Your Daily Dose of NPR Enlightenment

Chicago’s Cold War Missile Launch Sites

In Chicago, History, International, NPR, Politics, WBEZ on January 23, 2013 at 5:40 pm

WBEZ in Chicago recently launched Curious City, where Chicagoans submit their curiosities about the city and surrounding area – and CC does their best to answer. Recent inquiries have included “did Al Capone really have secret tunnels throughout the suburbs?” and  “where does all the Lincoln Park Zoo animal waste go?” (I’d never thought about it, but was indeed curious for the answer).

This week, Curious City discusses the question “What happened to the Nike Missile sites around Chicago?” During the Cold War, Chicago had several missile launch sites scattered about the lakefront, including at Belmont Harbor. The story of the Nike Missiles, how they got here and where they went, is a fascinating piece of forgotten Chicago history.

IFC Radar Towers at Promontory Point, 55th St & South Shore Drive[Courtesy of Michael Epperson /]

IFC Radar Towers at Promontory Point, 55th St & South Shore Drive
[Courtesy of Michael Epperson /]

1961 map of Chicago missile sites []

1961 map of Chicago missile sites

  1. I remember these sites, especially the one in Homewood. It wasn’t at all hidden, and was somewhat of a landmark (“Turn right at the Nike site…”)
    Odd times…we grew up with a sort of fatalism; a sense that one day the bomb would go off, and you just had to hope it hit Denver, not Chicago. I remember the Trib published a cheery graphic showing, in concentric rings, the “death zones” of a bomb that hit Chicago squarely. It projected the number of deaths as you got farther away from the city, which put our town in the “You’re toast” ring.
    Of course, every neighborhood had “that Dad,” the one who had a fallout shelter built in the backyard and who let you know it would hold his family – and only his family. I’ve often wondered if they were disappointed they never had the chance to slam the steel door on their neighbors.

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