Sunday, August 26, 2007

If it flies, it dies

Last week I realized my lifelong dream of visiting a Nike missile site. The Nike system was a surface-to-air missile designed to shoot down squadrons of Soviet bombers as they approached US cities. Nike sites were spread all over the country and concentrated around major industrial areas. In the Chicago region, there were Nike missile installations at Jackson Park, Montrose Point, Wolf Lake, Fort Sheridan, and the Skokie Lagoons, to name a few [1]. The only restored Nike missile site in the country is Site SF-88, located in the Marin Headlands just north of San Francisco.

Behold the sweetness in my photo album from the site or from the official National Park Service site (the Marin Headlands are part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area).

I learned from the friendly NPS volunteer that the guardian of the Nike missileers is the Oozlefinch, a featherless bird usually often shown wearing an artilleryman's helmet and either grasping a Nike Hercules or crushing a Soviet aircraft in its talons. The Oozlefinch has no eyelids to disrupt its constant vigilance, so it flies backwards to keep dust out of its eyes. Worthy missileers were inducted into the the Ancient and Honorable Order of the Oozlefinch and then awarded various Oozlefinchling degrees as they merited. The motto of the Order is "Quid ad sceleratorum curamus," which may be loosely translated as "What the hell do we care?" [2]

The History Channel's "Weird US" series did a segment on the Nike program which they have kindly posted on YouTube.

[1] Ed Thelen's Nike Missile Web Site
[2] History of the Oozlefinch by Errol Porter

Bonus: NBC 5 Special Report: Chicago's Nuclear Missile History


CA said...

I'm glad you were able to visit the NIKE site. And it's appropriate you found the site describing the Oozlefinch. The Ancient and Honorable Order of The Oozlefinch is a primary reason our wonderful country has never been attacked by missiles.

I was one of a very few soldiers who, for our performances of many various important and high security duties, were honored to receive a Certificate of the Ancient and Honorable Order of the Oozlefinch and be designated an Honorable Oozlefinchling, in 1956 while at Fort Bliss, Texas. However, some years ago in a sneak attack on my home, in the black of night and while I was away defending my country, (this is the only explanation there can be) some dastardly enemy agent blew open my wall safe and made off with my Certificate! Bummer! But, being a hardened and now retired soldier, I survived.
Anyhow, nice post! Sp3 Jim A. Generals' Driver, Fort Bliss, Texas-1954-55 and 56.

Anonymous said...

Saw the last Nike Hercules being fired in 1999 in Crete, Greece! What an amazing start and sound.

Chili said...

Just visited the site, and it is amazing