1960’s Missles – a 1960’s photo shows Nike Hercules Missiles on missile launcher in South Florida.
By Carla Charter
HOMESTEAD, FL. – Visitors to the Everglades National Park have the opportunity to view American Crocodiles, manatees, and maybe even the elusive Florida Panther. However, those visiting the park can also visit a relic of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a former United States Nike Missile Base.
The base was completed in 1965, according to Leon Howell, Interpretive Ranger at the Everglades National Park. The site, one of 300 nationwide at the time, included 3 missile barns, a missile assembly building, a guard dog kennel, barracks, 2 Nikes Hercules missiles, and various support structures. About 130-150 members of the Second Battalion Air Defense Artillery of the Army were employed there. The base was closed in 1979. Today the main building on the site houses hydrologists, biologists and other environmental scientists who monitor the South Florida environment and work on environmental issues affecting the area.
“Residents loved the idea of the base being there. They knew they were here to protect Miami. Never before or since have we come that close to a nuclear exchange. Thank God for the restraint of President Kennedy. He exercised restraint, wisdom and a little blind luck. If it was left up to the generals we would have gone to war.”
Since its closing the base has also hosted a Bay of Pigs reunion as well as a Pedro Pan Reunion. Pedro Pan was a program in the early 1960’s which assisted families in removing their children from Cuba before the Communist Regime had complete control of the country.
The former base has an open house program from October to March from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Every day at 2 p.m. there is a formal one-and-a-half-hour tour. “It is our most popular program,” said Howell. More information on the site can be found at www.nps.gov/ever/learn/historyculture/hm69.htm