Last Line of Defense Nike Missile Sites in Illinois

The 1st generation Nike missile. the Ajax. was designed to intercept and destroy Soviet manned bombers. In the event that the Cold War turned hot, Nike missiles could provide the last line of defense for the Nation’s population and industrial centers. Although the U.S. Army did not build the first Nike missile batteries until 1953, research and development of the defensive antiaircraft weapon systems began during World War II. The Nike Ajax was the first in the Army’s family of guided missiles, and the world’s first operational, guided, surface-to-air missile system. The first Nike Ajax site was activated in December 1953, at Fort George G. Meade Maryland. In 1956 the Army designated 30 sites as top priority for Nike installations, all located in major cities: Washington-Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Hanford (Washington), San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Norfolk, Pittsburgh, and Niagara Falls. The needed land was both costly and scarce, particularly if it, was in or near metropolitan areas-the primary locations for Nike bases.

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