Speaking Of History

Nike Missle Sites
By the mid 1950s, the Cold War was in full bloom, and Civil Defense drills, called Operation Alert, were being held to prepare the nation for nuclear attack. These were the years that children were being taught to “duck and cover” at a moments notice and volunteers scanned the skies for Soviet bombers.

On July 8, 1955, the US Army announced that missile sites would be set up in Ansonia and Shelton, as part of its Nike air-defense.

There were 3 components to the Nike missile bases – launch sites, control centers, and base housing.

They would launch first generation Nike Ajax anti-aircraft missiles, meant as a last-ditch defense against Soviet bombers. Some of the missiles would be equipped with nuclear warheads, the reasoning being if there had to be a nuclear explosion it would be better high in the air to knock out the bombers, rather than in a city on the ground.

The Ansonia and Shelton bases were part of the Bridgeport air-defense network, and as such were designated “BR”, and a number relative to its position to the Park City, with 01 being north. Both became operational in 1957.

The command center and base housing for BR-94 was located on 8.82 acres off Eagle Drive, Shelton.

The launch area was on 36.15 acres off Mohegan Road, which is now a recreational complex still called the “Nike Site”.

The facility was manned by Battery A of the 741st Anti-Aircraft Battalion. A supply depot and maintenance shop for the bases was leased by the Army on 25 Brooks Street. On Memorial Day, 1958, the base was named after Lt. Patrick J. Tisi, a Coram Avenue resident killed in 1944 at the Battle of Metz in France.

The base was decommissioned in the early 1960s.

BR-04 sat on 81.9 acres, 57.5 of which were in Ansonia, the rest in Woodbridge, and was manned by Battery B of the 967th Anti-Aircraft Battalion.

Base housing and the control center was at the old Ansonia Airport off Ford Street, while the launch area was off Deerfield Lane and Osborne Road. On July 4, 1958, the base was named after Corporal Joseph V. Hines, a Platt Street resident who died in France during World War II in 1945 serving with the 459th Anti-Aircraft Battalion.

That same year the base was upgraded to carry the more advanced Nike Hercules missiles which could intercept ballistic missiles. The Army pulled out on January 1, 1964, but the base was manned for several more years by the Connecticut Air National Guard. All Nike bases were closed by early 1974, after the SALT I anti-ballistic missile treaty.

Robert J. Novak Jr. is the executive director of the Derby Historical Society.
Learn more about Valley history at www.derbyhistorical.org


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