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Earl Close

In 1948, 16 year old Earl Close enlisted in the National Guard to be in a 90 mm AAA unit.
In 1968, Major Close retired after extensive experience in the Nike program.

Earl sent me the following cover letter (1 page story of himself) and many interesting documents - displayed here :-))

Cover Letter

Earl Close
415 East Glenhurst Drive
Tucson, AZ 85704
(520) 742-3467
28 August, 2004
Ed Thelen
821 Neon Terrace
Fremont, CA 94536

Dear Ed;

Here is the "junk" I offered. A little background: Enlisted in an AAA 90mm gun unit New York National Guard at the ripe old age of 16 in 1948. In late 1950 sent to 6 month Master Gunner School in Ft Bliss. Helped lay out the Pittsburgh, PA defense and place 3 90mm Battalions there. Direct commissioned 2nd Lt 1952. Stayed in the Guard and when they started taking over the Nike Sites, went full-time in the Guard Technicial Program in September 1959.

Trained at the Hamburg dual Nike Ajax site BU-52, Niagara-Buffalo Defense. This site had no radar towers - radars were on 5' mound of dirt. The site closed early 1960's and Town of Hamburg took over. IFC was Parks and Recreation, Launcher area was vehicle maint and casemates were filled with trash/garbage. People living nearby entered lawsuits claiming illness from the pollution of water from casemates in the 1980s.

Winter/Spring-1960 - Nike Ajax Package Training at Ft. Bliss (my Btry D, 106th Arty, scored 4th out of 56 units, Regular and Guard that went through Ajax Package, and our Battalion, 106th, ranked 1st of all Battalions).

Returned to Niagara Buffalo and I took command of the dual Ajax site at Orchard Park BU-34 on 7 Aug 1960. Pictures enclosed. This site was closed 23 Oct 1962. A Hospital in Buffalo took over the IFC area as a research site for a few years. In 1989 in the IFC area most of the buildings and radar towers were still up, by 1999 the only thing remaining was the paved road. In 1989 and 1999, the Launching area Barracks/BOQ was a family home with part of the barracks made into a garage. All other buildings were gone, casemates welded shut and covered with a foot of dirt and growing up with brush. Parts of original blue-print and data sheets enclosed. Note that at one time they considered family housing at this site.

14 Feb 1961 At Short Notice Annual Practice (SNAP) we fired Ajax Missile #5808. Enclosed is the Event Recorder tape of that shoot. The Event Recorder was above the switchboard in the BC van and recorded all the key data elements during an engagement. Enclosed is copy of the Nike Missile Firing Report and copies of the horizontal and vertical plotting board traces of that shoot. These documents are typical for each missile firing.

Nov 1962 - April 1963 Back to Ft Bliss for Nike Hercules Package training. I took command of BU-18, Lancaster Nike Hercules site 19 April 1963. Photos enclosed. Note this site also housed a Battalion Headquarters along with the Firing Battery.

Later on a Target Ranging Radar and tower were added, along with another experimental model of long range search radar. In 1966 an above-ground fallout shelter was built in the IFC area. It was all poured concrete 12+ inches thick with an "air-lock" decontamination/entry way. Had double bunk beds and would house about 100 men. The BC and RC vans were moved inside with access to the FUIF room. The launcher area crews were equipped to take cover within the casemates in case of nuclear fallout.

I moved to Bn HQ in May 1964 at BU-18 as Bn S-3 and Maint officer. Retired as Major with 20 years in July 1968 - refused the offer to be CO of a Bn in New York City Defense - burned out and unhappy with people's reaction to Vietnam here at home.

Enclosed are some "news letters" typed up when I was Btry CO at BU-18. Gives you a "picture" of what life was like at unit level - inspections, inspections, inspections!!!

If you have any questions about this stuff, give me a yell and I would be happy to help - (if I can remember)!

Earl Close

Fallout Shelter

Very few IFC areas had fallout shelters. One was constructed in the BU-18 IFC area. The building is at 78W 37' 07" and 42N 55'48".


Key personnel in the IFC and Launcher area. on each crew. were cleared Top Secret Crypto - they were the only persons who had access to. and knowledge of what was required to arm and fire a nuclear armed missile. If the tactical situation became critical, DEFCON 1 or 2, and it was authorized by NORAD. a Nuclear Employment Order would come down via wire or radio to the IFC BC van. The order would include two code words. for example, "PURPLE BEAR". The caller would also be challenged using coded authentication tables.
The BCO and another person would open a special Top Secret safe and would find inside a sealed plastic envelope. They would break it open, and if they saw "Purple Bear", they knew the employment order was legitimate. They would notify the launching section crew that we had an employment order. The launching sections crews also had "A" members and "B" members - each knew half of the combination required to open the two combination safe where the warhead arm plugs were stored.
Upon receipt of the employment order. they would open the safe and remove their Top Secret sealed plastic envelope, they would break it open and if the code words matched "Purple Bear", they would release the arm plugs to be installed in the warhead section of the missiles and allow the warhead to arm if the missile was fired The warhead could not be armed or detonated in any way unless it was subjected to the high '.g's" of the missile being launched
After launch if it was determined that a nuclear detonation was not wanted, the missile could be signaled for a "one-point-destruct". When this happened just one of the wedge shaped explosive charges surrounding the warhead would detonate. and blow the nuclear material out of the warhead. rendering it harmless


Our Hercules nuclear warheads were pre-built to give one of three nuclear yields; a color patch on the side of the missile indicated what "size" warhead was installed.
A "Big Red" was about 30 to 40 KiloTon of TNT equivalent "yield"
a Yellow was about 20 KT and a
Green was about 2 KT.
To give you an idea of the destructive force of these warheads: the weapon detonated over Hiroshima was a 13 KT weapon, the one detonated at Nagasaki was a 22 KT implosion weapon - both were low air bursts (the initial "fire-ball" did not contact the ground).
Our horizontal plotting board in the BC van was color coded by population density. The BCO was to see where the target intercept point would be. and select the size weapon that would minimize the affect on the ground under the detonation. For example. it the enemy target would be intercepted over Lake Erie or Lake Ontario, he would fire a "Big Red". if the intercept point was over the City of Buffalo, he would fire a "Little Green". Also, if the enemy target was at 70,000 feet in altitude. the BCO may select a "Big Red", if it was at 10.000 feet he would select a "Little Green".
The affect of radiation on the ground from these high air bursts would be minimal, the main danger was thermal (flash heat from the fire ball) and blast (the shock wave). We had to accept some danger to our population in order to insure we "killed" the enemy target's nuclear warhead. many of which were in the range of at least, 100KT and much larger.
Not a very pleasant situation. but that was the horrible reality of the Cold War! Can you see why a BCO was under a wee bit of stress?

At the time, all of what appears above was Top Secret! I wrote the above today. the 6th of February. 1997 and this is the first time since 1968 when I retired. that I have discussed this sensitive information either verbally or on paper

Imagine how the people living around the Nike Hercules Sites would have reacted if they had known what was sitting in their "backyards"'!!!'

Plots and records
of firing a Nike Ajax
Annual Service Practice
"Nike Missile Firing Report" - page 1
126 KBytes
"Nike Missile Firing Report" - page 2
63 KBytes
The Horizontal Plotting Board Trace for the kill by "Short Round"
163 KBytes
The Vertical Plotting Board Trace for the kill by "Short Round"
109 KBytes
The Chart Recording for the kill by "Short Round"
116 KBytes, Higher Resolution 239 K BYTES


The IFC Area was located on Pavement Road in the Town of Lancaster on the east side of Buffalo. It was one of three Hercules sites in the Niagara-Buffalo Defense - the other two being on Grand Island and Cambria. This site was built about 1958 and housed a Battalion HQ and Hq Btry and a line Hercules Btry.


  1. Line Btry Motor Pool building.
  2. Hq Btry Motor Pool building.
  3. Storage building.
  4. Hq Btry Orderly Room and Battalion HQ offices.
  5. Line Btry Hq building, supply room, offices.
  6. Bn HQ BOQ
  7. Bn Hq barracks.
  8. Mess hall
  9. Line Btry IFC platoon barracks
  10. Line Btry BOQ
  11. IFC Generator Building
  12. IFC Battery Control (BC) and Radar Control (RC) Vans with Fire Unit Integrated Facility (FUIF) room and interconnecting corridor.
  13. Missile Track Radar (MTR) tower
  14. Hi Power long range search radar
  15. Lopar (low power short range search radar)
  16. Target tracking radar (TTR) tower.
The site had it's own sewerage disposal and water supply system. In 1964 the Hi Power radar was replaced by a newer and longer range radar. A Target Ranging Radar (TRR) and tower was also added. The TRR operated on a vastly different frequency than what the TTR operated on. If the enemy aircraft electronically jammed the TTR, the TTR would track the jamming signal in azimuth and elevation and the TRR could determine the range to the jamming aircraft. This would allow the computer to know the exact location of the aircraft and could engage it.

About 1966 a 100 man fallout shelter was built where the BC and RC vans were located. The shelter was all above ground with very thick cement walls and roof, and was sealed with double air-tight doors. The BC and RC vans were inside the shelter and there was sleeping and "office" space for the personnel.

The 3 Hercules sites in the Niagara Buffalo Defense were initially occupied by the 1st Missile Battalion, 4th Arty (Regular Army) and in April 1963 the Lancaster and Grand Island sites were taken over by the 2nd Missile Battalion, 209th Arty, New York Army National Guard. The Guard units had previously manned Nike Ajax sites in the Niagara Buffalo Defense which were inactivated in October, 1962. The Lancaster site was deactivated in 1970 and the IFC area was taken over by the Town of Lancaster and occupied by the Town Police, Town Council, Parks and Recreation, Judicial offices.

THE LAUNCHER AREA consisted of: -----

  1. 3 underground casemates, each housing 7 Nike Hercules Missiles. Each casemate had 3 aboveground launchers and 1 launcher on the missile elevator which lifted the missiles up from underground.
  2. Warhead Building in reveted area where the nucular or high explosive warhead was installed.
  3. Missile Assembly Building with adjacent generator building.
  4. Guard dog kennels.
  5. Launcher Control Trailer (LCT).
  6. Launcher Security Office, Barracks, and BOQ.
When the site was closed, a man purchased the area, remade the Barracks into his home and opened one of the casemates as an underground machine and repair shop for antique cars. All other buildings were destroyed when the site was closed.
I commanded the Lancaster site from April 1963 until May 1964. Henry Earl Close Pvt 1948 - Maj 1968
Annotated pictures of
BU-18 - Lancaster, New York
Annotated Bu-18, IFC Area
154 KBytes
Annotated Bu-18, Launcher Area
85 KBytes
Annotated pictures of BU-34
Orchard Park , New York
Annotated Bu-34, IFC Area
83 KBytes
Annotated Bu-34, Launcher Area
142 KBytes
Some Engineering Drawings of
BU-34 Orchard Park , New York
Bu-34 drawings, cover
97 KBytes
Bu-34 drawings, building-schedule
179 KBytes
Bu-34 drawings, IFC
107 KBytes
Bu-34 drawings, Launcher Area
123 KBytes
Bu-34 drawings, 1
97 KBytes
Bu-34 drawings, 2
97 KBytes
Bu-34 drawings, 4
97 KBytes

Battery News Sheets

I, Ed Thelen, have no idea if battery news sheets were common or not - I have not heard of them before Earl Close supplied copies. I suspect they were not common because of the difficulty of making copies before the Xerox machine. If you were typing and wanted several copies, you put several pieces of paper (separated by "carbon paper") into your typewriter, and typed very carefully because if you made a mistake - you had the joy of correcting the 1st sheet (original) and the other copies in the bundle. Or you could try to get access to a Gestetner machine, and if so, typed a master Gestetner copy (with your ribbon disabled) and had the joy of inking and running that thing. Our battery in Chicago did NOT do a News Sheet !!

Of course, a News Sheet could be typed and hung in the Orderly Room or barracks.

Earl Close in Lancaster, N.Y. was co-located with battalion HQ and likely had access to reproducing equipment.

First sheet of 27 Sep 63 120 KBytes
Second sheet of 27 Sep 63 120 KBytes
First sheet of 7 March 1964 120 KBytes
Second sheet of 7 March 1964 120 KBytes
First (only?) sheet of 17 April 1964 120 KBytes

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