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Nike Site Dangers

Not only were the duties on a Nike Site filled with constant alerts, training, inspections, Radar Bomb Scoring, and other routine soldier duties like guard duty, K.P., painting and polishing, but there were inherent dangers, and I'll start the list. Any vets out there that want to add to the list just send your material to the

  • Being crushed to death.
  • Electrocution
  • Attacked by a loose sentry dog
  • Falling into an open pit
  • New 2nd Lieutenants trying to get BCO qualified
  • Ignition of a booster by static electricity
  • Exposure to toxic fumes and chemicals
  • Red Fuming Nitric Acid
  • Asbestos
  • Caked ice on radar tower ladders and platforms
  • Cold metal sticking to your hands
  • Liver and onions
  • Electric shocks
  • Radiation exposure
  • High pressure hydraulic lines bursting
  • In the danger zone of a radiating antenna
  • Body parts sucked into cooling fans
  • German citizens taking pot shots at the IFC due to getting tired of the constant blip-blip-blip from the HIPAR
  • Finding a Nike Hercules' warhead armed itself after a power surge or drop.
  • Having to disarm the warhead
  • Those black, yellow and red Korean hornets
  • Avoiding the alligators on Key West when going out to the RF Test Set.
  • An armed Nike Hercules falling into an open pit. (It happened. Lucky it was an H.E.)
  • Falling down the ladder leading to the Panel Room, before they installed stairs.
  • Unzipping the door on the TTR radome only to find the rookie down in the van has the antenna pointed at you and it's on.
  • In the HIPAR building when and during a Klystron tube going "real" bad!
  • Any bored idiots with single digit IQs driving jeeps. How about 3 brand new 5/4s in one weekend! (wrecked to say the least)

-Ezio Nurisio

Ted Swanson wrote:

  • Sticking a test probe into a missile tracking magnetron, (just turned on - not up). Thrown back against the dome door zippers - unconscious. Luckily spread eagle.
  • Mosquitoes at HM-69 in the middle of Everglades National Park.

William Vento wrote:

While in Omaha at B-6-43, our missiles were topside. That's right, topside, not underground! Anyway, they were covered by a vinyl air inflated tent. The missiles as well as the launchers were covered by these tents. We had to climb on top of the missiles after an ORE or TPI and get the covers back over the missiles. Imagine doing this with snow on the soles of your boots! Very slippery.

Glen Talon wrote:

  • How about being thrown from a moving truck breaking bone's (compound fracture)? This happened to a 16B whom was escorting with me at B3/71 (Turks welding covers)
  • Or a head wound from the fins (Crew Chief)
  • Being a nube and forgetting to stomp up the steps of the tower (everyone)
  • Working down range at night and tower guards have not been told someone (people) is down range
  • Rebuilding berms and equipment turning over, with injuries to MPs an 16Bs (most sites)
  • Down range water so polluted sends MPs and 16Bs to 5th Gen hospital (those deemed sickest and could be spared)
  • Finding warhead seal broken moving it up range for maintenance and doing it up wind (Black sargent turns white)
  • Ending up with an eye injury losing 10% of sight from metal fragments moving same war head (Me)
  • Having a security alert at night with gas masks and running through down range (two MPs injured)
  • Last being the MP whom was moving the ammo trailer that lost three fingers (fuel shortage had to take a cab)
  • Best thing working a Nike site some of the best DAMN people whom made it work :)

Nike Vet Glen Talon N.H. Chair CWVA
Cold War Veterans Assc.


Carl Durling C-2-52 1961-62:
Finding a rattle snake in your tent while on field exercises in the desert north of Fort Bliss.

Battery B, 5th Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery:

On a hill with our radars, we were on hot status. Suddenly we heard a number of shots. We called for immediate backup! One of our MPs had fallen asleep in the guard shack with a full load of ammo in his M16. Life was never dull on the hill. Down range we had a MP who lost it and decided to shoot at our Nukes. He was escorted to the nearby hospital.
CW2 Gale Dorman Retired

Carrol Tilley wrote:

  • Unsymmetrical Dimethyl Hydrazine - NIKE Ajax starter fluid

Sam McClung, D-2-1 ADA, Dichtelbach, West Germany 1970s:
  • Terrorists
  • Armed military aircraft (nuclear?) continually strafing the site
  • 600-800 pound wild boars in the forest
  • Getting "buzzed" by the HIPAR
  • Driving on the autobahn
  • Isolation
  • Hypothermia
  • SMLM vehicles
  • Magnesium IFC vans burn quick
  • Icy mountain roads that automotive vehicles slide on
  • Oktoberfest was last night and they had all this wine there and...

Rodney Rollins:

  • Working with nuclear weapons, high explosives, errant electric currents, arming magnetos, pissed off attack dogs, rifles and handguns, and a couple of guys nicknamed "Shaky" and "Blinky".

Subject: danger in the Everglades:

  • Alligator poachers spotlighting our sentry dogs at A252 in the Everglades
  • Cottonmouth and rattlesnakes between the security fences
  • Rats scrounging for dog food in the kennel shacks
  • Snakes crawling on window awnings at night, feeding on the insects that were drawn to the lights
  • Alligators running across the road at night in front of motorcycles
  • Dogs constantly getting bit by snakes while on patrol.  Vets at Homestead AFB had to treat them- a tricky procedure for both the vet and the dog handler.
-Frank Pepper. I was a dog handler in the Everglades.

From: Jim Martensen
Re: Trichloroethylene

  • Used to clean power supplies and chassis on antennas. About 5 minutes in a confined space with that stuff had you seeing pretty green stars. Later banned as a carcinogen.

  • Getting called to duty at 3AM to go and save two MPs who were on a site-seeing mission in a snow storm and their jeep got stuck. Had to hike down to them and bring their gear and then march them back to IFC whining all the way about how cold it was (-80 white out).
  • Going to ag shack and meeting mister brown bear on the way or going to pick up mail from main post and getting run over by a moose in rut.

-Sp4 Lonny Self 1978

  • While at 93 (C-2-51) in San Rafael and at 88 (B-2-51) in Marin, deer and raccoons would often be found wandering around the area, or in case of the deer, charging us when sighted.

-Ron Santos

From: "Tom de Grom"
Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012

  • As a PFC instructor for the Missile and Launcher school at Fort Bliss: Having someone raising the launcher without taking the "boots" off the cylinders... Watch out below!
  • In maintenance at Redstone Arsenal after completing the radar and computer course: Having one of my technicians fire up the TT Radar after he took apart the waveguide and stuffed a rag in it to keep the moisture out... small fire!
  • Still at Redstone: Having a generator mechanic switch out generators and not have it in phase with the other generator running to the van. My tech goes in and turns on three power switches, as we usually did... Big fire, burning cable all 252 feet, and about 1000 feet of wiring in the van!
  • In maintenance at 4th Ord in Miesau Germany: Having to go out to a radar site during an inspection... A site tech cleaned the plastic shield with gas to make it sparkle, closed the clam-shell and then fired it up... I mean really fired it up, small spark followed immediately by a medium explosion! Oh, almost forgot, they also cleaned the metal mesh steps with kerosene and the inspecting officer fell... If I remember, it was just a broken arm or leg!
  • Back at Redstone School: Having my tech override rotation on the acquisition radar and use it to kill birds in the trees.
  • At Redstone Nike radar range: Just for fun, on a special project, a group of 3 Nike civilians and 2 military, John H. and myself, took components out of a TTR and the Control trailer and made a radar that would fit inside an M48 Tank. Every thing inside but a 1 meter dish to transmit. Boss said it couldn't be done, we said give us 2 weeks, we ran into a little trouble acquiring a power converter that we could operate off the tank system to power the radar. Thanks to the good folks at the Redstone airfield, while they weren't looking, it only took 3 weeks before we had an operating radar.
  • Still at Redstone Nike radar range: We broke the locking mechanism on one of the trailers; you know the magnesium trailers, called post maintenance to fix it...
    While sitting in the break trailer with the door open we hear a pop and the light from an acetylene torch. John jumped from the break trailer to tackle the maintenance man before the torch hit the trailer. John did miss the 4 steps going down from the break trailer, but both survived.

Tom de Grom

From: "Robert Kirk"
Sent: Monday, May 21, 2012
Subject: Danger and Fun

1. Okinawa
  • Finding out the bar where you ate last night was put off limits because they were serving questionable meat
  • The sign for the 44th Ord Co (GM/GS) getting repainted with a peace sign
  • The commanding general seeing the sign
  • Moving the pack howitzer from in front of the brigade hq to the 44th parking lot
2. Redstone
  • 22m20 training
  • Getting one of your classmates to tell the instructor he wanted to be an inflight repairman
  • The same guy getting zapped on a philco t rack seven days running
  • During snow storms going off post to a road intersection to watch the rednecks trying to stop for a red light when they are doing about fifty and there is snow on the ground
  • Cleaning the the red juice from control section of a Nike because the "inflight repairman" did not properly safety wire the HPU that you were performing a test on (I should have checked his work)
3. Fort Bliss
  • Getting arrested and thrown into jail in Juarez

From: "Jim Derendinger"
Sent: Wednesday, December 26, 2012

  • Second lt. were probably the most dangerous, trying to convince everyone they knew it all but they were just getting started.

I was a trainer for HqBn. 3/71 in Germany in 66, 67, 68 and loved every moment. We were all individuals but the men I trained were the best people in the service. I am so proud to have been a part it all.

From: "Gerald Browning"
Sent: Friday, March 8, 2013

Just a couple of Nike Site Dangers that I remember that come to my mind:

  • Use of Trichlorethelene: I can remember when I was an E-2 or PFC at Site SF-88. Our section chief gave another Pvt. and me the job of cleaning the cables in the Panel Room in B Section. We were using trichlorethelene (but not in a well vented area). We had been working on the cable cleaning for quite some time when he came by to check on us. We were high as a kite from the fumes of the trichlorethelene. He opened up the escape hatch door to ventilate the panel room and made us get out of the launching area for the rest of the day.
  • One year I was on the warhead team. We went to SNAP. Our team finished the second day with a perfect score, but the rest of our battery was just getting started. Our warhead team had the rest of the week to kill. We were located in a company area but somewhere on the range a way out on the desert with absolutely nothing to do. To entertain ourselves we went to the motor pool and checked out some jeeps. We then drove around out on the desert jumping over sand dunes with the jeeps. Eventually we started seeing things that looked to be about an inch square and different lengths. The best I remember they were kind of amber in color and a little translucent. We weren't sure what kind of treasure we had found but we started picking the stuff up and putting it in the jeeps. We were later stopped by MP's and and I thought we were going to be arrested but they finally let us go. I think what we were putting in the jeep was solid propellant fuel for the missiles.

Gerald Browning

From: "Hank"
Sent: Thursday, May 30, 2013 4:38:38 PM
Subject: Nike Herc night time thriller

Fort Tilden, Far Rockaway, NY

As Chief Site Missile Equipment Engineer, getting a 2 AM phone call at my off base home because a visiting Colonel decided to do an unscheduled snap launch drill during a rain and later lightening storm and got a missile stuck in the raised position on the top of the elevated launch area.

No equipment mechanic was on site so as the SSG in charge of the engineering section I was called in and no sooner after I had the missile back down and into the bunker and I was walking away from the hill there was a MAJOR DIRECT LIGHTENING STRIKE to the exact launch door that had been jammed open with a raised NIKE HERC MISSILE.

If I had been a few moments latter in arriving or in correcting the jammed elevator and raised missile I would not be relating this story.

Of course this was an incident that never officially happened.

-SSG Burns 63c40

From: Robin Smith
Sent: Sunday, July 7, 2013 8:14:23 PM
Subject: Dangers of a Nike Site

  • While stationed at D/2/52 on Krome Avenue in spring 1972 we went to the RFTS to perform dailies and found that due to heavy rain the previous evening, there were approximately 100 snakes of several different types coiled up on the concrete pad at the base of the mast. Apparently they had gotten tired of swimming.
  • Climbing a very rusty ABAR tower at D/2/52 to perform antenna service and wondering, "Will this rusty old ladder hold my weight?"

Robin Smith
CW2 Ret

From: "Robert Bennington"
Sent: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 4:33:29 PM
Subject: Nike Herc Missile exploded

Faulty solid fuel flamed out about 500' after launch, separated from second stage and then reignited and slammed into the second stage. Huge fireball that almost reached the launcher. The guys in the bunker thought they were toast (literally).

-Robert Bennington 24p20 at McGregor

From: "Robert Bennington"
Sent: Saturday, August 31, 2013 6:39:30 PM
Subject: More dumb stuff

  • @MacGregor... Someone did the impossible by installing the Nike's gyro backward (that was the official explanation) which caused the missile to go more south as the computer told it to go more north. Safety officer blew it before it crossed into Mexico.
  • @MacGregor... The 333rd supposedly had the only two mobile ABM units stationed in the US. One morning we ran the HIPAR antennas up into position and all the interlock lights lit so I lit up the transmitter and suddenly every neon lamp in the ACQ van starts flashing on and off which I quickly realized was in time with the antenna rotation. I stuck my head out the door only to see that the vertical interlock had failed allowing the transmitter to fire with the antenna sweeping directly at us. Needless to say I quickly killed the transmitter. For years later my wife thought it was cute that I glowed at night.
  • @MacGregor... We, the 333rd, were briefly on orders to go to Vietnam as an ABM unit (like HUNH??!) but the orders were canceled because of a security leak. The NVA knew we were coming. Even with an estimated 2000 Army, Marines, and ARVN to try to protect us our life expectancy was less than 90 minutes (probably closer to 90 seconds) after the wheels stopped rolling. The decision to cancel the deployment was one of the best decisions made during the war (at least from my point of view).
  • In Korea... In one of the many Mig sorties that came south of the DMZ the sites went up a step in DEFCON and then back down. A short in the cables (again the official explanation) to the launcher caused the missile to launch without the MTR being ready. At MA+4 the missile self destructed when it failed to detect the MTR. I know.. it's not possible....right.(with just a hint of sarcasm)
Other fun stuff
  • The Hawk guys at MacGregor had their fun too. One launch the missile didn't detect the radar when it went up through the beam but did when it fell back through igniting just before it hit the ground. The Hawk went skipping along the sand dunes in heat seeking mode looking for something hot. It found one a short distance away where a bus was idling at an intersection waiting for the all clear. The Hawk locked on and blew the whole back half of the bus off. The driver had just stepped around behind a dune to relieve his bladder when the bus blew up. I heard he also relieved himself of all that was in his lower intestine.
  • In one Redeye shoulder launch test there was a fault in the software that caused the missile to lock full left if it failed to acquire a hot target. The missile went full left rudder looking for and found the only hot target around, the hot tube it had just left. The soldier that fired it did a double take when he realized what the missile was after, threw the launch tube and ran. He was safe but tube died.

From: R. Alderson / SP5
Subject: Melting Waveguide
Date: Thursday, 19 December 2013

Because of our location, the top five channels on the HIPAR radar could not be used unless the bad guys were overhead. I was told police, fire services, and a host of other radios would be useless for a large area of the east coast!

Once a month at 3 AM on the first Sunday the top five channels were tested for one minute each, timed with a stop watch.

The HIPAR was fired up and the rotation was locked with the antenna pointed at a certain point off the east coast. Good luck to any fishing boats at that point of the ocean. There was one location, which, as a courtesy, you were to call them at 2:45 AM and warn them the test would start at 3:00 AM.

This was my first time doing this test. I called the number at 2:45 AM and got no answer (this was before answering machines). I called again at 2:55 AM but still no answer. I proceeded with the test at 3 AM. At 3:03 AM I received a call from our base switchboard. It was a very angry civilian screaming that we were melting the front end of his receiver: puddles of brass waveguide! Then he said "the emerald in the amplifier was melting also; oh my God stop, stop now!" My instructions said nothing about stopping the test, so I finished the tests, Cold War is Cold War! I updated my log and headed down the hill for some rest. We were short mechanics so we were working 24 hours on and 24 off. I mean we were working 24 hours straight.

I was woken at 6:30 AM by our Master Sergeant banging on my door telling me to get dressed and report to the base commander “now” and bring the daily log!

I reported as ordered. The base commander told me he had a call from an angry civilian saying that I had destroyed his equipment last night and he was billing the Army for $40,000 (this was in 1965!) I reviewed what I had done with the Captain and the test instructions. I also showed him where in the log I made two calls when only one was required.

While I was in his office, the base commander telephoned the civilian. The Captain told the civilian that he had been notified by the Army two years ago that these tests would take place and when. It was up to him to take whatever action was necessary to protect his equipment. The Captain said "my Specialist called you twice as a courtesy before the test took place but nobody answered the phone". The civilian said he must have been in the antenna, that was why the phone was not answered. After the call I was dismissed with a job well done. I never heard a word about the test again.

Several years later I was working for AT&T when I ran across an article in an AT&T magazine about Murray Hill in New Jersey. Murray Hill is where all the AT&T antenna experiments took place. Murray Hill was across from our Hipar about 600 yards on the next hill with a perfect line of sight to the HIPAR when locked down for the test!

Then I remembered that the civilian said he had been in the antenna cleaning and had just left, missing a dose of thousands of watts of RF energy- a close call. Think of being in the world’s biggest microwave oven, ouch!

The emerald that was melted was in one of the first RF laser amplifiers in the world!

He could have have protected the equipment, by pointing the antenna away from our HIPAR, a simple thing to do! This had been done for many tests in the past in the last two years.

The civilian on the phone and two other scientists received a Noble Prize for discovering cosmic background radiation in space, the C.O.B.E. project, after they rebuilt their antennas front end receiver!

R. Alderson / SP5
Hazlet, NJ

From: Emmett R. Caraker Jr.
Sent: Friday, October 10, 2014
Subject: THULE Greenland

Rising Star System with elevator mounted launchers. Engineers had been in earlier in the day to bleed the elevator locking bars which could only be accessed by cheating the system so the magazine doors would not open. They finished their work and left. Sometime later our site was called up as we were the backup battery. Prior to assuming hot status we had to run a drill. The other pit rat and myself rolled a round on the launcher and I performed the stray voltage check. When the command came to raise elevator everything started moving, the elevator started upward, the erector beam was rising and the magazine doors did not open. I was manning the emergency power switch and had to shut down the system. Unfortunately the engineers had failed to remove the cheater cable which prevented the doors from opening. Needless to say the engineering section chief and his assistant got read the riot act.

Spec.-5 Emmett R. Caraker Jr.
MOS 16b20

From: Hardy, Timothy A CIV (US)
Subject: Nike Site Dangers (UNCLASSIFIED)
Date: Fri, 15 May 2015

  • Watching 2 MIG's fly over the Exclusion Area and buzz the tower, while tailed by 2 Tornado's (Italy).
  • Static Probe without cover.
  • Trichloroethylene and a carburetor.
  • Painting Missiles in a non-ventilate area.
  • Blown fuse in a nuclear warhead de-mating procedures, never saw the Italians run so fast. EOD failed to come out to see, but sent instructions on what to do. Thanks guys.
  • Bored 11B's and Detonation Cord.
  • 10 pound shape charge.
SPC Timothy Hardy,
1st of the 34th, Italy

From: Don Mullis
Sent: Thursday, August 27, 2015
Subject: Inherent Dangers of Nike work

  • Eating out of marmite cans 2 times a day every other day for years.
  • Eating ham 3 times a day for 45 days because the Gen did not like ham.
  • Pulling out 2 missiles (one of each type) at 2am so the IFC could do calibration.
  • F16 buzz the IFC so the IFC made the F16 light come on (lock on the F16). Air Force call the Army about it.
  • Guy in the IFC gets Dear John letter go nuts, sent him to the hospital.
  • No time off
  • Working 24 hrs on 24 hrs off (maybe) guard towers manned 24/7 for 365 days a year. 4 hrs in the tower and 4 hrs out of the tower.
  • 2 people pulling/pushing by hand a 10,710 pound missile to a launcher. Then put it back in the barn.
  • Eating C rations dated 1958 ( it was 1973) and 1948 (it was 1974).
  • Turn a 2 bay vehicles manit. garage into the Mass Hall when they rebuild adm/barrecks.
  • Supply Person (76Y) shot is finger in the arms room with a M1911A1 (cal.45).
  • 16B goes nuts in a guard tower 30 feet high with an M16A1 and 180 rounds of ammo, with a gas mask. Sent him to the hospital.
  • Sat and Bat team call out a 3am to check security alert in B section. Nice run in full gear.
  • Paint a Hercules trainer missile put it on a ready round trailer. Then haul it to K-town so the Gen had it for display. Haul it back to battery the same day. Germany police tell you have to go back on 2 lane roads. Have to make a 90 degree turn on the way back. On top of it all the Germany police said your road permit just about out of time. He would eat supper and when he came back you better be off the road. Poor old 5 ton got run very hard that day.
  • Lost one person when a rough terrain scoop loader roll over on him.
  • Going to and from sick call in the back of ¾ or 5/4 or 2 ½ ton tactical truck.
  • Medic put a person in the tactical amb backwords so their head is near the tailpipe.
  • Had a medic but he had nothing to help with not even an aspirin.
  • Live in tents while they rebuilding adm/barrack. It was only winter time. Tents were only 8 to 10 feet from the building they were rebuilding. Can you say Asbestos time it was only 1974.
  • Setting in a fox hole for 8 hrs during war games in the winter.
  • Getting up at 2am to drive the pay office 1 ½ hrs to pick up pay and marks drive back 1 ½ hrs to pay people back 1 ½ hrs to turn in money and marks. Back 1 1/2 hrs turn in vehicle get off for payday.

SP5 Don Mullis
A/5/6 ADA

From: Michael Williquette
Subject: Nike site in Germany
Date: April 23, 2016

My name is Michael Williquette. I was stationed In Blankenheim, Germany from April 1965-Jan 1967. My MOS was 22f20 Nike electronic maintenance and warhead specialist. I was at Delta Team 43rd Artillary with our headquarters in Duran. I have an interesting story about a Belgian security guard fireing his Thompson sub-machine gun inside one of our barns with 8 nukes inside. He was playing with the seal on his clip and broke it. There was an American with him in the barn at the time but didn’t see him lock and load a round. His Thompson went off. We looked everywhere for the slug and SASCOM came in to search for it too. We never found the round and I am not sure what happened to the Belgian soldier but for all I know he is still in jail.

From: Barry Hayes
Sent: April 29, 2018
Subject: Nike Site Dangers

Sandbagging hose from Joy Compressor to launcher and having hose fitting fail.
Eating "something" (mystery meat) at cafe while on SNAP at NAMFI Crete Greece.
LCT op in Germany

From: Rocky Stovall
Date: May 6, 2018

I have been wanting to put in my two cents about the dangers on Nike sites. Here are some dangers I encountered, some are just plain stupidity.

  • Germany 1961: Being the only one in the back of a 5 ton when the driver slams on the brakes. Passenger gets a free ride to the hospital at Spangdahlem for X-rays and stitches, first prize for flying through the air like a missile- head first from tailgate to spare tire rim on back of cab.
  • Germany 1962: As Duty driver I get a call from the CQ. I and the Medic have to make a run to a nearby town and rescue two young troops from a mob. Once the two are in the truck we head back to the unit only to be confronted by a mob of men that wanted our passengers. I had one thing to do – I drove through them, they all got clear.
  • Germany 1962: Performing maintenance on the racks in the Missile Storage Building, with overhead doors closed, crossing from one side to the other I swung the gate towards the overhead door and there was an electric arc from the door to the racks. We had four missiles in the building.
  • Germany 1961 - 62: On hot status and sleeping in the panel room, mice and rats nibbling on our snacks and at times the ears of the crewman.
  • Germany Oct 1962: Frostbite while manning the perimeter during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • Mobilization 1962: Driver decides to back his missile trailer loaded with a live Hercules- backs off the road down an embankment. No damage.

That’s it , I think - Rocky