Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hydrogen Bombs and Missiles -- February 17, 1954

Representative Sterling Cole
There was great news to start the day back on this date, February 17, in 1954.  Republican Representative W. Sterling Cole of New York, chairman of the joint congressional committee on atomic energy, was in town, speaking at a luncheon of the Sand and Gravel association, held at the Conrad Hilton Hotel.

That must have been a hoop-dee-do.

Filled with sunny thoughts he told the audience that the world was on the brink of a time when “one plane, carrying one hydrogen bomb, can unleash on a target a cargo of destructive force exceeding all the TNT dropped upon Germany, Japan, and Italy combined thruout all of World War II.”  [Chicago Tribune, February 18, 1954]

Using the 1952 test of a hydrogen bomb in Eniwetok atoll in the Marshall Islands, Representative Cole said that in Chicago if such a bomb were to explode above Chicago “The area of severe-to-moderate damage would reach almost to the Midway airport on the south, past Oak Park on the west, and beyond Foster av. on the north.  The area of absolute destruction would reach to the lake front on the east, to the intersection of Archer and Ashland avs. on the south, beyond Garfield park on the west, and to Fullerton av. on the north.”

How thankful I am to be living on Diversey.

The representative wasn’t done there.  He suggested that the capability of the United States continental defense system was far from adequate and that “It is entirely possible that nine out of 10 enemy planes might reach their targets – and this in an age when only one hydrogen weapon would destroy the vitals of any American city, be it Chicago, New York, or Detroit.”

So that’s why we little kindergarten kids were practicing kissing our American butts good-bye under our little kindergarten desks.

Therefore . . .

On the same day The Tribune revealed that batteries of the United States Army’s new guided missile, the Nike, were to be established along Chicago’s lakefront.  Fifth Army engineers were out there surveying sites as Representative Cole spoke.

Nike at Belmont
To the Army the lakefront seemed perfect for defending the city from enemy bombers 75 miles distant if the attack came from the northwest.  “Nikes fired from lake front batteries would have ample room over the water in which to drop their booster charges which fall off after 2,000 yards of flight,” reported The Tribune.  “The range of radar directed missile, which hunts its prey at a speed of more than 1,200 miles an hour, is about 50 miles.”  [Chicago Tribune, February 18, 1954]

Over the next several years three sites were established for the first-generation Nike Ajax and its big brother, the Nike-Hercules.  One site was to the north with a control center at Montrose Harbor and the launch site just off the Belmont exit to the east of Lake Shore Drive.  The second was just south of today’s McCormick Place.  And the third had a control center in Jackson Park and a launch site at Promontory Point.

Bet you bottom dollar you lose the blues in Chicago . . .

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