War is a Dish Best Served Cold

August, 2007.

Besides the big River Raisin Paper Co. mill, the other attractive ruin in Monroe County was always the Nike missile base in Frenchtown Twp., near Newport. Usually abandoned Nike bases offer very little to look at or explore, but this one was a rare exception to that. The Nike surface-to-air missile system was a Cold War-era effort to protect American airspace from commie threats, and every major city had at least one Nike battery located in or near it. It was of course named after Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. There was also a hexagonal aircraft landing field at this base.

My first trip to Newport was in 2004 or 2005, but I didn't get in. I returned in 2007 and 2015, and the following photos are a mix from both of those times. From above it looks densely overgrown, but for a round bare spot of what looks like fractured concrete, and hardly a hexagon anymore:

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A lot of great historic photos of this base, whose proper name is the Newport Naval Outer Landing Field 23813, can be found at airfields-freeman.com. The "23813" number designation meant that the field was located along a 238° radial 13 miles from its parent field, Naval Air Station Grosse Ile. The Nike components of Newport Naval Outer Landing Field were named Nike Missile Control Site D-57 (Newport) and D-58 (Carleton).

The surface of the airfield has almost completely been reclaimed by nature, and resulted in an eerie terrain with criss-crossing lines where the seams in the cement used to be:


Newport Naval Outer Landing Field (or NNOLF) was built sometime around 1942 as the largest of 16 satellite landing fields that supported primary flight training exercises at Naval Air Station Grosse Ile (NASGI), according to airfields-freeman.com and nasgi.org. Flight cadets at NASGI conducted their solo flights from Newport, and the field was also used for aircraft-carrier landing practice.

An asphalt access road seems to have been built across it in more recent years:


According to nasgi.org, NNOLF briefly housed German POWs in 1945 and 1946 (as did Fort Wayne in Detroit and several other government sites in Michigan). The military stopped using NNOLF as WWII came to an end. One building at this base was then converted into the "Airport Community High School" in 1947, and served in that role until 1953.

Despite the fact that this is mere minutes from a major metropolis or two, the feeling of desolation here is of Upper Peninsula proportions...


The buildings were minimal, plain, and completely empty, but it is rare to find any traces at all of a former Nike missile base since they were all usually erased pretty well, so I tried to appreciate it for what it was.

This building was a barracks:


Yes, these are bullet holes...'MERICA:


Starting in 1956, NNOLF's mission changed "from training flight cadets in biplanes to shooting down Soviet nuclear bombers with supersonic guided missiles," airfields-freeman.com says. The base was taken over by the Army to construct two Nike batteries, D-57 (Newport) & D-58 (Carleton). They were each armed with 30 of the 1st-generation Nike-Ajax missiles. 

The Detroit Defense included a total of 16 Nike batteries, which formed a ring around the city. According to a website on the history of Naval Air Station Grosse Ile, the Newport D-57 and D-58 batteries were under the command of the 517th Artillery, headquartered at Detroit.


A book by James Conway and Dave Jamroz entitled Detroit's Historic Fort Wayne says that the U.S. Army Air Defense Command (ARADCOM) was based at a command center within Fort Wayne, at the foot of Livernois Avenue, and their motto was "If It Flies, It Dies."

An intensely narrated U.S. Army educational / scare-tactic film on Youtube explains what ARADCOM was and how it worked, and how Nike missiles were the "inner ring," or last defense of our cities in the event of an enemy nuclear strike.

2007
I have also learned that at least one of the WWII-era warehouses at Fort Wayne served as the missile repair and maintenance facility for the Detroit Nike defense system. While there were no missile batteries at Fort Wayne itself, there were three Nike batteries within city limits at Rouge Park, Belle Isle, and Maheras Park. According to a report given to the Friends of Rouge Park by the Army a few years ago, the missiles are still in their silos, buried underneath the park.

2015
Thirty-three other buildings were erected at NNOLF by the Army from 1956 to 1962, though one can hardly picture it today. That number puts NNOLF on par with Fort Wayne itself in terms of size, and it must really have been quite a bustling post back then, especially considering what a remote area it was in.


Hallway leading to the mess hall in 2007...


...and the same spot again in 2015:


Call NORAD for a good time:


In June of 1959, battery D-58 was upgraded to handle the 2nd-generation Nike-Hercules missile, which were equipped with small nuclear warheads, unlike their conventional predecessors. Battery D-57 was not upgraded to the Hercules, and was deactivated in February 1963. Battery D-58 remained online until April of 1974, which is when the military ceased using Newport NOLF. 


This installation, which served for so long as part of the bulwark of 'Merican freedom, and which was never once breached by the enemy, has clearly been pounded to ruins by a far more powerful adversary--American disposability. Not to mention our seeming inability to hold anyone accountable for the astronomical portion of our country's total budget that gets used on ever-expanding defense expenditures, which are mainly fueled by paranoia, and the fact that we always seem to be at war somewhere outside of our own borders...


In 1996 the Army Corps of Engineers conducted demolition of some structures on the site, including missile silos themselves. Monroe County converted an 84-acre portion into Nike Park, the Michigan National Guard owns 35.8 acres of it as well, and small portion is owned by the FAA, while the rest of the former base is privately owned.


The military family housing area still exists, and is still used today as civilian homes.


Further down the road was another fenceline...


...just beyond which was a guard shack, at the gate leading into the launch area of the missile batteries themselves:


This was the Missile Test & Assembly Building, according to nikehercules.tripod.com:


What kind of testing and assembly needed to be done here?


Well I'm glad you asked--our boys in the back room have really cooked up something good this time...


We'll get those damned commie Zooks...all we have to do is make sure our weapons are slightly better than theirs--then we'll win the Butter Battle for good!




Sadly, judging by the plethora of graffiti swastikas painted in here, we still don't sufficiently teach American kids why fascism isn't cool...








The nikehercules.tripod website marks this next building as the "Launcher Area Generator Building":


There wasn't even a clear path up to it on any side, it was totally encased in overgrowth.


Along the (righthand) side of the room was a series of machinery mounts:


I believe they used to accommodate generators:


An electrical room sat at one end of the building, with a huge unit inside which I presume used to contain transformers or perhaps batteries. All that was left was a large switchgear. 


All these quaint little wooden shutters used to cover horizontal vent slats:


Next up was the drive-through Warhead Assembly Building:


There appeared to be an overhead crane system of some sort:


Undoubtedly this was where each Nike-Hercules missile was fitted with its Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo before going into the silos.


Not far beyond the rear door of the warhead building I began to start seeing signs of the actual launchers:


Here is what the actual missile silos looked like before they were torn out by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1996: http://nikehercules.tripod.com/images/d57-27.jpg The missiles were stored horizontally in the silos and were raised into a vertical position by a hydraulic lift of some sort before they were launched.


I climbed a small tree to get a better overview of this area. It's almost hard to envision that this serene, forested area was once part of America's national defense, protecting our most industrialized city, the so-called "Arsenal of Democracy."


Off to the side of the Launch Area was this easily-overlooked staircase, which didn't seem to lead anywhere in particular:


I went back up towards the front of the base, to check out the Administration Building:


This ratty, threadbare wooden building on the right was originally the airfield's fire station, which was later reused as the post's movie theater when the site became a Nike missile base:


It also housed the chaplain's office, and was used for large meetings or training sessions. It was burned down sometime around 2011, and currently only the foundation can be seen.


The Administration Building looks almost identical to the barracks seen earlier, but originally served as the base headquarters. According to nikehercules.tripod.com it housed the telephone switchboard, a recreation room, the base PX, and a mess hall:


Looks like Private Pyle forgot to mow the grass again. These thistles were up to six feet tall...and I got about six or seven ticks in the process of wading through it. That alone is probably good enough to keep the commies out.

Pretty narrow hallway:


In true army barrack fashion, basically every room looked identical to this (though not all windows were barred):


This was the telephone utility room...all that remains of the mainframe is that one rack in the corner:


The boiler room:


Little late for trimming the verge...


Since the building was divided into two incommunicable halves, I had to go back outside to see the rest of it.


Sadly, the army doesn't build architecturally appealing barracks anymore, like the stone barracks at Fort Wayne. This thing was probably slapped together in an afternoon, and drips with "duck & cover"-era boredom.


Small front lobby area:


This was another mess hall area:


The head, or whatever the Army calls what the Navy calls the head:




A fallen streetlamp makes this place feel every bit as Chernobyl-esque as Chernobyl:


Except it wasn't a disaster that caused this abandonment and decay, it was scrappers with chainsaws. A little ways back in the woods I found a hangout spot some local knuckleheads had been using for bonfires, and an aerial transformer set that had been chopped down and harvested for its copper:


One thing is for sure, this former base seems to be a local free-for-all spot where all sorts of hillbilly activities go unchecked, such as four-wheeling, snowmobiling, fireworks, gunplay, illegal dumping, and general tomfoolery. It struck me as an excellent place to spend a weekend of anarchy. I'm not sure how well the sheriff patrols these days but judging by some of the litter to be found, it looks like the site has withstood some pretty intense partying over the years.


I started out in search of the two launch control buildings in the northeast corner of the property now. Not sure what this foundation used to go to:


Since I had foolishly neglected to glance at an aerial map of the site before jumping in my car to come down here, I couldn't quite remember where the D-57 and D-58 fire control buildings were located, so I ended up wandering aimlessly in a wetland for a couple hours in sweltering muggy weather.

I was determined to find the radome towers however, which used to hold Newport's radar arrays. At least I knew that they were visible from Telegraph Road, so I charged through the mush until I found the first one:


Thankfully I never ever leave the house without waterproof work boots on my feet. Diving into the foliage underneath the radome tower, I discovered a sidewalk stabbing further into the impossibly dense thicket, so I followed it.


Looking back, the size of these trees shows how long this place has been disused:


Before long I came across a beefy metal pole surrounded by a triangular foundation. The presence of guy line anchors found further off into the underbrush seem to indicate that this was probably once the site of a tall mast for an antenna...


...nikehercules.tripod.com says that it used to be the mount for the LOPAR system. Whatever that is.

I kept busting through the tangle, at times almost having to crawl on all fours to get through. I was sweating buckets, and the vines and pickers were tearing at my hair and clothes. I wondered if this sidewalk didn't also have a tunnel beneath it? I couldn't find any access covers at any rate...


Finally the path ended at the second radome tower:


Little did I know I was only a few yards from one of the other buildings, but due to the heavy brush cover I could not see anything.


References:
http://nikemissile.org/system_history_and_description.shtml
http://nasgi.org/olfnewport.htm
http://www.airfields-freeman.com/MI/Airfields_MI_Detroit_S.htm
http://nikehercules.tripod.com/d-57.html
http://nikehercules.tripod.com/d-58.html
Detroit's Historic Fort Wayne, by James Conway & David F. Jamroz, p. 103