rockets and in September 1962 the rockets were transported from Šateikiai to Cuba.

All of this was done in secrecy. The soldiers worked in civilian clothes and loaded the rockets at the night. When the Vilnius-Klaipėda passenger trains passed by, all lights would be turned off at the work site and work would cease. The rockets were transported to Sevastopol and loaded on commercial ships for transport to Havana.

Next to military base was a canteen and two wooden barracks for the duty relief of 9 officers and 22 soldiers which changed every 3 days. Shifts were 6 hours long; 6 hours in the missile silos and ours off.

In the nearby military town 3 more groups of officers and soldiers (320 people) lived. The town included a headquarters, soldiers barracks, officers quarters, separate canteens for officers and soldiers, medical aid post, food storage, and an autopark. The autopark housed two 25 meters long machines for raising and lowering the rockets into the silos, as well as machines which pumped air into the silos. In the maintenance storage section were spare parts, various equipment and insulation.

There were no incidents with the missiles while they were deployed in Plokštinė. They were removed from the base on June 18, 1978.

The Text from Official Website of the Museum


Other episodes of Urbanista:

Urbanista #12 Abandoned Nuclear Warhead Missiles Storage Lithuania

Urbanista #11 Abandoned Rucava’s Soviet  Radio Communications Military Base

Urbanista #10 Abandoned Paper Mill / Abandonada Cartonera el Papiol



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