The National Guard *is* Ready

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The purpose of this page is to present the activities of the U.S. National Guard in the NIKE program.


Introductory Remarks - me ;-))
I must admit a deep bias about "week-end" soldiers. When I was in high school in the late 1940s, there were many stories about older brothers and their National Guard two week training every summer. The stories had much more to do with excessive drinking and other adventures than with military training.

As my army enlistment ended, there were rumors that the National Guard might be "taking over" soon. We technical types were incredulous - what - some part-timers trying to keep the equipment and missiles at peak (or even good) status? "You just gotta be kiddin."

Just thought I ought to warn you of my bias. (Most reporters don't.)

We full time army NIKE guys tried to figure the time it would take for the National Guard guys to get to the NIKE site. - Assuming Soviet planes were detected over the North Pole, and a decision was made by peace time soldiers and politicians that there was an attack starting, how long would it take to get a National Guard crew in from the various beds, picnics, work places, etc.?

  • And we figured Soviet planes over the North pole were (about 4 hours from Chicago).

  • The length of time to make a warlike decision in a peace time democracy is notoriously long. Pearl Harbor being a fairly recent example.

  • And if the Soviets decided to make some radar noise (rather easy), U.S. defenses might not detect the number of planes (one or a bunch or bunches) until Baffin Bay (about 2 hours from Chicago). U.S. defenses would know something was going on - but enough to get excited about??

  • It can take hours to spread the word of a probable attack to the National Guard. People in bed, on picnics, at work may not be listening to the radio. Civil defense sirens tended to be in heavily populated areas, not NIKE areas. Special telephone circuits can be setup to inform people even when the regular phone system is jammed - but will enough people be near them??

  • Once the word of a probable attack was spread, one could expect instant gridlock on many roads. Everyone heading toward home/school, away from home/school/work, where ever...
We figured Chicago would be smoke before the National Guard guys could get to the NIKE sites.

*is* Ready and Effective -

from Ron Plante

from start of Part II
The Army National Guard
in Air Defense
1951 - 1967 (U)

Part I - 8 megabyte .pdf file
Part II - 8 megabyte .pdf file

a Rebuttal to "kicked the active Army's ..."
Spec 4 Jim Rhodes Dec 2004
Not so quick, Shewokis.
I was Regular Army, IFC DC Analog Computer Operator stationed at D-06, Btry B 3rd Msl Bn 516th Arty (trans, to 517th Arty - 1958), 28th Arty Group. My Battery won the ASP in 1957, Nike Winged Goddess of Victory Trophy, best in the nation and we never, never failed an ORE. We never took photos of our site because it was a security issue and just wasn't done. When the Guard took, over guided tours with dignitaries and others were often performed. I guess for publicity. We didn't care about publicity. We performed our duty post quietly. I give the National Guard their due and pleased they performed so well, but lets' get it straight, you may have done it right but only because you were standing on our Regular Army Shoulders. You would not have had a Nike Job if it were not for us Regulars. Hell, we showed you the way.

Spec 4 Jim Rhodes

a History Fragment

from Dave Patterson
Dave supplied a URL to his page on the his page on the WSMR "KIDS" web site. "See text of article-- last photo" which contained an undated "Army Times" newspaper clipping which he thinks is 1956-1957.
"First Guard Missile Unit Organized"
FORT MacARTHUR, Calif., The first National Guard guided missile unit in the U.S. has begun its initial training in preparation of operating four Nike antiaircraft missile sites in the Los Angeles area.
Brig. Gen. Clifford F. Beyers, commander of the 114th AAA Brigade, said. "The 720th Antiaircraft Missile Battalion of the California National Guard will begin training Monday (June 17) at four Nike sites of the Army's 47th AAA Brigade."
About 300 men of the Harbor Area battalion reported to Army Nikes sites at Garden Grove, Long Beach, San Pedro and Torrance. There they are receiving their first two weeks of summer training instruction by members of the 47th Brigade.

Part of a note from Mark Morgan (Co-author of Rings of Supersonic Steel)
The transfer of multiple Ajax batteries around the country to the Army National Guard during the late 1950s - the first ones to transfer were in the Los Angeles Defense Area in September 1958 was a big experiment for both the Regular Army and the National Guard, one that paid off. The Guard started assuming operational control of several Hercules batteries in 1963 and retired the last Ajax missiles out of the Norfolk Defense Area in late 1964.


From Gordon Hagewood April 2008

who commanded an Army unit - " ... following a second succesful annual service practice where the guys did the impossible and outscored a National Guard unit -- a rare event."
I asked if he had comments about why the NG guys were so good -
... Regarding ASP, the NG units simply had very little personnel turnover so they could really hone their skills. Plus, they had more than one "shift" so that you had a choice of the best to take to Fort Bliss. They really were good and in my view this was an ideal use of full time National Guard assets -- especially during the Vietnam era.

From Richard L. Mitchell
In response to Ed Thelen's question "Do you have comments on the relative effectiveness of regular army vs. National Guard?".

Effectiveness: 75 percent of the Regulars lived on site and were on call at a minutes notice, giving them a possile quicker response and at least a back-up crew if necessary. This possible made them more effective. During my stay with the ING at Homewood [C-50, Illinois] I saw no difference in the caliber or quality of manpower. The USA had a strict code of compliance that was enfoprced and a trouble maker or a man with disipline problems was shipped out. Each man had already undergone an ongoing security check by the FBI and was proud of it.

From Angus P. Robinson
My understanding about our Wolf Lake site was that if we were to engage in a shooting war all our National Guard weekend warriors would be activated.

These men came in one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. Each man was being trained for that eventuality. To be honest. those like myself, working full time, needed more help. We were sadly undermanned.

Aside from each missile pit there was the need for base security (gate, inside and outside perimeter), missile assembly, fueling and a myriad of other activities common to all camps. Not least of all was the damn grass cutting and grounds maintenance that took away from our own training. I have fond memories of those days but we knew we could not keep that base operating full time in a war-time environment without the weekend warriors.

Missile assembly alone was a time consuming job. Everything was by the book. Nothing was put on by memory or by guess or by gosh. Each part was added in a specific order and then torqued down with special wrenches designed for that one operation. Sometimes the torque value was the same for two or three parts. If this was the case the same wrench would be used. Few of our torque wrenches were multi-use. Most had one torque value and these were checked every so often at Ft. Sheridan and, if needed, reset. That was why we needed quite a lot of manpower. Unfortunately when the Basic base needs were figured out originally manpower was kept to a minimum. We were told it was a matter of appropriations.

I believe the same plan was set for Homewood. I don't remember if we had reservists coming in or not but I am sure this was to be the case. I did not stay there that long to remember.


kicked the active Army's ...

Nice to see you finally giving the Army National Guard Credit for their success in the Nike Missile program. Frankly, ED the Army National Guard kicked the active Army's ass in the Nike Missile Program!! The records for S.N.A.P. still stand to this day! Granted the sites were manned mostly by full time military technicians (like myself in the AIR GUARD} but one can not discount the valuable contributions the traditional part-timers made in the Cold War defense of the country.

Like one Army National Guard Officer stated, the Active Army gave us the training, but we did the job better due to team Cohesiveness in The Guard. I can attest to a statement like that, because in the Air Guard we are true professionals and can gladly show the regular Air Force the way home anyday! I will try to write again before I go to the Gulf. I also have articles on the Army Guard in the Nike Missile Program.


and on March 21, 1999

The Army Guard was extremely proud of their successful Nike program. I thought you might find it interesting that the Regular Army wants the Army National Guard to field the Missile defense system that we have been hearing so much about lately. The reasoning one General stated was due to the outstanding success of the Army Guard with the Nike Program.

Ed, today's Army Guard continues in the missile program with some states fielding Patriot. Also some states field the multiple-launch rocket system {mlrs}. One of these battalions, the 158th field artillery of Oklahoma deployed to the Gulf in 1990 and was so feared by the Iraqi soldiers that they called mlrs "steel rain". I also believe they had the highest fire ratio for mlrs in the gulf.

TSGT. JIM SHEWOKIS then sent me eight Xeroxed pages of a National Guard publication. The first and seventh pages were clear enough to scan. (Images of 120 mm guns and Nikes are not included here.)

A salute to the 17 states whose Army National Guard units served The Air Defense of America.

The casing of the colors of the battalions which were in the NIKE-HERCULES air defense program marks the end of an era during which Army National Guardsmen successfully carried out a vital mission in the nation's security on a day to day basis.

Although only a relatively small number of Army Guardsmen were involved in this program probably no more than 7,000 at any given time in a 20-year span -- this participation did a good deal to call attention to a previously overlooked potential. The nation learned that its part-time soldiers could take full-time responsibility for a major defense function.

Prior to World War II many National Guard units were allocated to the Coast Artillery -- a program which was overtaken by the technology which came out of the 1941-1945 war years. This was a technology which was spurred by the advent of airpower coupled with the discovery of the key to the previously unknown factor of atomic and, later, nuclear power.

The Army had undergone the transition from Coast Artillery to Antiaircraft Artillery (AAA) during the war, and it was determined that the National Guard would provide units for the Antiaircraft Artillery effort in the postwar years.

[image not reproduced]
On guard in Chicago, a radar-directed 120 mm anti-aircraft gun crew swings into action during a mock air raid

But few of the postwar planners ever envisioned the development of an on-site, combat-ready network of Army National Guard batteries, supported by Army National Guard command and control elements, which would provide around-the-clock protection to major U.S. cities and industrial complexes. seven days a week. 52 weeks each year.

The program, at its zenith, was located in 17 States and it introduced a whole new dimension of modern-day Minuteman; the Minuteman of the missile age. He was a National Guardsman who was trained to respond to an alert which could call him from his civilian pursuit to the missile site at any time of day or night should the nation's security be threatened. Backing up these Minutemen was a small but highly trained corps of technician specialists who were on the job full time, keeping open the communications networks and providing maintenance and technical support to insure that all elements of this highly sophisticated combat system were in working order and ready to function if needed.

There were hundreds of alerts. Some were practice. Others were tense moments of waiting while unidentified aircraft were scrutinized and accounted for. No missile was ever fired in anger. This was a program which succeeded because it was so powerful a deterrent, in its day, that no enemy ever challenged it.

In the pages that follow, this story is told in capsule form in tribute to the men, to the units and the States that took part in the post-WWII Army air defense of the United States.

... six pages unscannable ...
It appears that the National Guards of the following states participated in the Nike program. They were California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and ???? [can't read it]

How the Guard was called upon for a new mission.

The onset of the "cold war" in 1948 and the discovery that the Soviet Union had lonq range heavy bomber forces and subsequent atomic and then nuclear capabilities, the need became obvious to more sophisticated air defense of the United States. A separate Army command for air defense was established in July 1950, four days after the invasion of South Korea. It was designated Army Anti-Aircraft Command (ARAACOM).

Meeting the jet bomber threat. ARAACOM consisted of World War II 75MM "Skysweeper" 90MM and 120MM anti-aircraft guns but did not possess enough personnel nor sufficient locations to provide adequate defense. The speed of jet aircraft required a weapons system that could provide an interceptor capability. This resulted in research and development that lead to the Nike Missile system. With the pressing need for air defense against the threat of jets, General J. Lawton Collins, Chief of Staff U. S. Army, proposed that the Army National Guard be called upon to defend the critical areas around the country.

[image not reproduced]
Defending Washington, a 120 mm anti-aircraft gun crew stages a gun drill in 1956, a year when missiles were already taking over.

Each unit on site was to be supported by 15 full-time Army National Guard technicians. The remainder of the unit was available on call. The Guardsmen who manned the sites would be citizens of the areas they would be defending. Other Army Guard anti-aircraft units were designated as a Special Security Force with an "M" day capability of 90 days. By 1955 the Army National Guard was operating 50 anti-aircraft batteries while the active Army was converting to NIKE-AJAX missiles. In 1957, ARAACOM became Army Air Defense Command (ARADCOM). ARADCOM became a component of the North America Defense Command (NORAD) the same year.

The Guard mans NIKE-AJAX units. By 1958 the Army National Guard anti-aircraft gun batteries were reorganized into 27 NIKE-AJAX missile battalions. This was in addition to the four batteries of the 720th Missile Battalion, California National Guard, a test battalion previously converted to the NIKE Missile System in June 1957.

... last page unscannable ...

From Henry W. Schuchardt
I dont know if this is the kind of information you want but here goes:

In 1955 I picked up a folder at an Army Recruiting Station. It stated that the Army was looking for men with 4 or more years of active duty to enlist in the National Guard and promising a guaranteed pension after completing 20 years. Having 6 years of Regular Army under my belt I figured why not.

I enlisted in Hdqrs Btry 1st Bn 245th AAA at Site 17 just outside La Guardia Air Field. I don't remember the locations of the rest of the Bn. they were spread out around New York in a ring of active defense of the city in conjunction with Fort Totten and Fort Hamilton. A requirement for enlistment was living and working within 20 to 25 minutes of the Site. I believe your figure of 13 or 15 full time civilian/ National Guardsmen is about right. The full time men were to get everything up and running while the part timers were on the way in.

About two years later the Bn was changed to a Nike Guided Missile Bn. For awhile we operated as before full time part time soldiers. we then were moved to a site at Loyds Harbor on Long Island. A short time later the decision was made to use only full time men [ Possibly because the part time soldiers could not reach the site in a reasonable time and not a great enough pool of local enlistment prospects. So the part time soldiers were given a choice of becoming civilian employees or finding a new home.

I guess that's about all. I hope it adds a little more to your files

Henry W. Schuchardt
M/SGT Retired

Nike guard units were fulltime

John McGrath
Just read your letter from the NYC based retired MSG ARNG.

My site features a section on the ARNG Nike units ( It includes manning charts, etc.

Essentially Nike guard units were fulltime units. The program was called the On-Site Program. Most key positions in the unit were matched with a fulltime "technician" position. A technician was a guardsman [had to be a member of the unit] who worked as a civil service employee with the unit. Technicians had to wear their uniforms (still do- the guard still has them!) The advantages to the Army was that the techs were paid by the hour and were not paid when not working (unlike regular Army guys who are salaried workers). The Army also did not have to provide mess and housing for the techs. So they got a fulltime unit on the cheap. I believe the New Mexico guard has such a unit to this day. It's an ADA unit but obviously not Nike.

In the Mass guard there were initially two Nike BNs with 4 batteries each. But only two of the batteries were on-site in each of the battalions. What the other two batteries did with part-timers is unknown via my research. They were located at armories not at Nike sites. The BN headquarters were staffed almost at fulltime levels too.

Thanks for your kind comments about my site. It will be featured on Boston tv the first week of the month of June [1999].

understated the contribution

John J. Federico, Jr.
history has sadly understated the contribution made by these truly professional missilemen. I can state that from personal experience.

My first assignment fresh out of 22F school in 67' was to a warhead custodial team at Grand Island, NY. The unit was Btry A, 2nd Bn, 209th ADA (NYARNG). I followed those missile experts around like a puppy and went to school on them every day of my assignment there until the unit was inactivated in Feb 70.

They forgot more about the technical end of Nike than I would ever learn. The crews had been together for years and had packaged trained from guns, skysweepers, Ajax and then into Nike. Their outstanding inspection results during ORE's and TPI's and the consistently near-perfect scores at SNAP/ASP underscored their technical expertise. I recall being on-site only about 2 weeks and one of my duties was to insure the guard techs didn't vary or omit any steps during nuclear warhead operations, mating, demating, etc. Why, by the time I found my place in the TM, they were mated, checked out, and opening the doors of the warhead building getting ready to head downrange and join.

My education in Nike continued and for that I was very grateful, because it paid great dividends when I finally got assigned to a Regular Army firing battery and more so when I received my Warrant Officer appointment. I could go on and on, but in closing I really believe someone needs to do an in-depth study to really capture and highlight the role played by the Guard in Air Defense Artillery.


John Federico

Full time Army National Guard Technician

Charles Ross Site S-03, Seattle, Washington, 3/61-12/62
I was a full time Army National Guard Technician. We manned the site full time and trained the National Guard one weekend a month and 2 weeks per year. We provided minimal manning 3 weeks per month and pulled alert duty one week per month.

During our alert week we did radar bomb scoring for the Air Force making practice on Seattle. We also pulled alert duty.

I was a Spec 5. My primary duty was a target tracking radar operator. We had annual missile firing at Fort Bliss & Mcgregor range.

There were 5 nike sites around Seattle. 3 sites were Ajax sites belonging to the Wash. National Guard & 2 sites were Hercules sites belonging to the Army. During our one week of alert duty we were paired with a Hercules site. During the Cuban Missile Crisis we were activated.

We actually came within minutes of firing on a unidentified air craft that came in through the coastal air defense zone. The Airforce finally intercepted it over Lake Washington.

Forming a Nike National Guard Unit

From Paul Presta

> Nike site: Oxford, Ohio, B Btry, 1Bn, 136th Arty (Ohio NG)
> Date from: 10/63 to 3/65
> comments: As Unit AST, helped Capt recruit a Ohio National
> Guard unit that assumed control of Oxford Nike site from Active Army

Ed Thelen asked What is a Unit AST?

I had no idea that individual units recruited National Guard units to assume control. Could you tell me more of this interesting aspect.

A unit AST in the National Guard is a civilian title for Administrative-Supply Technician (AST). The AST is a full time civilian technician employed by the guard to take care of the day-to-day operations of the unit. The AST must also belong to the Guard Unit where he is employed, normally as the 1st Sgt. However, the AST can hold any position and rank for which he is qualified in the guard unit. Full time AST's wore their uniform daily, and looked, acted and were seen, by the community, to be professional soldiers.

When my regular Army enlistment was completed in June 1962, I returned home to my civilian job. But the place I worked was being closed. I heard about a full time job with the local Ohio Army National Guard unit, and applied for it. It was the unit AST for a transportation company. I was a SP5 at the time, but was promoted to SSGT (E6) and held the guard position of Supply Sergeant.

After a short time, the guard units were re-organized and I took another AST position in a Infantry unit in Cincinnati. Because of my active duty at the NIKE site in Wilmington, Ohio, in the Summer of 1963, I was asked to consider a position in Oxford, Ohio as the AST for a new guard unit being formed to take over operations of the Nike Missile base from the active Army. A Captain and I were the first 2 members of B Btry, 1 Msl Bn 136th Arty (ONG) assigned to the Oxford area.

Our first office was in a downtown building and our job was to recruit 100 full time technicians and also National Guardsment for the unit. This was accomplished and the unit was actually about 130 strong, with 100 of the guardsmen being employed by the State of Ohio as full time technicians. We had a part time First Sgt, but I was the full time First Sgt. When we had Guard weekends, I would be the Supply Sgt. After training, and the departure of the regular Army, The site was manned 24 hrs a day with full time personnel of the Ohio National guard. The remaining part time guardsmen would pull their weekend duty. I stayed in this job unit March 1965, when I resigned to work for Armco Steel Corporation.

Several of the persons we recruited for the Guard unit had been assigned to Nike units during their regular Army service. And these men were proud to again serve their country as civilian technicians, guarding the skies against enemy attack.

I will try to answer any questions you may have about this transition from Active Army to National Guard operational controls, how units were formed, etc.

Paul M Presta -

Hot Stuff? - Rivalry?

Dallas Foster
> Thanks Ed, 
> ... It was a good program for the NG and we did a "Super" job. 
> The regulars could not touch us. Keep up the good work.
> Dallas Foster

    Sounds like the U.S. Marines vs the rest of us   ;-))

I thought we (Regular Army) were pretty hot stuff in 1955-56


Larry Croll - Dec 2017
At the end (my tour of duty), there were EXACTLY four Nike Hercules sites in southern NJ, two RA and two NG. I am positive of this because the life of a radar operator was 24 hours on followed by 24 hours off. The key was that each battery was scheduled to be "Hot" (the hard core 24/7 duty) for only one of four weeks as the HOT duty rotated across all four site (on the other three weeks you could go home in the afternoon subject to 30 minute recall if the alert status changed).

This rotating HOT status schedule was an enormous sore point between RA and NG sites. The average experience level for a radar operators at a RA site was measured in MONTHS, while the NG sites had operators whose experience numbered in YEARS or even DECADES.

Despite that massive experience and expertise gap, the NG sites routinely called in as "down" exactly when their site's turn for HOT duty came up. Often staying off-line for the full week causing the two RA sites to pull their 24/7 duty for them (in effect we RA sites pulled TWO weeks of HOT status each month and the two NG sites skated by with little or no HOT status!). This abuse was regular as clockwork and we RA site had to suck it up and take it. !

If you have comments or suggestions, Send e-mail to Ed Thelen

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Last updated Dec, 2017