I read with interest the article on the preservation of Nike missile sites (“The Nuclear in Winter,” 4/23). You mentioned the Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program. I was, for the years it existed (1991-1995), the coordinator of this grant program for the U.S. Air Force. Overall, the program spent more than $185 million on over 500 cultural and natural resource demonstration projects, including a major thrust (no pun intended) on surveying Cold War sites here and abroad. We already know what’s out there, the first step in determining what to save and what to destroy.

Our studies recommended that Nike sites such as the one in your article be considered historic only on the national level—which makes sense. Sure, each site had a local impact and may be a part of the community’s past, but the design and system were nationwide; they all had to be connected together to perform their job. It’s just downright crazy for every community to preserve its site; all are essentially identical by design, and just how many of these do we need preserved for interpretation? We recommended saving the best example of such a resource, documenting the others, and moving on. As you mentioned, there are not only other Nike sites still existing, but ones that are already museums!

We used this method with a Minuteman missile site and launch control center in South Dakota: studied the whole system, graphically documented it along with research and oral history from the former missiliers, and saved the most practical example—a two-part site just outside the entrance to Badlands National Park. The other 1,490 or so sites have since been destroyed and returned to the former owners. Soon, future generations will be able to add this Cold War relic to their American travels and by touring the underground “cities” get a real taste for just how far invested in the effort this country was during that period.

Did you know the missiliers painted their underground blast doors with artwork similar to that on World War II airplane noses? When the missiliers go through a simulated launch for an audience, trust me, it sends shivers up your spine.

U Street

via the Internet