Working with old Nike missile sites in the Chicago suburbs

If one looks closely, there are still a few remnants of the Cold War in the Chicago suburbs: old Nike missile sites. One such site is being cleaned up in Vernon Hills:

The weapons and the equipment needed to fire them were removed decades ago, but the hatches and the concrete pad — and the bunkerlike magazine buried deep beneath them — remain…The Chicago area was home to more than a dozen Nike bases. They could be found in the city and in Addison, Arlington Heights, Naperville, Palatine and other communities, as well as at Fort Sheridan near Highland Park.

The Vernon Hills base included six underground missile magazines, a barracks, a headquarters building and other facilities, all surrounded by what was then cornfields.

Along with the other Chicago-area bases, the site represented a last-ditch effort to destroy any enemy bombers targeting the Windy City. Coastal defenses and air-to-air combat efforts would already have failed to stop invading planes.

Here is a list of the 265 Nike bases across the United States and the website for the Nike Historical Society.

The site in Naperville has since been remade into Nike Park. I suspect some younger residents might think this is named after the shoe company instead of anti-aircraft missiles. At the time of its use, this plot of land was outside of town though it is now clearly part of the I-88 corridor.

I wonder how much interest many communities would have in cleaning up and displaying these sites. Indeed, the Daily Herald article says the “the nation’s only restored Nike base, complete with a museum and public tours” is located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco. In addition to the money this would require, these sites are decades old and they aren’t exactly conducive to the idyllic image many suburbs and communities would like to display. It is one thing to let someone else take care of the history in a museum somewhere and another to remind residents that there was once a military base in their sleepy community.

2 thoughts on “Working with old Nike missile sites in the Chicago suburbs

  1. I WAS ASSIGNED TO c-50 a-6-3 Homewood Ill, Mar62-July63 U>S> Army the Site was then turned over to the Ill Nat!l Guard all nike -Herc sites were shut down by the summer of 74My last sie was in the Seattle defense


  2. As a teenager I mess around in the Nike site in Naperville. That was around the late 60s. I got drafted into the army in 1970. After boot camp I got my orders to be a Nike Hercules missile crewman. They were shocked that I new every inch of that site. I was shocked myself when I saw the site in Okinawa to be the same one that I partly at Naperville Illinois.


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