NORTHWEST INDIANA NIKE MISSILE SITES
A partial view of an U.S. Army map from 1968 showing Nike Sites protecting Chicago.
Note: the map has been edited to show only the northwest Indiana sites. (U.S. Army graphic)
There was also an extra radar ring around the Chicago-Milwaukee defense area (cities in red).
Newspaper articles circa 1955-56 about Lake and Porter County Nike Sites, including articles about the "Ogden Dunes" Nike Site.
|The control site is owned by the National Park Service, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and is used by park personnel (park rangers). The launch site is privately owned and some buildings can be seen from the roadway (look for the old electric transformer platform along the roadway about a block from US 20). Location: Oak Hill Road, Porter, Indiana between US 12 and US 20.|
|I haven't been able to locate the control site from the roadway (NNW corner of the airport). The launch site was located at the west end of the airport and I haven't been able to locate this either. Location: Gary Municipal Airport, US 12, Gary, Indiana.|
|The control site has been obliterated and is owned by a private owner. The launch site is used by a private owner and some buildings still stand. Location: Columbia Avenue off Calumet Ave., Munster, Indiana.|
|The control site is on CR 600N and is used as a paint ball camp. Radar towers still stand. Buildings and guard shack are also present. The launch site sits on CR 700N and is owned by the US Government (General Services Administration). Good views of the site are available from CR 500W. Seven buildings still stand. Location: Portage, Indiana.|
control site (I think) stands on W 35th Avenue between
Clark and Grant Street. Buildings are painted blue and
might be used by Gary Emergency Management Officials
(there is a faded EMA sign at the gate). I haven't been
able to locate the launch site.
A contribution from: JamesCini [JamesCini@aol.com]: (April 17, 1998)
Question: Why was C-48 closed?
Answer: The Ajax had an effective range of 25 miles while the improved Hercules, the replacement, had a range up to 100 miles in the early 1960's. With the phase in of the Hercules many Ajax sites could be eliminated from the defense perimeter. Instead of needing a site every forty or so miles with the Ajax, the Hercules sites could be spread maybe 160 to 180 miles apart. Later when the concept of mutual destruction was the basis for the Cold War defensive strategy the sites could be phased out, as they were by the 1970's for the most part. The Nike Zues which was far superior to the Hercules was never put into operation. As it turns out the U.S. Army went to the tactical Missiles, the Hawks. As late as the 1980's my brother was a contracting officer for the DOD and was buying Hawk parts to his surprise. The naval version of the Hawk I think is the Sparrow.
Question: What was life like for the soldiers stationed at C-48?
Answer: IT SUCKED. It was a small site with few of the extras that one expects on a military base. No real club to speak of, a very tiny PX with limit service hours, a craft shop. Day rooms with black and white TV and Ping Pong and Pool tables. The barracks space was adequate but typical Spartan conditions.
What made life miserable? Col. Gall and other officers at the Pentagon were tasked with writing up the TO&E (Table of Organization and Equipment). One time at a staff meeting in Korea at the Fourth Missile Command he boasted that they just lifted the TO&E from a 105 howitzer Field Artillery battery. My father, a captain at the time, through a fit and told him off in much to the delight of General Bailey. Basically this is what he had to say. "No wonder you cannot get good people to stay. They never considered that the sites would be permanently manned on a continual state of readiness. It was like being in the field with the Field Artillery non-stop, not just five days every three months.
They never considered the 20 acres of ground at the launch site and the 18 acres at the control site, the men had to cut the grass in the summer and remove snow in the winter. In the Mid-West there is plenty of snow, it had to be removed constantly from the pit doors. Because the sites were open the wind would blow the snow back.
The TO&E did not take into consideration the need for highly trained soldiers with top mental scores to effectively run a Nike site. Anyone who was smart enough to do the job was smart enough to transfer to an easier assignment or get the hell out of the Army and make some real money." Many officers left to join electronics firms in Chicago, many went on to the early years of the computer industry. That is the gest of what he told Col. Gall and the others at the meeting.
A story to illustrate the misery of Nike Site life. As a morale builder the officers planned a blow out party, with food, liquor, and hostesses from a modeling agency in Chicago. At 4:00 pm on the day the party was planned, the site was put on "HOT STATUS" because another site went down. Despite phone calls to Missile Master explaining that this would destroy any morale left, the site was the HOT site and the party was ruined. The officers and the men were bitter over this until the site actually closed. The reality, that everyone knew, was we never needed sites on alert around Chicago.
Any decent Missile man moved to the National Guard when they started manning the sites. National Guard Technicians worked a 40 hour work week. If they were on alert they were compensated for all the hours they worked. They were freed up form the large number of details that it took to run a Regular Army Post. No guard duty augmentation, no KP, no CQ, no extra duties. My father said every one who was any good and wanted to stay jumped at the National Guard option, more money, and a stable homelife.
Working with extremely hazardous and toxic materials under very stressful working conditions took its toll on everyone. My father did not complain at the time because he had a large family to support, if it had not been for that he probably would have opted out earlier. As it was he went to Arlington Heights for four years with the Hercules and nuclear heads. His reward after twenty-four years was a choice to retire as a major or extend with the probability of making LtCol, but his next duty assignment would have been Republic of Viet Nam. He was already a WWII Pacific veteran with two stints, a Korean War vet, and a brief assignment to the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Loas. He took retirement.
A contribution from James Cini, [RJCIni@aol.com]: I was born July 31,1962, in Gary, IN. My father was the commander of site C-48 during the deactivation. He remembers the mailing address as 37th and Grant. If his memory is correct he turned most of the land over to a farmer. He shipped the missiles back to Ft. Bliss, and most of the site was stripped. I am interested in the history of the Nike program because it was an influence on where I was born. I hope you can continue to gather information so it can be remembered as an important part of the cold war....Sincerely; James A. Cini
A contribution from James Cini [JamesCini@aol.com]: Site C-48 had three seperate parcels of ground. One was the launch site, the second was the control site, while the third was the booster disposal area. The disposal area was obviously where the boosters were supposed to drop back to earth without endangering anyone or anything on the ground, then they were to be recovered. To the best of my knowledge no missles were ever fired from this location. Site C-48 was phased out beginning in late 1961. It was completely closed by August 1, 1962. Most of the equipment was sold to surplus dealers. The tools, both hand and electronics testing equipment were sold for some tiny fraction of their actual value or purchase price. A scrap dealer cut out the copper grounding rods. A farmer intended to use the missle pits for potato storage. The last men stationed at C-48 were dispersed throughout the Chicago- Milwaukee Missle defenses. James A. Cini
Credit: Ed Thelen's Nike Missile Page. Ed Thelen's page is probably one of the best sources of Nike Missile information. His page provides valuable information about the Nike program. Without his page, I would not have been able to locate the Indiana sites.
Back to home
(C) 1998, Christopher C.
Hedges, All Rights Reserved
All images by Christopher C. Hedges unless otherwise noted
Last update: April 17, 1998