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Eric P. Muth
25 Parkland Place
Milford, CT 06460 USA
To Whom It May Concern:
This is an oral history project placed on "paper" to preserve memories of a by-gone era. It is hoped that this web site will accept contributions perhaps adding technical data and other personal stories to these ramblings of Nike experiences.
Had this been written earlier, it would surely would have been sanitized and scrutinized for political and security considerations. However, we as a people have matured significantly as a result of the scandals and misdeeds of our leaders in both moral and political circles and they may be best described as "otherwise moral men."
Locate this story on the Web at: http://www.ed-thelen.org/muth.html
A "Cold War" decade as a Missileman in Air Defense
by: Nike, the "Goddess of Victory",
by the men of: The U.S. Army and Army National Guard.
Eric P. Muth, et-al
The seeds of Nike were strewn almost immediately after the "Big One".
Post WW II the U.S. abandoned its isolationist views altogether, we occupied nations, and by invitation, kept and placed new troops and equipment on foreign soil. We decided to support the United Nations, to increase the strength of our Air and Naval forces, to maintain a smaller Army, but also to develop large and well-organized military reserve forces. The U.S. was top dog, because we alone had nuclear weaponry and that issue created a political lethargy, which would end when the Soviets sent their nuclear capability wake up call to the White House. That event, made us think about defense against a surprise attack on our industrial base and areas of large population concentrations where Soviet bombers could cause mass destruction and death.
The Army and the Air Force bickered over who would control anti-aircraft batteries. The Air Force argued that the best defense is a strong offense, via the Strategic Air Command [SAC]. In 1948 the National Guard was called upon to furnish 123 Anti-Aircraft Battalions for operational readiness and deployment throughout 27 states, and by 1952 in Puerto Rico. They could have had a motto akin to that of many police departments "To Serve and Protect." In the meantime, Bell Laboratories was conducting a feasibility study for the Army Ordinance Corps, and that was the seed for the Nike Ajax fielded eight years later. The U.S. spent considerable sums to defeat its WW II enemies and we wanted our leadership to look to civilian needs. However, soon the Korean [Police Action] War brought home the need for vigilance, which required large military expenditures and the concern of "brainwashing" techniques, used on our POWís, was also a vital concern to the CIA which launched MKULTRA and other Intelligence services followed suit.
These fears brought about toxic and psychochemical experimentation, the bulk of which was conducted at the Chemical Warfare Center Edgewood, Maryland. The DoD authorized experimentation of servicemen in 1955 much of it funded by the CIA under MKULTRA Sub-Project 45 psychochemicals and K fields, orchestrated by Army Intelligence and conducted by the Chemical Corps.
The government ordered Civil Defense drills in schools, designated bomb shelters, and made home shelter recommendations that re-enforced the need for protection against airborne aggression in the minds of most Americans. The Nike mission would require peacetime vigilance never before experienced by the Army and Army National Guard, which would soon be re-appreciated as the Minutemen of the Modern Missile Age.
Threats to our Security and National Defense
In the early 1950ís there had been great concern in intelligence and political circles regarding the number of Korean War turncoats and the brainwashing conducted on them as Prisoners of War. Spying was fully perceived as a serious threat to National Security as was evidenced by the Rosenberg executions. There was a perceived need for truth, disabling, and other drugs for intelligence purposes. The Gestapo had been experimenting with mescaline and other substances and the OSS [later the CIA] became heir to those studies and would soon use them. The Soviets had captured considerable stores of unused German chemical warfare agents prompting the U.S. Army to seek protections for its troops and to manufacture more offensive weapons of its own, including those in the biological field. Needless to say, there appeared to be threats to the National Security coming from everywhere, thus CBR and Air Defense programs were rightfully viewed as being "vital to the National Defense".
In 1957, with the help of some 300 captured/recruited German scientists from Pienamunde, the Soviets launched the first artificial satellite [Sputnik] into space thus, shocking Americans, who were led to believe that we had quickly become technologically inferior. Suddenly we were presented with face saving challenges. After WW II and under "Operation Paper Clip" we brought a number of German Scientists to New Mexico and they eventually help get us to the moon. Under the same program some eight others were sent to the Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland to continue interesting work in psychochemicals.
In 1958 Khrushchev seized power and brought the Soviets full force into the arms race. These were uncertain times. I entered the Army on September 15, 1957 and just a year later, on the 14th of September 1958, the Army turned over the first Nike Ajax Battery to the National Guard in the Los Angeles area. Links in the "Supersonic Rings of Steel" were being changed in a positive way saving the government money and freeing regular army troops to perform missions in less boring duty stations.
My Road to Nike
I volunteered for and was inducted into a transitional army being issued two uniforms, one set of ODís with the well known "Ike" jacket and one set of the new Greens which will soon be replaced by Blues. In 1959 upon completion of two years active duty served at Ft. Dix, Ft. Benning, 3rd Inf Div, Ft. Leonard Wood, Combat Engr., two tours at the Army Chemical Warfare Center, and then upon release I was placed in the Army XIII Reserve Corps at Ft. Devens. I was belatedly awarded the Good Conduct Medal for my Army service 1957-1959. In 1960 I heard about Nike employment at $1.86 per hour with A Battery 242d Arty. This was not great pay, but I thought about it and the three-month trip to New Mexico, which they called "Troop and Package Training" and then, I went for it.
CBR, ABC, NBC the name does not matter: Itís all bad stuff!
In 1958 I had no idea of what Nike was, but there was an early link at Edgewood, MD. I served two thirty day TDY tours at the Edgewood Arsenal as a medical research volunteer sucking in a variety of toxic chemicals including CN, CS, EA1778, and DM T-792 and ingesting psychochemicals both witting [EA1476] and as it turned out an unwitting one, exemplified by a magic marker spoliation on my file. I also had "Blood test Pathology", the clinical data sheets for both the latter vanished on or about 1966, which is the date on the summary for those tests. I made some of those discoveries when the National Academy of Sciences conducted a health study on us former volunteers. I was able to get my file for a look-see, but the duplicating methods were woefully inadequate. In 1997 I received a second clearer set, which jolted me. However, I found that other than those records I had been virtually erased from the systems including U.S. Personnel, which claimed that my records burned in 1973, and they were the same records the army claimed it could not locate when the National Guard asked for them in 1966. According to Aberdeen the experimentation records I received from them in 1997 no longer existed in their files in 1998. In Nike we all had clearances, my 1969 exiting clearance was Top-Secret, but Army Intelligence, the FBI and the CIA officially informed me that they have no record of my existence.
Clandestine Stuff Woven in to the Innocuous Term: "Riot Gas Exposures"
In 1955 Edgewood, Maryland had a temporary Nike Ajax Site, which was moved in the spring of 1956 to Jacobsonville, MD. An LCA man remembers a fellow Nike crewman [draftee] who was a chemist and soon assigned to the Chemical Warfare Center at Edgewood. Now and then the two ran into each other, but the chemist would not discuss the nature of his new duties. We now know that the work going on there was to counter another Soviet threat, which was so real that experiments there were funded by the CIA and they were done in harmony with Army and other Intelligence Agencies and conducted by the Army Chemical Corps. In the name of National Security experiments were conducted on our own boys and soon things spun out of control there, in fact a full bird and medical doctor, the Director of Research, found himself in such a moral and ethical quandary that he sought private psychiatric counseling to deal with his inner conflicts, according to his son.
The formal volunteer program had a run from 1955-1975, though the LSD and some other programs had ended by 1963. As volunteers, we received promises of medical care and medals, but in the end, all some of us received was letters of Commendation containing the words "above and beyond the call of duty" Öyou bet!
In 1993 the History Channel aired: "Bad Trip to Edgewood." Archival footage showed one soldier under the influence of a psychochemical, adversely affected. He is wearing an ARADCOM patch. IG Report 1975. Pg. 40Pg. 40 "Edgewood Arsenal attempted to secure permission to employ a Nike Site crew as the small unit to be used in the type experiments recommended." Pg. 110 "No further information concerning this correspondence or request for a Nike missile unit participation was found." Pg. 111 "Ö. February 1958 request from the Office of the Chief Chemical Officer to the CG, CONARC, was for personnel from a specific AAA Battalion [Missile Nike] to take part in the test program." "Ö had conducted tests in 1957 on personnel assigned to a Nike Site [radar van operation test]." CRDL Special Publication 2-44  U.S. Army Chemical Center Maryland, entitled: Medical Research Volunteers, Peacetime Heroes: Pg. 10: A picture of "Volunteer in protective clothing testing a protective air lock attached to a NIKE Battery Control Van" "The tests showed that an artilleryman can enter the fresh air lock from a contaminated area, remove his cloths, put on fresh clothing, and take his station at the controls."
Upon nomination in 1999, by a retired Brigadier General who termed my Edgewood service significant, I received as very nice neck medallion, the Chemical Corps Regimental Associationís "Order of the Dragon". I went to the VA for a health evaluation in 1997, but they knew nothing of my "mere" and "alleged exposures" or about Army promises made, or about Edgewood experimentation on our Army soldiers, Airmen and Marines. Interestingly however, in 2005 the DoD was nudged into releasing our names to the VA which began its outreach to us in 2006. The VA letter contained a DoD caution: We could speak to our VA doctors about the tests as they relate to our health, but nothing more or to anyone else. The good news is that in 2002 I had retired SSDI and the SS judge clearly pointed to Edgewood as the source of my medical woes. I am also in receipt of 100% VA disability. The bad news is that I deserved both.
The Nuclear Threats in the and Cold War Era.
In 1945 we had dropped the first two atomic bombs, but in 1949 the Soviets dropped theirs and that led to the real fear that they would build a delivery system in the form of bomber squadrons directed against the U.S. That event was soon followed by the Korean War and it was the impetus for us to move quickly in air defense, particularly in the last ditch effort then limited to radar [Radio Detection and Ranging] controlled 90mm guns. These guns could lob projectiles 14 miles and 30,000 feet up, and the 120mm guns had a ceiling of 58,000 feet, both capable of saturating an area and predicted area, but the rounds could not maneuver, though the target could, thereby potentially evading a hit. This major limitation of air defense would bring about the Nike systems during the period soon known as the "Cold War." During the Korean War, many National Guard units were federalized thus manning their AA guns full time. At wars end their full time mission ended leaving it to the regular army to fill the void. The Guard would be called upon again and soon, as a matter of economy and efficiency in the air defense mission.
Increasing Radar Technology and Anti Aircraft Defense.
A radar transmits radio waves out in a narrow beam, which may hit an object in the air and be reflected back [as a echo] some of the back reflection may be caught, amplified and show up as a blip on the Plan Position Indicator [PPI] scope, which is a Cathode Ray Tube [CRT]. The direction of the beam indicates the direction of the object the time delay and the range of the object. The Moving Target Indicator [MTI] compared one echo to the next. There were two types of radar used the Pulse and the continuous wave Dopplerís. Nike Radars used the pulse type. Short radio waves can be focused into a narrow beam like those of Hercules tracking radars, which both transmitted and received and focused more than 50% of the pulse into a beam less than 1 degree wide horizontally and vertically. The ACQ [sometimes referred to as a surveillance radar] radar beam was about 1 degree wide horizontally, but spread out vertically into a fan shape to detect aircraft near the horizon and higher as well. It had three-antenna revolution per minute speeds: 5, 10, and 15 RPM.
In 1960 the last Skysweeper Battalion in ARADCOM was deactivated in Michigan bringing the antiaircraft gun era to its end while at that time some 35,000 officers and enlisted men were manning Nike Ajax and Hercules Sites. In that year a Nike Hercules Missile made a direct hit on a Corporal Missile over the skies of White Sands. Between 1958 and 1961 selected Ajax batteries were converted to Hercules and by 1963 conversion had been fully accomplished and the remaining Ajax sites had been deactivated and phased out.
Nike Ajax to Nike Hercules
In 1960 I enlisted in the CT National Guard, A Battery, 1st Missile BN, 242d Arty, becoming a radar operator [later fire control operator 16C40] a TO&E slot though in OJT training. Army mission manpower in the early days ran about 120 men per unit, but during the height of the Viet Nam War that was down to as low as 80 men.
German WW II missile technology and the fact that they had developed a jet fighter as well, helped bring Nike Ajax guided missile sites to the U.S., from the feasibility stage in 1945, to the first firing of a [Nike R&D] missile at White Sands in 1946. In 1948 the Bumblebee single motor was developed by Jet Propulsion and Johnís Hopkins University and it was adapted to the Nike program, which led to the firing of a dummy round on 17 June 1948. Then, for the first time, an all Nike components missile was fired in October 1951. Nike successfully engaged a remotely controlled QB-17 bomber over White Sands, NM in April 1952 and that led to an operating system in December 1953 at Ft. Mead, MD and then, on to Nike installed and operational systems in 1954. The systems were also deployed in Germany, Denmark, Italy, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, Greece, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. The last Ajax system to be withdrawn from duty was presented to the Smithsonian Institution.
In 1953 it was determined that the Ajax system could not handle a nuclear warhead. Hercules test firings began in 1955 and the second generation Nike, though with nuclear capability, Nike Hercules became operational for ranges greater than 75 nautical miles in 1958 [a nautical mile is 6,080 feet as compared to 5,280 foot mile we are more familiar with]. The Hercís range was about 90 miles and its first emplacement was in the Chicago defense area. By 1955 batteries became known as Nike A and Nike B, though the Herc was also informally known as Atomic 1. During preparation in a 1955 test firing at White Sands, the liquid propellant missile exploded on the pad killing one and injuring five. That event caused them to consider a solid propellant second stage, which was first tested in 1957 and known as XM-30. By 1958 liquid propellants were eliminated from the Hercules program.
The prime Nike contractors were Western Electric, Bell Telephone Laboratories, which provided guidance systems, and Douglas Aircraft was the subcontractor for airframes. The Hercules had three modes: Surface to Air, Low Altitude, and Surface to Surface. Western Electric built 393 Hercules ground systems. During this era the feuding between rivals "Army and Air Force" re-ignited in that both wanted control of air defense. The Air Force contended that the Herc system duplicated the Air Force BOMARC missile system.
The U.S. Army Air Defense Command
ARAACOM was born in 1950, becoming USARADCOM in 1957, and from 1961 until its demise, it was ARADCOM, which developed the strategy "rings of steel" by overlapping anti-aircraft guns and later missile sites around cities where enemy aircraft approaches were likely to penetrate. ARADCOM succeeded in bringing the Hawk low to medium altitude missile system [developed in 1959 and successfully proving its intercept ability at Kwajalein in 1962] under its control and hoped to bring the anti missile Zeus into its fold as a follow up to Hercules. A Zeus was built and it successfully intercepted an orbiting satellite in the Pacific in 1963. We National Guard technicians accurately saw Zeus or Nike X as our only hope for continued future employment, everyone knew the real threat was Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles [ICBM] and their potential launch from satellites, and we knew too, that bombers were no longer the threat they had potentially been.
Army National Guard Troop & Package Training
In 1960 our unit, A Battery 242d Arty, spent 90 hot summer days at Ft. Bliss and McGregor Range. The unit was practice firing 90 AA at Wellsfleet, MA just a few years earlier. The military knew that air defense guns were no match for jet bomber planes. However, Viet Nam and Iraq have taught us that en-mass they are still fairly effective at lower altitudes.
We flew to and reported in at Ft. Bliss 1st GM Brigade. Troop and Package training at Btry C 4th GM BN at McGregor Range was a new and interesting experience. In most Nike units the Battery Commander was a captain, who had awesome responsibility and a difficult job for such a low rank. The exec was usually a first lieutenant, warhead officer a 2nd Lt., and sites had a couple of IFC warrant officers in fire contro1 maintenance and two in the LCA, section chiefs were E-7ís, maint technicians E-7, E-6, and E-5. Also included was a lst Sgt. E-7 or E8, team or platoon sergeants E-7, Security NCO E-6, assembly NCOís E-6, assembly and maintenance technicians E-5, battery clerk E-4, cooks and security personnel, anywhere from E-2 to E-4. Radar operators to E-4 and senior operators E-5, and others. Many, as is well known in the military, were working in TOE MOS slots not particularly matching their true duties. Later on, MOS testing became a part of the promotion ladder so commanders had to pay more attention to MOS requirements. Before and during the transition, the National Guard placed a high priority on retention of army soldiers who were "short timers" who were already qualified. They particularly sought those with army AD electronics schools training. It took a year of schooling to train a Fire Control Mechanic, thus picking up a fully trained technician was a coup that many commanders pulled off. Having proven themselves capable, the Army began to transfer Nike Hercules to the National Guard in 1962.
In the end, at the "Range", we were successful in downing the RCAT target drones, allocated along with our Nike Ajax missiles. The Range at McGregor had an enlisted menís club. Out of uniform itís hard to identify officers, because they tend to look a lot like enlisted men. They went to our club to enjoy themselves in drunkenness and shot pool like everyone else. One of the guys, well known to all, was drinking up a storm one night and unbeknownst to him everyone contributed to his continuously filled glass. Next morning at five AM he was singing and whistling in the barracks while the perpetrators were puzzled and struggling to get out of their double decker racks.
Sideshows: Letting Off Some Steam
We were also successful in having some fun times in Juarez, and late night/morning taxi rides to McGregor. For some legal reason Mexican registered cabs had to take the dirt road next to the highway making for bumpy and dusty rides. That red dust seeped into everything especially into the wooden barracks and Lord help you if you were at a bus stop when a storm blew, in that the face felt sandblasted. One of those cab rides ended in a minor altercation. I was in pretty good shape, but the guy with me was a goner, hanging out the rear window so far that I had to grab his belt to keep him from becoming road pizza. The tumultuous motion and the booze resulted in a very long slimy slick on the side of the cab for which the driver "rudely" demanded compensation upon our arrival at the Range. My buddy took a roundhouse sucker shot at him, missed, twirled 180 degrees, and like a ballerina gingerly fell into my awaiting arms. I gave the cabby an extra buck and it was all over with a "gracias".
Once we could not afford a cab and missed the last bus out of Ft. Bliss to the Range. This meant a thirty some mile trek or to be listed as AWOL. Five or six miles into it and finally, headlights, a little sports car, top down, pulled up. It was our Battalion Sergeant Major and a CWO. Somehow five of us made it to the Range in a two seater, but three of us had bugs in our teeth.
The Radar Control van contained thousands of indicator lights that kept track of at least as many vacuum tubes. I was a frequent Murine eye drop user due to the dusty conditions in NM. One day in the radar control [RC] van, a guy asked me what was wrong with my face. It seems that those blue overhead lights made green the Murine residue and overflow around my eyes. There was a place in Juarez called the Cave, which had only such blue lighting. I was creative in decorating my face, not seen under ordinary circumstances, and became an instant hit every time I went into that place being greeted with oohís and ahhís.
Our fears were finally realized one day when a guy killed a very large snake found in the latrine shack [outhouse] across the road from the IFC site on the Range. It was interesting to see the skinning process, though I never saw the belt he was going to make.
I was first introduced to tequila in Juarez. In order to determine its potency our bartenders would squirt a trail of it on the bar and then light it. The longer the flame stayed lit the better the tequila, so they said. We would wander from bar to bar "lick the salt, down the shot, suck the lemon", until fallout occurred. Sometimes spontaneous eruption occurred. In one such instance, upon completion of the obligatory lemon suck just after shot number thirteen, one guy let out a flow all over the lap of the young seniorita next to him. In a perfectly understandable mixed language she said "damme un nickel por clean my dress". Thirteen is a lucky number for Mexicans, apparently not so for North Americans.
One of our regular stops was a place named the Green Lantern, which we called the Green Latrine with good cause. The menís room was green and instead of urinals there was a long tile covered wall, which had water dribbling down apparently to wash away urine as it was deposited. The Ginny Club was another favorite. A buddy had rented a car and was temporarily occupying a room there when the Battery Commander showed up and asked me to find the guy for a ride back to McGregor. The BC followed me as I went to knock on the door explaining the circumstances to my friend who responded with fÖ..him. The captain looked a little indignant, but months later he must have felt better when he found a good enough reason to bust the guy down to Sp4. In spite of this, and like me, the guy grew up in Nike, and he exited the military an E-7.
Some of us, because of our age, had never seen a strip show, but as a result of our Juarez experience most, though previously unimaginable, never cared to see another out of pure boredom, wellÖ maybe an Anglo girl would be Ok, such as the night we saw a gorgeous platinum blond who billed herself as a relative of Jean Harlow and her husband manager, claimed to be a cousin of Joe DiMaggio. That show sold out for weeks. There were places that ran around the clock with a different girl every twenty minutes or so. I think there must have been some kind of stripperís co-op probably making the shuttle rounds from place to place. Unless they were slaves, no one could afford to have that many employees. Once we tried to go for a twenty-four hour stint, but bailed out after some eight hours of watching naked bodies. Long before that event I had stopped wearing my eyeglasses, because the strippers were too fond of taking them off my face and placing them in their crotches.
Cabbies often led newcomers to "Cherry Hill" and the infamous donkey show, and very often the cabbies wanted to introduce us to their sisters, we must have made a good first impression. In Juarez some fulfilled everymanís fantasy of three and even foursomes. Though ironic, it was impressive when a girl made the sign of the cross before embarking on the "dirty deed". It must be mentioned that many of the prostitutes in Juarez, like property, were sold into the profession.
Until our first weekend visit to Juarez most of us had never seen a Bullfight and few were enthused thereafter, it just seemed so unfair to the poor animal. I saw both foot and horseback fights [a rarity], and that day a matador was gored in the groin area, not much left to see after all that in just one day. After the fights, having been in cheap seats in the hot sun so long, frozen daiquiris a foot tall were the usual fare at nearby bars. At El Paso I saw my first and last live rodeo, poor critters, but also from what I saw, Evil Knieval was not as tough as some of those cowboys.
My first preview of possible later Alzheimerís, as related the next day, occurred when we "hit" the U.S. checkpoint on the bridge in a cab and they had to take out my ID card because, I did not know if I was a U.S. Citizen. That tequila could be dangerous stuff or, could it have been the worm in the Mescal? The dog track in Juarez offered the new experience of gambling to many of us two-dollar betters who sipped free margaritas and paid more attention to the senioritas than those greyhounds. In Juarez I first ate [yuk!] frogs legs and pheasant, which was appropriately peppered with buckshot, apparently to prove it was a game bird.
Guys often had lingering headaches and were sickened by excess booze. Juarez bartenders knew what to do for hangovers. They made up concoctions, which looked like Bloody Maryís, but topped with a raw egg. We courageously bought foodstuffs bought from street venders who picked their noses and held foods with the same fingers. The Mess Hall at McGregor became a bigger mess when one morning a guy regurgitated a stream that went across three tables. Troops spread out like the parting of the waters. One day at the Ft. Bliss Mess Hall we sat down to eat our breaded pork chops when a guy stopped chewing and started probing the crusty breading to see half a very large cucaracha, whereupon he immediately pulled the neck of his tee shirt forward and puked his guts. We were not as tough as one may think, but we kept right on eating, because we were hungry. However, few of us relished the thought of breaded pork chops thereafter. Like skillful surgeons we would peel back the breading before consuming a bite.
We suffered a casualty in the barracks when one man had his hand on the glass part of the swinging latrine door while another pushed out from his side. An artery was severed as a result creating many instant medics one of them almost choked the poor guy believing he was appropriately stemming the flow of blood with a pressure point on his neck.
There were other kinds of casualties as well. One sergeant proudly announced that he got the crabs at the Range. He eventually became a platoon leader. At BR 17 a sergeant climbed a pole carrying signals between the LCA and the IFC, he slipped and hugged the pole all the way down. The splinters were awful. At BR 04 our mess sergeant attempted to prove he still had the stuff the younger guys were made of and died on the basketball court. Finally, and also at BR 04 our cat mascot was run over by a deuce and a half.
Assumption of the Mission
Upon completion of our training we returned to BR 17 in Milford, CT, built in 1957, relieving the Army troops of the 63rd Artillery Group, thus, becoming an integral part of ARADCOM and the joint U.S. and Canadian North American Air Defense Command [NORAD]. Under NORAD the Air Force was responsible for Area Defense and the Army [ARADCOM] for point defense. In 1966 NORAD moved itís Combat Operations Center into Cheyenne Mountain. Commanding its Distant Early Warning [DEW] line operations from Greenland to Alaska, the Mid-Canada Line extended from Newfoundland across Canada, and to Alaska, Navy picket ships, early warning aircraft, Air Force Texas Towers in the Atlantic and by other methods. NORAD would give Early Warning [EW] to missile sites, preparing them in advance for incoming aircraft. Three Ballistic Missile Early Warning System [BMEWS] radars the length of a football field sites were built during the 1960ís in Alaska, Greenland and in England. Coverage extended out 3,000 miles yielding a 15-20 minute early warning capability.
"Blazing Skies [aggressor engagement], this is a drill" seemed to be the words uttered every day accompanied by the wailing siren on the hill and the barking horn in the barracks. The incessant drilling however made us truly professional missilemen. Under actual imminent firing conditions Battle Stations would be substituted for the words Blazing Skies. We only heard the words "Battle Stations" during the "Cuban Missile Crisis" and on the Range for actual firings.
Missile Battalions consisted of four batteries, which rotated action status. One was "hot" having 15 minutes to achieve ready for action status, two had half an hour, and one had two hours. If the first "hot" unit did not achieve ready for action status others were called up in turn and in their place.
In addition to battery drills we would be called to alert over the radio via tactical headquarters: Blazing Skies, this is a drill. Men would scramble to their duty stations and "pull their checks". One could hear words such as; "Interlock", "AGC", and "Missile AFC". The LCA would move their missiles and when ready for action report to the BCO their "ready" status. The BCO set the status lights at red alert and reported to HQ "battery ready" for action. Targets were assigned, named and plotted: track #2, #3, etc. The ACQ operator determined the Identification Friend or Foe [IFF] and/or Selective Identification Feature [SIF] response of the aircraft. The Missile Tracking Radar [MTR] locked onto a missile, the Target Tracking Radar [TTR] locked on to a target, dealt with jamming performing ECM when encountering it, which often required manual and aided manual tracking to keep the target in the range gate. The X band MTR operator viewed his locked on "target" the missile, echoing back a strong signal to noise ratio much envied by TTR and TRR operators who often did not see so clear a signal even when locked on. The computer settled and the plotting boards and meters displayed the target position, altitude, ground speed, and predicted point of intercept, which when within range was engaged under actual conditions. The TTR had 3 different pulse modes: short, long, and multipulse. The TRR also had two magnetrons for ECM purposes requiring "Simtrack" for short, long, and both with long and short pulse.
To preclude shooting down a friendly whose IFF system may not have been working zig zag safe corridors were established, but in actual combat those planes would probably have been taken out by virtue of the unwritten rule: "Shoot them all down and sort them out on the ground". One early problem with Ajax was that multiple batteries could be engaging the same target letting other targets slip by thus, by the late 1950ís the Interim Battery Data Link [IBDL] system evolved allowing battery commanders to see which targets were being engaged by other batteries, and IBDL was followed by the Missile Master System, while units in smaller defense areas received Battery Integration and Radar Display Equipment [BIRDIE]. In the mid 1960ís a solid state system, Missile Monitor was introduced as a replacement for Missile Master at one tenth the cost. All the former came under AADCP, the heart of the Army Air Defense network, which deployed automatic fire distribution and manual back up systems.
When an actual firing occurred, the plotting pen that had been displaying the predicted point of intercept PDI tracked the missile. The missile soared at 2.6 mach, the booster dropped off and shortly thereafter the sustainer motor started while the computer commanded the missile gyro, gave pitch and yaw steering commands to dive it to the intercept point while the missile was moving at 3.5 mach. The missileís warhead was detonated by the computer generated "Burst Command", which reached it through the MTR, locked on to the missile throughout the mission. When ready for subsequent firing the MTR slewed to the next prepared missile for a second launch or for a new target. Boosters falling from the sky on civilian populations were of some concern in planning Sites. An Ajax booster would land about one mile from the launch site, so they did their best to have a zone, which would preclude civilian casualties.
NG Technicians & SNUFFIES
We technicians were the nucleus of battery personnel backed up by a variety of other Guardsmen, many being dedicated and excellent soldiers and some self-proclaimed draft dodgers among those who were termed SNUFFIES. To meet requirements we had to do Annual Field Training [AFT] as a complete unit and we rarely did it at a full two week clip rather, a few days here and there and we also had our monthly weekend requirements to fulfill. In the end those required days often turned out to be just extra workdays to preclude the granting of "comp time". They got a lot out of us for the money. SNUFFIES usually pulled great weekend duty such as dining room orderly [DRO], kitchen police [KP] and guard duty. Both the Launcher Control Area [LCA [and the Integrated Fire Control [IFC] areas had access gates, though the IFC tended to be called the Main Gate. Each had a small building called the guard shack with enough space for two standing men, an electric space heater and a field telephone, which one had to hand crank to ring the main switchboard and then the operator would make a connection on request. The guard was armed with a carbine, live ammunition, and a key to the usually padlocked access gate. The lock was one of those brass locks from which the key could not be removed unless it was in the locked position. So when the gate was unlocked the lock and key were usually dangling from the guardís web belt. The IFC guard shack was known as Post #1 in Milford, not many feet away was a very long 1,000 plus chicken coop. The farmer sold his eggs on the main road. On those stagnant air summer evenings the smell was equal to the worst chemical warfare agents I had breathed up to that time.
Someone was always assigned to the BC van to man communications, particularly busiest was the switchboard. Calls came in by regular telephone, radio, and inter-battery field phone. In Milford our radio call sign was "Caddy Boy 17".
Fine Dinning and On Site Recreation
The Mess Hall was sparingly used when the Army departed in that we were responsible for our own individual food purchases unless we were activated for training purposes. The Mess Hall was in the IFC area, which meant that LCA personnel had to be bussed up for chow when it was being utilized for active duty stints. When their bus got to the front gate the IFC guys would make a mad dash for the chow hall so that the launcher guys were always at the rear of the line. Some, both Army and NG, survived their tours on pizza. When we took over in Milford the closest food was from the Dairy Queen, which had limited hours and resembled our generator shack. Within a year or two a truck stop was opened and it was the first and only twenty-four hour a day operation in town, a godsend. A new diner opened later and was nearby as well, but it closed a five PM, though they served the best ever roast beef sandwiches on crunchy hard rolls for just 45 cents. Duty drivers were being dispatched for banana boats and coffee runs, and grocery bags full of RB sandwiches. Those runs occurred around the clock when we were on "Hot Battery". The truck stop turned out to be a good place to hit on waitresses who were duly impressed by uniforms. I thought of becoming a State Trooper when I exited the Army, but nearsightedness prevented that so I joined the State Police Auxiliary. At age nineteen I was the youngest sworn Auxiliary ever serving on the narcotics squad [someone made an error] I stayed on for almost six years. One night, on my way to the Site, I stopped for a bite at the all-night truck stop restaurant. A college girl waitress caught my eye, but would not give me a tumble. I pointed out front and asked, "Is that your car?" she said no pointing to another "that one is mine". I took the license plate number, had a State Police ID run on it and called her at home the next day. She was impressed, and that led to a nice relationship, though her very educated parents did not think as highly of my Nike career as I did.
Many regular Army missilemen, for various reasons, stayed on in the areas they had been stationed. They joined the National Guard and took jobs doing what they had been doing all along, but for better pay and more stable hours.
Naturally, there was some local nepotism as there often was in National Guard units. One of our first Sergeants, for example, had a son in the unit. They discovered that they had more in common that their blood when the younger showed up at "his" girlfriends house just as the older was leaving, Rosie was in trouble! These guys had more women, and that made us all a little jealous. As his section chief when the younger reported in for his first "hot battery" [red alert], I jokingly told him to take the station wagon, go to the "big city" nearby and not return without a female. This guy knew how to take orders, and I became quite alarmed to discover that he had actually left the site. Some three hours later he returned with the goods to half my relief, but now what to do with her? Well the guys figured that out pretty quicklyÖto the barbershop.
During the transition period we stocked up on PX items, which would soon no longer be available to us and we learned some valuable lessons from the Army guys, particularly how to shoot pool and how to play ping pong in the Day Room and to play cards in the EM club, which we named the Alfa Club, not sure if it was supposed to be Alpha. Many of us lived in the community, but soon learned about and discovered through the Army guys, new friends and places of enjoyment for those in uniform which we had not been aware of. We realized that the ladder behind the generator shack was used for more than painting high places. It served perfectly for entry and exit over the fence, lean it to and swing it over. When a guest was midway over, a guy would jump up and pull on it, thus the decent into the compound was made with ease like a see saw, only occasionally catching a skirt on the barbed wire.
The ORE [Operation Readiness Evaluation]
The IFC and the LCA had to have a minimum separation of a 1,000 yards or the MTR could not follow the rising missile, would lose lock on, and then within seconds it would self-destruct. With Azimuth, Elevation and Parallax Range set into the analog computer, normally, once a missile bursted the MTR would automatically slew to the next missile on the launch pad. The maximum separation between areas was 6,000 yards. The two separate areas created a natural rivalry, which was actually implemented by the Army. In the beginning personnel were restricted from each otherís areas other than supervised chow runs, etc. This policy was meant as a security measure, but it was what created the separate and unequal mindsets. The departing army troops helped instill certain ideas in the IFC personnel. We were taught LCA personnel recognition, "whenever you see one or more soldiers whose knuckles are dragging the ground then you have seen a launcher crewman". We learned that we [IFC] were "Scope Dopes" and they [LCA] were "Pit Rats".
Army concern about our readiness brought ORE teams in frequently, often by chopper. For this and by reason of our mission we had to provide lists of contact telephone numbers so that we could always be reached. OREís were a necessity though viewed as a common nuisance, which we were able to contain for a time in that ground arriving evaluation teams often stayed at the same cheap nearby motel. The owner must have had some of our people as regular clients because; the motel clerk would call us as soon as the ORE team arrived giving us valuable lead-time to gather the crews. On one ORE occasion a security guard checked out the banana chopper pilotís cabin. I was in the rear of the aircraft as I heard "pilot to co-pilot come in". He did not realize that he was talking through a "piss tube" [airmanís nomenclature].
The ORE team would arrive and announce "Blazing Skies, Simulate Case 3", and if the unit could not achieve a ready for action status within the prescribed stopwatch time all other units would have to come up a notch, and that did not sit well for those who had to come to "hot battery" in lieu of the unit going out of action [O/A]. To avoid that situation units who knew the quirks of their systems sometimes creatively cheated adjustments a bit to stay hot. Failing an ORE had some consequences including retraining. If the failure occurred due to maintenance then maintenance personnel were in the hot seat. In addition to OREís we were also subjected to monthly 24 hour air defense training, early warning board, and plotting board [EWPB] exercises to test the command and control network from EW radars to the firing units.
Physical Property and Duties
During our Hercules transition period we lived on site in concrete block barracks with a slanted roof, nice shower room and toilets made for holding hands with your grunting neighbor, neat little bunks, lockers and footlockers. All the buildings were single story, though the sewage treatment building was often a bit taller, but also concrete block and all were painted that yellowish color.
The Milford Ajax IFC Site, though run down, is intact today, belonging to the City of Milford. Now and then I take a ride up to "the Hill", walk around a bit, sit and relive some memories.
Fun duties there included: Sentry [Guard] duty, Commo Watch [switchboard operator], DRO [dining room orderly] and KP [kitchen police], cleaning the latrines, using famous Army GI lye soap and cleanser, and washing and waxing floors, etc. We had a large buffer most soldiers are familiar with. Buffing floors is an art, which lies in the wrist of the operator, and to increase the cleansing or shining capability the smallest guy would sit on the buffer for extra heavy scrubbing or buffing while another guy operated it.
Many married officers and higher rank enlisted men lived in military housing [Capehart's], which were often near, or abutting the IFC area. Few single officers lived on site, nor did many National Guard enlisted men. Those who did, usually lived in the separate private rooms in the barracks reserved for E-5 NCOís. Higher grades lived in the BOQ. Though a Spec-5, I had a pad in the BOQ, which gave the Site a free guy when needed. Like all Sites we had a barbershop, which served in a dual capacity on some occasions, like when we had unauthorized visitors during "hot battery". They called the goings on in that small room the "barbershop quartet", because the room could not comfortably accommodate much more than four people.
Capehart housing and the site maintenance was handled by R&U, which also had responsibility for repairs and maintenance of the site. Luckily they were located in West Haven the city next to ours. We often received repairs so that they would not have to travel too far away from their HQ, particularly on Fridays. The guy in charge of R&U was enterprising, but was put on the carpet when he put in for some excess government property, particularly the tugboat that he claimed for purposes of unit morale.
Nike Ajax did not have guard dogs, but I decided that I needed to have a large German shepherd to keep me company in the BOQ. I picked up this dog at the pound. He was virtually the size of a Shetland pony. I put him in the back seat of my 58 T-Bird, and upon entry into the IFC front gate he lunged through the open window practically taking off the guards "waving on" hand. He was pretty good with me, but with others it did not go so well. When the medic notified us that he was running out of band-aids it was time for the woofer to take his further chances at the pound.
There was a small room in the administrative building [usually located in the IFC area] dedicated as a dispensary. There we would occasionally get shots and treatment for minor cuts etc. The medic, like others, did double duty. It was rumored that a salve the medic dispensed [tetracaine ointment] would prolong sexual activity; the medic quickly ran out of that stuff.
The Motor Pool was often located in the LCA, because there was usually more room there and possibly, because that area had a lot of tools available. In 1967 I qualified on every vehicle in our inventory, as did others so that we would not ever be delayed due to a lack of qualified drivers. None of us, to my knowledge ever received a driverís badge because none of us were designated as drivers. We did double duty at everything, cross training paid off.
Our NCO club was actually an officer and enlisted menís club, because it was the only club. That room must have been on the drawing board for other purposes because it had double doors wide enough to accommodate our first sergeantís little Renault. He laughed that one off, but when we loaded his car in the closed trailer of a delivery truck he was not amused to find his car at Ft. Totten, NY.
We were always short of vehicles for runs here and there including trips to the ordinance shop. The lieutenant generally called on me and suggested that I hand pump some gas into my T Bird. Thatís when I learned about the low octane ratings on military gasoline, which resulted in a valve job on my 352 horsepower V 8.
The Daily Grind
As a young single guy I thought I was mounting up the favors by working most holidays. In the end I learned the military mentality is "what have you done for me today". On one weekend we experienced a blizzard, which snowed us in and brought out the Red Cross in snowshoes to feed us. One of the older guys [probably forty then] was drinking some coffee which went down the wrong pipe, he whooped a cough and his upper plate went flying and ricochet off the battery control van door landing on the floor in two evenly split pieces, which he immediately re-inserted into his mouth. For three days, whenever he spoke, juices would spew forth from the wide and moving space between his front teeth. We drank a lot of coffee in those days out of those ugly Melmac cups, which could only be broken by a wrecking ball.
One of our BOQ residents was an ordinance parts clerk/supply specialist/aspiring writer and we had another guy in our outfit who could do a really good soprano voice. We had him call the "writer" in a seductively disguised voice at three AM. He directed the "writer" to walk down the entrance road in his bathrobe, because "she" was similarly dressed and ready for his action. He waited a long time, as a matter of fact, until the police arrived to query him about what he was doing on a public street in his robe and no other clothing, uhhh? Lemme thinkÖ.
An hour or so later that morning I received a frantic call from our generator man who had an automobile accident. Three of us rushed to the scene nearby. Seems he was drunk and skidded on a curve going through a metal fence stopping just short of a huge metal natural gas holding ball [tank]. It was hard work, but we got him and his car out of there before being discovered by anyone. Leaving the scene of an accident was certainly not the right thing to do, but such things created the ties that bind in the military community, where young guys are often on the verge of being stockaded for intended or unintended mischievous or outright illegal behavior. Sometimes there were problems in showing up or being there on time. A little earlier in their lives mom and dad called it being late, but the military called it AWOL. In uniform things get serious, but kids are still kids.
The Milford Site was surrounded by a road containing the infamously named "dead mans curve". On two occasions guys went off the cliff, luckily without fatality. Some ten years later the road was finally corrected to reduce that hazard.
One of the ongoing problems on Sites was vegetation growth. We recruited sheep to keep the grass trim however; a broken leg suffered as a result of sheep droppings brought that to an end. Next, we were allowed to bring in prisoners from the county jail. Daily we drove the station wagon to the Bridgeport State Jail armed with riot guns to pick up our crew. One of the prisoners, a numbers guy, was said to be Mafia connected. It was not long until the semi-operational Mess Hall was serving large steaks and under the counter wine to this guy and some of his "pals". One morning, one of the prisoners pleaded with the pick-up detail to make a minor detour so he could say a quick hello to his dad and foolishly they did it. It was not long afterwards when it was discovered that he nearly beat his father to death. That event brought prisoner use to an end. Never deterred from our mission we purchased an old horse driven hay mower from a local farmer, hooked it up to a jeep and cut short our mowing activities, which were augmented by lawnmowers.
There were training exercises conducted to see how well Identification Friend or Foe [IFF] systems were working, how we would react to chaff, rope, angels and to determine our adeptness at electronic Counter Measures [ECM] when subjected to broadband noise and spoofing. In some communities police set up radar units near Sites to catch poor Nike men in a rush to get to work [ORE, etc.] or home.
Site Radars [Nike radar waves traveled in straight lines] it has been alleged, were sometimes purposely beamed to disrupt police radar performance not sure if it worked, but many gave it a go.
Our equipment had to be constantly checked to assure us that everything functioned properly. Checks were called Dailies and when performed "Pulling Dailies", which usually took no more than half an hour.
Now and then they trucked in a T-1 transistorized training trailer. The simulator gave radar operators a work out of up to six aircraft at a time. The targets were produced by the Target Coordinate Generator [TCG] and the T-1 would supply a simulated engagement missile, IF, and lots of ECM. We apparently played video games long before they became popular with civilians. Now and then problems were created in the overall system, which would be best eliminated by pulling the plugs on the T-1.
I was among the first to have a Playboy Club key, which back then stirred up a lot of excitement among the IFC crew. On one Saturday the whole crew, except the guys "pulling duty" boarded the train to NYC. We almost got ourselves ejected from the club for doing the no, no, of patting and pulling on bunny tails. Such things established camaraderie and some long-term friendships, which positively impacted on our mission in many ways.
The Very Serious Side of the Mission in Focus
The "Cuban Missile Crisis" ensued in 1962. The siren went off and for some two weeks we, the home force front line of air defense troops worked four on and four off until our heads were spinning from the Alternate Battery Acquisition Radar [ABAR], LOPAR, ACQ [range about 50 miles], TTR, A-scopes, PPI screens, and eyes became fixed or crossed watching the MTR scope. The high frequency pitch of the syncro resolvers hummed their best to put you to sleep while leaning back in the chair against a "set group" while our headsets squeezed our ears until they pained us.
In addition to other checks every six hours we did the Simultaneous Tracking test. The MTR was set to the skin track mode and it, along with the TTR that tracked targets in azimuth and elevation and the Target Ranging Radar [TRR] [Hercules only] tracked target range and locked on the same target. The BCO could read the voltage differences made in different pulse modes and if a problem arose he had to decide whether or not to accept the system. On one occasion during the crisis there was no IFF response, did we have a boggy? From Battery Commander [BC] on down, hearts started to beat more strongly and great care was taken to lock on with the TTR, operators cranking hand wheel drives to and fro visually frolicking through the "grass" [noise] on the scopes screens. Things certainly were abuzz and then it happened, no more "blazing skies this is a drill", we were in red or "Hot" status, that is actual "Battle Stations". The birds were raised and the order to remove the safety seals and hook up the booster squibs was received with refusal by the LCA NCO. The dissenter was immediately relieved by the battery commander and the next in line did his duty as ordered. None of us could believe that this was actually happening. We were hooked up and ready to fire from a civilian location, but for that red covered button. We were never in a higher DEFCON and we now know how very real that Crisis was and how close we came to actually having to push that red button.
I had been wanting to do something useful with my young life for some time and I had been certified for the Peace Corps. Just a day or two into the Crisis and I received a telegram from Sargent Shriver appointing me to a position in Gabon, French Equatorial Africa. I pondered long and hard deciding that at that particular time I was needed for my Air Defense [AD] skills at BR 17 more that I was needed by my country to build a school in Africa. In retrospect I regret that decision, but it is demonstrative of how we generally felt about our mission and the commitment we gave it at the time.
I was given a break one day during the Crisis, made duty driver and ordered to New Britain to pick up a pouch containing secret documents. I was issued a 45 cal. sidearm and a pump shotgun for my solo trip. This was gooood! I turned on the lights of the staff car [station wagon] and commenced on the Merritt Parkway, which I mistook for the Indy Speedway. On the way back I was pulled over by a state trooper [forgot my badge that day] and though I stopped, I did not get out of the car, nor roll down the window. As he tapped on the window I stupidly placed my right hand on the 45 and with my left hand I pointed to the courier pouch, which was handily, marked "Secret". He was as stupid as I, he thought a second, and then waved me on. Upon my return to the site we read the secret dispatches, which were nearly identical to the information found in the morning "Daily News" NYC newspaper.
During all this, regular duties and maintenance had to be performed including grass cutting details. The back fence area had gotten out of hand reaching a height that could not be cut by a lawnmower so we were given scythes. Shirts stripped and caps on we were cutting away chanting with each swipe: Cuba si, Castro no! Cuba si, Castro no!
Officials suggest that during the Crisis we were never properly called to active duty thus, not eligible for the Expeditionary Medal as were Florida Units who were legitimately called up. In our case we were also ineligible for DOD medals, because the CT National Guard had an established policy of not publishing civilian citations thus, we were precluded from receiving any decorations military or civilian in a traditional Catch 22.
In Nike Hercules there was a need for increased security clearances, many of us held Secret and some of us required Top Secret, and that prompted further interviews by army intelligence and FBI personnel. Most of us knew each other quite well thus, their grilling brought forth more from the forthright than most general background investigations. After some of these sessions we felt a bit dirty and raped, though generally we did our duty by telling the truth, as we knew it.
We were naturally not allowed to discuss our missions with anyone, even within the unit, and we were told to report civilians questioning us regarding our roles. Finally, we were asked to report each other when potentially compromising situations presented themselves. These were usually drunkenness, adultery, other sexuality, finances having potential negative impact, and/or excessive spending. I suppose that overzealous reporting would have resulted in half the battery being investigated and some loosing their clearances.
Maintenance and Calibration in the Fresh Air
We found that there was great participation in collimation, but only in the summer. It so happened that the IFC area was on the highest hill [Eels Hill] in Milford, precluding the need for towers. There were splendid views of surrounding neighborhoods and the pickings to be found therein. Summertime was particularly best suited for this work. When sunbathing breasts were located with the powerful mounted telescope, there was an assembly akin to a chow line. At those times someone would invariably servo the antennae knocking one or more clowns off.
Collimation was actually a boresighting done after leveling the radars [spirit level]. The alignment of telescopes parallel with the radar beam required that the antennas be pointed at each other and the scopes crosshairs aligned and super imposed on each other by eye thus, the units should have been 180 degrees opposite in azimuth and the sum elevation angle indicators [potentiometers] were adjusted for zero. The radar alignment system [providing a common reference point for adjusting radars] was located some 200 yards from the radars often in a separate fenced in area. It was located on a tall mast on which was an RF waveguide for boresighting or aligning the radar beam with the optical axis.
Early Ajax sites had ABAR, ACQ, TTR and MTR antennas that were naked to the wind, while the Herc had zipper entry outer skins on some antennaís, which made the maintenance crews work somewhat more comfortable during inclement weather. The vertical ladders to Herc towers sometimes proved difficult for the weak kneed requiring an adaptation period. The metal ladders were tough on anyone not wearing gloves in cold weather. Our Herc system had a HiPAR, ACQ, TTR, TRR & MTR and later on we received a BIRDIE system.
When it snowed getting to the site was difficult, because of the steep climb to Eels Hill, on top of which our site was located. Going down was even worse, because braking in snow was not easy. At the bottom of the hill there was a stop sign and the crossroad was a busy highway. Coming down the snow laden hill in a VW Beetle I pumped the brakes as I approached the stop sign and then saw lots of traffic, I began to slide, so I purposely plowed into a snow bank in order to stop. To get out of the snow bank required almost Herculean power and wits. I left the door fully open, put it in reverse and the wheels began to spin, I then got out and lifted the front end and bingo, off she went up the hill and as I chased it, the wheels began to spin again and it started sliding back down hill, this time I caught up to her, jumped in zooming through the stop sign and luckily there were no cars coming. Whew, light up a Lucky Strike!
Reveille and Retreat on the Siteís were daily occurrences to the tune of a scratchy bugle recording. Everyone kept close track of their watches so that they would not be caught outside at the appointed times, which required standing at attention and saluting for the duration of the recording. Those in automobiles also had to dismount and salute the flag. As time went on, security guards put the flag up while it was still dark and no one complained.
My first introduction to a fire ladder truck came when our flag got whipped around and tangled on the pole. This happened often on the "hill". The fire department came out, but for some legalistic reason they claimed they could not go up and unravel it. I am not certain why, but it became my job. They shot me up in a bouncy, bouncy manner. Heart in mouth I was able to unravel the flag and bring it down. I had concern about this fear or trepidation regarding height and allayed it soon by skydiving. That reminds me of another bright guy Gordon Liddy who overcame his fear of lightening by tying himself to a tree during a storm. The LCA also had a flagpole, curiously, the ball on the top had holes in it, which could only have been made by bullets, were they made from inside the perimeter or from the outside?
Someone in a position of authority must have remembered my ladder escapade, because in 1962 I was sent to the CT Fire College to train as a fireman for my new duty as site Fire Marshal and Safety NCO. The oil and gasoline fires ruined the finish on my 58 T-Bird, and running up and down the stairs of the training tower with that heavy hose nearly interrupted my cycle of one Lucky Strike cigarette every fifteen minutes or as needed.
"Ö.And Other Duties Assigned".
When I first applied for the job as a National Guard Technician I thought I would be a civilian technician. I did not fully read the contract or job description. It turned out that I served as mail clerk, on the precision drill team, stood for inspections, served as the unit guide-on marching in every local parade virtually every holiday, and of my own volition, I became the site scoutmaster. The drill team was begun by a really sharp LCA MSG, Linwood "Sandy" Costello who served at Iwo Jima, and we also were in the company of SFC William "Bill" Biagioni who parachuted into Normandy on "D" day.
On a formal occasion when we were still State Employees the Governor came to inspect ranks and review the troops. The order "parade rest" was given at an inappropriate time. I snapped forward the staff of the Guide-on, just glancing the passing head of the governor who stopped somewhat shaken, to ask my name and then, he probably did not know what to say, so he commended me on doing a good job, I replied, "thank you, your excellency", and that brought on a lot of ribbing later by those who had no idea of what the appropriate response should have been.
Military rank had very much to do with our positions and civilian pay grades. But sometimes it did not matter except that as always, there were those who coveted being NCOís over being Specialists. My sewing kit was ever ready, because in nine years, I went from Sp4 to Sp5 to Sgt. to SSG and to SP6, and then, retraining under the GI Bill to become an optician, I took a position as LCA security guard [in fact launcher crewman 16C2C and then 16B2C]. Thus, I traveled back a rank at a time [administratively without prejudice] right back to Sp4. Though, when I left the Guard I retained my permanent rank of SSG.
We started out being paid from a special account in the State Air Defense Office through the U.S. Property and Fiscal Office though, assigned as state employees under the State of CT retirement system. Soon thereafter our pay scales came under the Army-Air Force Employees Wage Board. Finally in 1968, we became Federal Employees. I left the program in November 1969, obtained my Opticians license in 1972, and practiced my profession for thirty five years. We all knew this program was going to end and I was ready, though some were not. However, many stayed in the system becoming technicians in armories, in fact of the two recent State of CT Adjutant Generalís were Nike men and one was my former battery commander.
Extra Curricular Activities
Being a Nike Ajax Scoutmaster [1961/62] with two assistants was a fun activity; the kids really enjoyed their closeness to soldiers. We used to march them about and that turned out to be the highlight of their meetings. A beautiful young army widow brought her son by, but he was under age for our troop. Because her husband died in service [we assumed in Southeast Asia] we decided to allow her son to attend meetings. I began dating her despite her ten year seniority and later learned that her husband drowned in a fishing accident while stationed at Ft. Benning. Our Medic/MTR and TTR operators were my assistant scoutmasters. For two years we went to the annual jamboree [campout] upstate. There, for two weeks overall, we guys were getting a little bored after day two, so we went AWOL late at night. The only thing open within twenty miles was a strip joint and hey! that was alright with us. Getting back to our specific campsite proved almost as difficult as a night compass course during bivouac. Everyone there expected that a twenty-mile march would be no problem for GIís, wrong! It was a hell of a trek ending with the last mile going up a mountain carrying at least three extra acquired canteens and one kid on my back. In the following year we were on our way to the jamboree as extras, but somehow we ended up in Niagara Falls, no more jamborees for us we thought to ourselves, as we descended into the falls by helicopter. One of my scouts later went to West Point and as a full Colonel he confided in me that it was my example that led him to the military, whew! this was a humbling experience reinforcing that sometimes all is not for naught. He called me from the Embassy in Cairo with an invitation to stay at his apartment for a couple of weeks. My son and I went and had a great time beginning with being met at the airport by a bulletproof staff car with flags flapping in the breeze.
On one sunny day a dummy [luckily] Nike Ajax Missile dislodged from itís in transient lowboy trailer onto a street in Milford. People came from miles around to view this event. Secrecy prevented their knowing better, but many civilians thought they had a "nuc" lying on their street. That street just happened to be the one where the woman I married in 1971 was living. Imagine, I drove by there frequently in a jeep to the LCA, perhaps purposely not noticing the cute little girl making mud pies or selling lemon aid who would one day be my wife.
Earlier in 1955 B Battery 602d, later C battery of the 36th, from its temporary site at Ft. Mead launched an Ajax missile in error causing unit personnel to clean debris for days from the Baltimore Washington Expressway. In South Korea  , after standing down from Battle Stations a Hercules missile took off, it did not fail safe, but it did come apart leaving debris all over the countryside and in the nearby town.
Some Ajax and Hercules Specifications and Capabilities
When armed the Ajax Missile MIM 3A had three high explosive fragmentation warheads mounted in the nose, center and aft sections containing 330 pounds of explosive [HE]. It was 392 inches long with the booster and weighed 2,259 pounds. Its altitude ceiling was 60,000 feet and range was 25 to 30 miles traveling at 2.3 mach.
The Hercules MIM 14B conventional T-45 warhead weighed 1106 pounds containing some 650 pounds of HBX explosive and 20,000 steel fragments. The nuclear warhead W-31 was available with as low as 2 kila tons, and moving up to 20 kt, and 30-40 kt. It was 478 inches long and weighed 10,711 pounds having a altitude ceiling of 100,000 feet and a range of over 75 miles traveling at mach 3.65.
The reason that we required a nuclear capability went beyond shooting down a squadron at a pop. Once an aircraft was hit by debris it could conceivably come down detonating its fully armed nuclear payload anyway. Hitting it with a nuc fireball, it was thought, would also incinerate the enemy bomb load, which may have exposed us to fallout, but not certain destruction in that we had a fallout shelter.
The Hercules Missile could also have been used in a surface-to-surface mission [range about 110 miles] firing conventional or tactical nuclear warheads against concentrations of enemy troops, armored vehicles, and other targets.
Ajax Wind-down and Decommission
I well remember the day in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. I pulled up to the Milford Ajax Site front gate and the guard said: Did you hear the presidentís been shot? Before I could answer the siren went off, I quickly drove up to the generator shack, which was already cranking out 400mz, I abandoned the car, leaving the door ajar, and ran to my duty station. After completion of all checks and when all the "ready for action reports" were made, I was finally filled in on the Dallas details.
In 1963 I went to CBR School at Ft. McClellan and then became the Battalion CBR NCO. Part of my training was to radiacmeter locate a radiological sample from a helicopter, hand recover it and proudly announce my find, was there danger? Who cared, we were men.
Soon thereafter, we began Ajax phase-out preparing to take over BR 04 Nike Hercules in Ansonia, CT as Battery D 1st BN Herc 192D Arty. During that phase- out we were instructed to bring considerable Nike Ajax equipment to Ft. Devens, MA on deuce and a halfís. On one such trip we arrived a little late and there were no men nor was a cherry picker available to unload materials, which included a generator. The OIC directed the driver to pull forward, race in reverse and then hit the brakes "real hard". It did not seem to be the appropriate method to unload, but he was an officer. On one trip we stayed overnight in "guest quarters", you guessed it! Barracks, no blankets or linen. On our way back the following morning, no shave and generally a bit grubby, we stopped at the State Armory in Hartford for some business, but first, downstairs for a cup of coffee and a doughnut. Eyeglasses in my pocket, I saw this old guy with silver shine on his shoulders and poked the guy next to me: "look at that old captain", he heard me. Turned out he was a general and not very pleased with our appearance either. We heard about that as soon as we "hit" the front gate on our return to the site.
Most of us were young single guys so there were always some activities for us, particularly outside stag parties. When revealed that a stripper would be there few could say no. "Sally the Shape, 48 by the Tape", brought out virtually the whole crew for one stag. Her big thing was to come up from behind and whack you on the head with one or both breasts. Another stag was held in a Legion Hall, which had a raised stage and a grand piano. The dancer? called the prospective groom to the stage, had him mount the piano in a kneeling position while she began to inspect in an area equal to her head height. At first he was laughing, but then swung his arm around and over to cover his eyes. The guys went wild, but it seemed that the prospective in-laws thought that Nike men were degenerates; in this case I suppose they were right.
Our medic now retired after 38 years of service, most as a recruiter decided to throw a stag party for me, the only one I know of to have been held on a Site. We had chow in the Mess Hall, pink champagne [mixed 7UP and red table wine], and then entertainment in the nearly abandoned barracks. The three entertainers were sort of cleaning the deck in writhing frenzy and then disappeared one at a time, apparently to check the bunks in the BOQ. Guys kept disappearing too; they must have been helping the ladies make the beds.
At BR 17 [Ajax] the only fallout shelters available were the Launcher Magazines [frequently termed missile pits] in which the Nike system used "Zero Length Launchers". The pits were between 49 feet in length and 60 feet in width. Many Ajax pits were modified for Hercules to 63 feet in width. Standard Hercules sites were 62 feet in length 68 feet in width all being 30 feet below ground though some Sites had above ground storage. Magazines had elevators, which brought up missiles in the horizontal position then slid along the railing onto the launcher rails parallel to the elevator. The magazines came about because of the high acquisition costs for land in some areas. During periods of training and certain exercises IFC guys had to sometimes stay in those holes [pits]] overnight sleeping next to birds and elevators. Some Sites had Gas Drills and/or Radiation Drills wherein troops were required to operate the system under M-17 A1 or A1 A gas masks. Communications were labored as one may imagine. There were usually not many amenities or buildings in the LCA. Often near launchers stood a Launcher Control trailer, a generator building, and below were the barracks. The Warhead Building was interesting; because Ajax missiles were actually assembled there and then the Hercules warheads were installed in that building. The plain Herc nose spike warhead was conventional and the fancy one was for special loads. Ajax missiles required special handling and rubber suits for those doing the fueling because of the highly dangerous, explosive and corrosive materials being used: M-3 or JP4 jet fuel, starter fluid: unsymmetricaldimethyl hydrazine [UDMH], and red fuming nitric acid [IRFNA]. For that reason an earth Bern was use to surround the fueling area. In the event of an accidental explosion the force would be channeled upwards. When Hercules replaced the Ajax the Bern was used for assembly and warheading when the explosive parts of the missile were assembled.
Changeover to the Hercules and School Days
BR 04 Ansonia was an Improved Hercules System Site [first introduced in 1961], with a fancy IFC Fallout Shelter connected to the vans [a concrete bunker with some sixty days of rations, canned water, gas masks M-17 type, Geiger counters or radiacmeters and pocket Dosimeters. We had a High Powered Acquisition Radar L Band [HIPAR] Acquisition Radar [range was 150+ miles], TRR, TTR, MTR, other first class goodies, and even German Shepard guard dogs. We were then part of the 192d Arty. We spent up to nine days in a row in that shelter where my fondness for C-rations developed. Even now I order an occasional case of MREís as a nostalgic trip, but today, no cigarettes, what a wimp army this has become. The transition from Ajax to Hercules went smoothly. Technicians were harvested from CT Sites and luckily the army yielded some skilled labor. When their time was up, many RA soldiers stayed on as NG Technicians. Tony DíAmato was one of them, and he ended up retiring as a top Sergeant.
In 1965 I went to Ft. Bliss to train as a Fire Control Mechanic [often called chassis changers]. I attended the Improved Nike Hercules Fire Control System Maintenance Course 44-N-226.1, which led to MOS 23G40. A Northern boy I drove our new MGB to El Paso. Once in Texas we saw a large cow ranch with a roadside stand "Texas Broiled Steaks" and came to a halt. Unfortunately they must have killed the steer that day, because the huge slab of meat flowing over my plate had a gamey flavor that did not sit nearly as well as "aged" Long Island steaks. At Ft. Bliss I found that the speed limit on the post degraded The MGís performance and its height from the ground made it very hot driving when the temperatures soared over 100 degrees. I paid a visit to "Smithy...the walking manís friend" and traded for a white Caddy [a New Mexico car] with air. When I had it serviced, Cortesia Cadillac provided a chauffeur driven black limo to drop me off for schooling at Radar Park. These events turned heads that brought forth salutes before they could see my chevrons.
I heard that one could have a car interior roll and pleated in Juarez for less than a hundred dollars. My Caddy ended up looking like a pimpís car with white seats and dash for just sixty dollars. The customs agent at the border did not agree with the receipt however. He told me to pay the tax on a three hundred dollar job or he would have to impound the car and have a local upholsterer appraise the work. I paid, but kept thinking extortion!
It was not a good idea to bring your car into Mexico, because of the high incidence of theft and worse, an accident was a crime there thus, cars involved in accidents were subject to impounding and/or confiscation. American insurance companies often put mileage limits on their policies therefore, not many strayed too far into the interior to see the real beauty of Mexico and the true charm of its people. What we saw was what they correctly perceived the majority of GIís wanted to see. Mexican border towns are a bit like an adult Disney World combined with discount city and the Las Vegas chicken ranch.
Many of us got hassled at the border, often rightfully so for failing to declare items, and for possessing illegal items, or bringing more booze across than was allowable during a thirty day period. On one border crossing they took a whip from me, which unbeknownst to me, contained a concealed blade in its handle. I was angry that they were able to confiscate my whip and for not having known about my "bonus". On another occasion during the mad rush across the border three of us with gallon jugs of booze ran into each other. In the still that immediately followed we were saddened to see three gallons of liquid spirits languishing on a concrete floor seeping down into the drains, which were handily installed for these occasions no doubt. Some guys tried to run booze across the border by renting a car and filling the trunk. Somehow the customs people always knew, they were probably tipped off by the sellers for a reward. During my year there I filled my monthly allotment on a consistent basis though in quart sizes including many bottles of expensive liqueurs bought cheaply bought. I purchased a quantity of GI socks from the quartermaster and when I headed home a year later I slipped the bottles into socks and stacked them in the trunk. My sixties Caddy looked like a 1950ís car lowered in the back. I did not realize it then, but state after state I was breaking the law by possessing untaxed liqueur.
Just home from a "school day" at "Bliss" in 1965 I was cooking a steak on the outdoor grill, telephone in hand, I heard firsthand that the entire Northeast was in a blackout and that our unit was called up to "Hot Battery" for fear of sabotage. I was glad not to have to hear those generators operating twenty-four hours a day. And that reminded me of the day we were pulling a 400KW generator for outside maintenance in Milford. I was backing up the Stake and Plank truck; the cherry picker had the generator in the air for placement on the bed. The NCOIC was saying come-on, come-on, and ding, the truck lightly whacked the unit, the cable slipped and down she went into a pile of junk. There was an investigation, which luckily, went well for me.
Frenzy of Activity for the "Sarge".
My tour of duty at Ft. Bliss in 1965 was a busy year for me, including service as CQ. During one of my tours a MSG committed suicide. The event went unheard in that he must have shot himself as B-52ís did their daily landing and take offís next door at Biggs AFB, which was a part of SAC. They literally shook the concrete barracks every couple of minutes for about a half an hour. To demonstrate how callous and military I was at the time, when I saw the sergeant lying in a pool of plasma separated blood the first thing I noticed was that he shot himself "off center" only near the middle of the forehead. In any event his wound was unusual, because military menís suicides were usually inflicted with a bullet in the temple and these days through the roof of the mouth. I secured the building, posted guards and notified the MPís and the CO. I received numerous telephone calls about the suicide indicating that the MPís were a loose lip outfit. One call came from a purported colonel asking all sorts of questions, but I told him to present at the barracks and identify himself. He began chewing me out so, thinking he was a reporter, I hung up on him. I think he, on rethinking the situation, had something to do with Letter of Commendation I received from the CO after my departure from Ft. Bliss. The Letter of Commendation was received with a written Cross Endorsement by my NG Battery Commander. Belatedly I received the Army Commendation Medal. Also belatedly for that same year I received the National Defense Service Medal, and State Selected Reserve Force Medal and Wartime Service Medal.
Due to the Viet Nam war Ft. Bliss was acutely short of NCOís so I was tapped to be a Drill Sergeant for troops just out of basic and assigned to the AD School. This was not a Basic Training area so we made quite a hit on Saturdays doing left, right flanking and oblique marching movements to the sound of cadence. By our second and subsequent appearances we were drawing larger and larger audiences and frankly, I reveled in this along with doing inspections with the CO and often on my own. My earlier training as a 3rd Division Infantryman and my participation on the Milford Nike Site precision drill team had fully prepared me for these duties.
I received word that a family friend was in basic training on the other side of the post. During the Viet Nam war era buildup the Ft. Bliss 1st Guided Missile Brigade had opened a basic training center. On a Saturday afternoon "this" sergeant marched into the orderly room and liberated him for a "confidential matter". I am not sure how I got away with that or why I took the chance to do it, but that kid sure appreciated his first afternoon of R&R in Juarez. At the time I was driving my MGB convertible a little too fast and was stopped for speeding on Dyer by a motorcycle cop. Luckily he was kind and let the Sarge off with a warning.
Also, that year I completed both IFC and LCA U.S. Army Air Defense School correspondence courses, which further led to later qualification as "First Class" missileman in both. In 1997 I contacted the National Guard and asked for my long overdue badges. They informed me those badges were now out of inventory, but that I could purchase them at an Army & Navy store. I petitioned the Army and received them at long last. funny they had an inventory? Also in 1965 I completed a Department of the Army 20 hour Map-Reading course, and I sat for and received 24 USAFI college credits. I also served as Assistant Class leader at the "Park" where our class consisted of Danes, Italians, and Americans. The AD School itself however, had many other nationalities, which were nasally identifiable when walking along the corridors. I was appointed to and served two terms on the Character Guidance Council [sir, who me?] of the 2nd Student Enlisted Battery.
Divorce, Wedding Bells and in the Clouds
With this schedule, as one might expect, my marriage suffered and I got divorced. Just a quick day trip to Juarez did the trick, but we were also re-married that year at the Ft. Bliss Chapel and my best man was a classmate from Denmark. At my behest, two Italian classmates came over and cooked an Italian meal for us and particularly for themselves, in that our army chow was not quite their forte. I have to admit I was distressed to see them dice up a beautiful steak and dump it into their version of "gravy". Seems we Americans know Italian food and they did not!
Between the foregoing events this, then single sergeant frequented some of El Pasoís joints getting myself picked up at one bar. In she walked tall, blond, blue eyed and very beautiful, everything a visual that guy like me would want. She walked slowly towards me, stopped, and asked if I wanted a date [hmmm, a working girl I thought to myself], but instead we actually went on a date to a place in Mexico where you drive your car practically into your motel room. Since she was driving and purposely to a place like that, I correctly suspected that she was married. But, there was more. At one point she told me she had cancer, apparently to excuse her impulsive behavior. I took another look at her and thought, hey! I can live with that. Her cancer wasnít. She had a son who later became a well-known screen star. I had a great time, and she bought!
Ft. Bliss  had a parachute club offering cheap drops. I had earlier logbook credentials from Orange, MA so I took a jump there, but learned that the wind in Texas shifted quickly. I was not well prepared for that rear end landing in a cactus patch, which required standing or hunching over my desk for a few days during the basic electronics lectures of the 23G40 course. There was a certain sadness to graduating and having to leave Ft. Bliss and that was later compounded by the Letter of Commendation I received from my CO, a first for my unit. But, it was great to know that I did a good job, which was both appreciated and that I was well liked. My wife and I left El Paso early in the day, but when darkness came on we were still in Texas, itís a big state.
Back to the Grind, SNAPís and Letting Off Steam
No sooner had I gotten back to my outfit in Ansonia, I was appointed to the "Yellow Team" with access to the keys to nuclear weapons, and then we were notified of SNAP, which was often more than an annual event for us. Because I had just returned from school there, and perhaps not up to snuff on the drills, they decided to let me stay home, their decision was good for me. Turned out that 1966 would be the only SNAP I missed and it was the only year our unit blew it. It was kind of embarrassing to be relieved for retaining after six years of meeting our mission goals.
From our first SNAP onward I was "the" expert on the event recorder and switchboard. So even when I became a maintenance man I continued in that role. Adjusting the plotting boards and "galvanometer zero" became my forte. Now and then those SNAP trips became eventful. Once we took off from a little airport in Bridgeport, CT on a four-engine plane [Hawaiian National Airlines had the contract]. It was so overloaded that like a giant albatross it barely had enough runway for a lift off. On another occasion an engine was shut down, because of a huge oil slick on the wing, and we also made some unscheduled landings in the boondocks of Oklahoma and elsewhere for undivulged reasons on more than a couple of occasions. Some of these places seemed to have been intact though not well maintained WW II era air bases. On one trip a good friend was on his first SNAP and his very first plane ride, he was visibly scared and seated directly in front of me. As the pilot accelerated to begin his runway speed I pushed my friendís seat reclining button and pulled the headrest fully backwards whereupon he let out a horrific scream to the amusement of all, he seemed to settle down after that. Though tension filled, we all viewed SNAP as a free vacation, because the final couple of days at Ft. Bliss and Juarez were always a "blow out".
In Juarez, shopping lists in hand, some of us would make the rounds in groups, which started out with a "Tom Collins" at the first bar we ran into. Then, on to the Florida Club. For $2.75 we had another cocktail, salad, bacon wrapped filet mignon, baked potato, hard roll, coffee and desert, and you guessed it, we left a whole three dollars. During one dinning experience there, Tony DíAmato must have had more than one Tom Collins. He was looking around on the floor and said l lost my "nitchkin". To this day I say that for the fun of it and until now only my wife knew about its origin.
Roaming around town was fun, but evading beggars was difficult. We learned a lot about bartering after being gouged once or twice. Previously in our lives few of us ever had a price quoted, which was not a firm or fair price, so we had to learn the true value of things by offering next to nothing and working up as they worked down.
We would go joint-to-joint drinking tequila shots and most, sampling the other delights offered in those places. Some of those samples turned nasty. Reporting gonorrhea to military authorities had consequences, so some would go to Juarez doctors who would scam the guys with short shots of penicillin thus, having them visit weekly. Those who got to know pimps in the clubs would be taken to local pharmacies for full shots and quick cures [though not without danger], and a few married guys got preventive shots "just in case" prior to departure. Today the fear of Hepatitis and particularly Aids would preclude such stupidity, but back then? In Juarez there was a place called the "Wall". The "fools wall" I called it, was a place on a side street where a drunk would place his tool and hoped that Monica was on the other side, while at the same time making a purchase of roast pork on a hard roll from a street vendor whose hands were not much washed and if they were, based on the color of the water in their canals, that would probably have been a fruitless effort anyway.
It always happens, despite warnings, but one of our guys, fell in love with one of "those" girls. He had to pull a lot of strings to get her out of her contractual arrangements and out of the country, to legally bring her to the U.S., but somehow they pulled it off and from last reports they were living a happily married life.
Back home and quite by accident a young woman [Ann Margaret look alike] told me about her impending Mexican divorce just as I had been notified of SNAP. We met in El Paso and at her insistence went to all the usual places in the "ZOO". She made a big hit with the working girls leaving them practically all her jewelry as presents. The guys all envied me wondering where in El Paso I might have picked up this red haired beauty. For that occasion I rented a new red Mustang convertible, it was a dream machine and she was a honey.
In Juarez barbershops most of us experienced our first facials [guys getting facials?], manicures, pedicures, and a straight razor shaves. The shave seemed to last for days for some of us younger guys. A shoeshine was obligatory there, being offered on every street corner and in all the bars. A character also went from bar to bar offering to re-energize us with battery operated electrically charged handles, and that succeeded in initiating betting games on who could hold on the longest without breaking a wrist.
Juarez also had a less seamier side, which my Italian classmates had found back in 1965. The girls were like those in the U.S., just young girls wanting to meet "nice" young guys in places that served soda and ice cream. There were also nice places outside of town in picnic area groves that had Maruichi bands, singing, dancing, cerveza, other drink, food stuffs unknown back home and naturally, our bait, women!
Some of the legitimate nightclubs in Juarez had big name performers including a relative newcomer whom I saw one night, young Wayne Newton played every instrument in the band. There was a restaurant owned by my El Paso landlord  that catered to the likes of Dan Blocker of Bonanza fame [TV] and other stars whose pictures adorned the walls. This place was more Spanish than Mexican reflecting the ownerís heritage. At this restaurant you drank wine via a pattern established in swirling motion on the face. The wine poured from a small opening in the unusual styled bottle. Once the pattern was established wine was poured only at the beginning and it would then flow round and round until it reached the mouth. Mastering the technique took time and ruined many light colored tops and white shirts.
The Ft. Bliss and the El Paso area offered us more than drunken jaunts across the border. The Post movie was cheap and the movie theater in El Paso was a beautiful old time work of art where I saw the thriller "Psycho". The tramway was a pleasant ride and a way to gain an overview of the city. Nearby was an area where many illegally picked young cactus bringing it home in their suitcases. The Post NCO Club had a lot to offer too, quality though cheap drinks and live entertainment, often first class stuff, especially the Country & Western stars.
Being a semi-civilian I passed up post barbershops, because I was no longer interested in whitewalls, so I got my first off-post haircut in Texas on Dyer Street and that was also the first time my hair was cut by a well-endowed Anglo female. Yep, she gave me whitewalls, but somehow it did not matter, the experience did.
Most who were in the Ft. Bliss area made it to White Sands and that could give one a mild preview of "Desert Storm" living, but that event was still a long way off. Long before TVís X-Files some of us visited Roswell to discover that we were the only aliens there. Carlsbad Caverns was of interest, particularly the daily "bat show". But, back to being guys, instead of innocent tourists. In New Mexico we found what most of us had never seen before, a "topless joint" fully stocked with Anglo women.
The On-Site Mission Continues
The BR 04 Ansonia IFC was out of action during a hurricane necessitating my climb up the tower to work on the TTR. Doing an adjustment with a long screwdriver the wind actually moved me enough so that I jammed an 18kv power supply, which jolted me aback, and that unhinged the locking mechanism on the overhead access panel pushing me into the electronics, where are the other two stooges when you need them? I guess I was out for a minute or two, but then responding to frantic calls from below I rose, answered and continued my work somehow bringing us back on line. Often times we "chassis changers" needed upper echelon help, which came from Ordinance Support. In my Ajax days they were conveniently based in the same community. The Ordinance Teams were usually civilians and had hours almost as lousy as ours.
We did not know much about OSHA then, so things like lead soldering in confined spaces and using asbestos as heat shields were normal. We also were not aware that our generator shack fire extinguishers produced phosgene gas when used on fires, and had we these things probably would not have concerned us much. We also took our radar baths like men. Oh yes! we wore those film badges for awhile, but then they were collected and gone. I could find nothing in my National Guard file about exposures or cumulative dose rates either and doubt that anyone will. We "real men" did not wear, hearing protection when working in the generator shack either. Sites were on commercial power whenever practicable, but when "hot", we were not. We did not eat it, so the lead based paints used everywhere were probably not too harmful to us either. Virtually all of us smoked and ate in the IFC corridor. We smokers used burned out and gutted five hundred dollar radioactive modulator tubes as ashtrays, disposing of the guts in a proper receptacle of the day, the common garbage can.
We were required to exchange magnetrons weighing some 30 pounds, which were reworked due to their cost of some $17,000, back then. If one forgot to remove their watch before touching the "magge" it was a goner for most. I lost one that way in my early radar operator days. The multi-cavity magnetron was British developed in 1939. In 1937 the Klystron was developed by the Varian brothers in the U.S. and the Reflex Klystron was developed in 1939 by Sutton in England. Klystrons were used in the HIPAR. In 1938 the U.S. Army produced anti-aircraft fire control radars and the U.S. Navy had operational shipboard radar on the USS New York.
Western Electric and Raytheon continued to make a lot of money on parts, modifications, and improvements even after the installation of Nike Sites were completed. The primary subcontractor, Douglas Aircraft built 13,714 missiles. Some 350 missile batteries were produced. By 1958, when Herc was introduced, 200 Ajax batteries had been deployed in the U.S. The last U.S. Ajax battery Site N-63 guarding Norfolk, VA was phased out in late 1963.
Conflicts and Stress
It is commonly known that enlisted men resent and some hate their officers and sometimes NCOís as well. We particularly disliked ORE staff some of whom would ceremoniously hang their ornate scrambled egg hats in the corridor between IFC vans. It was always someoneís job to crimp the braids on field grade officerís hats with pliers, ever handy in that location. Lower grade officers were sometimes treated to special coffee. The corridor also served as the ordinance parts supply room, where tubes, chassis, and other repair and replacement items were stored and accounted for. In addition the corridor also served as a work area for soldering and other equipment repairs.
One lower grade enlisted man very much disliked his platoon sergeant, who made it a weekly habit to find one guy to pick on constantly. One week the designated guy was our cook who got wind of the sergeantís birthday. The cook made up a beautifully frosted sheet cake. The whole launcher platoon sang happy birthday and then the Sarge cut his cake. He sawed, hacked and struggled to no avail, because the innards contained only cardboard.
Demonstrative of the level of stress, one of our battery commanders showed his devotion to duty and the seriousness of it by routinely becoming stomach sick when an ORE team arrived, frequently upchucking in the orderly room toilet before assuming his post on the hill. Nike service toughened him, he later moved into the state hierarchy.
Another battery commander who must have been the oldest captain in service had an occasional drinking problem and is known to be the only living person to have broken his left arm on a stop sign while driving his car. Trooper that he was, the following day he led the unit in a local parade, arm in cast and sling. I was the guide-on in that parade and attempting to follow his pace I finally decided to give up "skip and hop" and made my own, which the troops followed nicely that particular day.
Security and Training
For some reason when planning Nike Sites there was not much consideration given to physical defenses in that all Sites were most vulnerable to hypothetical ground attack by mortar or other means, terrorism was not much considered. In fact though, a few rifle rounds fired at a radar or van could easily have put a unit out of action [O/A]. Yes, wise security planning left us with an airport on one side of the Ansonia Nike Site and a Rod & Gun Club just outside the IFC fence line. Both IFC and LCA areas were surrounded by chain link fencing and the Herc LCA had a fence within the fence around the magazines. From the IFC ACQ tower one could shoot at the leftover targets on the small arms range of the Rod & Gun Club. We also formally familiarized on that range with 45 cal. sidearms and riot guns [pump shot guns]. In addition we annually qualified with small arms [carbine] at the designated State Firing Range using the very latest in ear protectionÖthe cotton swab. On one such occasion there was a carbine banana clip being passed around. Evaluators were hard pressed to explain so many "bulls" in just one set, Ö.a few of us made expert that year.
Some staff officer decided that we Nike Men needed occasional "riot gas" exposure training. I for one had all the CS exposures one could ever want at the US Army Chemical Warfare Center  and at Ft. McClellan . In fact, I was one of ninety-nine subjects tested with CS before it was released for general use by the army. [It has since been banned for military use at the Paris Conference however; Police departments everywhere employ it today]. So there I was, this time in a tent instead of a chamber reciting name, rank, serial number, and my General Orders, this time as a Nike man. At Ft. McClellan, I also received a wrist application of H-Mustard, which erupted into an edema filled balloon. Since then they have found that H causes cancer so they have discontinued that phase of training. At McClellan, using show and tell training methods, we had the "? pleasure" of seeing a rabbit convulse and die and we observed a goat that reached deathís threshold save for the atropine given it by a kindly sergeant. Under mask, but in the absence of protective clothing we learned that GB [Saran] could be hazardous to animals and humans as well. I must admit that at times I thought to myself, why bother training with all this antiquated stuff? In light of recent worldwide terrorism, it must be admitted that NBC [as it is now termed] will probably be a threat forever, because the formulas are well known and the agents and materials are as harmful now as they always were. Woe to us when they are in unfriendly hands.
The Milford IFC [1960-63] front gate was generally, though legally abandoned by security after regular duty hours in favor of perimeter patrol. Gaining access to the site depended on whether or not the bell worked. There were planned and implemented Site Penetrations as part of site security exercises. The OD on one memorable occasion was a "slick" warrant officer who decided to make a penetration by climbing the front gate. When he arrived on the hill with his face scrapped and bleeding we could only feign pity while laughing inside.
Personal Wind-Down in Stages
In 1967 I left the Ansonia Site a couple of times, once for employment with the Western Electric Company, a name familiar to Nike men who read equipment labels, then I joined the local Fire and thereafter, the Police Department, but soon I returned to the Site opting for a job as an LCA security guard, which meant a couple of rank busts without prejudice, but this gave me the hours I needed to use my GI Bill benefits to retrain in still another field. We all knew Nike would end as would the Vietnam War and they nearly coincided it seems. I left earlier, but finally in 1969 and I have been in practice [I think that means one learns every day by doing] as an Optician since passing my State licensure examination in 1972.
There were three of us on security who were also special police officers in different communities. As expected by the reader, we all had our 38 or 357 revolvers with us during our tours under one pretense or another, though usually under the guise of needing to clean them on our off times, but it was probably a testosterone thing.
Security in guarding nuclear weaponry consisted of four on, and four off, twenty-four hour duty. The dog handlers received time clocks and keys to insure that they were making their rounds. Being the new guy on that block I thought it curious that there were only dog tracks in the snow. In this isolated case the OD also noticed that security was only half performed learning that the dog handler had all the clock stations in the guard shack [Guard Post #4] punching in hourly and letting the dog out to make rounds. Post #4 was the access gate to the magazines. It was more spacious than the other guard shacks and seemed to have a better heater. There was always a guard there and during the nights dog handlers would breeze in an out between rounds with their German shepherds. I always liked a challenge and mine was to be able to go into the kennels and be accepted by the dogs. Those little dog candies eventually did the trick for me.
We had a young platoon leader who thought we were West Point Cadets; He was much resented so his mailbox was always filled with unordered [by him] subscriptions and other mail order goodies for which he was billed. This guy received the maximum known interbattery raspberry calls ever, at all hours, and then long distance calls to his home, and that went on for a very long time. When "caller ID" arrived he must have said to himself where was it when I needed it?
The Long and the Short of it.
I know a reader unfamiliar with our service would think that we were useless drunks, pranksters and womanizers and that is partly true, but in fact we were highly trained specialists performing a mission for the DOD to deter our enemies and to defend against them. We were also doing it at a lesser cost than before and with increased efficiency, because we had a high retention rate, thus a lower training and retraining rate, and manning requirements were considerably less as well. 48 full time technicians ran the Ajax Sites augmented by a similar number of other National Guardsmen who worked there on weekends and two full time weeks annually. We ran things much like the army did before us but, for the amount of work and time spent on that mission, we too, were underpaid and under appreciated for our efforts.
Cross training in particular, served the batteries well in that vacations and days off were not often interrupted due to a lack of ready expertise. The extent of our cross training was made clear during one early Site evaluation by a field grade officer. Lenny Benedetto admitted this officer through the main entrance as gate guard, was evaluated by the major as MTR operator, was inspected in his Medicís office, and then Lenny served that officer coffee in the Mess Hall prompting the major to ask, do you have brothers?
In 1967 I qualified on every vehicle in our inventory, as did others thus, there was no need to search for legitimate drivers when needed, they were all around us.
The 1968 movie "Rally Around the Flag Boys" illuminated the Nike mission for better or worse. It was a comedy about a Connecticut Nike Site [purportedly the Westport Ajax Site]. It contained condensed versions of many Nike stories something like this narrative. The reader however, must be attuned to the fact that my stories are comprised of almost ten years actual service and in all that time the volume of incidents had to increase and be greater than most others experiences.
Aside from all the above "war stories" we were sharp looking and well-trained troops with a high degree of esprite de corps performing a thankless mission around the clock in defense of our country with equipment outmoded the day it was emplaced. From the early 1950ís B 52ís were our offensive capability and Nike missiles our defensive capability. The Nike program undoubtedly dampened Soviet pilotís hopes of a free run on the U.S.
NORAD and ARADCOM were the last hope for this nation in the event of air penetration by an aggressor. Either scrambled Air Force interceptors or Nike Missiles, the very last line of defense, consisting of some three hundred batteries [bases], would do in invading long-range bombers. Bluff or not, we served our country and performed or missions with distinction and that should be a source of great pride for all former Nike Men.
It must be noted that, because of the stability of personnel and the continuity of training and cross training ARNG troops achieved 11 of only 13 perfect scores recorded at McGregor Range. The first annual service practice "ASP", [later termed short notice annual service practice or SNAP] firing, occurred there on 5 April 1957, before that [from 1955] Red Canyon Range was used. McGregor had some 23 Nike systems on line for SNAP units. When there was overage, units waited at their billets in Ft. Bliss until a site opened up.
The Drones were usually RCATís, which were propeller or jet driven. Air Force jets were also used by slipping the TTR Azimuth pot 1600 mils thereby creating a real situation though a shot would be with that offset, which the unit event recorder would reveal to the evaluation team to satisfy their kill query. Overall the moon shot percentage was estimated to be about 3%.
The Absence of Tangible Recognition
One unfair and irksome factor for many Nike men was that the military was very tight with its decorations and medals. We were in uniform full time though concurrently Wage Board paid civilians, defending our country around the clock. In 1997 a former Nike CO, then the AG State of CT, awarded me the State Military Department Medal of Merit based on my Nike service record. In 2000 the Army presented me with the Armed Forces Reserve Medal and after completing over a year as a member of the Governorís Horse Guard [State Militia] I became eligible for and received the CT 10 year Long Service Medal. These days I am a volunteer at the VA hospital, something I find to be gratifying, because as I more clearly see the importance of my own past service, I can better understand the varied services of others thus, my work there is a tribute to them all.
Revisiting the SceneÖ.
I went back to El Paso and Juarez in 1970 for another, but final divorce from the same woman. Nothing was the same being a civilian and older. I was a different person who had put those times behind me. However, in so many ways I grew up there and am grateful for the many experiences I had and the lessons learned there. I was however, reminded of the lunacy of "everything goes" when in the upscale Juarez hotel menís room the attendant, towel over his forearm, reached around and pulled my zipper attempting to prepare me for a squirt, whoaÖ!
I ran into what might have been the last pretty stewardess. She was also obtaining a divorce, we consoled each other. She was from NYC thus, we departed El Paso together, and in my case it was my "last wave" to a place filled with fond, unusual, and out of the ordinary memories. Nike service did not ruin me as might be expected, in that this year my wife and I celebrate over three decades of marriage, albeit this gathering of a flood of memories makes me wonder how I, a mere man, could have put that lifestyle aside so easily. I advise the reader to look around and within you, and take note that things changeÖ.we change.
The End of Nike
Nike virtually ended on paper when the threat of Soviet bombers shifted to ballistic missiles, but, it stayed around awhile to be certain. The U.S. signed the SALT II Treaty in 1974 and that ended Nike Hercules in the U.S. However, as late as 1999 Nike Sites were still in operation in Greece, Italy and Turkey and were expected to remain until or beyond 2000.
Nike Site SF-88 [Under the National Park Service] preserves our history and efforts. So, we Nike Men are not forgotten after all! A heartfelt thank you to all those who spearheaded, and to those who have contributed to the project in cash and/or labor thus, symbolically preserving a large chunk of our lives.
I believe that all Nike men should have received a National Defense Medal for their services in defending this nation. The Department of Defense, upon application, is issuing "Cold War Recognition Certificatesíí. This is very appropriate for, and none are more deserving than, the men of Nike. However, in the absence of bona-fide official decorations, perhaps a commemorative medal will be struck to honor the efforts of all MISSILEMEN.
Mr. Robert E. Kramer
93 Meadow Trail
PO Box 117
Coventry, CT 06238
Mr. Ed Thelen
21 Neon Terrace
Fremont, CA. 94536
Cold War Recognition Certificate
4035 Ridge Top Rd.
Fairfax, VA 22030
Mr. Stephen Nelson
Fort McArthur Museum
C/O Shop Sales PO Box 268
3601 S. Gaffey St.
San Pedro, CA 90731
The National Park Service has one Nike Site [SF-88], GGNRA in the San Francisco Bay area consisting of about 30 overall LCA acres and 8 IFC, it is designated a National Park and is a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. There is a national annual reunion picnic for all Nike men on the last Sunday in August.
The site receives no federal funds other than for the telephone, everything else comes from donations and volunteer labor.
Donation checks should be made to Fort Point Presidio Historical Association with a notation "Nike Site". All contributions are fully tax deductible. The address is:
Milton [Bud] Halsey Col. [ret]
C/O National Park Service. Bldg. 964, Ft. Barry
Sausalito, CA 94965-2609