Kansas is the geographic heart of America. If you try and find the centerpoint of the United States, it’s actually a point in the state of Kansas, and there’s even a cottage tourist industry surrounding the spot, even though the spot itself is not a physical attraction like Four Corners is at the intersection of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah.
The geographic centricity of Kansas does matter to some though, as the NCAA organization of college athletics deliberately maintains its headquarters in Kansas to be seen as being centered within America. Also, in some of its tournaments, if two teams of equal seeding meet for a game, the team whose campus is closer in mileage to the center of the nation in Kansas is the one that gets to wear its home whites.
The central-nature of the state mattered a lot to the United States military at one point, especially back during the Cold War. A great number of missile silos housing intercontinental ballistic missiles were housed here at the time. The location of Kansas was not necessarily ideal over other spots as a launching location, since ICBMs can cover thousands of miles on their way to their target. However, the distance of the state from the coasts and international boundaries in all directions made military leaders believe it was deep enough into American soil that Soviet penetration of the sites was unlikely.
If you look at Kansas on a map of the United States, you’ll see that it’s over a thousand miles from both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. You would have to cross three states going to the north to get to the Canadian border, and heading south would mean crossing two states, one of them the large area of Texas, just to get to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
Another interesting military application that happened in Kansas during the Cold War was actually the presence of Navy bases. It was not widely known, and the few that did hear about kind of chuckled about defense department overspending if there were Navy personnel and craft stationed in landlocked Kansas. However, the purpose of such facilities was to maintain thousands of fighter jets that could be deployed just as rapidly to either coast in the event of an attack or emergency.
These days, many former military facilities have returned to civilian hands, sometimes converted back into farming. Former missile silos have turned into interesting underground living quarters for survivalists or those looking for something different.