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Nike Missile Site HM-69
Everglades National Park

Anyone familiar with history knows that the Cuban Missile Crisis a defining moment in human history. Being the point where the Cold War came the closest to being a hot war, and the closest that the planet has been to the outbreak of a nuclear war, the crisis also prompted changes in national defense. Four days into the crisis, the 2nd Missile Battalion of the 52nd Air Defense Artillery were ordered to prepare for deployment from Texas to the Homestead AFB, along with their Nike Hercules missile batteries. By the end of October 1960, the battalion found themselves in Florida; a move that ultimately led to the establishment of four permanent missile bases in the Homestead area, forming the Homestead-Miami Defense Area.

Location attributes for Nike Missile Site HM-69
Everglades National Park
(Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States)
Built :: Closed   Status   Difficulty
1964 :: 1979   Active (Tour Event)   ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Hazards Risk   Security Risk   AUE Rating
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆   ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆   ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Hazard Observations   Security Observations
None Specified   Barbed Wire Fence, National Park Service Patrols, Secured Doors

The permanent bases were constructed by the end of 1964, but relocating the batteries to them didn't occur until the summer of 1965. Base HM-69, also known as A Battery, was the western-most of the new batteries and found itself situated within Everglades National Park. Unlike most other installations, the four Florida batteries were entirely above ground, owing to the high water table in the region, and each battery had twelve anti-tactical ballistic missiles versions of the Nike Hercules split among their three hangers. Several of these missiles with armed with nuclear warheads, and were intended to intercept any missiles coming from Cuba.

HM-69 saw active service until September 1979, when they were ordered to stand down due to strategic changes to national defense. At the time, the four batteries of Homestead-Miami Defense Area were the last active Nike Hercules sites in operation in the United States.

Following the end of operations, the four batteries were transferred to other agencies. While the other Florida sites still bear some indications of their former uses, the only remaining Launch Site facilities are those of A Battery, with the hangers and missile assembly building still standing. The barracks still remain at the Control Site facility, now the Daniel Beard Research Center. Unfortunately, the radar towers at the Control Site have been torn down, and there is no public access to the barracks.

However, if one is lucky enough to catch a tour offered by the National Park Service (generally offered in the off-peak season, December through April), the Launch Site can be visited. One of the three hangars is opened up during these tours to reveal exhibits relating to the history of the base, as well as a restored Nike Hercules missile on permanent display. Outside of the tours, the site is secured by NPS staff to prevent access.

The vast majority of the Nike Hercules bases have been destroyed over the years, making it exceedingly difficult to see these Cold War relics outside of public tours; as it stands, Base HM-69 is the only facility that has tours on the east coast (Base SF-88 is the only other base with tours, located in the Golden Gate Recreation Area near San Francisco). And while the Launch Site is not perfectly preserved (several buildings and the launcher rails have been removed, and some interior fencing is gone), enough remains to make it worth at least one visit to this historic site.

Cold War Relics - February 2023
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