Monday, November 14, 2011

Nike Missiles In El Monte

Nike Missile Site in El Monte

By Richard Cortez

If I was to tell you that El Monte was the site of Nike missile launch site you would probably tell me that I was crazy. Crazy as I might be there was a fully functioning Nike missile site located off of Potereo Road next to the tennis courts at Legg Lake.

It was 1950 and the cold war was beginning, the US Army Regulars and National Guardsman were empowered by Air Defense Brigade to protect valuable key industrial, military and US cities using Nike missiles. The first launch site was located in the mountains above Malibu in 1954. There were 16 Nike missile launch sites surrounding Los Angeles from enemy bombers. Some of the sites were, Chatsworth, Newhall, Mount Gleeson, El Monte, Brea and Long Beach.

The El Monte location had their administration building on one side of Potereo Road which is now the Army Reserves base. The actual launch site is located somewhere next to the tennis courts. The bunker is still there, but hidden from the public view. In 1954 there would have been two or three launch areas containing an underground storage magazines, an elevator and four missile erectors with underground rails that moved the missiles to an elevator to bring up the missiles to launch. The radar and targeting building was located on the hills where the Rio Hondo College Police Academy is currently located. In 1971 the US Army Air defense decided to end the Nike missile project and by 1974 most of the sites were destroyed with exception of the El Monte location. The location is still owned by the US Army and is off limits to everyone.



10 comments:

  1. I visited this site in September 2012 and was surprised to see that the gate was open. No one seemed to mind me being there. One set of launch doors was clearly visible. Pretty cool to know that this location still exists in my own back yard.

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    1. Is there training there?
      Did you notice that anyone must've noticed you.. I'd rather have been shy to that.. Perhaps!

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  2. I just transferred from MN to El Monte and work at this site. I got very interested in the history of this site and was very surprised to find out what it used to be. I have been looking for pics from back then to see how much our buildings have changed. My co worker told me that he is setting up for us to go across the street to check out the underground area. I will try to get pics

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  3. I got to go on a tour of the site in the 1950s with my elementary school class, Potrero Heights in So San Gabriel. As a young boy, I was very impressed! I lived next to the Eastside Dairy on No. San Gabriel Blvd, which was torn down for the Pomona Freeway (60).

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  4. Hi Richard, This is a really great story. I remember the Nike missile site. In 1955 or 56 my girlfriend met a couple of soldiers who were stationed there. One night they asked us out on a double date and guess where they took us!? They parked the car on the side of the road and we all climbed over the fence. Somehow they sneaked us down into that silo!! It seems to me I remember going down an elevator of some sort, I was really scared, afraid of being arrested or worse.There were panels that resembled an aircraft "dashboard" with all sorts of colored lights flashing down there. the actual "room" we were in was very tiny. They opened the top of the thing and we could see the sky. This adventure all took place in a matter of a few minutes as they informed us they would be in trouble if caught. We climbed a ladder to get out and they told us to run to the car and get back in it. After a couple of minutes they were back with us at the car and drove away. How they ever pulled it off I have no idea but surely back then they could have been hung if anyone had caught us. I remember the guy I was with was the person who operated the opening and closing and the raising the missile as his regular job, but thtt is all I ever found out as I was much too frightened to ever go on a date with him again!!

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    1. What courage... And deep risks!

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  5. I well remember going there as a kid on a school field trip in the 50's. As children in that cold-war era we were convinced (for our own peace of mind) that the "drop and cover" routine under the school desk was going to save us from a Nuclear attack on L.A., and that these missiles were going to play an important role in our defense.

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  6. I was born in Monterey Park and grew up in El Monte. I enlisted in the Army in 1968 and became a radarman at another site near Travis AFB. Never new there was a site in El Monte. Thanks for the info.

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  7. I work for Los Angeles parks and recreation. And from time to time I visit the site in Whittier narrows. The underground base or at least large portions of it are still there. They had to weld all the access hatches shut to keep trespassers out. I was standing on the middle bay doors yesterday.

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