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Gretchen Heefner

Headshot of Gretchen Heefner

Chair and Professor of History

Gretchen Heefner teaches and researches the history of the U.S. in the world, with a focus on militarization, the environment, and the surprisingly intimate relations between national security regimes and the everyday. Her current research, “From the Red Desert to the Red Planet,” explores how the U.S. military has acquired and used information about extreme environments since 1940. Her first book, The Missile Next Door, was a Choice Outstanding Academic title in 2013.

Harvard University, Faculty Fellow, Charles Warren Center for American History, 2018-2019CSSH Outstanding Teaching Award, 2018

“Military Power: Domestic Production to Overseas Bases,” eds., David C. Engerman, Max
Paul Friedman, Melani McAlister, The Cambridge History of America and the World, Volume 4: 1945-Present (March 2022)

“The New Frontier,” New Geographies 11: Extraterrestrial, Harvard Design School, (December 2019)

“High Plains Armageddon,” invited essay for The People’s Atlas of Nuclear Colorado: an online
visual tool of Colorado’s nuclear infrastructure (2019)

“How Gender Affects the Experience of Archival Research and Field Work,” a conversation
with Ashley Farmer, Gretchen Heefner, Rebecca Herman, Lien-Han T. Nguyen and Kirsten Weld, Modern American History, 15 July 2019, DOI:

“’A fighter pilot’s heaven’: Finding Cold War Utility in the North African Desert,”
Environmental History 22 (2017): 50-76; doi: 10.1093/envhis/emw066

“’A Slice of Their Sovereignty’: Negotiating the U.S. Empire of Bases in Libya, 1950-1954,”
Diplomatic History 41 (2017): 50-77; doi: 10.1093/dh/dhv058

“A Tract that is Wholly Sand: Engineering Military Environments in Northern Africa,”
Endeavour, 40 (2016): 38-47; doi: 10.1016/j.endeavour.2015.12.002

The Missile Next Door: The Minuteman and the Arming of the American Heartland (Harvard University Press, print, 2012; Blackstone Audio, CD, 2014)

“Cold War Politics in South Dakota,” with Catherine McNicol Stock, in South Dakota’s
Political Culture, eds., Jon Lauck & Donald Simmons (South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2010)

“Missiles and Memory: Dismantling South Dakota’s Cold War,” Western Historical
Quarterly, 38 (Summer 2007): 181-203

“‘A Symbol of the New Frontier’: Hawaiian Statehood, Decolonization, and Winning
the Cold War,” Pacific Historical Review 74 (November 2005): 545-574


Related Schools & Departments


Course catalog
  • HIST 4701: Capstone

    HIST 4701

    Offers students an opportunity to make use of advanced techniques of historical methodology to conduct original research and write a major, original research paper as the culmination of their work toward the history degree. This is a capstone research and writing seminar for history majors.