Nike Missile Pittsburgh Defense Area
Nike sites around Pittsburgh included:
(PI-02) Rural Ridge
(PI-43) Elrama/east of Finleyville
(PI-92) Bryant/North Park
In April 1952, a column of soldiers and heavy equipment passed through McKeesport towards Pittsburgh to set up a ring of 12 hastily sited gun positions to defend the "Steel City." As in other locales, the troops that manned the guns lived in tents. With the introduction of Nike Ajax, many of these troops, who became dubbed "Buck Rogers boys," were able to move into permanent quarters that were built near the launch sites.
The Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District, a component of the Ohio River Division, had responsibility for the construction of these sites. In July 1954 the Corps awarded the first construction contract. Pittsburgh's rugged terrain proved challenging to engineers as launchers and control radar sites had to be built apart yet within sight of each other. Construction costs ranged from $600,000 to $700,000 at each site. In 1956, four additional sites were added to Pittsburgh's defenses.
At first, three active Army battalions manned the ring around "Steel City." With the introduction of Nike Hercules at sites PI-03, PI-36, PI-37, PI-43, PI-71, and PI-93, manning responsibilities would eventually be supplied by one active duty unit (3rd Missile Battalion, 1st Artillery) and one Pennsylvania Army National Guard battalion (The Duquesne Greys-2nd Missile Battalion, 176th Artillery). Operations at five of these Nike Hercules sites lasted until 1974.
Command and control was handled by a Missile Master/Missile Mentor facility collocated with Air Force radars posted at a military reservation near Oakdale. The Missile Master became operational in 1960.
In 1958 and beyond, Pittsburgh possibly could lay claim to having the prettiest sites in the nation as the Regional Commander worked with a "National Civic Improvement Committee of Women" to have volunteers from the National Farm and Garden Association landscape the batteries with varieties of trees, shrubs, and flowers.