Thursday, April 24, 2008

From a Racetrack to The Cold War Near Home

Funny how there are often amazing things around you, and you never notice until you trip over them.  I was chatting with a colleague today about how one could improve the commute to Brookhaven from NYC, and I started looking at Google maps to see how close the LIRR tracks came to the lab (a man can dream about a new train station just where he wants it, right?).  Then my network connection at home collapsed briefly (my mom is in town so I am telecommuting today), and I resorted to my ever-lovin' Google Maps Mobile on my Blackberry Curve (no iPhone for me, yet).  And lo, what did I see there -- and not on the normal version -- but "Suffolk Meadow Race Track", just southwest of the lab.  A little Googling got me to the interesting "Long Island Oddities" site, which has this neat article about the honest-to-god horserace track, which was open from 1977 to 1988.  

But then I saw "NIKE Missile Base", which led to this piece about an honest-to-god anti-aircraft missle base in Rocky Point, about 7 miles North of the lab.  From there, the research is straightforward, given all of the cold war buffs out there who seem to be keeping the Wiki pages complete.  It seems the program ended in 1974, with the SALT I treaty, and now it's a ball field and low-income housing.  That said, I'm still not absolutely sure the Nike missiles housed here were actually nuclear (although it was certainly an option for the Hercules), but I'm really staggered to hear about a missile site so close to home.

3 comments:

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Richard said...

Yes, before the sites closing there were Nike Hercules Missiles there. They were Nukes.

In the event he Russians were to fly into NYC and drop nukes wiping out the city they would launch they were to launch a Nike Hercules II with an atomic warhead into the incoming group of soviet planes and blow them all out of the sky. All us people out here on the Island were to basically be sacrificial pawns to save the masses in NYC. In the military it's call collateral damage.


What I was about 18 years old I used to drive around and explore places. All to find new and better places to hunt, target practice etc. Over time I discovered missile tracking stations in Manorville and other remote areas. Some were actually mobile and manned by military personal.

One day I drove up Defense Hill Road north of the Brookhaven Lab. I noticed all the houses looked kind of like old military houses. And there were massive power lines running down the street. The road ended at an 8 foot high barbed wire fence with a counter weighted pole use at the entrance. Other then that I could see a strange structure up to the left. There was a dirt trail running along the perimeter of the fence so I drove up along the fence (passing the strange structure) and parked where the sand was starting to get to soft to drive on. Finding a hole in the fence I went inside to explore.

What i found blew my mind! In one building there was a Nuclear decontamination area with red footprints painted on the floor and an undressing and emergency shower area with painted gray footprints leading out of the area. The buildings were low to the ground and semi underground.
There was a mess hall with paintings of USSR missiles next t paintings of American Missiles. In the paintings they made the American missiles look bigger and better. There were all kinds of military slogans and emblems painted on the walls as well.

Then there was a building with a control room with wiring in the floors that could be accessed by lifting covers. (like little ditches in the floor with covers.

What I found the strangest was an area with a big room and it was labeled shelter or 'fallout shelter' 'capacity 2000'. There was no way in hell they could have fit 2000 people in this thing and I can only think it said 200 and kind of misread the sign while rushing to get out of there.


A few weeks later I went back with a friend of mine and I showed him the place. The property was quite overgrown with very high grass but after doing some more exploring we found an elevator going down to the storage area where they stored missiles. It wasn't like an elevator to hold people but one designed just to take missiles out of the storage and bring them up for launching.

After checking out the strange structure sticking up on he left that I had noticed the first time I was at the site I had realized it was a launch pad. There may have been more on the property to the east side of he entrance but I never explored that area because I didn't want people on the street to see us in there.

The launch pads has tubing around them with little holes like you would have on a gas stove. It didn't make any sense to me back then but now I can say they were probably there to keep the area ice/snow free in the winter months.

Back around 2000 I went back up to the site again after reading it was donated by the government to the Town Of Brookhaven and the town planned on making it into a park. Driving down Defense Hill Road I noticed that the old military housing on the road was getting a new look as people improved there now private property.

All signs of any of the old structures on the missile base were now gone and the place was being used by a model airplane club. Hopefully the town gets good use out of the place.


Just wanted to verify that it was a base and they did use Nike Hercules missiles armed with nukes.