Centuries of Defense - Cold War Era (1950-1975)

Threat of foreign atack on U.S. soil shifts from naval-based to air-based during the Cold War. World War II coast artillery defenses on the west coast were replaced by Nike anti-aircraft missile systems utilizing nuclear warheads.

 
6th Army Transportation USAR, West End of Crissy Field 1954
6th Army Transportation USAR, West End of Crissy Field, 1954

Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, PAM Negative Collection, GOGA 35256

  • 1950 - 1953 - Korean War

    U.S. defenses are in a continual high state of readiness to rpotect against foreign agression. New defense technologies are investigated and installed

  • 1952 - Nike System implemented

    The Nike missile system becomes the most expensive, widespread, and longest-lived missile system deployed to date. Over 250 Nike sites installed in 30 states; the defense system serves for 25 years.
 
Mechanix Illustrated and Fort Barry, California NIKE missiles of the 30th AAA Group, 1955
Mechanix Illustrated and Fort Barry, California NIKE missiles of the 30th AAA Group, 1955

Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, Marin Headlands NIKE Site Photo Collection, GOGA 40033.007 & GOGA 18912

 
Inside a Nike Missile System control van, 1954
Inside a Nike Missile System control van, 1954

Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, Bell Telephone Laboratories NIKE Hercules Photos, 1959 GOGA, 18441.014

  • 1954 - Sixth Army Air Defense Command headquartered at Fort Baker

    Fort Baker commands 12 permanent Nike Missile launch sites and support structures; including San Pablo Rdge, Rocky Ridges, Lake Chabot, Coyote Hills, Milagra Ridge, Fort Winfield Scott, Fort Funston, Fort cronkhite, Fort Barry, Angel Island, and San Rafael.

  • 1962 - Fort Mason designates as surplus military property

  • 1963 - 1975 - Vietnam War

    Thousands of soldiers returning from combat out-process at the Presidio of San Francisco. Injured soldiers are flown into Crissy Field and treated at Letterman General Hospital and the new Letterman Army Medical Center.

  • 1968 - Letterman Army Medical Center constructed

    1890's era Letterman General Hospital is inadequate to manage needs of incoming Vietnam soldiers. A larger state-of-the-art hosptial is constructed.

  • 1972 - Letterman Army Institute of Research established

    Conducts military-based research including the areas of: jungle-based disease treatment, chemical warfare, and prosthetics.

  • 1974 - Nike Missile System declared obsolete

    New Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles technology surpasses the altitude and speed of Nike missiles.
 
Interior of Harmon Hall during Operation Babylift
Interior of Harmon Hall during Operation Babylift

Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, PAM Slide Collection, GOGA-1766

  • 1974 - Crissy Field closd to all aircraft

  • 1975 - Operation Babylift takes place

    Harmon Hall in the Presidio is used to house over 1,000 Vietnamese orphans airlifted into San Francisco from war-torn Vietnam. Children are cared for by soldiers and volunteers while arrangements are made for adoption.
 

Original panel for the "Cold War Era (1950-1975)" (PDF, 74.4 MB)

 

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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