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Nike Missile Site HM-69: after its resurrection

10 April 2013

Nike Missile Site HM-69: after its resurrection

— photo by Joseph May

The bronze plate at Nike Missile Site HM-69 — photo by Joseph May

Three batteries of Nike Hercules surface-to-air missiles were positioned within the Everglades National Park during the middle of the Cold War to protect the vulnerable southeast coast of the U.S. from bomber aircraft based in Cuba. One of the last sites to be decommissioned, HM-69 (HM indicated the Homestead-Miami area) and one of the handful to be erected above ground this new exhibit of the National Park Service (NPS) is done well and being done well. The site originally consisted of two pieces of land situated about a mile apart — one site for the missiles and the other site for command and control. The Nike Missile Tour is only months old yet the tours are among the most well attended.

— photo by Joseph May

Signs like this one lead you from the main entrance to the rendezvous where the tour begins — photo by Joseph May

A bit of preparation for the tour is required as there is no water or restrooms either at the rendezvous point of at the site. The visitor center is only a short drive of a few miles though. Sun and bug protection as needed as the site is within Everglades National Park.

— photo by Joseph May

This sign helps establish the context of this Cold War site — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Aerial view of the site on this information placard with the view is looking eastward and each barn within each revetment clearly seen — photo by Joseph May

The tour is of the HM-69 missile base, though a few buildings which were constructed at the command and control site exist. The tour forms up at the former command and control site where the existing buildings are utilized by the NPS but are under restoration all the same in their original pinkish color, though the five radar towers are long gone. The NPS also provides the history of HM-69 with this link. Essentially, this base consisted primarily of a missile assembly building and three barns with each barn housing a battery of missiles. This was a U.S. Army artillery unit so each group of three Nike Hercules missiles was considered a battery, as in a battery of cannon. Each battery was housed in a building called a barn, a hangar sitting within a revetment, with a only a handful of crew. The primary job of the battery unit was to push the missiles along a track out to one of three firing positions, erect them in their firing positions to the subvertical angle of 87º, then retreat to the firing bunker within less than 18 minutes. The rest of the facility consisted of fencing, guard shacks, a canine hut, and a barracks for the ready battery. One of the three batteries was kept “hot” on a rotating basis. Three barns, the missile assembly building and the canine hut exist and can be seen during the tour but only one barn can be entered — restoration work is ongoing in a firing bunker and assembly building, however.

— photo by Joseph May

One of the missile barns — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Mr. Tom Gold, the NPS volunteer guide on the tour that day. He is very good and easily goes off script to answers questions as well as posing them himself for the benefit of the tour taker — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Canine hut and kennel area of HM-69 — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Nike Hercules mural on the west wall of the missile assembly building (graffiti removed during photo editing)— photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Another view of a missile battery barn — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

The firing bunker  built into one of the revetment walls. It can be viewed from an open doorway but will be available for inspection after further restoration work — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

A restored Nike Hercules Missile within one of the barns is a high point of the visit — photo by Joseph May

The next post, on Friday, will be in regard to the Nike Hercules missile, seen above 🙂

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