for the last ten years or more i have followed
one of the most dedicated Nike Missile Historians.
His website and information helped me put
my information together and understand what
a rich cold war history is around me.
thanks to a great historian and Nike/Cold War guru
Don Bender - click title to visit his website
Located in Suffolk County on Long Island's north shore, this Nike Hercules equipped site defended the nuclear research facilities at Brookhaven National Laboratories, as well as Grumman's Calverton test facility, the Suffolk County Air Force Base, and the New York metro area in general. Site NY-25 remained in operation until 1974.
To protect New York City -- an obvious target for any enemy -- 19 missile bases were built in the suburbs surrounding the city. Long Island had five sites, in Lloyd Harbor, Oyster Bay, Lido Beach, Rocky Point and Amityville. Other bases were built in the city, in Westchester and Rockland counties and in northern New Jersey. The ring of missile bases was the area's last line of defense against Soviet bombers. There are few people around who remember the sight of missiles being carted across Long Island on trailers, and most of the bases have little more than a rusted chain-link fence left to them. Private homes have been built on parts of the Oyster Bay and Lloyd Harbor missile sites, and part of the Lido Beach site is now used for school bus parking by the Long Beach School District.
But now, a quarter century since the last base was closed, there are hopes that the missile site at Rocky Point can be placed on the National Register of Historic Places and someday turned into a cold war museum. ''A lot of cold war infrastructure is historically significant even though it's not very old,'' said Donald Bender, a military historian who researches Nike missile sites across the country for government agencies and who has started the process for historic designation. ''These missile sites aren't pretty like the old seaside fortifications that were built in previous centuries, but they're fascinating nonetheless.'' Instead of stately stone forts, they are steel and concrete bunkers buried in the ground and surrounded by barbed wire. Still, standing underground at Rocky Point's now-empty missile magazine, a cavernous room about 50 feet long and 60 feet wide, Mr. Bender easily conjures Strangelovian images.
''They make you think of spies, James Bond, secret codes, sirens blaring, red lights flashing,'' he says, his voice echoing through the dank expanse. ''It's cold-war scary.''
But for many among the hundreds of men who served on these Long Island bases, the ''missile years'' are remembered as their best years in uniform.
''It was different from other assignments,'' said Frank Hess, a 78-year-old World War II veteran who worked at missile sites on Long Island for more than 10 years. ''You're with a different group. These guys worked hard and it was a job, but it was in the line of defense of your country. We put in a lot of time together.'' It was the hours spent huddled underground, waiting for further orders and not knowing if the ''red status'' issued by higher-ups was real or just a drill, that bound these men in a way not easily forgotten.
''I would tell the guys to take it easy and then all of a sudden, we'd get a red status and boom, it was get to the pits, hook them up and get ready to fly them,'' said Mr. Hess, who lives in the same house in College Point where he lived while serving on the missile bases. ''And you never knew if it was practice or the real thing. The rest of the time, you'd be waiting for something to happen. After a while, it just gets in your blood.''
Mr. Hess joined the Army National Guard in 1955 and initially served at anti-aircraft gun batteries in Queens before moving on to missile bases on Long Island. The missile bases were initially staffed by the regular Army but by the 1960's had been shifted to the National Guard, which generally operated each base with about 90 full-time guardsmen and 40 or more weekend reservists.Each of the Long Island bases had a launch area where the missiles were kept and about half a mile away a separate radar area that searched the skies for enemy aircraft. Each base had three missile magazines or ''pits.'' Each pit held 10 Ajax missiles, lined up side by side. The Ajax, the first generation of the Nike missile, could fly 1,600 miles per hour, reached altitudes of 70,000 feet and had a conventional warhead and a range of about 25 miles. ''All these things were obsolete the day they were put into practice,'' said Harold Borodiansky, who worked at four of Long Island's missile sites between 1957 and 1974. ''We knew they were obsolete, but we knew the government was always working on perfecting something new that would be bigger or faster.''
also check out christopherjohnbright.com for more information He also has a book entitled
"Continental Air Defense In The Eisenhower Era' Nuclear antiaircraft systems and more, a very informed look at our country's cold war defense and civil defense and a lot more.