Important Announcement

We would like to thank our loyal fellow members of the Nike Historical Society for your continued support over the years. We will be closing the Society, including the store, as of March 31, 2024. We have acquired a large repository of Nike technical information. The web site will continue to be available. It has been our pleasure to keep the legacy of the Nike missile's contribution of the successful conclusion to the Cold War.

the Board of Directors
Nike Historical Society


History of LA-88, Chatsworth, California

Based on presentations by the Chatsworth Historical Society.
Edited October 2022 by the Nike Historical Society.

Background: The Cold War

The Cold War, between the Communist World (the Soviet Union and its allies) and the Western World (the United States and its allies), lasted from 1946 to 1991. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989. During this period of political, military and economic conflict, various strategies were undertaken by the United States to defend against a nuclear attack delivered by aircraft.

Nike Missile bases were the last line of defense in a chain that included sea and land based aircraft. Nike sites were initially armed in 1953 with Nike Ajax missiles. Ajax could only be armed with conventional explosives and were developed to stop enemy aircraft. Ajax missiles were replaced by Nike Hercules in 1958. Hercules could be armed with conventional or nuclear warheads. Nuclear warheads made the Nike system capable of stopping a squadron of enemy aircraft with a single Hercules missile.

Nike Missile Bases

By 1958, the Army had established 200 Nike missile bases within the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii). 16 bases surrounded Los Angeles.

Nike Sites of Los Angeles: To protect its aerospace industries, Los Angeles was defended by a ring of 16 Nike sites, referred to as a "Ring of Steel”. Six of these sites were not converted to use Hercules missiles and so were unused after the conversion to Hercules. The Chatsworth Site on Oat Mountain was designated as LA-88.

Nike Missile Site LA-88, Chatsworth

Oat Mountain, the location of Site LA-88, towers over the San Fernando Valley and provides visibility in all four directions, including far out into the Pacific Ocean.

It was the last of the scheduled 16 Los Angeles Nike sites to be completed due to the rugged terrain and only one usable road through Browns Canyon. Construction difficulties leveling a mountain peak and also digging into the ground for the three missile magazines caused delays.

The site was completed and became operational on August 26, 1956.

It was decommissioned in 1974 and was one of the last sites defending the Los Angeles area.

Below are 2018 Google Earth 3D images of the three LA-88 Sites (Administration, Launcher, and Integrated Fire Control).

2018 Google Earth 3D view of the three LA-88 Sites, in relation to the 118 fwy and Mason Ave.
The Launch and Admin areas are in the Michael D. Antonovich Regional Park.
Parking is available 1 mile south on Brown’s Canyon Road.
The Radar Control Area was 1.5 miles from the Launcher Area (as the crow flies)
Nike sites had three parts:
  1. The IFC (Integrated Fire Control), contained radar control systems to detect incoming targets and to direct the missiles, along with computer systems to plot and direct the intercept. For LA-88 the IFC was about six acres on the ridge of Oat Mountain.
  2. The Launcher area had underground missile magazines, each serving a group of four missiles, for a total of 12 missiles. For LA-88 the Launcher area was around forty acres and had a crew of 109 officers and men who ran the site continuously.
  3. The third part was the Administration area, which contained the battery headquarters, barracks, mess, recreation hall, and motor pool.
LA-88 was known for being the FIRST in the Los Angeles area to transition from Nike Ajax to Nike Hercules nuclear warhead capable missiles.
From the Los Angeles Times in August 1958
LA-88 was the FIRST in the Los Angeles Area to employ K9 sentry guard dogs to patrol the open mountain expanse surrounding the site.
Photograph caption from the LAPL Valley Times collection dated December 19, 1958 reads, "Fierce sentries - M/Sgt. Ben Mullins excites his team of sentry dogs at Oat Mountain guided missile center near Chatsworth. Missile in background is Nike-Hercules which has the capability of destroying an entire squadron of enemy bombers with one atomic burst. Dogs are used to guard the base from possible night time intruders."

Nike Hercules Missile Film being made in Chatsworth. (Van Nuys News April 5, 1959)

April 5, 1959 Van Nuys News Article continued…
Military Motion Picture Film General Release Form C
Signed by Lt Col. Robert Fowler
Release for Raymond Vincent, initialed CTV by Charlene Vincent, Ray’s mother
April 6th, 1959

The United States Army Pictorial Service film Big Picture, Episode 439, Nike Hercules- A Reality, partly filmed in Chatsworth and at the Chatsworth Nike site, is available on YouTube. The film includes interviews and scenes from LA-88. It also includes quotes from Ben Boydsten, past Chamber president; LaVerne Lee, the Chatsworth Park Elementary School Principal; Al Brain, owner of the 5¢ & 10¢ and the Horn Inn; Reverend Charles Hughes and Honorary Mayor Roy Rogers.

The film's 1959 release sheet reads:
More documentary than drama is this episode which tells a straightforward story about Battery C and its Hercules' site in Chatsworth, California. Here is a clear-cut explanation of the operational efficiency of the Nike Hercules missile which is geared for the protection of the American continent. As explained in this film, Hercules is the nation's latest answer to any threatened attack and the best answer to any question about the Army's readiness. It's America's only missile system which has become an operational reality. Chatsworth, like so many suburban communities in the Los Angeles area, actually falls within the outer limits of the City and enjoys many of the services of this great urban center. In Chatsworth one will find most of the things which ensure its growth as a modern, progressive town. One will find something else--a small patch of sand and concrete high in the hills above the town, where men of the Army Air Defense Command work day and night to make sure that Chatsworth continues to grow in peace and freedom.

While aiming for objectivity throughout, the gratitude of the townspeople to the missile men of the nearby Hercules' site is best expressed by Roy Rogers, TV cowboy star and Honorary Mayor of Chatsworth when he says, "I can only express what I think most of the town feels -- our thanks."

Growing Up n the 1950s and '60s with the Threat of a Nuclear Attack

Duck and Cover Drills were practiced at schools across the nation to help students survive nuclear explosions. They continued past the 60s as standard practice for earthquake and other disaster protection procedures.

Fallout Shelters were enclosed spaces specially designed to protect occupants from radioactive debris or fallout from nuclear explosions. Many such shelters were constructed as civil defense measures during the Cold War. They were built underground or within existing basements of homes.

Duck and Cover video (1951, 9 minutes)

The film Duck and Cover was funded by the US Federal Civil Defense Administration. Released in January 1952, it taught kids what to do in the event of a nuclear explosion. Duck and Cover is available online at>Digital Archives>Presentations>Nike Missile Base History
or on YouTube at the ChatswortHistory1 channel.


A description of LA-88 from crewman Greg Brown, 1968-1971

Excerpts from Greg Brown’s Nike Biography

The status of Nike Missile Base LA-88 today

This 13 minute YouTube video was made in 2017: Inside the Abandoned Nike Missile Site LA-88L. Snapshots from the video are below.

Lassie Ep241 “The Patriot” season 7, episode 22

Filmed at LA-88 Chatsworth, air date February 12, 1961, 21 minutes

Sources and Acknowledgements

H. Rathbun
A trip down memory lane for Howard Rathbun, who served at LA-88. He revisited the site in 2006 and wrote the story of his visit.