Back to Home Page

Nike History


Please note: parts of this .html page are copied from "A History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System: National Service in War and Peace (1925-1975)". They are "copied with permission of AT&T;" as per Frank Politano June 27, 1997.

Immediate predecessors of Nike

Nike Information
Political/financial environment and Competing Air Defense Systems

T-10 Gun director (optical inputs) (started in 1940)

(summarized from "A History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System: National Service in War and Peace (1925-1975)"

Gun directors are the systems that accept target positions, make various pointing corrections for shell speed, shell flight time, shell fall from a straight line due to gravity, slowing of shell due to air friction, etc.

Before World War II gun directors generally used mechanical components to make these "calculations". They were "analog" computers as numbers were not used internally. Instead of numbers to represent distances, mechanical distance, pressure, or other mechanical variables ware added or subtracted or multiplied or differentiated or integrated or whatever. A slide rule (any one remember?) is an example of a manually operated analog computer.

These mechanical analog computers were precision machines and difficult to construct. (They were much more difficult to make, temperature compensate, and calibrate than an aircraft engine.) Also the technology seemed to be near its technical limits.

At the beginning of World War II, there was a question of how to construct the many thousands of these precision machines that would be needed quickly. The decision was made to use electronic analog computers instead of the mechanical analog computers. Fewer critical skilled people would be needed the electronic analog computers.

The T-10 was the first electronic analog computer designed for directing antiaircraft guns. Development started in late 1940. The computer "used dc voltage of both positive and negative polarity to represent the target's present and future position, its velocity components and the like."

The aircraft was tracked by two operators (one tracking in elevation and one tracking in azimuth) using transit type telescopes. The aircraft range (always an interesting problem) was from radar that was slaved to the telescopes.

The T-10 gun director was in developmental test when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Its performance was about as good as a mechanical director, and there were many ways that it could be further improved. A version for the British was called the T-24 and used with the British 4.5 in antiaircraft gun. A production version of the T-10 (with some design improvements) for the U.S. was called the M-9 and used on many fronts from early 1943.

Return to beginning of "history"


M-9 Gun Director (with radar inputs)

(summarized from "A History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System: National Service in War and Peace (1925-1975)"

The SCR-584 radar, a product of the Radiation Laboratory at M.I.T., was equipped with M-9 type potentiometers as part of its output function. This made the interconnection of the SCR-584 and the M-9 director very simple and straight forward.

This configuration, along with the very helpful proximity (VT) fuse, was the gun pointing system that was so successful against the German V-1 "Buzz Bomb".

Return to beginning of "history"


M-33 Gun Director (with radar inputs and acquisition radar)(start 1944)

(summarized from "A History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System: National Service in War and Peace (1925-1975)"

This was the next generation of gun director. The SCR-584/M-9 combination was primarily optical angle input, with range assistance from the radar.

The M-33 was all radar input (angles and range) with a telescope to visually assure that the tracked target was in fact hostile type.

Many of the components of the M-33 system were incorporated directly (with out significant change) into the Nike system. These included:

Two pilot models were made between 1948 and 1950. The production started in 1950.

Return to beginning of "history"


Nike Ajax

Many firms contributed tools, small parts, major missile parts, and ground support equipment. Most of the radar assemblies, computer assemblies and the battery control equipment have Western Electric markings and part numbers.

Western Electric was the Prime Contractor.
Douglas Aircraft designed and built the missiles, with a great deal of input from Western Electric (as per bender@alpha.fdu.edu)

A White Sands Missile Range web page has some interesting pictures of early Nike Ajax and the unusual booster.

In my not so humble opinion, I think they made a very good product.


Copied from "A History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System: National Service in War and Peace (1925-1975)" "Chapter 7 - Air Defense" section "1.2 Nike R and D"

" Project Nike, named after the winged goddess of victory in Greek mythology, came into being in February 1945 when the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps and the Air Force asked Bell Laboratories to explore the possibilities of a new antiaircraft defense system to combat future enemy bombers invading friendly territory at such high speeds and high altitudes that conventional artillery could not effectively cope with them. This study resulted in a verbal report in May 1945 followed in July 1945 by a written document called the AAGM Report ("A Study of an Antiaircraft Guided Missile system"). This far-sighted proposal represented the results of five months of very intensive study by a small, closely knit group of scientists and engineers, which included W. A. McNain, H. W. Bode, G. N. Thayer, J. W. Tukey, and B. D. Holbrook. It was vitally important to ensure the development of a new weapon so expeditiously that it could be tactically available by the time any enemy might conceivable have high-speed, high-altitude bombers in tactical operation. Therefore, the study group postulated that the defense equipment should be derived, as far as possible, from devices, methods and techniques well known and understood. Furthermore, the group argued, its development should not await the results of research projects that were still in a stage of uncertain success, such as those on ramjet engines, radically new fuels, and drastically new guidance or homing techniques. Another axiom of the system design philosophy was that the expendable projectile should be as simple and inexpensive as possible and thus leave the more complex and more expensive equipment on the ground, where it would have the benefit of routine maintenance and least severe environment. This aspect of the design philosophy was maintained through some 30 years of Bell Laboratories work on air defense systems.

The AAGM Report was considered a classic in its thoroughness because of its insight and scope covering a wide spectrum of disciplines from propulsion and guidance to prospective aerodynamics and because of the small amount of time (five months) required to complete such an in-depth study that formed a solid conceptual basis for the five years of R and D work that followed. The specific recommendations of the proposal were:

  1. a supersonic rocket missile should be vertically launched under the thrust of a solid-fuel booster, which would be dropped on completion of its function;
  2. then, self-propelled by a liquid-fuel motor, the missile should be guided to a predicted intercept in space and detonated by remote control commands; and
  3. these commands should be transmitted by radio signals at a time determined by a ground-based computer associated with radar that would track both the target and missile in flight.

Immediately after the verbal presentation of the AAGM Report in May 1945, the Army Ordnance Corps, with the agreement of the Air Force, assumed full responsibility for the Project Nike and charged Western Electric and Bell Laboratories with full responsibility for its development. Bell Laboratories realized that while its engineering staff comprised outstanding experts in the fields of radio, radar, communications, mathematics, computers, and servo systems, the job would profit from entrusting certain tasks outside these areas, notably those concerning projectiles and their propulsion, to specialists with previous experience in these branches of technology. The integration of the individual efforts into a smoothly functioning organization would remain the responsibility of Western Electric and Bell Labs, the prime contractor. The Douglas Aircraft Company (and later the McDonnel Douglas Astronautics Corporation), which had already been active in the missile field during World War II, was selected as the major subcontractor on the design of the missile, booster, and launcher. The relationship with Douglas grew into an essentially full partnership lasting for the next 30 years of work in the nation's defense. With regard to this team effort, the late Army General H. N. Toftoy, when acting as chairman for a classified presentation before the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences commented, "It is interesting to note that the success of the project under these conditions was made possible by the rapid communications and transportation provided by the peacetime products of two concerns - the telephone and the airplane."

The following is abstracted from the next 17 pages of text, diagrams and pictures from the same source and section: "The search acquisition radar required to complete the system was already under development as part of the M33 antiaircraft system." ... "One of the major projects was the development of tracking radar with a degree of accuracy never before attained. In the fall of 1945 a searching study of echo fluctuation measurements on airplanes in flight led to the conclusion that conical lobing methods would be inadequate to yield the smoothness and accuracy of data required for the Nike system. Rapid echo amplitude variations of 20 to 30 decibles (dB) had been measured. Hence, a more accurate radar in which a complete angle measurement was made every pulse, called monopulse, would have to be developed specifically to meet the Nike requirement of one-half-mil standard deviation of angular difference between the line of sight to target and the missile. ..." "Another important radar feature responded to the need for obtaining high transmitter power, with a wide range of tunability, to obtain the maximum protection against jamming. The tube department therefore developed two tunable magntrons for the Nike (and M33) track and search radars - one a 250-kW X-band magnetron, the other a 1,000-kW S-band magnetron. J. P. Molnar was responsible for the successful development of these advanced magnetrons, tunable over a 12-percent band. ..." "In the end, Western Electric produced 358 ground batteries and delivered 14,000 missile control and guidance units to Douglas for assembly in a similar number of Nike-Ajax missiles. ... "

Return to beginning of "history"


Nike Hercules

The following is abstracted from section 1.5 "Nike-Hercules": "...1953 ... As a result of this study, the Army asked Bell Labs to work with Douglas in exploring the possibility of adding a larger missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and extending the range of the system from 25 to 50 miles. (As it turned out later, the missile developed had a range of 100 miles, and improvements in the ground equipment alone actually increased the system range from 25 to 100 miles.) The kill radius of such a warhead would force any enemy to space its attackers to avoid multiple losses. The resulting system change to Nike-Ajax, initially called Nike-B and later Nike-Hercules, was mane so that the ground system could fire both Nike-Ajax missiles and the larger, longer-range Nike-Hercules missiles from the same battery. ... The acquisition radar for the Nike-Hercules system was a modified version of that used in Nike-Ajax, the antenna of which looked much like the M33 antenna shown in Fig. 7-2. One of the principal changes was the introduction of a traveling-wave-tube RF Amplifier that provided a low-noise-figure receiver giving greater range performance than the Nike-Ajax receiver. The target track radar was also modified to give much longer range performance, obtained in part through the use of a larger and more efficient antenna like the Cassegrainian parabolic reflector. ... The designers established the requirements for such a radar operating in the L-band called "high-power acquisition radar" (HIPAR), and Bell Labs and Western Electric chose General Electric to develop and manufacture it. .... The "kill" of a Corporal ballistic missile in June 1960 marked the first intercept of a ballistic missile in this performance class. ... Another capability of the improved system, the ability to detect and track targets in severe electronic countermeasure (ECM) environments, was demonstrated with equal success. ... The success of the overall Nike-Hercules program is illustrated by the 393 Nike-Hercules ground systems produced by Western Electric at its North Carolina Works and the more than 9,000 guidance units for the Douglas Hercules missile. ... "

Return to beginning of "history"


Nike Zeus

A photo of Nike Zeus, from http://www.redstone.army.mil/history/archives/vol1/0013d.jpg
Most unusual, notice the supporting launching rails for the Ajax and the Hercules, and "no visible means of support" for the Zeus. Unfortunately, there is no descriptive text with this photo (or any other photos in the collection). (Start of whine mode) A distressing charactistic of most American museums, (and this collection of pictures) is that there is _no_ text describing what, where, when, why, or who. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but give us a word or two as a clue. Maybe many of us will not read for more than 7 seconds, and some of us won't/can't read, but give us the option. (End of whine mode)

The following is abstracted from section 1.6.3 "Nike-Zeus": In February 1957 the Army awarded Western Electric and Bell Laboratories prime contractor systems responsibility for development of an AICBM defense system and changed its name from Nike II to Nike-Zeus. With the growing concern for the ICBM threat, Bell Laboratories was asked by DOD and the Army to concentrate solely on the ICBM defensive missile and hence to terminate work on the seeker nose for air-breathing targets. ... One of the major research and development problems mentioned in AICBM reports to the Army and Air Force was the task of separating the reentry body from the various decoys and junk that might accompany it. ... Note that at this particular time radar measurements of incoming ICBMs were not available, since the first successful ICBMs were not flown until 1959-1960. ... Thus, three methods were considered to increase the angular field of radar coverage for examining the incoming cloud:

  1. scanning the TTR beam,
  2. increasing the TTR beam width,
  3. providing additional receiver beams in the same TTR focusing structure.
The third method was then proposed as the modification to the TTR, the result being named the "fly's eye" antenna. ... With these changes, and with pulse-collapsing chirp techniques for fin-range resolution together with multiple range-tracking circuits, high-data-rate signature outputs on objects in a cloud would be provided for radar signature and aerodynamic discrimination. ... " and on for 30 more pages.

I do not provide more information as the Nike Zeus system as it was never released for large scale deployment.

Return to beginning of "history"


History of the Nike program

(0) http://www.redstone.army.mil/history/cron2a.html
(1) from http://www.oz.net/~chrisp/nike.htm
(2) from http://michp753.redstone.army.mil/history/firsts/firsts.html

Return to beginning of "History"


Nike Hazards

Much home equipment has the potential for hazard - including your automobile or truck, furnace, water heater, power equipment, electric outlets, and so on!

Industrial equipment often adds other potential hazards including hydraulic fluid 3,000 pounds per square inch, heavy objects that can fall onto or roll over people, very high voltages with potential for very high current, petroleum based fuels, interesting chemicals, etc.

Military equipment often includes further potential for hazards including war heads, very flammable (almost explosive) propellants, extremely high power radar, etc.

The Nike systems had all of the above.

  • The Nike systems were of course weapons with explosive warheads. The military had long experience with conventional explosives (including solid fuel rockets) and handled them quite well.

  • The nuclear capability was new - the usual precautions were increased with added guards, machine guns at site entrances, and guard dogs to prevent unauthorized access.

  • Radar transmitters powerful enough to significantly heat flesh at close range were new, but plentiful warnings and signs generally kept people out of harms way. (The cornea of the eye is at particular risk as it is poorly cooled by body fluids.)

    (A maintenance man at our site tried to use the missile tracking radar as a birth control measure. He would turn on the radar beam and climb up onto the radar mount and stand spread eagle in front of the antenna every evening- for 15 minutes at a time! The method did not seem to work as his wife got pregnant during the several months that he did this. The father and baby were just fine!)

  • The original Nike Ajax had a liquid fueled sustainer rocket engine. Two of the liquids used in the Nike Ajax were very efficient on a chemical basis, but very dangerous (high risk to personnel and equipment if a problem or accident).
    • Red Fuming Nitric Acid (oxidizer for the main fuel) - very corrosive to equipment and tough on skin if touched and tough on lungs if inhaled.
    • Unsymetrical diethyl hydrazine (UDMH) (ignites on contact with Red Fuming Nitric Acid to start the sustainer rocket engine) - very dangerous if inhaled
    I was told that there were many incidents where personnel were given medical care and returned to service quickly with no known serious after effects. A person at my site, with a reputation for being careful, was given hospital medical care from a UDMH episode. He was released a few days later feeling a bit shaken. Several weeks later he was feeling fine - but I imagine even more careful!

The above chemicals and their associated hazards were not included in the Nike Hercules model. The Nike Hercules used a solid fuel sustainer motor and was very boring in comparison.

Return to beginning of "History"


Nike Accidents Reported

Ft. Mead (W-13) April 14, 1955
Middletown(NY-53) May 23, 1958
Okinawa around June or July 1959
Korea Fri, 4 Dec 1998


Ft. Mead
While I was in the service, we heard of only one serious accident, the following accidental launch, but very few details reached us.
Thanks to
Ben Buja for digging out a Washington Post article and reminding me of the event)

The following is from the New York Times, April 15, 1955.
Rogue Nike Missile 'Runs Away,' Explodes in Flight
... a three column photo of soldiers watching people in "fireproof" suits, ...
Ordnance soldiers, some wearing asbestos suits, recover fragments of the exploded missile

" ... WASHINGTON, April 14 -- A Nike guided missile, misguided, supersonic and loaded to kill, ran away from its launching platform at near by Fort Mead, Md, this afternoon. The explosion occurred about three miles away. The altitude was not known. The giant missile streaked into the sky, burning a sergeant as it blasted off, and blew apart with a tremendous explosion over a sparsely settled area. ...

" ... Sgt. Stanley C. Kozak of Allentown, Pa was standing seven feet away during the "gun" drill. ... He suffered "minor burns." ... The runaway missile took off from a temporary emplacement occupied by Battery C, Thirty-sixth AntiAaircraft Battalion, while its permanent position was being built. The position is one of many being thrown around the capital and other vital target areas.

"... An automatic detonator assured the explosion high in the air of the twenty-foot weapon, which has a diameter of one foot. A ground explosion would have caused havoc near the heavily traveled new highway between Washington and Baltimore. ... "

Bill Evans of web site says:
Best I can see it was W-13, on p146 of Rings of SSS. But it was just temporary and Ft Meade was not a firing battery after that, but was the HQ of 35th ADA Bde, as well as the BW Defense AADCP. I've seen something about that incident, somewhere. Said something about the missile going over the BW Parkway, which is in fact right next to Ft Meade.

George Evans a Nike and Army veteran of 26 year reports:
There were four serious Nike accidents, that I am aware of during the history of the system.

The first one was the accident that occurred at Ft Meade, MD shortly after the system was first deployed. A few years after it occurred I had the pleasure to serve with CWO Chester Joswick in Germany who had been the Launcher Warrant at that site when the accident occurred. He related to me the following facts:

Since this happened shortly after the Ajax system was deployed, crew drill procedures had not been fully refined. The procedures in place at the time were to connect the booster squib cable anytime the Battery was called to Battle Stations to track an unknown A/C. What is strange here is that they left the yoke support pin in place??? The Battery was called to Battle Stations. The section crew did their checks including Stray voltage on the launcher.

The crew then went down into the section room with the exception of the section chief who remained above ground to insure that the launcher was up and locked. As soon as the launcher was up the missile left the launcher. Since the forward yoke support was still in place and pinned the missile upon leaving the launcher tore the belly out (tunnel #3) and caused the missile to dive over instead of going straight up. The missile then flew, horizontally low level, until the booster burned out, then struck the ground in the vicinity of the Washington-Baltimore Expressway. The sustainer motor in the missile never fired and the warheads did not explode. There was a fire from the fuel and oxidizer but did little to no damage.

The missile probably did not arm due to fact it never sustained the g-forces required to close the overboard dump and the arming mechanisms for the warheads. Later investigation found the problem to be an electrical short in the junction box on the outside rear of the Launcher Control Trailer cause by rain water. Although the crew had done their checks correctly and found no stray voltage before they connected the squib, once the launcher was up and the light sequence established the path was then complete for the stray voltage to go to the launcher.


Middletown or Leonardo /Belford (NY-53)
A much more serious accident was reported in the press after I left the service.

From Donald E. Bender http://alpha.fdu.edu/~bender/nike.html
"The Nike explosion ... at ... Middletown, NJ, Nike base during 1958. Technicians were working on the fusing of warheads for Ajax missiles when an alert was sounded. Accordingly, while the missiles were being modified, there were another 8 Ajax missiles up at the surface of the site.

"When the explosion happened, a chain reaction resulted in which missile warheads, fuel and booster rockets exploded, scattering debris for miles around the area. This was quite an event and made all of the area papers, even received attention in the national press. The Army had sold the public on the idea that Nike sites were "as safe as gas stations" and one publication (Newseek?) punned that the gas station had finally blown up!

"On Sandy Hook, there is a memorial to the soldiers and civilian ordnance technicians who were killed in the blast. This is at "Guardian Park" where a Nike Hercules upper stage and (until fairly recently) an Ajax upper stage were on display. The Ajax was blown over during a storm, and is going to be repaired."

Paul Griffith (pgrif@efn.org) figures the above explosion occurred at the end of May 1958 and is researching the local papers for reports. Thanks to Paul's more precise dating, I found in our city library archives microfilm N.Y. Times editions of May 24, 25, and 26 describing the event. My summary (comments in brackets) of the various articles, photos and the printed Army statement is:
  • A modification was being performed on each Nike Ajax missile.
  • The modification had been performed at other sites on hundreds of other missiles with out incident.
  • Explosion at Middletown, N.J. Nike site about 1:15 P.M. Thursday May 23, 1958.
  • "The explosion came a few hours after the Army had announced it was converting the base here and eight other Nike installations in Northern New Jersey from Ajax to Hercules missiles. The Hercules would give the area atomic defense capability." (How is that for timing?)
  • Ten dead, six were Army enlisted men and four were civilians. Two enlisted men seriously injured. One more enlisted man released from hospital after stay of less than 24 hours.
  • No reported injuries outside the base. Less than $1000 in damage claims for damage out side the site reported. (as reported in the Sunday paper)
  • Only one launcher pit and its launching equipment were badly affected (from photo evidence). Eight missiles were destroyed, extensive damage to launchers and launching equipment, pickup trucks, civilian automobile.
  • Missile debris and twenty four war heads found in radius of almost 3 miles. (?If 24 war heads (3 per missile) were found, what blew up?) A booster found 1/2 mile away. (Did not ignite?)
  • "Col. Francis K. Newcomer of the Army Missile Department in the Pentagon explained the arming mechanism change that was being made when the detonation occurred. He said soldiers were responsible for removing detonators, connecting cord and warheads before the civilian ordnance workers installed a new bracket, using an electric drill and hand reamer."


Okinawa
There were persistent rumors about a horizontal accidental Nike launch in Okinawa -

From: Charles Rudicil. November 6, 1998
Ed, Doyle Piland asked me to send you what information I have on the accident that took place with a booster at Site 8 on Okinawa. I don't like to admit it, but my memory is not as good as it once was. I don't remember when it happened. And I didn't witness the actual accident. But I will relate to you what I can remember of the event, and maybe someone else can fill in the blank spots.

As you know, Site 8 was located at Naha Air Base and the Missile Support Shop was in Machinato. I worked in the support shop and can remember to this day the sound we heard when the accident took place. Having heard many launches before, we thought that was what it was, but we didn't see anything take to the sky so we all thought it must have been an explosion. It didn't take long for the facts to start coming in at the shop.

A sergeant and 2 others were doing 'stray voltage checks' using the Squib Tester. The tests were done above ground with the launcher in the down position. I don't know how many tests had been donebefore this one, but when the tester was applied to this one the booster ignited, sending booster and missile off the rail horizontally, travelling through the security fence, across the beach, and landing in the water off shore. Upon impact with the water, the missile broke up and the warhead skipped across the water like a flat rock before finally sinking.

The three launcher crewmen were killed instantly by the backblast of the booster, as I recall. Later I remember seeing the imprints of the Sgt's boots in the hardstand where he was standing directly at the rear of the booster. I was told that the boots had to be pried out of the hardstand.

Needless to say, it was extremely difficult to get anyone to do Stray Voltage Checks for a long time after that.

My recollection of the cause of the accident was that there had been a lot of water that had recently fallen and some of the cables were soaked and lying in water in their conduits throughout the launcher area. MICOM immediately did an investigation of the Squib Tester and fielded an urgent MWO to prevent such a thing from happening again. I know that for months, we support folks had a job of modifying Squib Testers and drying out cables. The cable DX program was never in greater demand!

I wish I could remember more of the details, Ed, but time has taken its toll on my mental facilities. Hope this will be of some use to you.

You are doing a great job with the Web Site. Keep up the good work.

Regards,

Charles Rudicil

From: Doyle Piland. Sun, 23 May 1999
Ed and Don[Bender]:

Attached is an account of the Accident with the Nike Hercules missile on Okinawa in 1959. This is the recollections of Timothy Ryan, who was there, on-site, at the time the accident happened. I suspect this is the most credible account we have seen. Later correspondence from Tim says the doesn't know if the missile had a Nuke warhead or not. Based upon that, I suspect it was a HE warhead. If it had been a Nuke, anyone that was there would have been interviewed and debriefed for hours and hours. I'm sure they would have known that there was something special about that missile.

Regards.
Doyle Piland

OKINAWA 1959
Nike Hercules Accident at Site 8 (Naha Air Base)

The 207th Ordnance Platoon arrived in Okinawa in January of 1959. We were stationed at the Machinato Army Post. Because of a backlog of work, we were temporarily assigned to assist the 96th Ordnance Detachment in performing direct support instead of our original mission as a heavy maintenance platoon. This temporary assignment lasted several months, if I recall accurately.

The accident occurred on a Friday, the very Friday that was our last day on direct support. As of the next Monday we were finally going to work as a heavy maintenance platoon which meant no more traveling to the sites. We arrived at site 8 which was at Naha Air Base and proceeded to start work, probably installing modifications, inside the launcher area, on one of the underground launchers just past the first launcher. I went back upstairs for something and was told by one of the battery officers to get my men out of the area, they were going into "blue-alert." I called downstairs for everyone to get out, we got into our truck and drove past the first launcher again.

We stood by the guards shack watching the preparations, this was interesting stuff for us Ordnance guys, because we never saw a missile battery go into action before. We were asked to move away from the launcher area because they were going to raise that missile. As we were walking away there was a tremendous explosion, I thought we were bombed by whatever plane caused this "blue-alert." We dove behind a building with dirt and stones raining down on us. When things stopped falling we got up and walked towards the launcher area. I heard people moaning and could see 2 or 3 men laying on the ground. I then realized that the launcher was still in the lowered position and that the missile was not there!

We ran inside the fence and tried to do whatever we could for those who were injured. One man, apparently the one who was attempting to connect the first cable to the back of the first booster, was dead with his leg blown off and a terrible head injury. I went over to another man who was badly injured but conscious with his fatigue jacket and undershirt completely blown off his body and his skin peeled and burned from the blast. I put my fatigue jacket over his upper body and my undershirt on his leg which was also injured. Other people were also busy helping all the other injured men.

Later I noticed that the cyclone fence, behind where the missile was positioned, was distorted from the blast and the guard shack, where we were standing earlier had the windows blown out. I walked up to the front of the launcher and saw a hole ripped in the fence where the missile had gone through it. The missile was several hundred feet away, down on what I think was a beach-like area. It was mangled pretty badly but still in one piece, I think.

We found out later that the suspected cause of the accident was a short in the launcher that was not detected by the squib tester which several people said they saw the man use before he attempted to connect the cable to the booster.

That is pretty much all I can recall about that awful experience. It is quite a bit considering it was 40 years ago. We were very fortunate that we were not among the injured or dead, we came that close.

I don't remember ever hearing about how many died or how the injured made out.

Tim Ryan

From: Carl Durling. February 7, 1999
Ed:
I arrived at the Naha site 18 January 1960. The incident was still very much under discussion, and as I recall it occurred around June or July 1959.

They had finished assembling the missile (Nuke) and were getting it ready to raise for electronic testing with the MTR. In the story previously given it is mentioned that the missile went across the runway. This was not the case. The Launcher Area was on the other side of the runways from the IFC area, and the launchers faced the open sea. A horizontal firing would have carried it through a fence, over a beach (patrolled by on-site MPs) and into the sea.

I know of only two people killed and one injured. Never heard about an MP being killed. The guard shack was not behind the missile launchers. As the replacement MTR operator, I was given a tour of the Launcher Area and was instructed about the preventative measures instituted because of the incident. There was debate as to whether the lock-on by the MTR may have caused the stray voltage.

Our radars were high enough to be able to lock-on while the missile was in the horizontal position. So, testing was sometimes done before the missile was raised in order to save time. This procedure changed, and no lock was allowed until the missile was vertical.
Carl Durling


Korea
And (Fri, 4 Dec 1998)
Herc launch.
J.P. Moore and Pete Simpson forward
This is on the news wire this AM:

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- An anti-aircraft missile was launched accidentally into busy airspace over the western city of Inchon today, injuring at least three people on the ground. The missile was destroyed automatically by a built-in safety device seconds after it left the launcher, sending a shower of metal fragments over a nearby residential area, officials said. The Defense Ministry said the Nike-Hercules missile was fired accidentally by an electronic circuit malfunction during a routine training session.

Regards......jp

on Dec 5, 1998, The Washington post had a larger article with photo. Unfortunately, the on-line copy is no longer available.

Jungpil Lee said January 26, 1999
After extensive study, Ministry of Defense said they found an outdated cable between laucher and control tower(or room), which was installed underneath of the ground. And that was a sole reason behind the unwanted launch.

George Evans comments January 27, 1999
Sorry to hear the Koreans are having problems. I was the Battalion Cmdr of that Bn when we turned it over to the Koreans in 1976. It doesn't surprise me that a cable was bad. That equipment has been there since somewhere around 1960 and I am sure that some of the cables are rotten if they have not been replaced.


*My Opinion* On a per hour basis, I suggest that people were safer working on Nike missiles than driving on the public roads (except when doing field modifications with civilians). I also suggest that this very low level of accidents was no accident, but the result of very determined enforcement of safe practices (and a high level of awareness by the troops that the situations were full of serious hazard).


Nike Nuclear Accidents (none)

Kurt Laughlin writes
"Broken Arrow" is the DOD code name for a nuclear weapons accident.

I have a list that covers accidents from 1950 to 1980 and there are none involving NIKEs, but the DOD states that other accidents between 1950 and 1956, and 1968 and 1980 remain classified.

Some additional information has been released in the interim. For example, my list has an A-4 Skyhawk rolling off a carrier with a bomb, "more than 500 miles from land". About two years ago it came out that it was actually about 100 miles from Japan, who are quite skittish about such things.

The FOIA is a "Freedom of Information Act" request. It is a way of getting the gov't to release classified info. Not always successful, but it has been used frequently for historical research to get the "good" stuff on the Cuban Missile crisis, Nixon, Johnson, Kissinger, et al. The cool thing is that they can't stall. They have to respond yes/no in a short (for the gov't) period of time.


Political/financial environment and Competing Air Defense Systems

From Mark L. Morgan, Co-author of "Rings of Supersonic Steel".
Subject: BOMARC/TALOS Planned Deployment
Date: Mon, 6 Sep 1999 14:22:22 EDT
From: Lobo76mk@aol.com (Mark L. Morgan)

... Anyway, here are the Air Force's BOMARC/TALOS deployment plans, another indication of how declining budgets forced major changes in air defense plans during the 50's. I got the material from several sources (hopefully still in my files), and included it in Nike Quick Look III, the predecessor to Rings of Supersonic Steel.

1952 - First ADC BOMARC deployment plan, 52 squadrons with up to 128 missiles each. After the USAF was directed to investigate ground-based TALOS, the plan was revised down to 40 BOMARC sites with 120 missiles each, and up to 53 TALOS sites. The planned BOMARC bases and operational dates were (date is IOC by Qtr/FY):

1. McGuire AFB 1/60 21. Grand Forks 2/62
2. Suffolk County AFB 2/60 22. Cut Bank AFS 3/62
3. Otis AFB 3/60 23. Opheim AFS 3/62
4. Dow AFB 4/60 24. Minot 3/62
5. Niagara Falls AB 1/61 25. Klamath Falls 4/62
6. Plattsburgh AFB 1/61 26. Geiger Field 4/62
7. Kinross AFB 2/61 27. McConnell AFB 4/62
8. KI Sawyer Airport 2/61 28. Ardmore AFB 1/63
9. Langley AFB 3/61 29. Amarillo AFB 1/63
10. Truax Field 3/61 30. Reese AFB 1/63
11. Paine AFB 3/61 31. Biggs AFB 2/63
12. Portland AB 3/61 32. Laughlin AFB 2/63
13. Hamilton AFB 4/61 33. Williams AFB 2/63
14. Oxnard AFB 4/61 34. Ellington AFB 2/63
15. San Diego 4/61 35. New Orleans 3/63
16. Fort Ord 1/62 36. Fort Campbell 3/63
17. Bunker Hill AFB 1/62 37. Pinecastle AFB 4/63
18. Greater Pittsburgh AP 1/62 38. Tyndall AFB 4/63
19. Duluth AP 2/62 39. Charleston AFB 4/63
20. Sioux City AP 2/62 40. Seymour Johnson AFB 4/63

In Sept 56 HQUSAF said 40 squadron/4800 missiles was too much, at approx $15 billion; ADC said 40 squadrons was the absolute minimum. CONAD was directed to study, and came back with a Jan 57 proposal for 40 squadrons with 60 missiles each, using cheaper launchers (the Type I was huge, complex, and gawdawful expensive. I understand a couple are still standing on Santa Rosa Island). At the end of 1957, ADC requested funding for the first 14 sites. Jan 58, HQUSAF cut deployment to 31 sites; two with 56 missiles (two flights), and the others with 28 missiles. Sept 58, the USAF agreed to six sites with IM-99A, and subsequent ones with IM-99B. Nov 58, revised station list released:

1. McGuire AFB 16. Malmstrom AFB
2. Suffolk County AFB 17. Grand Forks AFB
3. Otis AFB 18. Minot AFB
4. Dow AFB 19. Youngstown, OH
5. Langley AFB 20. Seymour Johnson AFB
6. Truax Field 21. Bunker Hill AFB
7. Kinross AFB 22. Sioux Falls AB
8. Duluth AB 23. Charleston AFB
9. Ethan Allen AFB 24. McConnell AFB
10. Niagara Falls AB 25. Holloman AFB
11. Paine AFB 26. McCoy AFB
12. Camp Adair 27. Amarillo AFB
13. Travis AFB 28. Barksdale AFB
14. Vandenberg AFB 29. Williams AFB
15. San Diego

Plus, two missile sites in Canada. HOWEVER, this was during the big Nike/BOMARC debate in Congress. Following the Jun 59 release of the Master Air Defense Plan, the Air Force was allowed 16 sites in ConUS, with two in Canada for the RCAF. The following were the 18 sites with 56 missiles each (1,008 total with spares), with IOC dates:

1. McGuire AFB 9/59 10. Adair AFS 8/61
2. Suffolk County AFB 12/59 11. Travis AFB 9/61
3. Otis AFB 3/60 12. Vandenberg AFB 10/61
4. Dow AFB 6/60 13. Malmstrom AFB 1/62
5. Langley AFB 9/60 14. Glasgow AFB 4/61
6. Kinross AFB 3/61 15. Minot AFB 6/61
7. Duluth AB 4/61 16. Charleston AFB 7/62
8. Niagara Falls AB 5/61 17. La Macaza, PQ 2/62 RCAF
9. Paine AFB 7/61 18. North Ban, ON 3/62 RCAF

By this time initial site work had begun on the first 14 sites; with the changes, work was suspended at Ethan Allen and Truax. However, on 23 Mar 60, HQUSAF cut deployment of the IM-99B to seven sites of 28 missiles each. The following day, funding was cut from $421.5 million to $40 million, leaving ADC with eight sites, the two Canadian sites, and suspending work on the almost completed Paine AFB facility. Adair was suspended with the foundations and floors in for the missile shelters, and a few support buildings.

In summary, the original 49-site, 4,800-missile BOMARC system was ultimately fielded with 10 sites and about 400 missiles.

AF/TALOS - The USAF was assigned responsibility for development of a land-based variant of the TALOS missile system on 7 Jun 55, primarily for use as a point-defense missile system (which would allow them to decline Nike Ajax deployments around SAC bases). The Army had already taken a look at the missile and decided not to proceed, what with Ajax coming along...

An early USAF plan involved eight squadrons with four detachments each; consideration was given to deploying 53 squadrons. The first sites were selected in early 1956: Lockbourne AFB, Peoria, IL, Bunker Hill AFB and Kirksville AFS. This was revised to Offutt, Barksdale, March and Castle AFB's in Mar 56. However, as the funds had already been released for site studies and prep, the latter four sites were instead named sites five through eight.

In May 1956, ADC TALOS teams were ready to hit the road, but were held up while Congress and DOD argued over who was going to defend what bases with which missiles. On 26 Nov 56, SecDef Charles Wilson formally ordered the assignment of the point-defense mission to ARADCOM, killing the AF/TALOS program.

BTW, TALOS entered service with the USN in USS Galveston (CLG-3) in May 57. It was finally retired from active service in USS Oklahoma City (CLG-5) in Dec 79.

Other Nike - The two Nike defenses that were built, manned, but shut down before attaining operational status were at Walker AFB, NM (6/2d Artillery, 4/60-6/60) and Schilling AFB, KS (5/44th Artillery, 4/60-6/60). Site studies were performed at Mountain Home AFB, ID, with the battery locations designated MH-05 and MH-79, but the two sites were never constructed and no battalion was ever designated for assignment (to the best of my knowledge).

The only other site ever considered for Nike that I've run across to this point was Malmstrom AFB; it would've been truly unique, as ADC was doing its BOMARC plans for Malmstrom at the same time. BOMARC was cut back to the ast coast in 1960 and the JCS killed the Nike site studies on 18 May 60. Malmstrom, of course, did see initial construction under SENTINEL/SAFEGUARD about 10 years later.

Phew! Questions? MK.


Return to beginning of "History"
Back to Home Page
Updated January 16, 2000