The 2nd Missile Battalion
of the 52nd Air Defense Artillery

1962 - 1983


Semper Paratus - Always Prepared

Deployment of 2/52 to South Florida - On October 25, 1962, in response to the buildup of Russian missiles in Cuba, the Army deployed a mobile Nike Hercules unit from the 6th ADA Brigade at Ft. Bliss, Texas. The 2nd Missile Battalion of the 52nd Air Defense Artillery (Nike Hercules) was deployed to south Florida under the command and control of the 13th Air Defense Artillery Group. Their primary mission was the first line of defense against the threat of bombers and fighters from the southern hemisphere. Although many Nike Hercules sites were equipped with nuclear warheads, the south Florida units arrived with conventional high explosive warheads. Living in squad tents in the swampland of the Everglades, in tomato fields, and cow pastures, forming a ring around Miami and Homestead, these men knew their missile and radar sites would be the first target of Soviet and Cuban aggression.

Temporary to Permanent - In April 1963, the missile sites of south Florida would became a permanent part of the Army Air Defense Command (ARADCOM) and would become a permanent site. In August 1963, the Army officially announced that the missile sites of south Florida would become a permanent feature of the U.S. air defense network. The Army assigned the troops under the control of the 13th Artillery Group to the 53rd Artillery Brigade and the 2nd Region of ARADCOM at the beginning of the 1963 fiscal year. The soldiers could now go off TDY status and bring their families, cars, and personal effects to south Florida. They could also move into more permanent living facilities and get access to amenities available at permanent CONUS
duty locations.

Nuclear Certification - In the summer of 1965, the batteries relocated to newly constructed, permanent sites. In addition, the south Florida sites began to become certified for the installation of nuclear warheads.

The 2nd Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Element is Born - In March 1970, now under the command and control of the 47th ADA Brigade, the 2nd of the 52nd became a Strategic Army Forces (STRAF) unit under the United States Readiness Command's reaction forces. This meant that it took on a second mission -- "To be trained and ready to deploy to any hot spot in the world." Support of the STRAF mission called for the establishment of a battalion-sized Element of the 2nd Battalion at Fort Bliss to maintain and secure the sets of battery equipment earmarked for deployment use. In addition to the 2/52 units in Florida, the 2/52 Element at Fort Bliss was born with a cadre of missilemen from the Florida site, supplemented by additional personnel to maintain and operate the mobility equipment. The 2/52 Element trained in field operations, particularly the peration of a mobile battalion Air Defense Command Post (AADCP), and set up the battalion's tactical communications and tactical vehicle motor pool. Each battery in Florida had a number of its men permanently attached to the 2/52 Element at Ft. Bliss for maintenance work. They would rejoin their parent batteries only upon being deployed.

Dodging Deactivation - In 1974, ARADCOM was disbanded and all remaining Nike Hercules sites were deactivated except the batteries in Alaska and Florida, these being retained due to their proximity to communist countries. At this time, the Army transferred control of the Florida units to the U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM).

Nuclear Deactivation - In the spring of 1975, the Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered the Army to remove the W-31 nuclear warheads and replace them with the conventional high explosive T-45 fragmentation warheads. This operation, named in Operation Golden Shoes,involved the support of the Army 295th Military Police Company (Physical Security), Army Chinook CH-47 and Huey helicopters, and Air Force C-141 heavy-lit cargo aircraft. By late summer, all the W-31s in south Florida had been replaced with T-45s.

The Last Active (CONUS) Nike Site to Defend America - In early 1979, the order came down for the Alaska sites to deactivate and for the Florida sites to prepare to relocate to McGregor Range at White Sands, New Mexico (a part of the Ft. Bliss complex). By June, all Alaska sites had deactivated and the batteries of the 2nd Missile Battalion in Florida became the last remaining Nike Hercules missile units defending America within the continental United States.

The New Mission: Training NATO Countries - in September 1979, the 2nd of the 52nd stood down from its CONUS defense mission, moved to Ft. Bliss, and became a training battalion, in support of NATO countries who were still using Nike Hercules as their national air defense system.

Deactivation of 2/52 - In September 1982, A and C batteries of the 2nd of the 52nd were deactivated leaving the HHB, B Battery, and D Battery as a training battalion for NATO Forces. Four years later on March 15, 1983, the 2nd Missile Battalion (Nike Hercules) 52nd ADA was deactivated in a ceremony at Ft. Bliss, Texas. This was the last time a Nike Hercules unit existed in the Continental United States.

 

 

*Charles D. Carter is an independent military historian who wrote America's Air Defense of South Florida During and after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 2002. He was invited to present his publication at the 2002 Conference of Military Historians in Washington, DC by the Army Center for Military History. He has written other articles for military journals and museums. Carter speaks on the Nike Hercules and the Apollo/Saturn V at aerospace engineering colleges and museums during their lecture series. The abstract above is from a book he is currently writing about the history of the 2nd Missile Battalion of the 52nd Air Defense Artillery. Some of his writing is based on his personal experience as a launch section control operator at C Battery and B Battery of the 2nd 52nd from 1963 - 1965. Click here for a biographical profile.
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