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THE HIDDEN CITY | SO SoCal

The Russians Were Coming

December 08, 1996|Stacie Stukin

Sometimes they reared their ominous heads for all to see. Or they lurked deep underground, waiting for tactical alert. They were Nike missiles strategically placed at 17 launch sites throughout Los Angeles County--high on hilltops or smack in the middle of neighborhoods--products of Cold War fever. The military air-defense system, operational between 1952 and 1974, created a protective buffer that guaranteed, Nike officials claimed in 1962, "Whatever tomorrow brings. . . Nike will be watching, always ready."

The 5-ton missiles, which could destroy entire formations of enemy planes, were never fired. "We would be on call 24 hours a day," recalls Maj. Paul P. Barbour, who for three years in the '50s was a battery commander overseeing a launch site in the San Fernando Valley. "We would never know whether an unidentified target was an enemy target. But we treated them all as enemy targets and often came as close as two minutes from firing."

Paranoia? Maybe. But whether you sat in your house in Rancho Palos Verdes adjacent to site LA55, hearing the whir of the radar, or felt your garage rumble as the generators started up for a drill at site LA70 near LAX, you knew . . . that maybe this time . . . the Russians were coming.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

SITE #: LA04

LOCATION: Mt Gleason, Angeles National Forest

ACTIVATED: 1956

INACTIVATED: 1974

CURRENT USE: State of California corrections camp

*

SITE #: LA09

LOCATION: Barley Flats, Angeles National Forest

ACTIVATED: 1956

INACTIVATED: 1961

CURRENT USE: Sheriff's Department Air Station; L.A. Probation Department juvenile ward camp.

*

SITE #: LA14

LOCATION: Potrero Avenue, El Monte

ACTIVATED: 1956

INACTIVATED: 1961

CURRENT USE: U.S. Army Reserve Center

*

SITE #: LA29

LOCATION: Site Drive, Puente Hills

ACTIVATED: 1958

INACTIVATED: 1971

CURRENT USE: not in use

*

SITE #: LA32

LOCATION: Western Avenue, Garden Grove

ACTIVATED: 1956

INACTIVATED: 1974

CURRENT USE: U.S. Army Reserve Center

*

SITE #: LA40

LOCATION: Spring Street, Long Beach

ACTIVATED: 1958

INACTIVATED: 1963

CURRENT USE: Kilroy Airport Center

*

SITE #: LA41

LOCATION: Redondo Avenue, Long Beach

ACTIVATED: 1959

INACTIVATED: 1974

CURRENT USE: 240th Signal Battalion, 40th Infantry Division

*

SITE #: LA43

LOCATION: Fort MacArthur

ACTIVATED: 1956

INACTIVATED: 1974

CURRENT USE: White Point Park

*

SITE #: LA45

LOCATION: Fort MacArthur

ACTIVATED: 1952

INACTIVATED: 1974

CURRENT USE: Los Angeles AFB housing

*

SITE #: LA55

LOCATION: Hawthorne Boulevard

ACTIVATED: 1956

INACTIVATED: 1974

CURRENT USE: Rancho Palos Verdes City Hall, Rancho Palos Verdes

*

SITE #: LA57

LOCATION: Crenshaw Boulevard, Torrance

ACTIVATED: 1958

INACTIVATED: 1963

CURRENT USE: Torrance Airport Civil Air Patrol

*

SITE #: LA70/73

LOCATION: Pershing Drive, Playa del Rey

ACTIVATED: 1958

INACTIVATED: 1963

CURRENT USE: not in use

*

SITE #: LA78

LOCATION: Rambla Pacifica Road, Malibu

ACTIVATED: 1956

INACTIVATED: 1974

CURRENT USE: County Fire Department camp

*

SITE #: LA88

LOCATION: Brown's Canyon Road, Chatsworth

ACTIVATED: 1957

INACTIVATED: 1974

CURRENT USE: not in use

*

SITE #: LA94

LOCATION: Los Pinetos, Newhall

ACTIVATED: 1955

INACTIVATED: 1968

CURRENT USE: Radar testing site; U.S. Forest Service storage

*

SITE #: LA96

LOCATION: Victory Boulevard, Van Nuys

ACTIVATED: 1957

INACTIVATED: 1974

CURRENT USE: Sepulveda Flood Control Basin; 261st Combat Communications Squadron

*

SITE #: LA98

LOCATION: Lang Station Road, Saugus

ACTIVATED: 1955

INACTIVATED: 1968

CURRENT USE: Concrete plant

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