SITE NY-56 Sandy Hook, New Jersey

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2014/10/29

My favorite place in NYHarbor is Sandy Hook and the Atlantic Highlands, especially at this time of year, when the prickly pears sprout their big purple olive-like buds, the sumac turns firey red, pokeweed branches droop with heavy, ink-filled berries, and maybe monarchs pass through. Part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, the National Park Service tends and preserves wonderfully the pockets of wilderness.


This healing place of beauty is also where the presence of defense is felt. Monuments of the American Revolution, relics of the Civil War, crumbling forts, battery ranges and our USCG base stationed there tell of its military importance. But the most fascinating is site NY-56: where missiles were nearly launched 52 years ago this time.hercules

Nike Hercules

Length: 27 ft
Weight: 5000 lbs
Speed: supersound
Range: 75 miles
Altitude: above 150,000 ft


Housed in underground silos, the missiles would be ready to launch off racks to intercept long-range bombers. Barracks still stand where men were housed, men who would maintain and train here. During the tour, one man in the back, who was very quiet and moved slowly suddenly burst out with emotion, “We were never allowed here when I was here, never!” He said no more, but among us that day was one who had served, one who lived through it all. This base was closed in 1974.


 nikelandthis is a collage of vents, hatches, concrete pads, Park ranger and wanderers;
Do Not Use For Nike Missile Site Navigation.

In this WWII paratrooper tribute blog are the writings and comments of a recent generation that grew up with incredible fear of being incinerated at school or in their sleep; one commentator found a great handout courtesy of the Canadian government here: a “How to Pack to Survive a Nuclear Attack” brochure. Thank you, GCOX.





7 Responses

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  1. gpcox said, on 2014/10/30 at 08:48

    Great post and thanks for link to my site! You did made an excellent connection between the data on your site and mine – good work!!

  2. Rembert said, on 2014/10/30 at 09:53

    It´s a well-known paradox, that the most destructive of human activities creates those wonderful refugii, first for nature, then for us. As well as that bizarre-melancholic beauty of ruins, that were designed under the distinct logic of war. I think of all those ruins along the Rhine, that glowed under a steel blue sky these last few weeks. Or Venices medieval bunkers, the Arsenale, I hope to see next week.

    Even Bowsprites artistic skill can´t transform instruments of murder into an overwhelming vision of beauty, like the innocent eponym of those thorny arrows, And only Gravity´s Rainbow maintains, that these beasts develop a certain elegance at least in flight.

    A lot of current conflicts show, that politics haven´t learned much since the days of the Cuba crisis. May be, that Dr. Strangeloves direct approach is obsolete today, but there hasn´t been much effort, to find common interests after the end of the Cold War. That nice scene, which indicates toward a happy end, is thinkable only, if the winner would stop to behave as such and give diplomacy a chance.

  3. 2geeks3knots said, on 2014/10/31 at 11:26

    Fascinating!! As are the paratrooper’s blog and the brochure (curious, no mention of duct tape; but that extra sweater will come in handy!). Great post! BTW, on that creepy topic, you’ll be interested in this bit of not-so-new news about Tybee, where Jean was just paddling.

  4. mageb said, on 2014/10/31 at 17:29

    Wonderful stuff, you know. Here on the west coast are the Marin Highlands and their many forts and fortifications. Just like where you are sits Nike missles, defences from WWII, WWI, Civil War, and Earlier. I was amazed to note that the iron stairs in fort Point are the same stairs that are in the old laundry area in Alcatraz.
    Thank you.

  5. billcanoe said, on 2014/11/06 at 18:16

    1950: NYC: Catholic school: 1st grade. First thing they drop on us: sin. Next one: hell. Then the third biggie: ATOMIC BOMBS. I’m 5 years old and this gets laid on me! Burn in hell and/or burn in the neighborhood. Duck and cover. Don’t look at the blast. We walked home for lunch and one day my brother (in 8th grade) turns on the TV (yeah we had one!) so we can watch an atomic bomb being set off. Sin, hell, and atomic bombs — and they worry about kids today roleplaying war — at least the kids know they have a chance of (virtually) surviving. Oh yeah, the NIKE. That was my first plastic model. Sitting on my dresser, it relieved a lot more stress than the crucifix on my wall.

  6. Christine Van Lenten said, on 2014/11/07 at 09:02

    Oh, this blog is powerful — had me near tears at one point.

    Nuclear weapons have been an issue of huge concern to me ever since c. 1960.

    If you want the daylights scared out of you, see this 2013 book (with a retro cover), which chronicles incidents in which nuclear weapons were nearly accidentally detonated:

    I’ve not read the book but heard the author (who wrote Fast Food Nation, too) speak. He’s wonderful.

    So missile defense is part of the story; another part is how successfully we can avoid, uh, “friendly fire”: destroying ourselves with our own weapons.

    How did you become aware of Site NY-56? I’m from NJ but had never heard of it.

    And, how did you get there? Not by riding your bike!

    Xxx ~Christine

    From: “Bowsprite: A New York Harbor Sketchbook” Reply-To: “Bowsprite: A New York Harbor Sketchbook” Date: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 9:14 AM To: Christine Van Lenten Subject: [New post] SITE NY-56 Sandy Hook, New Jersey bowsprite posted: “My favorite place in NYHarbor is Sandy Hook and the Atlantic Highlands. Especially at this time of year, when the prickly pears sprout their big purple olive-like buds, the sumac turns firey red, pokeweed branches droop with heavy, ink-filled berries, and”

  7. tom russell said, on 2014/11/24 at 22:53

    i grew up in a midwest steel town, so i think 5 nike missile site ringed he city. was before my time, but i’ve seen remnants (former military buildings now used as something else) and photos. erie. and where i am now in northern new england, forts along the coast dating from early 1800s – 1960s. plus former USN and USAF bases for alti-cold war defence. and nuke storage sites. yikes.

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