Today, we visited a missile site. The Nike missile sites were installed all over the country. Nike missile batteries were placed near large cities, military bases, and other critical locations targeted by the USSR (Russia). Our tour was given by Ranger Leon who served in the Coast Guard, then after retirement has been doing these tours for the past 18 years. He was enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable.
The building that had been used for command and control, barracks, and administration is now used by the park service.
All this area was extremely secure. The saying was shoot first then interrogate the survivor. Of course, they did have some false alarms. One even involved a General who did not realize how bad an idea it would be to get cocky and enter the area without prior notice. He was lucky to only forced to the ground spread eagle instead of shot. They were very serious because nuclear warheads were in some missiles. The security protocol required that prior notice be sent of anyone coming into the area. Second, they must be in pairs so no one alone. Strip searched and then allowed to enter if they could confirm the purpose given in the prior notice stated. The electric fence was at lethal levels so it would be a bad idea to touch it. There was a second fence patrolled by attack dog and guard. Last, an additional fence around the launch sites themselves.
Warning History lesson ahead:
The Nike system was prompted by the expansionist statements from the Soviet Union. These missiles were developed to knock down enemy aircraft. Because of the development of supersonic bombers, something was needed that could counter that threat. The Nike system 41 feet long and used 4 solid rockets to get to over 2,700 mph. They were controlled by what at the time was state of the art computer systems and guided by ground radar. Most current smart watches are smarter than the computers of 1958 and far more reliable. They missiles were able to reach altitudes of over 100,000 feet.
They could have a conventual warhead or a 45-kiloton nuclear one. This means that it could be at least twice the power of the bomb exploded over Hiroshima. Each site would have at least 3 barns. In every battery, there were 3 missiles, and one was always loaded with a nuclear warhead. One barn was on immediate launch status at all times and could launch missiles in less than 5 minutes. The other two were on standby but at least one could be ready in less than 30 minutes. These times were relaxed when threats were reduced. When needed a missile would launch and explode just in front of the target, showering it with metal or in the case of the nuclear warhead take out many planes at once. These only had a range of 45 miles so if a nuclear warhead was used some fallout could strike our cities. The thought was that it would be better to have fallout instead of explosions on cities from much larger enemy nuclear bombs.
Very strict security was maintained at the site as I described earlier. No one was allowed to approach unless approved. To reach the missiles required passing three fences, armed guards and dogs. They were authorized if needed "shoot first and interrogate later".
If you read the above order, it indicates that they were authorized to use nuclear over the US if required.
The Everglades site was the final site to be decommissioned in 1979. The last few years only conventual warheads were on site. This site was constructed because of the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.
Speed was important because the incoming planes could be approaching at over 500 mph. The function of an air defense guided missile system is to deter or minimize the effects of enemy attacks by detecting and destroying enemy aircraft and missiles approaching a defended area. These systems must be capable of effective action against targets operating at any altitude and velocity. The systems must also be capable of trajectory corrections after missile launch to permit interception of targets taking evasive actions. In addition, it is desirable that the systems be capable of self-defense against tactical surface targets. The Improved Nike Hercules System and the Nike-Hercules ATBM System can be used in support of other service group.
When on alert, the missiles would be pushed out into position. If a possible launch was called, they would then run around the berm and into a shelter.
I would say this ends the history lessons but this whole site is about history.
The area looks very different than it did when the military controled the site.
As part of the tour, we were able to walk into one of the barns.
Inside there was a Nike missile, control equipment, and lots of information.
The guys were young. All were under 30 and most still in their teens.
We are a couple who have started on a new adventure...