Air Force Bases

Nike Missile Site LA-94 Los Pinetos CA

Los Pinetos is 3 air miles northeast of Sylmar in the Angeles National Forest. The radar facility is located about 1 mile east of May Canyon Saddle on Santa Clara Road. Barracks and battery facilities are located further to the east along Santa Clara Road.

Access to the Los Pinetos NIKE base site is gained by Clara Road; a narrow winding paved roadway. The site consists of three components: 1) missile launching site, 2) barracks and support structures, and 3) a radar facility. The barracks/housing is located on a low point between the launch pad site and the observation area which are located on plateaus along a ridge extending east to west. The radar facility is located on a plateau at the far western end of the complex. The launch site is located on a plateau on the extreme eastern end of the site complex.

The Los Pinetos NIKE site played an integral role in the Los Angeles Defense Area from 1955 to 1958. Los Pinetos is unique among Nike sites in the Los Angeles area in that the launch, administrative, and battery control facilities are located within a single line-of-site. This is also an unusual feature nationwide, because the battery control facilities were generally located in an area remote from other facilities. As a result, Los Pinetos presents a powerful visual representation of an operative Nike site within a single line-of-sight. Los Pinetos, along with Mt. Gleason, experienced the full range of the Nike development, including conversion from conventional Ajax to the nuclear capable Hercules missile.

Los Pinetos was built in 1955-56. The site played an integral role in the NIKE system for the Los Angeles Defense Area from 1955 to 1968. It constitutes one of five NIKE sites built in the 1950s in Angeles National Forest. The Angeles National Forest sites are: Mt. Gleason, Barley Flats, Los Pinetos, Magic Mountain/Lang. Los Pinetos is unique among known recorded NIKE sites in the Los Angeles area in that the launch, administrative, and battery control facilities are located within view of each other. This is also an unusual feature nationwide because the battery control facilities were generally located in an area remote from the others. As a result, Los Pinetos presents a powerful visual representation of an operative NIKE site within a single line-of-sight. Los Pinetos was deactivated in 1968 by the Department of the Army.

Overall, the Los Pinetos NIKE site is associated with an entire development period of military history which made a significant contribution both to industrial technology and the policy making decisions of American government during the late 1950s and 1960s.

Land for the Los Pinetos NIKE installation was acquired under a special use permit allowing the Army use of federally-owned land. A 22 November 1954 letter addressed to the District Engineer, Commanding General Francis M. Day of 47th AAA Brigade summarized the Army's position on acquisition.

Day's letter was drafted in response to a summary review of the site prepared by the Los Angeles District Engineer on 15 November 1954. A siting team consisting of various experts on foundations, roads, electrical equipment, and water, including a representative of the 47th AAA Brigade, had visit^ the site on 27 September 1954. Their visit was prompted by a 14 July 1954 directive to conduct surveys of Los Angeles Defense Area NIKE sites. Their report concluded that "from an engineering standpoint, no major problems are anticipated. The sites are considered feasible for construction of the proposed facilities." They did, however, note that developing a water supply would be difficult.

It is interesting to note here that the report concluded that "from an engineering standpoint" there would be no problem. Cost was, therefore, apparently not a consideration at the Los Pinetos site, for although the provision of water would be difficult and expensive, that was not an "engineering" problem.

Day quickly updated his November memorandum by making a formal request to the Commanding General of the Western Army Antiaircraft Command at Fort Baker for the acquisition of the site. His 4 January 1955 letter also provides a good description of the site prior to construction.

On 7 January 1955, a formal request was made by Fort Baker to the Commanding General, Army Antiaircraft Command at Colorado Springs. The request was approved on 21 January 1955 with the notation that acquisition should proceed "without delay."

On 25 January 1955, a request was made to the Commanding General of the 6th Army to "take appropriate action to have the District Engineer, Los Angeles District, acquire a real estate interest" in the Los Pinetos site. On 5 February 1955, the Headquarters 6th Army made the final request to the Division Engineer, South Pacific Division, Corps of Engineers with a copy sent to Los Angeles.

Negotiations were opened soon with the Forest Service, but it was not until 21 September 1955 that special use permit number LA-906 was signed. The special conditions of the permit were substantially the same as those for the Barley Flat NIKE site in Angeles National Forest. Additional conditions were, however, placed on the Los Pinetos site.

No construction records have been found for the Los Pinetos site. It is likely, however, that construction began with the simultaneous improvement of the road surfaces and the development of a suitable water supply. The existing roads, as noted in General Day's 4 January 1955 letter, were inadequate as access could only be gained by using a 1/4-ton truck. Actual construction probably began immediately following the 21 September 1955 signing of the special use permit, with the bulk of construction occurring in 1956 following the provision of an adequate water supply.

Additional building history associated with Los Pinetos includes the 1958 construction of the first units of family housing in the Los Angeles Defense Area. These were located at 25600 Sand Canyon Road, Saugus, California on an 8.27 acre site.

The only amendment to the original special use permit was approved by the Forest Service on 16 March 1961. This allowed the Army to acquire an additional 0.37 acre parcel for "new canme kennels in connection with conversion of NIKE facilities from Ajax to Hercules" inissiles. The permit indicated that some additional construction took place at Los Pinetos in 1961 including additional fencing and additional radar control facilities associated with conversion to a Hercules capable site.

ITT Company leased this site from the Forest Service beginning in 1975 until the present time. Currently, they hold a year lease and use some of the old radar control platforms for their present facilities. A special use permit (No. 4068) authorizes ITT to use tower structures, buildings, and fencing on approximately 1.87 acres at the Los Pinetos site. The original personnel shelter is used by ITT for offices. The original radar control area is currently guarded 24 hours a day by a private security guard service.

A special use permit (No. 1023) was granted to the Los Angeles County Fire Department for use of the original NIKE administration buildings. The fire crew stationed here uses these facilities for their base camp (known as Camp 9).

Forest Fire History

Four major forest fires impacted the Angeles Forest NIKE sites between 1959 and 1970. Research indicates that fires in remote area NIKE sites were a problem nationwide.

A fire impacted the Los Pinetos NIKE base in the fall of 1966. Stationed at the base was Battery A, 1st Missile Battalion, 56th Artillery. The fire was first noticed by members stationed at the NIKE site in the early morning of 1 November, near the radar control area. Fire control grades were immediately scraped around the administrative area, a measure which ultimately was determined to have saved the entire base. The fire was extremely intense.

The 2000-acre fire cut communications to the base and eventually claimed 11 fire fighters' lives before it was extinguished.

The accounts of forest fires in the Angeles National Forest are taken directly from articles published in the Army newspaper, Argus. It is important to note that official Forest Service records differ substantially from the Argus articles. Specifically, most of the fires mentioned in the official Forest Service files were smaller than the reports mentioned in the Argus and were not especially threatening to the bases. The Forest Service records regarding these fires are both detailed and accurately recorded. It must be assumed that the Argus accounts reflect a certain degree of over-zealous reporting.


No construction drawings exist for the Los Pinetos NIKE site; therefore, an exact date cannot be assigned to these structures. It can be presumed that construction began soon after the Forest Service authorized a permit on 21 September 1955. The permit allotted 100 acres for "construction and installing the necessary facilities and improvement for military protection of Los Angeles and adjacent territory." It authorized the Department of the Army to immediately "install facilities, to construct roads, trails, firebreaks, buildings, pipelines, telephone lines, and other construction."

Preliminary plans were discussed for the construction of offsite family housing at the Los Pinetos site on 18 December 1957. After some discussion, these plans called for sixteen units to be located in adjacent communities approximately 3 miles away or within a 10-minute drive of the Los Pinetos NIKE site. The houses were planned to conform to site conditions and architectural style of existing adjacent structures using economical local materials. (Memo To: Division Engineer, Army Corps of Engineers, San Francisco; From: Woodward. Chief, Army Projects Division, Military Construction, 18 December 1957).

After much public opposition, the Army Corps of Engineers instead decided to build one offsite family housing development that would serve both the Los Pinetos site and the Magic Mountain site. The new site was located at Sand Canyon, approximately 7 miles east of Newhall. (Memo From: J. Moorhead, Col. Corps of Engineers, Asst. Chief, Real Estate Division, 25 July 1957).

Construction plans called for 16 duplex units, housing 32 families. From the Department of Army's point of view "the construction here at Sand Canyon should prove very satisfactory." General Perry of the 47th Brigade said during the dedication: "It will prove a closer community tie-in for Army families and facilitate personnel reaching their stations in case of an emergency. The additional families should also serve to aid the local economy."

The housing was completed by 1 July 1958. Landscaping and final touches, however, were added as late as 22 January 1960. The Department of Army transferred the Sand Canyon housing complex to the General Services Administrarion on 25 July 1975, after the Secretary of Defense phased out the NIKE air defense programs on 4 February 1974. The vacated housing complex was protected by a contract security guard service until the General Services Administration deeded the property of Merle and Patricia Thomsen on 9 June 1978.


The Los Pinetos site was under deactivation by the Army in the summer of 1968. The excess property report, however, was not prepared until 11 July 1969. In an 11 August 1969 letter from A. D. Stanley to the District Forester, Angeles National Forest, the formal request for transfer of the property was made.

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