RANTOUL — The Minuteman missile was one of this country's strongest forms of defense during the Cold War. Now the one in Rantoul needs defense against the elements.
The missile on Borman Drive near the old west gate of Chanute Air Force Base along U.S. 45 in Rantoul is undergoing a face lift.
Robert Hill Painting, Paxton, was the successful bidder to repaint the missile.
Village Administrator Bruce Sandahl said the village spoke with Chanute Air Museum officials about getting the project completed.
Mark Hanson, air museum curator, said the village approached air museum officials "a couple months ago about doing something with the missile because it looks so bad."
The missile is on loan to the air museum from the Air Force Museum.
Hanson said the Chanute museum "doesn't have the manpower or the money or the means to do anything with it, even though it is on our loan agreement with the Air Force Museum."
It is believed that the missile was erected on the base in the 1960s.
Hanson said the paint had deteriorated badly.
"We're just excited to get it cleaned and looking good," he said.
Sandahl said he believes it's important to remember Rantoul's military past.
"I wanted to make sure with the upcoming demolition of the Lincoln's Challenge facilities, White Hall and the steam plant that we continue to recognize and remember that we once had Chanute Air Force Base and not to forget the men and women who served and are currently serving in our armed forces," Sandahl said.
Sandahl said the missile's condition was deteriorating to the point that something needed to be done to preserve it before it was too late.
"I felt it was necessary to step up and preserve a landmark," Sandahl said.
Money for the work will come from the hotel/motel tax fund, which is to be used for tourism, "so it was quite appropriate," he said.
A hole is visible in one portion of the missile, which Hill said he will patch.
As painters began their job Monday they discovered observation portals — areas where experts could peer into the missile, Hill said.
A special paint is being used to cover the missile.
Hill said he expects the work will take about a week.
All of the lettering will be hand-painted, Hill said.