In the small town of Commerce MI, one might know that the woods that line Wise Rd are a great place to walk ones dog or go for a bike ride. This land was just purchased by the township so it can be developed into a public outdoor recreation facility. All “502 acres for a total of $2.805 million back in 2012.”(Watts, 2011) The life of this land before the township bought it though had a few different roles, one which was a Cold War Nike Base.
Nike site D- 87 never did launch a missile or rocket, although while this site was active it held 30 Ajax and 18 Hercules with 12 universal launchers. 10 of the launchers were converted to Hercules launchers over the course of the time that Nike site D-87 was open. With only 11 people being stationed at Nike site D-87, they took true pride in their jobs at the site. Michael Willie was one of the soldiers that were stationed at Nike site D-87, “Willie ran the launch control. “I was making sure good communication happened between the missile silos and the radar area,” he said. “I was basically a glorified telephone operator, but I had the capability to light the candle.””
(Herberg, 2015) What Michael was saying here was that he was able to call the shots on any of the missiles at any time, even though it many not have been authorized. Even though Nike site D-87 was not the most active base during the Cold War, it was ready to put missiles in the air just like any other base. Michael spent most of his days at the base with the missiles themselves. These missiles were kept in silos that where underground. Michael said,““The silos are a great big rectangular room made out of concrete down in the ground. On the top is steel grating with steel doors that opened up.” Inside, the missiles sat on rails that enabled them to slide back and forth. An elevator raised them up in preparation for a launch or servicing. The missiles Willie worked with had four booster engines strapped to them. This brought each weapon to about 40 feet long, six feet wide and more than 10,000 pounds – roughly the weight of three cars.”(Herberg, 2015) With the missiles being this large in size and also being under the ground there came some dangers with being a airman at a Nike site. Some of these dangers are.
- Being crushed to death
- Attacked by a loose sentry dog
- Falling into an open pit
- Ignition of a booster by static electricity
- Red Fuming Nitric Acid
- Caked ice on radar tower ladders and platforms
- Electric shocks
- High pressure hydraulic lines bursting
- In the danger zone of a radiating antenna
- Body parts sucked into cooling fans
- Finding a Nike Hercules’ warhead armed itself after a power surge or drop.
- An armed Nike Hercules falling into an open pit. (It happened. Lucky it was an H.E.)
- Falling down the ladder leading to the Panel Room, before they installed stairs.
From this list one can tell that even though Nike sites did not see active battle or launch any missiles, the jobs that these soldiers had to preform were dangerous. Luckily all of the men at Nike site D-87 did not suffer any major injuries while stationed at D-87.
From 1955 to 1974 was the time period that men were stationed at this Nike site. There were to main parts of this site, the IFC (Integrated Fire Control area) area and the launch area. The IFC area is where the guard shack, administration building, helicopter pad, generator building, HIPAR (high power acquisition radar) building, and barracks were located. The launch area contained all 12 launchers.
Looking at the location of this site, one might wonder why a Nike site would be placed in a small town in Michigan. This sites main purpose was to protect the manufacture/automotive capital of North American. In the case of a missile being launched at Detroit, the mission of this Nike site was to shoot down the oncoming missile and keep it from destroying plants in Detroit and surrounding cities. Nike missile technology was said to be outdated in the mid-1970s causing for the base to shut down in 1974.
After the site was closed down and vacant for some years, the DNR (department of natural resources) started to use the site as a children’s day camp in 1984. 10 years after this camp opened the launchers were all destroyed, with the last one being destroyed in 1994. The rest of the site mainly the IFC area remained, which was used by the camp. Around the year 2002 the DNR children’s day camp was switched over to an alternative juvenile offenders program. The alternative juvenile offenders program was at this base until the year 2008. With the camp abandoned once again, it was left for trespassers to roam the grounds. In the year of 2010 a few of the buildings in the IFC area were burned in a suspicious fire. This caught eye of the township of Commerce. Two years after the fire in 2012 was when the purchase of the land mentioned above was finalized. At this time all the remaining buildings of what was left of the Nike site D-87 were demolished. The only remaining part of history is the power supply pole shown Below.
Although, this base may no longer be around, it played a valuable role in the history of Commerce township. and the Cold War. Nike site D-87 helped civilians in Commerce and neighboring cities sleep at night knowing that they were safe during the Cold War.
Image 1: Detroiturbex URL: http://www.detroiturbex.com/content/outside/mi_d87/img/1.jpg
Image 2: Taken By: Justin Bunzeluk
Image 3: Taken By: Justin Bunzeluk
Nurisio, Ezio (2012). Nikemissile.org / Nike site dangers
detroiturbex. Nike Missile Site D-87
Watts, Tom (2011). Former Commerce Twp. missile base will be redeveloped into outdoor recreation facility
Herberg, Laura (2015). CuriosiD: When Detroit was Armed with Nuclear Missiles
Bateman, T (2014). Site D-87 – Commerce/Union Lake