To those who lived through it, it remains part of their consciousness and experience. To those who didn’t, it might as well be Ancient Athens or the Renaissance. It is a part of the past, a past that can be considered at arm’s length.
During the Cold War, however, the sense of fright and potential doom was never far from the mind of many. There are several sites around Illinois that testify to the legacy of this tense age in our past.
These sites present stark and powerful images of a world on a knife’s edge. The photos of these ruins speak to the passage of time, but also the legacy of those tense years following the Second World War.
Nike Missile Base, Marine, Illinois (Madison County)
Part of the St. Louis defense area, this base was constructed as a launch base for Nike missiles, each of which would carry a nuclear warhead. The facility itself is a simple, no-frills affair. This is very fitting, given the deadly seriousness of their stated goal. Missiles would be shipped to the sites in pieces. They would then be assembled and stored at the ready. The warheads themselves were stored separately, but were close at hand should the command be given.
Nike Missile Base, Hecker, Illinois (Monroe County)
Built in 1958, the missile base in Hecker was also designed for launching Nike missiles.
Seen here is the warheading building. It was within this simple structures that the nuclear warheads for the missiles were kept. It is hard to imagine that the destructive force behind a nuclear weapon could emerge from so nondescript of a structure.
This building no longer exists. The base itself was used as a technical school and was then abandoned. It was sold to a private owner in 2014.
Marine: Illinois History 15, no. 4 (December, 1992), p.1
Hecker: WARHEADING BUILDING, FRONT, CENTER OF BERM, NO LONGER IN EXISTENCE, LOOKING NORTH. – NIKE Missile Base SL-40, Warheading Building, South end of launch area, west of Generator Building No. 3, Hecker, Monroe County, IL. Photograph, Historic American Engineering Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. From Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/il0884.photos.319443p/
“Nike Missile Base SL-40, Hecker, Illinois,” The Military Standard, http://www.themilitarystandard.com/missile/nike/sl40.php, accessed 6/16/17.