In the process of pursuing unrelated research, Geosciences Technician Dave Tewksbury discovered that he had grown up only eight miles from a Nike Missile launch site. This revelation led to the start of his project tracking and documenting the more than 300 sites throughout the country. As reported by LiveScience.com and later by Fox News, “The Nike missiles were a key part of the U.S. national defense system from 1954 to the 1970s. … supersonic surface-to-air missiles sat ready to launch ... Some missiles carried nuclear warheads, even though they were next to homes in cities from Los Angeles to Chicago.”
Tewksbury presented his research at the annual national meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver on Oct. 27. As a result of this presentation, LiveScience interviewed him and reported on his plans to build a geo-referenced database that will allow anyone to research the Nike missile sites through Google Earth. Viewers will be able to click on a missile site and bring up historic photos and archival information.
In his LiveScience interview, Tewksbury said, “The whole East Coast was just essentially a continuous curtain of missile protection.” The missiles were stored in underground bunkers and raised only for maintenance or firing. “In Cleveland, it was right there in the neighborhood, the kids were probably playing baseball right there, and if they hit it over the fence, [perhaps] the soldiers would throw it back over. In Chicago, they were part of the landscape, they were part of the neighborhood.”