Interested in Cold War era military history? In or near San Francisco’s Bay Area?
Check out the SF-88 Nike Missile Base, a U.S. military defense base established long ago against the possible invasion of Communist forces. Now, accessible to the public.
Find it, a little northwest of the Golden Gate Bridge in the Marin Headlands. Visiting hours are very limited, and by guided tour only. More details at the end of this entry.
For me, this place was an awesome surprise. I heard nothing on this before and just found it while hiking around the perimeters of Fort Barry and its abandoned battery military posts (to be featured in a future post). I came across a fence, chuckled at this sign.
I noticed a missile in the distance and an open gate beyond, then walked towards. Turned out I was welcome, and in time for a grand tour of this fascinating place.
SF-88 is one of four public accessible decommissioned missile bases out of 280 that were purposed to defend against possible Soviet enemy aircraft attacks. After opening in 1954, SF-88 was armed first with Ajax anti-aircraft missiles, and later on with Hercules II anti-aircraft rockets. This establishment was eventually closed in 1974, and restored for historical preservation decades later by dedicated volunteers.
Thanks to these volunteers, visitors may personally see and understand this fascinating time of our history. With the aid of a volunteer tour guide, you may personally study a plethora of Cold War defense equipment and operations. Included on this base are radar stations, yesterdays top-of-the-line computer stations and communication networks. Also, lots of small military objects, pictures, and informative writings of its time in use.
And of course, the missiles themselves are present. Most here, are the Hercules II rockets. Some are taken apart in the sheds, others with detailed cutaways revealing complex construction and construction. Also, there is the center launchpad, where a platform leads to an underground area. Inside are more decommissioned missiles, and the launch room.
Fascinating to me, was how lightweight these missiles were, as the tour guide gave us the opportunity to move a couple on their metal lifts. The missiles were to be prepared and ready promptly; recalling the guide saying these missiles had to be less than 20 minutes, should an attack happen.
SF-88 is much worth checking out. Hours and tours are limited, as the base is closed most of the week. The cost is free, and donations were refused at the time I visited. Do check its official Web site for current times of the tours.. SF-88 is also closed on federal holidays, and days of rough weather conditions (alerts are also online). For more information and directions, click here for the official visitor page.
Below are additional pictures of the Nike site, taken by me. Click on each one for the full picture.