Air Force Bases

Nike Missile Los Angeles Defense Area

By the late 1950s Los Angeles was ringed by 16 Nike sites:
(LA-04) Mt. Gleason/Palmdale
(LA-09) Mt. Disappointment/Barley Flats
(LA-14) South El Monte
(LA-29) Brea/Puente Hill
(LA-32) Garden Grove/Stanton
(LA-40) Long Beach Airport/Lakewood
(LA-43) Fort MacArthur-White Point
(LA-55) Point Vicente
(LA-57) Redondo Beach/Torrance
(LA-70) HyperionlPlaya de1 Rey
(LA-73) Playa de1 Rey/LAX
(LA-78) Malibu
(LA-88) Chatsworth/Oat Mountain
(LA-94) Los Pinetos/Newhall
(LA-96) Van NuysSepulveda
(LA-98) Magic Mountain/Laug/Saugus.

Headquarters sites were located at Signal Hill/Long Beach, Fort MacArthur, and at the Birmingham Army Hospital. As indicated by the number of sites, Los Angeles, with its aerospace industries, received extensive air defenses.

By July 1952, with the Nike missile system still under development, siting teams had already tentatively selected between 50 and 60 primary and alternate sites for missile deployment. At the time, gun batteries of the Western Army Antiaircraft Command ringed Los Angeles. (This organization became the 6th AA Region in 1955.) Throughout 1953, the Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District obtained the needed properties for the batteries. Where possible, the missiles were to be located on military property. For example, one of the first batteries was located on an old coastal fortification at Fort MacArthur. At non-DOD sites, the Corps often had to overcome the resistance of private property owners and city officials reluctant to give up park land. (The struggle for a missile site location near Los Angeles International Airport was discussed in Chapter 9, America's Missile Communities: Social and Economic Impact.)

While the quest for permanent sites proceeded, a temporary Nike Ajax site was located in Fountain Valley at the former Santa Ana Army Air Base during 1956 and 1957. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles District contracted for the construction of permanent facilities. Site LA-88 at Chatsworth became the first permanent operational battery in the nation in 1954. LA-04, located on the top of Mt. Gleason, was noted as one of the most remote and highest Nike bases in the nation. The support buildings at this base and the other mountain sites had Swiss-style roofs to accommodate the heavy snows. In addition to snow, soldiers manning the mountain sites also had to worry about fire. For example, in 1959, men of Battery B, 1st Missile Battalion, 56th Artillery, engaged in a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day vigil to preserve Nike control radars atop Mt. Disappointment from the flames of an inferno that had consumed much of Angeles National Forrest. Seven years later, a similar feat had to be performed by Battery A, 4th Missile Battalion, 65th Artillery, as flames encroached on LA-94 at Los Pinetos.

In the fall of 1958, the Army turned over the batteries at Long Beach and Fort MacArthur to the 720th AAA Missile Battalion of the California Army National Guard. The Los Angeles Defense Area became a national leader for using Guard units to operate the sites. Eventually, National Guard units assumed responsibilities for manning other sites.

By the early 1960s LA-04, LA-29, LA-32, LA-43, LA-55 LA-78 LA-88 LA-94, and LA-96 were all converted to operate the Hercules missile. Command and control for the batteries was coordinated from a "Missile Master" facility dedicated in 1961 at Fort MacArthur.

The excellent Southern California climate promoted scores of recreational activities for the missilemen. Because of the proximity of these batteries to Hollywood, the missilemen often received visits from movie stars and other celebrities posing for photographs. Batteries often hosted open houses and demonstrations for the not-so-famous. During the late 1950s several of the batteries held beauty contests for the regional "Miss Armed Forces Day" pageant.

In 1968, the Army deactivated LA-94 at Los Pinetos/Newhall. LA-29 at Brea/Puenta Hill closed 3 years later. In 1974, the remaining seven Nike Hercules sites were removed from service.