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Cold War Warriors

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The north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, west of US 101, was once part of fortress San Francisco. The foundations of many gun emplacements, some dating back to America's Civil War and stretching into the Cold War can still be found and explored. The last defensive battery put in place on the Marin Headlands was a pair of Nike missile bases and the corresponding Integrated Fire Control Center's. One of the Nike batteries, SF-88L, has been kept in good repair by a dedicated group of volunteers and is worth a stop if you happen to be there on the first Sunday of any Month



You can read more about it on my blog at the link below.







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Ah, yes, the good old days. For those who weren't there, it was almost an expectation that we would be in an atomic bombing. Hiding under your school desk was a routine drill. Of course school desks in those days were made of cast iron and thick wood, and might have actually been of a little use as protection.


I worked at a college in the early 1980's that was built in the Nike period. It had narrow vertical slits for windows, to reduce the glass and blast impact on students. Ah, the memories. I'm glad I'm still here!!


But back to your comment about military sites on either side of the Golden Gate. Is Fort Point still an attraction on the south end of the bridge? I don't think I ever visited the Nike installation, but my days in the Bay Area would have been when the site was active, and I doubt the public was invited to tour.


I have an old 8mm movie I took of the north end of the bridge, but no Nike's in view.




Keep the Show on the Road

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The Nike's missile batteries in the Marin Headlands are over the hill from the bridge, tucked in a valley, and typically you would have only seen them if they were preparing to launch, otherwise the missiles would have been left in the bunker. You may may be able to see the radar installations in your 8mm movie as they looked like big white golf balls on top of the hill. Growing up in San Leandro there was a Nike base in the hills to the east and I could see the "golf ball" from my bedroom window. I had no idea at the time what it was but do remember when they took it down.


Fort Point is still there and still an attraction. In addition to a significant amount of area north of the Golden Gate Bridge the Presidio, Chrissy Field, and Fort Point are all part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

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Speaking of cold war and other interesting sites during WWII the govm't built watch towers all along the east coast These towers stood somewhere between 50 and 75 feet in height and were manned primarily by civilian volunteers, according to one web site I found on the subject I think most all have been demolished by now but as kids, in the '50s we had great fun climbing the towers and pretending we were on the lookout for Russian subs.

During the '50s these towers were replaced and placed somewhat inland by wooden towers about 25 or 30 feet high. These were also manned by voluteers and known as the Ground Observer Corps and used mostly to cover gaps in our radar coverage watching for enemy airplanes. I did a stint for a time around 1952, 1953. Someone in their madness put our tower right beside the Maine Turnpike - some times it was a bit difficult to tell the sound of an airplane and an 18-wheeler going down the pike. When we heard an aircraft we phoned a central station (ours was in Manchester, NH) and reported "Aircraft Flash" and so on. Interesting time to say the least. It wasn't like today - you'd never get off the phone reporting aircraft today there are so many in the air.

I also remember the "duck and cover" drills in school - later when I went in the military and sat thru a few motion pictures of atomic blasts and their effect on buildings the thought occured to me that "duck and cover" was just a quick way to get down on the floor because you were going to wind up there with most of the building on top of you anyway.



Alex Burr

Memphis, TN

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Alex, you east coasters weren't alone in your vigilance. Though it is a reconstruction of the 1952 original, a wooden watchtower still stands just a few miles north of West Lafayette, Indiana. During the early '50s, the tower was manned around the clock by volunteers and is often cited as a big reason that Purdue University was never bombed by the Russians. Photos and more here.

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