August 18, 2010

Nike Missile C-03 Montrose Harbor/Belmont Harbor Chicago

Nike Missile Site C-03
Chicago – Gary Area
Montrose Harbor/ Belmont Harbor
Oct 1955 – June 1965

It's hard to imagine now, but during the Cold War, Chicago's lakefront was lined with anti-aircraft missiles. Ed's Nike Missile Web site has many photographs of the Nike missiles, including this amazing then and now view. Definitely go to Ed's site to surf his collection of facts and photos. 

*  "Chicago has become the best defended city in the Middle West against enemy air-to-ground attacks."
—Chicago Sun Times

"… Nike probably would shoot down not only enemy bombers but any bomb armed rockets the bombers might drop."
—Milwaukee Journal

"The structures contrast grimly with the pastoral scenery extending toward the horizon… It is a contrast of grim necessity - the grimmest of our civilization."
—Chicago Daily Tribune

"Chicago is loaded for bear — even the Russian bear if the Reds should ever dare send their bombers to attack the city." "A ring of sword-like guided missiles called the Nike - revealed for the first time today - stands ready to send sudden death belting into the sky to meet any enemy head on." "They are inescapable by any air maneuver now known to aviation…" "The thing you ought to remember is that the Nike's presence hereabouts should enable you to sleep a lot more soundly." "They make nice neighbors."
—Chicago American

Project Nike was a U.S. Army project, proposed in May 1945 by Bell Laboratories, to develop a line-of-sight anti-aircraft missile system. The project delivered the United States' first operational anti-aircraft missile system during 1953, the Nike Ajax. A great number of the technologies and rocket systems used for developing the Nike Ajax were re-used for a number of functions, many of which were given the "Nike" name (after Nike, the goddess of victory from Greek mythology). The missile's first-stage solid rocket booster became the basis for many types of rocket including the Nike Hercules missile and NASA's Nike Smoke rocket, used for upper-atmosphere research.

Soviet development of ICBMs decreased the value of the Nike air defense system. Beginning around 1965, the number of Nike batteries was reduced. Thule air defense was reduced during 1965 and SAC air base defense during 1966, reducing the number of batteries to 112. Budgetary cuts reduced that number to 87 in 1968, and 82 in 1969.

Nike Hercules was included in SALT I discussions as an ABM. Following the treaty signed during 1972, and further budget reduction, almost all Nike sites in the continental United States were deactivated by April, 1974. Some units remained active until the later part of that decade in a coast air defense role.

Leftover traces of the approximately 300 Nike missile bases can still be seen around cities across the country. As the sites were decommissioned they were first offered to Federal agencies. Many were already located on Army National Guard bases who continued to use the property. Others were offered to state and local governments while others were sold to school districts. The left-overs were offered to private individuals. Thus, many Nike sites are now municipal yards, communications and FAA facilities (the IFC areas), probation camps, and even renovated for use as Airsoft gaming and MilSim training complexes. Several were completely obliterated and turned into parks. Some are now private residences. Only a few remain intact and preserve the history of the Nike project.

* Info on Nike missiles from Wikipedia. For a list of Nike Missile sites, see Nike Missile Sites. Collected newspaper quotes from Mike Epperson's site. Visit it for additional photos of lakefront nuclear missiles.

Additional resources:

Rings of Supersonic Steel: Air Defenses of the United States Army 1950-1974 - An Introductory History and Site Guide

US Strategic and Defensive Missile Systems 1950-2004

Last Missile Site: An Operational and Physical History of Nike Site SF-88, Fort Barry, California

NIKE Missile 1950s And 1960s  (DVD)

1959 Bell Telephone System Nike-Hercules Missile Print Ad

1957 AMF Defense Nike Lacrosse Hawk 18 Missiles Print Ad (42552)

Chicago Nike Missile Sites


Unknown said...

Very cool photos. Crazy to imagine. This is actually the Belmont Harbor area however. Here is a Google Maps link with Belmont Ave. visible:,+Chicago,+IL&sll=41.901456,-87.723445&sspn=0.236624,0.441513&ie=UTF8&hq=Belmont,&hnear=Chicago,+Cook,+Illinois&ll=41.939757,-87.637183&spn=0.001748,0.005493&t=h&z=18

Joanne said...

Thanks, Thewy. I had just realized my error. I've come across several sources that ID station C-03 as such:

Chicago - Gary
Montrose Harbor/ Belmont Harbor
Oct 1955 - June 1965

I'm trying to find photos of alternate views to find the one on Montrose Point, but for now have edited the article.

Ronnie said...

Weren't there missles along the lake near Hollywood, by the Edgewater Beach Hotel?

Anonymous said...

They were at Montrose harbor near the walkway out to horseshoe pier

Red Wemette said...

I was in several sites and thought they so secret. Then I went to the one on our Lake and saw the Native Americans try to take it for themselves. I was in the site when the gates were locked. It wasn't a good thing to be there at that time. I found my way out on the hood of a News car that they opened the gates for them to leave. This is just one of the things I have lived with History in my life.

Paul said...

What a funny and interesting matter! I was searching online for the latest Nike
Jordan Low sneakers and amazed when I noticed this post on the search page. Just hit on and surprised to see the post was about Nike Missile and how Chicago strong with such powerful weapon. Thanks for this important share.

Ryan Duran said...

Hi thankss for posting this


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