"" Writer's Wanderings: Cold War Memories In Southern Florida

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cold War Memories In Southern Florida

When the construction of Russian missile bases in Cuba was discovered in 1962, I was a sophomore in high school. I had spent my elementary school years learning to cower under my desk, my head buried in the crook of my elbow, to avoid the devastating effects of a nuclear blast should Russia bomb Cleveland.

Youth has a way of taking a crisis more lightly than those who are more experienced but knowing that nuclear missiles could be that close to the U.S., was unnerving. Today, we would have know more about what our defenses were. Our media is probably too well informed. But then there were nike sites set up throughout the country that could hold missiles to defend us should the Russians decide to attack.

One of those sites was in the middle of the area that now belongs to Everglades National Park. They have recruited some volunteers who actually worked at the Nike site and between October and April each year (less mosquitoes then) are conducting tours of the area. The talk is quite interesting but unfortunately there's not a whole lot left to see--several missile barns, an assembly building, a dog kennel. When the park took over, they demolished a lot of the buildings. Still it made an interesting Saturday afternoon.

The base was built in 1964 just two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962. They were prepared with several different types of anti-missile technology and warheads to intercept anything that might come from Russia by way of Cuba.

Here are a couple of links to more information if you'd like to learn more of the history:
HM69 Nike Missile Base
Historic Resource Study
One of the buildings has been restored enough to allow visitors. Along the walls are posters with some of the communications that were exchanged between President Kennedy and Nikita Krushchev, the Russian leader. One of them shows that Krushchev insisted upon our removing the missile base we had in Turkey. Apparently this was part of secret negotiations that went on. With a wry smile our guide who had served at the Nike base, said, "We think he had a summer home across the lake from the site and it ruined his view."

Along with us on the tour was a group of young teen Boy Scouts. It was fun to see what they thought of everything. And especially noteworthy that what probably caught their attention most was the old wall phone with a dial on it. They all had to try it out. One kid, tongue-in-cheek, asked, "How do you send a text on this?"

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