Research Notes,

Nike Hercules in Alaska

John H. Cloe

Air Force Historian and USAR Colonel Retired

The following Research Notes, provided by Colonel Cloe, are part of a larger document he worked on while employed as an Air Force historian at Elmendorf AFB. While they do not provide the personal story, they do fix dates and events. With much gratitude, they are reproduced below by permission of the Author. (Illustrations added by present editor)

Webpage updated 19 September, 2007

Sep 1954: United States Army, Alaska (USARAL) completed the positioning of the 75-millimeter Skysweeper anti-aircraft guns. The radar directed guns replaced the 40-millimeter manually operated guns covering low-level flying aircraft. It could fire a proximity-fused shell at a rate of 45 rounds per minute up to 42,000 feet or at a slant range of 21,000 feet and could score with reasonable accuracy at 7,000 feet. The table below shows anti-aircraft battalion locations.

Anti-Aircraft Artillery Status, September 1954
Area and Unit Weapons Type No. of Weapons
98th Air Defense Artillery Battalion 120mm 16
867th Air Defense Artillery Battalion 75mm / .50 cal 15 / 32
93rd Air Defense Artillery Battalion 120mm 16
502nd Air Defense Artillery Battalion 120mm 16
450th Air Defense Artillery Battalion 75mm / .50 cal 18 / 32
Chart, Hist, AAC, Jul-Dec 1955, p. 46.

The Army was also programmed to receive 12 Nike-Ajax anti-aircraft missile batteries by 1957 to replace the anti-aircraft artillery weapons. Construction was programmed to begin in 1956. The short-range missile (25 miles) had only seconds to engage a bomber before it reached the bomb release line 10 miles from the target. (Chart, Hist, AAC, Jul-Dec 1955, p. 47.)

Oct 1954: The Alaskan Command adopted a three year Nike missile air defense program calling for the installation of the Nike Ajax (later changed to Nike Hercules) missile by 30 September 1957. Headquarters, USARAL, had hosted a conference on 25 March 1954 to begin planning the installation with the goal of replacing the anti-aircraft artillery batteries guarding the main base complexes around Anchorage and Fairbanks with a missile air defense system. The meeting addressed the logistical requirements for constructing the missile sites and the infrastructure including roads needed to support them. The locations near Fort Wainwright and Eielson AFB posed no problems for locating the missile sites in a mutually supporting range of each others since the proposed sites were on military lands, which were flat. The locations in the Fort Richardson and Elmendorf AFB area presented problems because of the need to acquire non-military lands and the varied terrain. Additionally, the Nike Ajax caustic liquid propellant required heated storage. (Hist, ALCOM, Jan 1952-Jun 1956, pp. 43-44.)

The Commander, Alaskan Sea Frontier, also requested installation of Nike missiles to protect the Kodiak Naval Base and Adak Naval Station, which had been programmed to receive the 120-millimeter anti-aircraft batteries. Major George R. Acheson, Commander, AAC, agreed with the need for Kodiak, but felt the short range of the Nike Ajax missile (25 miles with an altitude capability of 70.000 feet) and slow rate of fire would provide insufficient protection. He did not feel a missile system was justified for Adak since it was not on the list of potential nuclear targets and there was no early warning radar system in place there. He also felt that the Bendix RIM-8 Talos missile, developed for the Navy, which the Air Force was seeking to acquire, provided a better option because of its 100 mile plus range. (Hist, ALCOM, Jan 1952-Jun 1956, pp. 45-4.)

3 Dec 1954: The Alaskan Air Command established a requirement for long-range, surface to air missile for air defense. The Army was developing the Nike and the Air Force was considering the Bendix IM-70 Talos long-range surface to air missile originally developed for the Navy. (Miller, Hist, AAC, Jan-Jun 1958, pp. 124-125.)

29 Apr 1955: Headquarters, USAF, informed AAC that it along with the Northeast Air Command, Far East Air Command and United States Europe had been identified to receive the Bendix IM-70 Talos surface to air missile during 1959-1960. The Alaskan Air Command planned to position it the along the Fairbanks-Anchorage-Kodiak axis. Sites were planned on Eielson AFB, Nenana, Willow, Kenai and Sitkinak Island and Cape Chiniak on Kodiak Island. The United States Army, Alaska was also programmed to receive the point defense Nike Ajax surface-to-air missile during 1957-1958 to defend the Anchorage and Fairbanks areas. (Chart, Hist, AAC, Jan-Jun 1955, pp. 49-52.)

The Talos had been originally developed for the Navy. The ram-jet powered, rocket boosted long-range surface-to-air missile had a range of 100 nautical miles and altitude capability of 70,000 feet. A radar beam guided the missile to its target and semi-active pulse radar provided terminal guidance. It came equipped for both conventional and nuclear warheads. The Alaskan Command planned to use it as a complement for its F-102As and long range intercept beyond the range of the Army's planned Nike surface-to-air missile system. A Talos squadron was organized into a headquarter and four detachments, each equipped with 60 ready missiles and two launchers. Each detachment was equipped with its own electronic equipment consisting of two tracking illuminating radars and four guidance transmitters. The total squadron strength was around 740 officers and men. (Chart, Hist, AAC, Jan-Jun 1956, p. 34.)

11 Aug 1955: Headquarters, USARAL, issued a news release that it was planning to build Nike anti-aircraft missile sites in Alaska. It did not specify the locations but stated they would defend the Anchorage and Fairbanks areas. (Woodman, Duty Station Northwest, Vol. III, p. 78.)

13 Sep 1955: The Alaskan Air Command published "Operational Plan for Interceptor Missile Talos, Deployed by Detachment in the Alaskan Air Defense System." It called for headquarters and six IM-70A Talos long-range, surface-to-air missile detachments located at Eielson AFB and Nenana in the north and Willow, Kenai, Cape Chiniak and King Salmons in the south. Each detachment included two launchers, 60 missiles and associated radar and electronic equipment. The estimated cost came to $103 million. The system hinged on the successful acquisition of the Base Air Defense Ground Environment (BADGE) command and control system. (Chart, Hist, AAC, Jul-Dec 1955, pp. 43-45.)

The Alaskan Air Command also stated the need for the IM-99 Bomarc missile, a follow on to the Talos. Its 250-mile range allowed it to be based on the main bases. The Command asked for 1964 operational date in fiscal year 1964 (July 1962 - Jun 1963). (Hist, Chart, AAC, Jul-Dec 1955, pp. 53-54.)

The United States Army Alaska stressed the need for a Nike surface air defense system to replace the anti-aircraft artillery gun system then in use for point defense of the Anchorage-Fort Richardson-Elmendorf AFB complex and the Fairbanks-Ladd AFB-Eielson AFB complex. The Army had at the time the Nike-Ajax, a liquid powered missile and its follow on, the Nike-Hercules, a solid fuel powered missile. The latter was capable of delivering a high explosive or atomic warhead against a high speed, maneuvering aircraft out to a range of 85 nautical miles and up to an altitude of 80,000 feet. It also had the secondary capability of delivering the same type of ordnance against ground targets up to a range of 100 nautical miles. (Hist, ALCOM, 1959, p. 40.)

28 Dec 1955: Major General George R. Acheson, Commander, AAC, briefed Air Force Secretary Donald Quarles on AAC's five year plan and the need for the Base Air Defense Ground Environment (BADGE) system. General Acheson stated that with BADGE, AAC would have by 1960 the following capabilities: a DEW Line stretching across the Arctic and down the west coast of Alaska; an Aircraft Control and Warning system of 21 radar stations with greater search and height finding capability; the White Alice Communications System; and extensive network of Tactical Control and Navigation (TACAN) sites; three squadrons of F-102As and a possible F-101 squadron; the IM-70A Talos long-range, surface-to-air missile as a primary interceptor missile; the TM-61A Matador surface-to-surface tactical missile an offensive capability; and the Armys Nike system for main base defense. Some of the weapon systems were already in place, others were being completed; and Talos, Matador and the F-102A had been programmed for Alaska. (Chart, Hist, AAC, Jul-Dec 1955, p. 1.)

7 Jun 1956: The Anchorage Daily Times reported, citing reliable sources, that the U.S. Corps of Engineers was withholding contracts to construct three Nike Hercules sites in the Anchorage area and four in the Fairbanks area. The Corps of Engineers did not comment on the article and the Pentagon remained silent, probably because of the on-going debate on whether the Army or Air Force should control surface-to-air missile defense. (Chart, Hist, AAC, Jan-Jun 1956, pp. 36-37.)

26 Nov 1956: Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson assigned the responsibility for developing intercontinental ballistic missiles to the USAF. He also assigned the responsibility of employing surface-to-air missile point defense to the Army. It included the Nike-Hercules system and the IM-70 Talos that the Air Force was developing. It meant a major change in AACs air defense program. (Haulman, One Hundred Years of Flight, p. 78; Chart, Hist, AAC, Jul-Dec 1956, p. 10.)

Dec 1956: Lieutenant General Frank A. Armstrong informed the Commander-in-Chief, Strategic Air Command, that there had been a change in the surface to air missile program in Alaska. The original plans had called for the Nike-Hercules battalions to become operational in November 1958 and a detachments of IM-70 Talos missile to become operational in July 1959. However, he had received word that two Nike Hercules battalions would not be available until 1958, the third until 1960, and the Talos until 1963. At the time, three Nike Hercules battalions were programmed. One would defend the Fort Richardson and Elmendorf AFB and one was slated to defend Eielson AFB and the other Ladd AFB. (Hist, ALCOM, 1959, pp. 40-41.)

18 Dec 1956 (Sat): General Armstrong, a strong proponent for basing strategic ballistic missiles in Alaska, then in the development stage, asked MG James F. Collins, Commander, USARAL, for his support. Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson had issued a roles and mission directive that assigned strategic missiles to the Air Force and tactical missiles to the Army. The Army was beginning to look at basing anti-aircraft missiles in Alaska. General Armstrong was looking acquiring the TM-61B Matador ground launched cruise missile. The nuclear tipped missile with a range of around 690 miles would give the Alaskan Command an offensive capability. (Mrs. Leona B. Miller, Hist, AAC, Jan-Jun 1957, pp. 47-50.)

The Alaskan Air Command had also looked to acquiring the Bendix IM-70 Talos. The planning effort, however, ended when Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson assigned anti-aircraft missile defense to the Army in November 1956. It brought to the end two years of planning on the part of AAC to acquire a surface-to-air missile defense system. The Army continued with its plans to base the Nike surface to air missile in Alaska. (Miller, Hist, AAC, Jan-Jun 1958, pp.125-127.)

2 Feb 1957: The Anchorage Daily News reported that the Alaska District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had invited interested contractors to bid on four Nike-Hercules surface-to-air missile sites in the Fairbanks-Eielson AFB area with an estimated $10,000,000.00 costs and completion date by 1 October 1958. The paper reported that the Anchorage area would be next to be submitted for bids. Each site included a battery control building of 26,000 square feet, a launcher control building of 7,000 square feet, two launcher section structures of 15,900 square feet, a fuel storage building, access roads and outside utilities. (Chart, Hist, AAC, Jan-Dec 1956, p. 40.)

The United States Army, Alaska had already developed a requirement for the Nike surface to air missile and had programmed for a firing batteries around Anchorage and near Fairbanks to protect the main base complexes. (Miller, Hist, AAC, Jan-Jun 1957, p. 55.) 5 Apr 1957: The Alaska District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $11,842,238.00 contract to Peter Kiewit Sons, Seattle, to build a Nike surface-to-air missile defense system in the Eielson AFB area and another $9,495,744.00 contract to the joint-venture Patti-MacDonald and MB Construction Company for a similar system around Anchorage. In addition to conventional warheads, the missiles were equipped with nuclear warheads. They could also be employed in the surface-to-surface mode. (Miller, Hist, AAC, Jan-Jun 1957, p. 55.)

Jul 1957: The contractor for the Anchorage area Nike sites, Patti-MacDonald and MB Constructions Company, began pouring concrete in early July for the first surface-to-air missile site in Alaska on Mouth Gordon Lions overlooking Arctic Valley. It became know as Site Summit, part of a complex that included Site Point on the southern tip of Anchorage and Site Bay at Goose Bay across the inlet from Anchorage. The work continued for the remainder of the year at all sites on the construction of battery control and launcher control buildings, launching structures, fueling and storage and the other infrastructure needed to support a three battery complex of Nike-Hercules missiles. (Miller, Hist, AAC, Jul-Dec 1957, p. 155.)

The M6 Nike-Hercules surface to air missile had been developed by Western Electric Company as a high altitude surface to air guided missile. It could reach an altitude of 150,000 and had a range of 88 miles. It was equipped with a blast fragmentation or nuclear warhead, and could also be employed in a surface to surface mode with a range of 100 miles. It was employed extensively throughout the United States and abroad during the late 1950s and 1960s as the primary surface to air defense missile system until being phased out during the 1970s and early 1980s. (Web Site, Directory of Rockets and Missile.)

Aug 1957: The Army changed its plans for three Nike-Hercules battalion locations by deleting the one near Ladd AFB. It involved sites George, Love, Fox and Sugar intended to defend the base. The Commander-in-Chief, Alaskan Command concurred with the exception that Site Love be retained at Ladd AFB and integrated with the three sites near Eielson AFB. The Army had based it decision to delete the Ladd AFB sites and keep the Eielson AFB sites on the latter's SAC mission. The Army agreed to retain one Ladd AFB site. (Miller, Hist, AAC, Jul-Dec 1957, p. 156.)

While General Armstrong concurred in the Army's decision, he argued that site Love should be retained, emphasizing the fact that the missile defense of Ladd AFB and Eielson AFB had been planned as an integrated one. The elimination of site Love would jeopardize it, While General Armstrong had agreed with the elimination of one of the three planned Nike Hercules battalions, the Commander-in-Chief, NORAD had objected. General Armstrong pointed out that it was more important to protect the Strategic Air Command bombers than it was to protect AAC's one squadron of fighter interceptors at Ladd AFB. The Army subsequently agreed to retain site Love. (Hist, ALCOM, 1959, pp. 42-43.)

1 Aug 1957: Production delays in the Nike Hercules missile resulted in the Army proposing that one battalion be operational in September 1958 and the other be deferred from September 1958 to October 1959. The Alaskan Air Command opted to have the first operational battalion at Eielson AFB first because of the base's SAC mission. The Army wanted to split it between the Anchorage and Eielson AFB areas so that it could personnel could be assigned to both locations in order of their completion. The Commander-in-Chief, Alaskan Command ruled in favor of AAC. (Miller, Hist, AAC, Jul-Dec 1957, pp. 156-157.)

Additional slippages in the schedule occurred in 1958 when the Army decided to fulfill an obligation to Taiwan and divert on of the Nike Hercules packages intended for Alaska to Okinawa instead. The revised schedule called for the first battery to be operational at Site Point in the Anchorage area by 1 March 1959 and the second battery to be operational at Site Tare in the Eielson AFB area on 10 May 1959. (Hist, ALCOM, Jul-Dec 1958, pp. 15-16.)

1 Aug 1957: The North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), a joint United States-Canadian command was informally established to provide joint air defense of the North American continent. The agreement was formally ratified on 12 May 1958. (Haulman, One Hundred Years of Flight, p. 81.)

16 Oct 1957: The following Nike battery sites were activated near Eielson AFB: Nike Battery Jig, Nike Battery Mike, Nike Battery Peter and Nike Battery Tare. (HQ AAC GO 20, 19 Jun 1957.)

10 Jun 1958: The Alaskan NORAD Region (ANR) was established as a region of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) with the designation of the Commander-in-Chief, ALCOM as Commander, ANR. He in turn delegated the responsibility to Commander, AAC. (HQ NORAD GO 11, 1 Sep 1958; Hist, ALCOM, Jul-Dec 1958, p. 25)

A 1969 USAF Fact sheet described the Alaskan NORAD Regions:
"The Alaskan NORAD Region is unique among the five regions of the North American Air Defense Command. The interceptors and radars of this region guard and watch over one million square miles of the most hazardous terrain on the face of the earth. Strategically, ANR sits at the hub of the great circle routes which link East and West. Alaska is astride the shortest routes from Siberian air fields and intercontinental ballistic missile launch sites to the industrial hear to the United States.

"Covering the northern part of the North American continent, the Alaskan region of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) protects the nation's largest and fastest growing state.

"NORAD does the job with a defensive shield made up of long-range ground-based radars, ground-to-air missiles, and jet fighters armed with atomic-tipped rockets and guided air-to-air missiles.

"To manage the vast aerospace defense system, which extends across North America from the Polar Ice Cap to the Mexican boarder, and from the east to west far beyond the edges of the continent, NORAD has divided its areas of responsibilities into five regions.

"The Alaskan Region is one of these subordinate organizations through which the Commander-in-Chief of NORAD exercises operational control of U.S. and Canadian aerospace forces guarding both countries. Headquarters for the Alaskan Region is at Elmendorf Air Force Base, near Anchorage, Alaska.

"Commander of the Alaskan NORAD Region is the Commander-in-Chief of the Alaskan Command. The Alaskan Region has its headquarters co-located with the Alaskan Air Command. The Commander of the Alaskan Air Command has been designated ANR vice commander and day-to-day operational boss.

"These officers have the mission of maintaining air surveillance over their area. They also control missiles and aircraft, and are responsible for decisions concerning the air defense of Alaska.

"Also wearing two hats is the Region's deputy commander who also serves as commander of the Air Defense Artillery Group, Headquarters, United States Army, Alaska at Fort Richardson. Fighter interceptor aircraft of the Alaskan Air Command's 317th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, augmented by F-106 aircraft from USAF's Air Defense Command, provide aerial forces for the air defense of Alaska.

"The F-102s of the 317th Fighter Interceptor Squadron operate from Elmendorf and Eielson Air Force Bases and King Salmon and Galena Airports.

"The Army supplies the Region with powerful Nike-Hercules guided missiles which can be armed with nuclear warheads. The Air Defense Artillery Group provides surface-to-air missile defense of the Fairbanks-Eielson AFB-Fort Wainwright complex with five missile fire units of the 2nd Missile Battalion, 562nd Artillery, and in the Anchorage-Elmendorf AFB-Fort Richardson complex with four missile fire units of the 4th Missile Battalion, 43rd Artillery. Direct support of these missile complexes is provided by the 166th Ordinance Company (GM0 (DS) (Nike) in the north and the 524th Ordnance Company (GM0 (DS) (Nike) in the south.

"About 15 aircraft control and warning units, 13 distant early warning units, an a Ballistic Missile Early Warning station are located in the Region. Their job is the detection of approaching aircraft and missiles and direction of fighters to the intercept point. Together, the DEW Line, various AC&W stations, and Clear BMEWS which back it up, are sometimes called NORAD's bugler in Alaska---an apt description. However, the ballistic missile age is a threat beyond the capabilities of DEW and AC&W stations and this threat is met by yet another unit.

"Clear, Alaska, is the location for one of these BMEWS (Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station) units designed to cope with this particular threat. The other BMEWS units are at Thule, Greenland, and Flyingdale Moor, England.

"The Ballistic Missile Early Warning System at Clear is one of the newest contributions to the aerospace defense force. This electronic detection system consists of three antennas of unbelievable dimensions, 165 by 400 feet---larger than a football field. Information from BMEWS goes up on a display screen at NORAD Headquarters, Strategic Air Command Headquarters at Omaha, Nebraska, and the Department of Defense in the Pentagon simultaneously. In the event of an enemy ICBM strike, the retaliatory and defensive commands and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon would be alerted at the same time.

"The huge radars of three BMEWS units, although primarily intended to warn of a missile attack from the north, also have an important satellite-tracking capability and since 1961 have contributed valuable satellite data to the Space Defense System. NORAD's Space Defense System includes a global network of radar, radio, and optical sensors that supply tracking information on all satellites, and maintains a complete information catalogue of space vehicles and debris.

"In Alaska, the U.S. Air Force Space track system, part of the space defense system, operate specialized radar equipment at Shemya AFS located at the western end of the Aleutian Islands, only 200 miles removed from the Soviet's Komandorski Islands. The whole air defense system is designed to give the North American continent about 15 minutes warning of a missile attack. The Alaskan NORAD Region has three NORAD Control Centers-Murphy Dome, King Salmon and Campion-which control fighter interceptors aircraft and Nike missiles. Data from each of the centers is fed into the Alaskan Region Combat Center at Elmendorf, keeping the commander and vice commander current on the air surveillance over their area in order to control the air defense forces.

"The entire North American defense picture is processed and monitored in the NORAD Headquarters Combat Operations Center at Ent AFB. The Alaskan NORAD Region is superimposed on the Alaskan Air Command aerospace defense structure, utilizing certain of its facilities and communications including the combat center.

"It is an aid to insuring that a prospective enemy will be stopped.

"It can be seen that NORAD has an important part of its air defense capability located in Alaska. The use of Alaska as the base for these surveillance, control and combat units is not incidental.

"On February 13, 1951, then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, Chairman of the Preparedness, transmitted to the Senate Committee on Armed Services a study of Alaska which had been carried out the previous year to determine Alaska's defense needs. In transmitting this report, Senator Johnson wrote: "At the outset we agreed that no outpost of America's defenses was of greater strategic importance than Alaska." He went of to say that "A strong Alaska is essential to our security. Our continental defenses can be no stronger than our Alaskan defenses. The security of every American home begins in the snows of Alaska."

"The requirement for a strong air defense posture in Alaska has not diminished since then-Senator Johnson's 1951 remarks. Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, is only 51 miles from the Siberian coast. The Bering Strait, which separates them, is covered with ice up to 12 feet thick several months a year, making a solid bridge. The Big and Little Diomede Islands lie in this strait---three miles apart---and Big Diomede is Soviet territory while Little Diomede belongs to the United States." (USAF Fact Sheet, Alaskan NORAD Region, 1969.)

15 Sep 1958: The Army activated the 4th Gun Battalion, 43rd Artillery Regiment and on 1 March 1959 re-designated it the 4th Missile Battalion (Nike Hercules), 43rd Artillery Regiment. The 2nd Gun Battalion, 562nd Artillery Regiment arrived from Fort Bliss during March and April and was assigned to Ladd AFB and re-constituted as the 2nd Missile Battalion (Nike Hercules), 562nd Artillery on 15 May 1959. (Woodman, Duty Station Northwest, p. 148.)

Jan 1959: The Nike Hercules surface-to-air missile batteries assigned to the 4th Missile Battalion, 43rd Artillery Regiment in the Anchorage-Fort Richarson-Elmendorf AFB area became operational during the year. The table below provides units, dates and configuration.

Operational Dates, 4th Missile Battalion, 43rd Artillery Regiment
Battery Operational Date No of Launchers No of Missiles
A (Site Point) 10 April 1959 16 28
B (Site Summit) 6 May 1959 8 14
C (Site Bay) 16 April 1959 8 14
Hist, ALCOM, 1959, Appendix 3.

Each site was equipped with one acquisition radar. Batteries B and C each had a missile and a target track radar while Batter A had two missile and two target tracking radars. (Hist, ALCOM, 1959, Appendix 3.)

The Table below shows the operations status of the batteries assigned to the 2nd Missile Battalion, 562nd Artillery Regiment in the Eielson AFB area.

Operational Dates, 2nd Missile Battalion, 562nd Artillery Regiment
Battery Operational Date No of Launchers No of Missiles
A (Site Tare) 10 May 1959 8 14
B (Site Peter) 27 May 1959 8 14
C (Site Mike) 3 June 1959 8 14
D (Site Jig) 11 May 1959 8 14
Hist, ALCOM, 1959, Appendix 3.

All the sites each had one acquisition radar and one missile track and except for Site Peter, which had one target tracking radar. (Hist, ALCOM, 1959, Appendix 3.)

A fourth 2nd Battalion missile site, Site Love in the Eielson AFB-Ladd AFB area, was under construction with a projected operational date of March 1960. It included 8 launchers was programmed to receive 14 missiles. It had an acquisition, missile and target track radars. (Hist, ALCOM, 1959, Appendix 3.)

The Army's Nike-Hercules anti-aircraft missile defense system relied on a tactical and administrative communications system. The tactical system consisted of voice and data links between the batteries and the battalion and group headquarters. Telephones provided the administrative links. Army personnel operated the system and contract personnel maintained it. (Miller, Hist, AAC, Jul-Dec 1960, p. 298.)

Dec 1959: Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 562nd Artillery Regiment, launched a practice Nike-Hercules surface to air missile from its firing position near Ladd AFB. It was a training first. Prior to that, the batteries had to go to Fort Bliss, TX, for live missile firing. Battery B, 4th Missile Battalion, 43rd Artillery Regiment began launching practice missiles from its Site Summit location in 1960. (Woodman, Duty Station Northwest, p. 149.)

NOTE: A reader claifies the facts in the reference immediately above: "Battery B, Site Peter, was East of Eielson AFB. Ladd AFB was Fort Wainwright (about 25 miles North of Eielson). Either [Woodman] transposed Ladd for Eielson, or B Battery was mobile at that time, not on the fixed Site Peter." - Editor

15 Dec 1960: Nike Hercules site Love near Fort Wainwright became operational, completing the installation of nine sites in the Anchorage-Elmendorf AFB-Forth Richardson and Fairbanks-Eielson AFB-Fort Wainwright areas. (Hist, ALCOM, 1960, p. 31.)

Jan 1968: The USARAL Air Defense Artillery Group, the designation given combined Nike-Hercules missile organization, was renamed the 87th Artillery Group (Air Defense). (Woodman, Duty Station Northwest, Vol. 111, p. 154.)

1969: Because of a Presidential ordered requirement to balance the budget, the Department of Defense ordered significant reductions in force. For AAC it meant closing AC&W ground radar sites, the Aleutian DEW Line Sector and inactivating its only fighter interceptor squadron. Additionally, United States Army, Alaska inactivated a brigade at Fort Wainwright and a Nike-Hercules battalion providing air defense of the Fort Wainwright-Eielson AFB-Fairbanks area. The fighter interceptor needs were met by the College Shoes F-106 deployments until the arrival of the F-4E equipped 43rd Tactical Fighter Squadron in June 1970.

24 Apr 1969: The reductions also affected USARAL. One of the early losses was one of two firing units of Battery A, 4th Missile Battalion, 43rd Artillery, at Site Point. By the end of June 1969, two Nike-Hercules batteries of the 2nd Missile Battalion, 562nd Artillery, protecting Fort Wainwright and Eielson AFB, had been inactivated. Other in-activations followed during the early 1970s. (Woodman, Duty Station Northwest, Vol. III, p. 156.)

NOTE: The facts in the reference immediately above are under dispute. A reader responds: "I was in the 3-shop at 2-562 ADA in '69, thru March '70 and I remember no inactivations during that time. I don't even recall any planning for inactivations, and I would've been right in the middle of that. Maybe later than March '70, but not before." - Editor

30 Jun 1971: As part of a nation wide reduction of air defense forces, the Army inactivated the 2nd Battalion, 562nd Artillery Regiment providing Nike-Hercules defense in the Fort Wainwright-Eielson AFB area. The 166th Ordnance Company (Guided Missile) was also inactivated. (Homsher, Hist, ALCOM, p. 4.)

The Department of the Army had announced its decision in March 1971 that it was closing Nike Hercules batteries in 15 states including Alaska. It resulted in the inactivation of the 2nd Battalion, 562nd Artillery Regiment, 87th Artillery Group (Air Defense) and the closure of its three battalions in the Fort Wainwright-Eielson AFB area by the end of June 1971. The 166th Ordnance Company (Guided Missile Direct Support), Fort Wainwright that supported the three batteries was also inactivated. In addition, the range supporting live firing of missiles in Alaska was closed. The range encompassed more than a million acres of land between the Tanana and Yukon Rivers. It was used three months out of the year to allow Nike Hercules to launch their missiles. The closure of the range required battery personnel to transport their missiles and themselves to Fort Bliss, TX, and use the missile range there. (USARAL Pamphlet 360-5, p. 125.)

20 Mar 1974: In response to the Air Staff request for comments on the Saber Yukon Study to modernize the Alaska Aircraft Control and Warning air defense system, Col. Eugene P. Cunneely, DCS Plans, AAC, identified the following seven basis points: retention of the existing system was not cost effective, automation would result in significant manpower savings and cost of facilities, all maintenance and support functions could be contracted, the deployment of a northern over-the-horizon backscatter radar would allow consideration for closure of DEW Lines and west coast Alaska radar stations, any further closure of Alaska radar stations would increased gaps in coverage, AAC concept for employing the airborne warning and control aircraft was similar to that in the Saber Yukon study, and the Nike Hercules missile battalion should be retained in the Anchorage area. (Hales, Hist, AAC, Jul 1972-Jun 1974, p. 251.)

25 May 1976: The Aerospace Defense Command operational staff notified General Hill that the Army was planning to inactivate the 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery and 524th Ordinance Company providing Nike Hercules air defense missile defense around the Anchorage area during the October-December 1976 time frame. General Hill protested the decision, noting that additional air defense assets would have to be provided to off-set the loss. (Hales, Hist, AAC, 1976, pp. 37-38.)

9 Apr 1979: The 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery (Nike Hercules) ceased operations in the Anchorage area. It left the Elmendorf AFB, Fort Richardson and Anchorage area without an anti-aircraft defense system for the first time since World War II. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had notified General Scott of its decision on 6 April. All missiles and associated guidance equipment were subsequently removed and on 31 July 1979, the battalion was formally inactivated during ceremonies on Fort Richardson. (HQ Department of Army Permanent Orders 104-3, 3 Jul 1979; Cloe, Hist, AAC, 1979, p. 226.)

The U.S. Army Forces Command agreed to retain the three Army positions, a colonel, major, captain and sergeant first class that had been assigned to Alaskan NORAD Region in support of the battalion. They were placed on the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Alaska) manning documents and assigned to Headquarters, AAC in support of Joint Task Force-Alaska. The colonel positions was used to fill the permanent chief of staff position on the Joint Task Force. (Cloe, Hist, AAC, 1980, p. 37.)

The inactivation of the battalion involved three batteries. Battery A (Site Point) was located near Anchorage International Airport. Battery B (Site Summit) was located on a mountain top in the Chugach Range overlooking Anchorage; and Battery C (Site Bay) was located across Cook Inlet at Goose Bay. The 172nd Infantry Brigade-Alaska had made the public announcement on 29 March. It was accepted without opposition by the Alaska community. Robert Atwood, in an 1 March Anchorage Times editorial, stated:

"Although it is never a happy occasion when there is a cutback in part of the military garrison which has long been a part of Anchorage's life but military needs do change. Technology advances demand replacement of old equipotent&the Nike, in essence has gone the way of the musket. It and the men who manned the batteries here for the past 18 years have served well. Now, in the evolving nature of the defense business, new units and new systems will come to the scene." (Cloe, Hist, AAC, 1979, p. 226.)

The inactivation of the three batteries resulted in the surplus of three parcels of land. Site Point consisted of 1,030 acres valued at $70,000.00 an acre located adjacent to prime residential and commercial lands. It proved difficult to justify its retention and the land was turned over to the city of Anchorage for development as a recreational area that became know as Kinkaid Park. Site Summit was located within the Fort Richardson military reservation. Site Bay occupied 40 aches owned by the Army and another 755 withdrawn from public lands for use and 545 leased acres. The Site Point lands were transferred to the University of Alaska. It was extensively vandalized and became a, environmental concern.(Cloe, Hist, AAC, 1980, p. 268: S. J. Komarnitsky, Old Nike Site's Toxic Danger Worry Borough, Anchorage Daily News, 27 Dec 2001.)

With the loss of the Nike Hercules, AAC identified the need to place two F-4Es on alert on Elmendorf AFB and began examining the possibility of acquiring the Patriot surface to air missile system. The former sites were turned over to a caretaker until a formal decision could be made. (Cloe, Hist, AAC, 1979, pp. 226-227.)