Elliot's Nike Experence!
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Sandy Hook Nike Radar Site 


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Archiving more old personal slides, I  found this close up of Nike elevated on launcher at C Batt 54th BN Edgewood, MD 1957  Note four antennae below [Cannard] steering fins to receive steering commands from Missile Track Radar.

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Soon after I arrived at C-54 at Edgewood, I saw that the men were trying to remove some enormous stumps  to clean up the site.  some stumps were almost 5-feet in diameter.  The men had dug large holes around them, pulled with trucks and chains or doused the stumps with diesel fuel, time after time and tried to burn them out.  No success on anything over a foot.  They asked me if we could blast.  
Ok, having been stationed at Edgewood previously, I knew all kinds of people on post.  I called some friends in Technical Escort [for hazardous materials] or EOD for some TNT or dynamite.  No such luck but they offered all the bomb bursters I wanted from chemical bombs they were dismantling.  These were cardboard tubes about 1.25" diameter and 4' long filled with something like cast Amatol [forget now].  The tubes could be broken into small pieces across one's knee.  They brought a supply of bursters, blasting caps, wire and a 10-cap blasting machine.
All the stumps were quite far from the radar antennas and vans.  When blasting, we took cover in the doorway of the old bombproof shelter near the gate.  I tried small mudcap charges or some drilled into the stumps and managed to blow off modest chunks.  My friends returned to check progress and said I was using  way too small charges.  They set a big one and got big results.  On their second or third big try [probably one in the photo] a piece of wood flew almost all the way to one of the antennas.  I declared an end to that job.
They came up with one better.  They brought out a truck load of napalm drop [maybe 1 foot diameter and 4 feet long in wood-frame crates. tanks that were also being destroyed.  We would stick some down in a hole dug around a stump, make some holes in it with a pick, splash on some gas and drop a match.  Nice slow fire would burn out the stump.  On the biggest remaining stump, we set about 5 drop tanks and lit it off on Friday afternoon.  That was the weekend it snowed almost 4 feet.  On Monday, we plowed our way out to the stump and voila [sorry, to hell with the French]  the hole was empty, coated with white ash and still very hot. 
good fun

The NIKE AJAX Explosion

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Here is a story I may have recounted several years ago, but I now have an illustration for it.
Ed Thelen has a nice write up on his web page concerning the NJ Nike
explosion:  http://ed-thelen.org/mono-7.html

The NIKE AJAX Explosion
"Suddenly the missile blew with a roar and a sky-searing pillow of orange
flame from burning kerosene and nitric acid Fuels... Explosion and flame
touched off seven more Nikes squatting on adjacent pads, blew or burned ten
med to death, showered a three-mile radius with fragments..."21

On a sunny afternoon, 22 May 1958, the first fatal NIKE accident occurred at
the site of Battery B, 526th AAA Missile Battalion, near the small towns of
Middletown and Leonardo, New Jersey. Six soldiers and four civilians were
killed; three men were seriously injured; windows were blown out of houses
for miles around; the sound of the blast was heard for fifteen miles. The
Army rushed experts to the scene from New York and Washington, D.C. The
mayor of Middletown called a special town meeting, to which top-ranking
officers of the New York Defense Area were invited to explain what happened.
Newspaper and magazine editors were on hand to say "I told you so."22
Army lawyers began to settle claims for shattered windows and broken

At the time of the disaster, 14 missiles were located aboveground: 7 in A
Section, 4 in B Section, and 3 in C Section. The explosion apparently
originated with a missile undergoing modification in A Section. Here, an
Ordnaace team, in conjunction with the using unit, was replacing two M27
(T93) Safety & Arming Mechanisms with two improved models, M30 or M30A1, in
accordance with Modification Work Order (MWO) Y2-W20. Aside from
installation instructions, the MWO kit consisted of two brackets, two place
assemblies, the necessary attaching hardware for the M30 devices, and two
nameplates for the missile. To replace the arming mechanism, two of the
three warheads in the missile (nose and center warheads weighing 12 and 179
Ibs., respectively) had to be removed. A crater in front of the missile
position suggested that these varheads were lying on the ground at the time
of the explosion (see Figure 46, next page). Somewhere in the process of
removing the old devices and brackets and replacing them with the new ones,
the missile was accidentally detonated. All seven missiles of A Section
exploded. The nearest adjoining missile In B Section apparently did not
explode but its booster was ignites by a flying red-hot pellet and it
blasted into the side of a nearby hill. Failure of this missile to explode
may have saved the remaining six missiles.

Alpha Section seen from direction of the Assembly building. Explosion
apparently originated between launching positioin four at far left and
launching position trhee at center. Arrow points to crater about three feet
deep where nose and center warheads removed from missile that was being
modified are believed to have been placed. Metal frameworth has all been
extensively perforated by pelletes from exploding warheads.
(Avaition Week Photo, June 2, 1958) Figure 46

A Board of Officers was immediately convened by the 1st Region, U. S. Army
Air Defense Command, Fort Totten, New York, to investigate the accident.23
The findings of the board indicated that the "point of initiation of the
explosion was probably a PGPN relay cap" but just which relay cap could not
be determined. The "most likely causes of the detonation of the PETN relay
cap which initiated the disaster" were listed as follows:

"(1) Excessive tightening of a detonating cord coupling more than finger

"(2) Use of unauthorised materials such as string, solder wire, or aluminum
wire around the detonating cord, next to the cellar, in order to mate the
PGI1J relay cap fit more snugly.

"(3) 'Cross-threading' the detonating cord coupling nut while screwing it
into the five-way connector or into the varhead adapter .

"(4) Scraping, crushing, pinching, or othewise damaging the PETN relay cap
in some manner.24

As a direct result of this accident and the investigation that followed, it
was determined that an unauthorized field fix25 relating to MWO Y2-W20 had
been applied to an undetermined number of AJAX missiles on site, thus
creating a hazardous condition which was general throughout the CONUS. The
new arming device was considered a vast improvement for AJAX missiles, both
in reliability and safety of operation; however, the unauthorized fix
eliminated the safety tolerance desired between the warhead initiator and
the PETN relay cap on the detonating cord harness assembly. The elimination
of this tolerance by application of the "field fix" created a serious safety
hazard in the form of possible order detonation. Accordingly, the Commanding
General of the Army Air Defense Command (ARADCOM) notified all commands and
installations concerned that on-site missiles with an unauthorized fix
applied "are potential safety hazards and further unnecessary movement,
assembly, or disassembly of loaded msls must not occur until inspection and
necessary removal by qualiiied Ord personnel..." It was also directed that
immediate and positive action be talren to stop application of the
unauthorized fix and to thoroughly indoctrinate personnel in the necessity
of refraining from the application of changes or modifications to material
without proper technical service approral.26

"Operation Fix-It"
In June 1958, the necessary procedures, special equipment, and drawings were
completed for removal of the unauthorized fix applied to NIKE AJAX Missiles
at certain tactical sites. Five Ordnance depots (Letterkenny, Seneca,
Savanna, Pueblo, and Umatilla) were selected to perform the task, with
personnel being fully oriented in procedures and use of equipment. The scope
of the operation--commonly referred to as "Operation Fix-It"-initially
encconpassed only those missiles known or suspected of containing this
unauthorized modification; however, both CONARC and ARADCOM agreed on 28
June 1958, that the scope should be broadened to include all missiles on
site, in order to eliminate defective explosive harness assemblies.27

The operation was completed on 30 August 1958. In the process, a 100%
inspection was made of all warhead missiles within the Continental United
States and some warhead missiles in the European Command.28 In addition to
checking for and removing the unauthorized fix, other discrepancies noted
were investigated and corrected. Of the 5,971 warhead missiles inspected at
tactical sites in the CONUS,605 contained the unauthorised fix and 309 had
ruptured and/or damaged relay caps. In the European Command, the
unauthorised fix was removed iron 9 of the 10 warhead missiles processed.29
Thus, 923 chances of another disaster had been caught in time and

What happened at our unit after the accident:

Confusing and contradictory operational and safety directives began arriving within a few hours.  "Don't touch the missiles" and "only one missile to be above ground at one time" [except for an "actual alert"] were those I best recall.  Then came orders to examine all missiles for possible defects in the firing circuits.  Contractors [or Engineers] erected a new, earth-revetted area at the other-end of the launchers from the fueling revetment in which to work.  

Tech reps and top missile technicians performed the examinations.  I recall being present at the first tests and some later ones.  I particularly remember finding some "irregularities" in the connections between the primacord lines and the components.  See diagram.  Best remembered was that unknown parties [probably at initial missile assembly] had inserted "shim rings" of wire solder around the primacord, most likely to snug the "hand-tite-only" connectors.  And, there were 10 connections to open and check on each missile - one on each of three warheads, 5 on the 5-way connector and one on each of two arming mechanisms.  
Through all this confusion, we managed to maintain alert status throughout our defense and eventually we returned to normal but modified operations.   

Added Notes:
There is a monument at Fort Hancock that commemorates that accident and it also lists all of the troops and civilian employee's that were killed in the accident. The site where the accident occurred was nearby in Middletown Township. The monument is at "Guardian Park" which is located at the entrance to main post. There's a Nike Hercules on a pedestal next to the monument. 

The accident took place at NY-58L Leonardo/Belford on 15 April 1958, while occupied by B/526th.  Other than the earlier inadvertent launch of an Ajax from W-13T at Fort Meade, it was the only Nike accident and the only one to result in major damage and casualties.- MK

standard initiation for each new, young battery officer

There was a standard initiation for each new, young battery officer reporting to his first duty station after school.  I was lucky and did well at Ft Bliss because  friends provided me with after-hours, pre-school training on a Nike Ajax missile system.  It helped me do better in school and, as a life-long, immature, practical joker I learned of this trick and also developed a few non-destructive,  technical practical jokes of my own.  In a way I regret not reacting to all their hard work to fool me, but by doing so, I played a joke on them.  Some of my terminology may not be correct after 45 years but I think you will all get the idea.
[This account may seem overly long because, for those interested, I tried to explain all the technical details while I still remember - anything.  If anyone wishes to use or reprint the story, feel free to edit it to suit your purposes - Elliot]  
Soon after reporting for duty, a new officer would be seated at the Battery Control Officer's (BCO) console and asked to prove himself by performing a "missile firing drill".  Experienced officers would oversee and rate his performance with the equipment and full crews in both IFC and Launcher areas.  It was both a first test of the new officer but repetitive training for the men.   
The drill started with selecting a live aircraft (in the area) with the acquisition radar, assigning that aircraft to the target tracking radar (for actual tracking), "ordering" the missile tracking radar to lock onto the guidance unit of an erected missile and initiating the simulated firing process in the computer.  The computer's drill program would then simulate an actual firing.  The status board lights would change from red to green, the target pin on the plotting board would track the target and, at the proper time, the new BCO was supposed to raise the safety cover and press the fire switch.  In a real firing, as soon as the missile moved about 1/2 inch from a micro switch on the launcher rail, the missile-away status light would change from red to green.  In a drill, as soon as the fire switch was pressed, the missile tracking pin on the plotting board would follow the missile's computer-directed simulated trajectory.  If everything was done right, all the indicators and the plotting board would reveal whether or not the missile detonated at a pre-determined offset distance from the target to achieve maximum fragment damage.       
THE JOKE  In those days the school did not teach the BCO  that in drills, he should issue a command to the launch control officer (LCO) to "verify booster squib not connected".  [The launcher crew always  disconnected booster squibs in drills.]  When the LCO detected the fire command, he signaled his launcher crew literally to crowbar the missile far enough up the rail to activate the micro switch and display the missile-away light [which was not supposed to happen in a drill.]  [Most BC Officers wore two headsets, taped together,  one connected to the IFC network and the other connected to the Launcher network.  The BCO could control his communications by pressing one, the other, or both press-to-talk switches.]    Next, a launcher crewman inserted a headset microphone into the cone of a CO2 fire extinguisher and triggered the extinguisher.  The gas flow created a loud roar in the BC Officer's launcher headset.  At that instant, another officer in the Battery Control Van yelled out in simulated horror, [something like] "you fired a missile. - you might as well see it fly, you just bought it."  The frightened new officer usually ran outside or opened an escape hatch to see the results of his evil deed.     

I enjoyed those days working in the vans although lots of people found them boring.  From time to time I operated every console for experience and tried to master them but probably never did.  After a time, and experience, our Missile Officer left and I was called up to BN to fill the slot.  More responsibility and I was the bastard who came out in the middle of the night to run the ORI.  If the battery passed, the BC and the BN CO were both happy.  If they failed, both were mad at me. 


Your mention of the PPI and PI remind me of another silly story.  Before the battery converted to Herc, they sent half the BN HQ to Bliss for training.  The few BN officers left behind really had to put in big time to share the staff duty officer duties.  The Herc equipment arrived and was installed.  We went out and tried it out and it was a blast compared to the old shorter ranged Ajax.One night there was a mission and the BN XO said, lets go out and run the Herc set in the practice mission.  He also wanted me to show him what I had learned - so we did.  From 25 miles north east of Baltimore, we could lock on and track targets south of Washington, and we did.  We tracked and simulated firing on targets way out of our normal Ajax range.  We also called in "Mission Accomplished" on those targets.  Our controller at missile Master began to question why we were engaging targets so far out - the XO said we were testing the new set.  On the next MO, the controller asked which target - horrors, we had not even looked at the Precision Indicator [just blip on the PPI] which showed four aircraft - my answer was , "all sir, we used a "large warhead".  After expending many more missiles than we ever had in the magazine, Missile Master asked where we were getting all the extra ammo.  The XO and I had a brief conference and decided on the answer that I gave,  "Same place you are getting the hostile targets, sir."  
After I was transferred to 35th Brigade HW they razzed me about that for a long time.



Another recollection from Baltimore-Washington. One of the officers in 35th Brig with whom I served was connected with that first temporary site at Fort Meade from which the first missile accidentally fired.  
This man told us that the site's  BC and some men jumped in his car followed by more men in a truck to recover the missile which had landed on the Baltimore Washington Parkway.  He said that the missile had broken up and acid was spilled over everything.  [apparently only the booster fired]   With rubber gloves, or something, the desperate BC threw the most classified part of the missile into his car trunk while his men recovered the other missile parts.  Before long the floor of his trunk 'rotted out'.  When it was all over, the poor guy was transferred to a very dismal post in Alaska.   



To the best of my knowledge no Nike missiles were ever fired [except by
accident] from (at) any continental U.S. site.  One reason, I believe, would
have been the proximity of these sites to populated areas.  Not only would
there be pieces of missile coming down but there would be parts of the RCAT target.  On the other hand, if there were any sites along the coast, it
might have been possible to fire over the ocean but I doubt it.  There was
an instrumented test firing  site at Red Canyon, White Sands Proving Ground
where units traveled for their Annual Service Practice.  Everyone I knew
fired at Red Canyon.

All this brings to mind a question:  where did overseas Nike units hold
Annual Service Practice?  I don't know but they probably came home to Red
Canyon. -Elliot



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