Summit Nike Base

You can read more about the Summit Nike base here

Entrance to Nike Road


Nike Rd was the entrance to the Nike Control Base in Summit just outside the Watchung Reservation. The military buildings are long gone, and only the name of the road remains to remind people of what once was a part of our national defense system. The road is blocked off to vehicular access but foot traffic is permitted. The control base was built in 1958, despite
concerns about being located so close to the woods of the Reservation. Interstingly the base was shut down only 4 years later. The launch control site is located where the Watchung Stables are located now.



48 responses to this post.

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  4. Posted by Anthony DAgostino on October 31, 2016 at 7:23 PM

    As a young boy growing up in Bayonne Nj there was, what i thought a missile site located in Hudson county park, or some type of military system, mid to late fifties. I cant find any data on this, anyone out there know?


    • Posted by Brian on July 13, 2017 at 7:25 AM

      Nike missile site. At time sold to everyone, even govt, as ABM defense. Really weapons system to shoot down Soviet Bear bombers coming over the North Pole. In Pittsburgh we were surrounded Nike Atlas/Hurcules sites. Fire depts train in their silos now. One main radome on Nike rd. Way before I was born. It’s still there. Seems operational, the radome. Like the bunker complex @ Greenbrier, pseudo decommissioned but with 10/100 Ethernet cable which didn’t exist when bunker was “decommissioned”.


      • Posted by Richard M. Levine on July 13, 2017 at 9:22 AM

        I don’t ever remember it being sold as Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM). It was always sold as anti-aircraft missile with surface-to-surface capability. When ICBMs were eventually deployed, it was perceived obsolete. However, it was little known that Bell Labs did simulations to indeed use it as a temporary ABM until ABM could be perfected and deployed. Wit nuclear warhead detonation, it could kill targets in several mile range. However, with ICBMs coming in at such fast speed, it’s hydraulic radars were a bit slow. S. Koreans developed, with the cooperation of US a version of the Nike Hercules with significantly improved range. This, plus faster radars could have been used against ABMs. The neutrons from a nuclear detonation could have disabled incoming multiple warheads from an incoming ICBM. But knowing the military-industrial complex, they would rather have the system made obsolete so that they can do more research and have us spend trillions deploying a ‘new’ ABMS. Today we are left with a new unreliable ATBM with maybe a less than 50% kill capability on a good day. The new systems don’t use nuclear warheads, but use an inferior hit-to-kill methodology. The ABMS must be so accurate that it must actually hit the fast incoming target. What a stupid idea! The Hercules had an 85% kill probability. An Air Force Col. who had done development work on the Nike system yelled that 85% was not good enough. I agree. 100% is what is really needed. At 85%, 15% of the destructive nuclear weapons would be able to fall on our cities. This is why US is so afraid of N. Korea, because our ABMS will allow more than 1 of 2 to get through our defenses and cause disasters. During the Cold War, at least around NYC a multi-layer defense was used—jet aircraft first with nuclear Genie missile, then Nike Hercules with nuclear warhead, and for a short period BORMAC missiles with nuclear warheads to be used in sequence against an incoming Soviet Bear bomber. Each could fire a nuclear warhead at this target, improving its chances of a successful kill. Some recent scientists noted that we should probably be using nuclear warheads on our ABMS.


  5. this is legit son, nice article farticle


    • Posted by Ron Pittman on October 31, 2021 at 10:33 AM

      I was a member of a Summit cub scout den. We made a trip to the base in the late 1950’s. I remember being told that each Nike cost about $22,000.00. I couldn’t believe that they cost that much! I went back there again in the early 1970’s and found lots of deer had taken up residence! Don’t know what you might find up there now since I moved to North Carolina in 1972.


      • Posted by Richard M. Levine on October 31, 2021 at 10:42 AM

        he deer have also proliferated at the Mahwah Nike Base launching area. As young trees try to grow up, they eat them. Thus you have an abandoned base with its area devoid of new trees. There are some maple trees growing between what is left of the double cyclone fence surrounding the rear of the launch area. I met a hunter outside the former launch area and he said that he hunts the deer with a bow-and-arrow. Veterans from the base said that during the Cold War they used to hunt, butcher, and pack the deer meat to take home to their families during the holidays.


      • Posted by Richard M. Levine on October 31, 2021 at 11:00 AM

        I thought it cost $75,000 per Hercules missile. Maybe Ajax cost $22,000 eahc.


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  7. Great info, thanks for sharing


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  9. Posted by chris farley on February 9, 2015 at 9:52 PM

    I lived in scotch plains, NJ thru 1972. I went to this nike base and walked in the silos’ that were filed with water.


  10. Posted by John Doe on January 14, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    Anyone have GPS coordinates on the Nike loaction in Watchung?


  11. I heard the Nike Missle Base was demolished and now sits Hadley Movieplex for over 30 years. 15 miles away in NJ-73 Mountainside NJ its The Union County Watchung Stables..No Plaque has ever been placed in the present site for historical preservation.
    Very Sad because these sites where the only means of defense in 1962.


    • Posted by Richard M. Levine on July 11, 2012 at 11:16 AM

      Yes, it it sad that almost all of the Nike bases have historically neglected as far a historical site designation is concerned. BTW – The site you are talking about is NY-73 and was part of the New York Defense Area. I believe NY-56 in Ft. Hancock at Sandy Hook, NJ is the only one on the historic register in NJ and is in a National Parks Service Area. It is being restored, and tours are available. I did an article for (201) Magazine about NY-93/94 in Franklin Lakes-Mahwah NJ, and it should be coming out in their August or later edition. I am also working on a book on this missile base, and volunteered to help the Mahwah Museum with a Nike base display/discussion for Jan/Feb 2013. We stopped our Nike base presentations for the time being unless we are asked to do one for another historical group.


  12. IIts a sad thing today when the past defense nike missiles are never mentioned like what happened in 1962 of October. The Soviet Backfire Bomber had the means to reach 1000 miles beyond their sortie flight plan. And all the Liberal Animal Nature lovers could think about was the tearing up of natual wooded area’s. Its a Sick Sad World we live in today.


  13. […] the next twenty years, I’m not sure if anything constructive happened to the site, but it seems like local kids enjoyed trespassing to check it out. (There are at least two accounts that the control room had […]


  14. My father, Al Miller, with Bell Labs, helped design the Nike-Zeus guidance control system, I guess this was in Winston-Salem and Greensboro, N.C. Before that, in the early 1950’s, we lived on Long Hill Road above Gillette, N.J., and as a child at the former Watchung Military Reservation, I use to ride old N.J.N.G. Essex Troop mounts, my favorite being old “Lookout”, R.I.P. We still used the cavalry saddles, and the .03 Springfield rifles were still in locked, round rifle racks. Later I was privileged to join the U.S. Horse Cavalry Assn., and privileged to listen to the old “real” yellow-legs. One asked me if I knew the mounted hand-signal for “enemy aircraft aloft”? I didn’t. He said you remove your campaign hat at arm’s-length; point it at the enemy aircraft, jerk the hat back-and-forth three times; then the troop disperses in 360* directions, “because there is nothing a cavalryman can do against an enemy aircraft over-head”. Sounds like “Stable Call”, gotta go. Jim Miller, Southport, N.C.


    • Posted by Ron Pittman on October 31, 2021 at 10:41 AM

      Jim: I lived in Summit,NJ and visited the NIKE base with my Club Scout Den in the late 1950’s. It was in full operation as defense base. Moved back to NC in the early 70’s and began my southern living. Incidentally, I kept my Trawler the “ANNA BEE” and South Harbour Village marina for many years. Very familiar with Southport and you are fortunate to reside there. Living in Raleigh and enjoy the beaches of NC!


  15. Posted by Richard M. Levine on September 20, 2010 at 8:45 PM

    I am researching the Franklin Lakes-Mahwah Nike site. I would like to know more about maintaining the nuclear warheads and what that entailed. I read somewhere else that the warheads were wiped, and that the wipes were put into a lead container to be later sent for analysis. Other veterans said that a geiger counter was used only in the missile assembly area. Anyone ever hear about radiation contamination in the missile magazines or elsewhere? Or about containerized radioactive waste?

    I also read in a pub from Los Alamos that these early warheads did not have a sophisticated metalurgy. I took this to mean that the intense radiation from the plutonium deteriorated the warhead casing eventually causing it to leak.

    One of the veterans I interviewed noted that another veteran is investigating a suspected cancer cluster among veterans who used to work there.



    • Have you reached out to any of the Nike Veterans organizations for details/help?


      • Posted by Richard M. Levine on October 24, 2015 at 11:44 PM

        I reached out to many veterans who had worked on the Nike missile system, and they have been valuable in providing information. I have also been assisted by a former officer from the Mahwah Nike base, and a local historian who had first seen that base when he was 12. He was so impressed that he collected Nike information ever since. These two people assisted me with the Nike base exhibit at the Mahwah Museum, and in providing free presentations to historical associations including well-received one we did at the West Point Military Academy for the Company of Military Historians. They also cooperated in an article I wrote about the base for (201) magazine. I am still slowly working on a book about the Mahwah Nike base.


        • Posted by Felice Cohen on April 13, 2016 at 4:20 PM

          Richard, I grew up in Union Co. and am very interested in your research. Were you able to find a lot of information about radiation, safety, etc.? I wonder about the procedure used to decontaminate the sites.


          • Posted by Richard M. Levine on April 13, 2016 at 9:02 PM

            1. We had radioactive tubes which some veterans state that they disposed of on the property by burial. I seem to remember throwing some in the trash can. This was very low level radiation. In those days, environmental concerns were far from our thoughts and not reinforced if they even existed.
            2. Some of the high-voltage vacuum tubes on the radars gave off x-rays and may have caused cancers of various kinds. These tubes should have been provided with lead shields. There was a failed class-action lawsuit filed in El Paso, but the Judge would not let the suit go forward. However, some foreign countries perhaps Germany provided compensation to their veterans who had gotten cancer, but could not prove its cause.
            3. The Nike Hercules nuclear warhead contained radioactive plutonium and a radioactive booster gas. Most of the veterans I spoke to said that they did not even have a Geiger counter at their site. Lt. Friedel (former Lt. with West Point engineering degree) said that he would show a Geiger counter to new recruits and how it would not provide a count when near the warhead, but would provide a count when near his radium wristwatch dial. I understand that these early warheads could develop leaks because of inferior metal containment. However, cracks would not develop for decades from the metal breaking down from the intense radiation. It appears that there was not even a leak in cases where the missile was dropped or bumped into a structure in an accident.

            There was some documentation of veterans using warhead wipes which they placed in a container for later pickup and testing. However, most of the veterans who worked on the missiles were not aware of such testing.

            The most unusual thing is that the testing that was done of closed Nike sites did not include any tests for radioactivity. As far as cancer, the agent orange, trichloroethylene and other chemical exposures could have also have contributed to cancer cases. The government is supposed to go back to these closed bases in the future if chemical get added to the carcinogen list that were not considered carcinogenic at the time of use on the Nike sites.

            We had a story from Lt. Friedel in which he was down to 30-sec in the countdown to fire a Nike Hercules with nuclear warhead over minimum burst altitude (MBA) may have not been used. A battery commander from the Miami area had admitted that during their many missile site exercises they never used MBA. That would have limited the minimum altitude that a detonation could have occurred to protect civilians or friendly forces on the ground. Anyhow, people looking towards the burst from miles away could have been permanently blinded. Note that the warheads used were around 2 or 20 kilotons. The larger size is larger than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima which killed about 300,000 people.

            I believe that the words of a journalist on L.I. is very true, that “we got by by the skin of our teeth.”

            When we first started discussing a museum exhibit at the local Mahwah Museum none of the museum officers could believe that they grew up with dozens of nuclear weapons in their neighborhood. Of course these were top secret, so they were never mentioned to the civilians.


            • Posted by Felice Cohen on April 21, 2016 at 3:39 PM

              Thanks so much for your reply, Richard. I meant to reply sooner, but the week got away from me… Having radioactive material around (including plutonium) with no geiger counter is bad enough – but the release of plutonium at McGuire AFB sounds like the most significant of what you shared. Not testing closed sites for radioactivity is also very worrying, especially seeing that the Watching launch site is where the stables now are (equestrian classes and children’s birthday parties, I see on the website). It also is sobering to read about missiles being bumped or dropped in accidents, but of course there have been many serious “broken arrow” nuclear weapons accidents. I think the journalist is correct, that we got by – and are still getting by – by the skin of our teeth. During college I was an intern at the NJ SANE office in Montclair, where I learned a lot about nuclear weapons, but I had no idea about any of this! It would be great if you could publish a book about it.


              • Posted by Richard M. Levine on April 21, 2016 at 9:05 PM

                I hadn’t mentioned about the incident at the Nike Base on Naha AFB on Okinawa months before I arrived. A Nuke Hercules missile ignited and skidded over the ground. It killed several guards in the guard post. I more recently spoke to an ordnance support veterans who passed by the rear of that missile seconds before it ignited. He noted that one of the soldiers was badly burned who was directly behind the missile. He did not mention if the missile was armed with nuclear warhead.

                The other aspect usually not mentioned, and usually debated is that the radiation from the radars could cause cancer. I note at training in Ft. Bliss, TX we shutdown one van to do troubleshooting. When the high-power radar from a nearby system caused the neon indicator lights to glow every time the antenna rotated in our direction. I was also at a meeting at a hotel in San Diego years later when the US was on high alert. A Naval destroyer was anchored nearby off shore with its antenna rotating. Every time the antenna pointed to the direction of the hotel the TV screen in my room glowed, and I understand that the hotel personnel noted interference in their PA systems when the antenna pointed towards the hotel. What do you think this might be doing to the health of people who spend hours working at this hotel. I called the Navy and they denied that the antenna was not radiating. Well, they can’t fool an old Nike electronic tech.


          • Hello Felice…I also grew up in Union County (Summit and them, later, Westfield) . My parents and other couples from the Summit Jewish Community Center would host Jewish soldiers assigned to the Nike Missile base in the Watchung Reservation for Sabbath dinners, of which I have some dim memories as the site closed in 1963, when I was six (almost seven) years old. I now a very keen student of Cold War technology and the Nike program in particular.

            The Nike base in the Watchung Reservation only deployed the first generation Nike-Ajax missile, which used a conventional (non-nuclear) warhead, so “radiation” was never an issue there when closing that facility. One of the key reasons why Nike Battery NY-73 (Watchung Reservation) was decommissioned was deployment of the Hercules variant, which traveled at faster speeds and could carry both conventional and nuclear warheads, thus reducing the number of missiles required to protect the NYC metropolitan area from Soviet bombers attempting to “deliver” nuclear warheads.

            NY-73 was simply too small to accommodate the Hercules version, especially since there were significant residential areas near the site within which its spent booster rockets would have fallen after launch. And, I suspect that the initial local opposition to placement of NY-73 in the Watchung Reservation in the late 1950’s would re-emerge at an even higher level had the Army planned to introduce nuclear-capable weapons there. (The fact that the Hercules _could_ carry a nuclear warhead was not a secret, but which sites had nuclear warheads was never divulged publically by the military.)

            To my knowledge, there was never an issue at any base where the second generation nuclear-capable Nike-Hercules was deployed with “radiation contamination,” nor were there any issues with “contamination” when the US Air Force decommissioned Titan, Atlas or Minuteman ICBMs (Intercontinential Ballistic Missiles).

            The only way “nuclear contamination” could occur in any of these missile systems is if the nuclear components of the warhead were somehow compromised. That would have been very difficult due to the construction of the warhead and the security measures in place to prevent tampering, damage, theft, sabotage, etc.

            There was, however, a fire at the BOMARC missile facility at what was then McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey in 1960. BOMARC was, like the Nike Missile ‘owned’ by the US Army, a nuclear-capable surface to air missile but BOMARCs had a longer range (distance) than the Nike. Some years after the fire traces of radioactive materials were found about a half-mile from the site. See, most likely due to water used to fight the fire having then been absorbed into the soil and transported away.

            You may want to contact the Fort Hancock Nike Association (, a group largely composed of Cold War era veterans in the NY/NJ area who are working to preserve what remains of the NY-56 Nike Missile site at Fort Hancock, which is now part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. They give guided tours of what remains of NY-56 during the summer and are always happy to answer questions about the Nike System and their personal experiences while assigned to Nike Missile sites.

            If you find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area, do plan to visit Nike Missile Site SF-88 in the Marin Headlands Unit of the Golden Gate Recreation Area. SF-88 is the best restored/maintained Nike Site in the United States. US Park Service Rangers and “Nike Veterans” are often available there to discuss both the overall history of the Nike System and/or their personal experiences serving at Nike sites. See Last, the Nike Hercules site at what is now Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson just north of Anchorage Alaska is currently open to the public for tours (advance reservations required) twice a year. See

            I hope this information is of use to you.


            • Correction to my previous post. The BOMARC missile was “owned” by the Air Force, not by the Army. My apologies.


            • Posted by Felice Cohen on April 21, 2016 at 3:52 PM

              Thanks for this info, Andrew. It is helpful to know that the Nike base in the Watching Reservation only had the first generation non-nuclear Nike missile. Richard Levine wrote about radioactive tubes being buried and thrown in the trash at that site – even though it was low level radiation, I wonder if those were cleaned up. Anyway, I’ll do more reading, thanks to the links you provided. Happy Passover!


              • I’ve finally figured out, I think, Felice Cohen’s concerns about “radiation” at former Nike Missile sites. The issue is not with the nuclear warheads stored at some of the sites equipped with the Hercules missile variant. When the warheads were removed from these sites their “radiation” went with them.

                That is also the case with the several hundred now-abandoned ICBM sites around the United States in which Titan, Atlas and early-generation Minuteman missiles were emplaced. (The Minuteman III is our current land-based nuclear missile.) In each system the warheads were designed to minimize potential radiation exposure from them to both military and civilian personnel who worked or lived near them. Of course, the amount of radiation these weapons would expend after detonation is another story altogether!

                Rather, she seems concerned about potential long-term effects of “radiation” emanating from the radar and related systems which tracked potential incoming targets and would have guided Nike missiles after launch to those targets.

                Radar (short for “radio detection and ranging”) has been in wide military use since shortly before World War II. The radio waves used in “radars” operate in the UHF (ultra high frequency) or microwave part of the radio spectrum. Before the transistor’s invention (at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ, by the way), “vacuum tubes” of various sizes and shapes were in wide use, not only in military “radar” sites, but in consumer television sets, radios, and in early-generation “computers.”

                The tubes did produce extremely low levels of radiation when electricity was passed through them. And, radar facilities such as those used in the Nike System, since they, like all other electronic machinery at the time, used probably thousands of “vacuum tubes” at each base, both here in the US and in other countries where it was deployed. The Nike-Ajax was used, for example, by Norway to as their main anti-aircraft defense system for many years; an extensive exhibit about deployment of the Nike System in that country is on prominent display at the Norsk Luftfartsmuseum in Bodø (

                Development of the today’s “microwave oven,” can be traced to work under government contract by the Raytheon Corporation in the mid-1940’s on military radar systems. One of their engineers, Percy Spencer, noticed that after turning on a military radar device on which he was working a candy bar in his pocket melted. Spencer and others at Raytheon then began work on what was later patented as the “Radar Range,” an oven which used radiation to rapidly heat food. I’ve also read and heard anecdotal evidence that military personnel knew they could “warm up” often cold rations by placing them near the radar equipment they operated. Many people today use the term “to nuke” food in their microwave or refer to the device as the “nuker.”

                Since the use of both “radar” and of vacuum tubes in military systems was ubiquitous from perhaps the late 1930’s until perhaps the mid to late-1960’s, any long term effects of “radiation exposure” from either would have been discovered long ago by epidemiologists and others working at what is now the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the Epidemic Intelligence Service (a part of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Department of Defense medical commands, or other agencies charged with “disease surveillance.”

                No such effects have been found many military (and civilian) personnel spent literally millions of “person years” over about 30 calendar years working in and around radar facilities and other sites which made extensive use of vacuum tubes. These facilities included the Distance Early Warning (DEW) , Mid-Canada and Pinetree Lines , three separate sets of radar facilities stretching from Greenland across Canada and Alaska designed to track incoming Soviet bombers and/or missiles, the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) System and literally thousands of other US military radar tracking facilities as well as those of other countries. (See and the US Air Force Radar Museum Association’s site at )

                Further, the world-wide use of “tubes” in consumer electronic equipment for many years would have exposed millions of civilians to the radiation which emanated from their radios and television sets. There is not, to my knowledge, any evidence linking civilian exposure to “radiation from vacuum tubes.” Further, vacuum tubes were routinely “tossed in the trash” by both military and civilian users after they “burned out,” so there are perhaps many billions of “old tubes” in dumps and landfills around the world. There has been no impact from suspected “radiation exposure” to them as well.

                So, I think Felice Cohen’s concern about potential “radiation hazards” at former Nike Missile sites is probably not warranted.

                I am not sure in what condition the US Army left the Watchung Reservation Nike base when they closed it in 1964. While they obviously took the missiles and their fuel with them, apparently only modest additional steps were taken to mitigate potential safety and other hazards. As others have posted on this blog, many above ground buildings were left intact and then ravaged by vandals over the years. No effort was made to seal the entrances to the underground magazines where the missiles were stored, which created a very serious hazard, especially after groundwater filled these spaces. The fence surrounding the base was easy breached. On my last visit there in 1982 the entire area was littered with glass, liquor bottles and other junk. I remain a bit miffed as to why the County parks department took no apparent steps to address the manifest safety and other issues at the site for almost 30 years. It’s probably a miracle that some curious visitor to the site’s remains was never seriously hurt—or worse—before the Union County government cleaned it up and converted the area to an equestrian facility.

                Adequate clean-up of old military facilities is not limited to concerns about former Nike sites.

                For example, the remains of what was the Mill Valley Air Force Station on Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, California just north of San Francisco, which closed in the 1980’s (see were both an eyesore and a hazard to visitors to Mt. Tamalpais State Park, one of the most popular and scenic spots in the Bay Area. (While not a “Nike Site,” one role of Mill Valley AFS was to operate radars which transmitted data to many Nike bases in the area and was a key part of the SAGE system (see link above. The one remaining radar facility there is currently used as a US Air Force/FAA “Joint Surveillance Station.” If you’ve ever been to the top of “Mt. Tam” it’s the big white radome on your left as your drive to the visitor parking lot.) Only recently did the Air Force begin to remediate the site by removing old buildings, many of which were full of asbestos and other toxic substances.

                A very interesting movie about the history of Mill Valley AFS, the importance of the site to the local Miwok Indian tribe, and efforts to clean it up is available here:


              • Posted by Richard M. Levine on July 20, 2016 at 12:26 PM

                Besides the radiation there were many toxic/carcinogenic contaminants that could have been left at former Nike sites. The Corps of Engineers had the responsibility to clean up the sites, but the government reports debated with them over the thoroughness of their cleanups. The DOD is thought of as the world’s worst polluter. Marine Camp Lejune in Carolina had carcinogenic drinking water for some 30 years. Soldiers and their families were drinking this. Now the VA has agreed to treat these people for cancer. The Nike base in Mahwah had several conflicting professional studies about contamination there. 800 gallons of heavy metal contaminated water in the underground magazines went somewhere, and no one seems to know how it was remediated. One engineering company said they simply pumped the water on the ground. When I had the NJ EPA contact them, they said that were not talking anymore. And if you want to discuss it talk to their attorneys. The funny thing said by the Corps of Engrs rep was that since we don’t get our local drinking water from the ground, it is no problem if they just dumped it. However, my town of Mahwah does get drinking water from local underground aquifers. See how little they know.


                • Posted by Richard M. Levine on October 22, 2021 at 11:12 PM

                  In addition, Radium 226 was used on earlier versions of Nike van consoles. This was profuse use in engraved switch designations on the operator consoles. This produced ionizing radiation in the vans. Very few Nike veterans were aware of this. This was also used on aircraft consoles, and on watch dials for a number of years until wisely discontinued.

                  Regarding high-voltage vacuum tubes giving off x-rays (ionizing radiation), there was an unsuccessful class-action lawsuit in El Paso, TX on behalf of veterans who claimed cancer from these x-rays. I understand that there was a settlement of some sorts, which I missed out on because I didn’t have cancer at the time. I believe the government of Germany or nearby allied country had also awarded a payment to the veterans who made a claim. I had contacted the law firm leading the charge. I had put myself on the ionizing radiation and agent orange registries around the year 2000. However, this is for VA research purposes and does not constitute an application for a disability claim. It was not until 2021 that I finally made a disability claim application to the VA. This claim is still pending a decision.This is for ionizing radiation, non-ionizing radiation, agent orange, trichloroethylene, and health damages from high noise levels and burnt jet fuel on Naha AFB. I noted in my claim that I am not yet claiming health damages from plutonium and potential unwitting participation in bio-, chemical-, or nuclear- warfare Project 112 on Okinawa until I can find additional facts as they emerge to substantiate such a claim.


          • Posted by Richard M. Levine on April 13, 2016 at 9:20 PM

            There was a release of radioactive plutonium in an AF BOMARC missile installation at McGuire AFB in NJ during the Cold War. The local fire department came, sprayed water on the radioactive material and spread the material all over the site. Many truckloads of radioactive topsoil were shipped to Nevada. However, the site is still radioactive to this day, and is still closed off. So much for decontamination procedures.

            In a 1974 incident a helicopter carrying Nike nuclear warheads from a closing Nike site on L.I. had an emergency landing on Jones Beach. Besides the MPs with rifles on the two helicopters, a call went out to Army bases for additional armed troops to help guard the helicopters. The Army notified the health authorities on L.I. that there could be a possible release of radioactive materials.

            The State police arrived and asked to look at what was in the helicopter. The Army held off the police at gunpoint and would not tell them what cargo they had. Of course, being that nuclear warheads are top secret, that secret had to be protected at all costs. A veteran told me about this incident, and I later found it noted in a NYT article.


            • Thank you for sharing this information, Richard. There is a Wikipedia page about the BOMARC missile accident at McGuire AFB which might be of interest. See .

              The incident you relate about tension between the NY State Police and the Military Police when helicopters transporting nuclear warheads from a Nike site on Long Island made an unscheduled landing was quite interesting.

              The US Air Force has long used special trucks to transport ICBM launchers to and from their silos. Retired vehicles are on display at, among other places, the Museum of the US Air Force in Ohio, the Hill Air Force Base Museum in Utah and the museum at Malmstrom Air Force in Great Falls, MT. Here is a link to a photo of one of these trucks:

              I’ve read transcripts of oral histories maintained by the National Park Service at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site ( in South Dakota shared by “missileers” and others who were involved in the early days of the Minuteman program.

              A former United State Marshall said in his interview that movement of a Minuteman missile to or from a silo involved the Air Force Police, the state police in which the silo was located, and the US Marshal’s Service, which I thought was a rather interesting role for USMS. I am sort of guessing that the Marshal’s Service was involved because in many cases the route would cross federal lands under the jurisdiction of the federal Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, National Park Service and also perhaps Native American Reservations. The route would be planned in advance by all agencies involved in the effort.

              I am not sure how the warheads were transported, but my guess is they went by USAF helicopter to the silo once the launcher was in place. The deactivation of ICBMs under the terms of various bilateral agreements between the US and the USSR (e.g., SALT, START) was probably even more complicated, as the treaties and various technical amendments to them gave precise details as to how the cables from the launch control facility to the silo were to be cut, the method by which the cement cover was to be moved away from the silo, and how the warhead cover was to be removed from the missile, and then how the warhead itself was to be rendered “safe” and removed.

              Joint teams from the USAF and the Soviet Rocket Forces would monitor the deactivation process at each silo and launch control facility, and the treaties also specified how many days should elapse between different steps in the process so that the other sides’ “national technical means of verification” (i.e., reconnaissance satelltelites) could complete orbits over the site to confirm completion of those steps. By the way, USAF Strategic Air Command personnel were stationed in the former USSR for months at a time to fulfil the same role there in ensuring compliance by the Soviet Rocket Forces with the terms of these agreements.

              Since deactivation of the Nike System was a unilateral decision by the United States, there is probably much less in the way of documentation available as to how these sites were deactivated and the missiles (and warheads) removed. If this is of interest to you, please visit this site maintained by the US Army Center for Military History: Unfortunately, as this web page notes, it is often very difficult to obtain records about specific Nike sites for the various reasons it details.


  16. […] Watching Reservation is home the bunny bridge and also was home to a Nike base […]


  17. Posted by John on March 19, 2009 at 10:56 AM

    I ust wanted to let you know that the former Nike base that you mention as being in Summit is actually in Mountainside. The old Watchung Stables were in Summit, but a new facility was built on the old Nike base site. The Nike base/new stables are on Summit Lane, midway between WR Tracy Drive and Summit Road. A friend of mine from high school lived a few blocks from there in the 1970s-1980s. The old stables, which I believe now are K-9 headquarters for either the Summit or Union County police, are on Glenside Ave. right next to I-78.

    Also, just north or I-78 on Summit Road (heading from the old Nike base toward Overlook Hospital) is an unpaved road called Old Coach Road, through a small bunch of woods that apparently used to be called Hidden Valley Park. The left fork leads to the back of an elementary school in Summit, but the right fork leads to a couple of houses in Springfield, one of which dates back to the 1700s. Two more houses used to be there until the highway was completed in the 80s. There was a lake there, too, which was drained when the highway went through. We used to drive up there as teens, and there was access to the I-78 right-of-way while it was still under construction, and from there to the Houdaille Quarry that was used for paving material.

    The 18th century house, known as the Sayre House, was at one time a art gallery and other interesting things. The other house up there, the Stone House, has ties to the azalea and rhododendron (the shrubs) “community”–see Springfield House. Both houses are privately owned.


  18. Posted by Tom on March 19, 2009 at 10:55 AM

    I saw your posting on the internet about the Summit Nike Base NY-73, and figured I would give you the story on this base. The base was deactivated in 1963-1964. Most of the structures were still standing and used by local kids as a hangout until sometime in the late 60s when a bunch of kids went on a vandalism rampage destroying the above ground structures and burning many of them to the ground. It was not related to the Viet Nam war or anything else… just a bunch of idiots looking to destroy something. Since I lived in Mountainside NJ from 1964 to 1972 I actually explored the base in the early 70s and managed to climb down one of the sealed stairways to the missile control room. But when I got down towards the bottom of the stairs there was a good 4 -5 feet of water there.

    The army units shield was still on the door and kids that had been in there before it flooded said that there were still old launch control computers and other antiquated equipment in the main control room. There was on old missile crane area designed to lift the missiles off of transports and onto cradles for their trip to the underground launchers as well as a few barrack buildings. I can tell you that the abandoned base at night was one of the spookiest places I have ever seen! The entire area was converted to the Watchung Riding Stables owned and run by Union County NJ in the 1980s or 1990s. The stable apparently rests upon some of the old concrete bunkers and the entire area still has buried tunnels from the complex.


    • Thank you for your comments, Tom. I visited the NY-73 remains many times in the 1970s through the 1980’s. I think my first visit was in 1970. By then there had been extensive vandalism as well as the water flooding the underground magazines you mentioned, but several buildings were still there, including the missile assembly/test facility and the enlisted personnel barracks. They were still there on my last trip to the site in the fall of 1982.


      • Sorry, I meant to add to my previous post that NY-73 was the “official” name of the Nike site in the Watchung Reservation. It was deactivated in the fall of 1962 and closed by 1963. The firing control center for the site was adjacent to Governor Livingston High School. Almost nothing of that smaller facility remains today. See


        • Thanks to Tom and Nike/Andrew for sharing their memories of visiting the remains of NY-73, the Nike Missile site in the Watchung Reservation that was closed in 1963. I also made many visits there in the early 1970s as a teenager living in Westfield. It was an easy bike ride there from where we lived on the Westfield/Mountainside border. I also recall climbing down the steps to the missile magazines, seeing the painted unit emblems on the doors, and the large amount of ground water which had seeped in them after the site was abandoned by the Army.

          By the early 1970’s the only above ground buildings which remained were a guard shack at the base entrance, the missile assembly building, and what I believe were the enlisted personnel barracks.It’s my understanding that regular Army soldiers assigned to Nike duty were based out of Fort Hancock and detailed to a nearby Nike Site for relatively short periods, as NY 73 and most other Nike sites that were not located on existing military bases did not have much in the way of MWR (“morale, welfare and recreation”) facilities (e.g., a movie theatre, swimming pool, “club,” etc.)

          My last visit in NY-73 occurred in late 1982. By then I had moved to Washington, DC and was a graduate student at a university there, but came home that Thanksgiving to visit my family. I took a drive to my old “places” in the Watchung Reservation, including the remnants of NY-73. There was extensive vandalization of these remaining buildings as well as an amazing amount of old liquor bottles, trash and other junk around on the old base property.

          I walked into what had been the enlisted personnel barracks and was shocked to find the two or three deer carcasses which had recently been cleanly decapitated. The heads and torsos were close to each other, and a massive amount of blood was congealing on the floor and dried on the walls. I had to drive several miles to a pay phone to notify the Union County Park Police of my discovery, as cell phones were still solely the province of science fiction at the time. The police dispatcher asked me to return to the old Nike site to meet the officers who would be responding to my call. When I returned there at least four marked County Police vehicles were “on the scene” and I showed the responding officers what I had found.

          They never followed up with me about the matter, so I guess whatever investigation they did went nowhere.

          But, while we were “on the scene” several of the police officers and I discussed a prior history, in the early 1970’s, of an alleged “coven” of “witches” who were believed to be active in the area and responsible for what some felt were animal sacrifices found in and around the Watchung Reservation close to the old Nike site.

          The suspected (never proven) “coven” were also suspected in the death of 16-year old Jeanette DePalma of nearby Springfield (see “Death on the Devil’s Teeth,” a recently released book on the subject and initially suspected by the Westfield, NJ police with the infamous fall 1971 List Family murders until it became clear (via his written confessions) that the murders had been committed by Mr. List himself (see


  19. Posted by John on March 19, 2009 at 10:54 AM

    On you site, in the list of places to be visited you have the Summit Nike Base. If it the one I think it is, it was actually in the Watchung Reservation and on that site now sits the Trailside Riding Stables. My college friends and I went there many years ago. The underground portion had already become flooded many years ago. There was nothing to see above ground at that time, except concrete pads. In my home town of South Plainfield, we had a Nike base. I was adjacent to Hadley Airport (now gone) the site of the first Post Office Air Mail flight. I did trespass onto the base, there wasn’t much left, a few shells of buildings and the concrete bases from the radar. No artifacts of any kind.


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