This was a long one -- ten days of adventure. The plan started out simple, visit Nike site HM-69 via a National Park Service (NPS) tour on a Saturday. Then I noticed that the NASCAR Racing Experience was in Homestead that weekend, so I added a bucket list item that Sunday. Then I noticed NASA was advertising a shuttle launch on the following Thursday. I booked my trip through the following Sunday. (Sure enough, as soon as I booked my flights NASA slipped the launch three days to the morning of my return flight.)
So before I knew it, I had a major trip lined up with numerous tours and appointments. This took a lot of planning -- even simple tasks like preparing my Drive Plan and printing maps took much longer, compared to a typical 2-4 day outing. So get your popcorn and favorite beverage and enjoy my adventure!
Friday, 29 Jan 2010
I caught a 0800-ish flight, direct from DEN to Fort Lauderdale (FLL). This was Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale in W.W.II, but I saw no trace of vintage buildings or structures. It was 1545 before I rolled out in my Ford Fusion rental car.
HM-03L FL Nike missile batteries were quickly emplaced in south Florida at the onset of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in late 1962. For a couple of years, the Nike troops worked in miserable conditions at temporary sites. The sites I visited were completed in 1965, operated until 1979, and must have seemed wonderful compared to the mud and tents the units had lived and worked in. This former Nike launcher site seemed to be abandoned, but it was gated and locked. The property has most recently been used as a National Guard weekend training site. For more information on air defense in south Florida during the cold war, see Charles Carter's web page.
HM-03C FL Heavily modified, and now in use as the Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center (NMCRC) Miami.
HM-95L FL Heavily modified, and now in use as a prison facility.
HM-95C FL Recognizable, but crowded with people.
HM-84 FL I photographed the gate of this former Hawk site.
I stopped at 1830 in Homestead, settling in to the motel that would be home for the next four nights. In 2.75 hours of driving, I covered 94 miles.
Saturday, 30 Jan 2010
Sleeping in is a rare luxury on a road trip, and I enjoyed the opportunity since my appointment at HM-69 wasn't until 0930. I had made advance plans for this trip with Ryan Meyer, Nike Missile Site Coordinator for Everglades National Park. The Nike sites in the Homestead Defense Area were constructed later than others in the CONUS (due to the urgency of the Cuban Missile Crisis), and are unique in their layout among American Nike sites. So it was a big deal for historical research geeks (like me) when the National Park Service started offering tours of HM-69.
HM-69C FL This former Nike control center is now the Daniel Beard Research Center. The NPS tour of HM-69 started here, with a talk in front of the facility by Ranger Leon Howell and a peek through the gate (the Research Center itself is not open to tourists). I was lucky to get a brief, escorted tour into the compound to photograph the remaining Army buildings such as the sewage facility, water supply building, generator building, flammable storage building, and the radar building.
HM-69L FL From the control site, we convoyed to the highlight of the trip, the launcher site. The missile assembly & test building is in good shape and I viewed it from all directions. The kennel support building still stands. We moved counterclockwise on the site to see the missile shelter buildings at each of the three sections. The first missile shelter building (also called a section barn) was open and accessible for our viewing pleasure. Five launchers once stood in front of the shelter. The cableways show where control lines once ran. Each missile shelter had an associated underground control center (also called a section room) in the berm behind the launcher positions. Near the control center, this yellow canister was visible; Charles Carter tells me this housed the mechanism that activated the fail-safe circuits in case a launch was necessary. The second missile shelter building and control center, and the third missile shelter building and control center, looked much like the first. I'm thankful for the efforts of Ryan and Leon--they made this tour a great experience and these photos are a result of their outstanding support. Please check out their web site for more information. Thanks also to Charles for helping me to better understand what I had seen.
HM-59 FL I photographed the gate of this former Hawk missile site.
Homestead Navy SIGINT Site FL I was politely but firmly denied access to this property, now a private business. Aerial photos show that the circular "elephant cage" antenna array has been demolished.
HM-40L - Key Largo Beacon Annex FL Corps of Engineers records show that after the Nike launcher site was shut down, a small portion of the land was transferred to the Air Force and used for several years as a radio beacon annex. From aerial photos, I suspect that the radio beacon was located down this gated and locked access road north of the main entrance. The main entrance to the launcher site was also secured.
HM-39 FL This Hawk site is now posted private property with security personnel on site to deter tourism.
Homestead Communications Annex (Transmitter) FL Now posted private property, I photographed the access road from the public road.
Homestead AFB FL To say that the Air Force "closed" Homestead is an overstatement. It would be more accurate to say that Homestead shed some excess acreage. Sure, there were organizational changes, but most of the former base... is still a base! The photogenic features are, unfortunately, still inside the fence. Lodging was not serving space-available customers (possibly due to Haiti relief operations), so I made my standard BX run and headed back to town.
This was a comfortable day, covering 278 miles in 8.25 hours--and still getting dinner before sunset.
Sunday, 31 Jan 2010
This day was dedicated to the NASCAR Racing Experience at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (If you're interested, you can read about it here.) I only drove 24 miles off the racetrack (and maybe 12-15 on it).
Monday, 1 Feb 2010
From Homestead I headed southwest to the Keys, leaving the motel at 0530. Rainstorms slowed my progress (I had to pull over and wait out one pummeling precipitation episode) and made it a challenge to get decent photos.
KW-10 FL Key West was protected by four Hawk missile batteries that operated from the early 1960s until 1979. This former Hawk site is apparently owned by the Navy, and the closest I got was this gate, north of the Naval Air Station.
Trumbo Point Seaplane Base FL This looked like commercial/residential land on maps, but to my dismay the W.W.II seaplane base was still Navy-owned as Trumbo Point Annex.
KW-65 FL This was a treat -- my first permanent Hawk missile site. The CONUS had only 8 such sites, 4 near Homestead and 4 near Key West. My first stop on the site was a trio of bermed launcher areas, with concrete pads for the mobile launchers, and cableways leading toward the central part of the site. Several vintage radar towers still stand, including one on a built-up area out in the water! A guard shack stands near one of the towers, as does a small storage building. A couple of buildings still stand, as do a couple of open-frame sheds, and this bermed structure. I was surprised to find cableways traveling over open water, but the local landscape (and political urgency after the Cuban Missile Crisis) offered challenges! I noticed this small dome, but I don't know if it is a Hawk artifact, or a later object that was placed here. In spite of the rain, this was an excellent visit.
Meacham Field FL I could see this airport in the distance from KW-65. The field was constructed for the Army early in W.W.II, but was transferred to the Navy by mid-war. Navy use continued until the mid 1960s.
Boca Chica Field FL I had hoped for a Naval Exchange stop here at the current NAS Key West, but I was turned around at the gate (seems there is not an exchange on the NAS). This airfield was used by the Army at the beginning of W.W.II, then transferred to the Navy in 1943.
KW-24 FL This former Hawk site is securely gated, and a newer fence surrounds the older fence of the compound.
Marathon Flight Strip FL I could see this small general aviation airport clearly from the highway; I saw no historic buildings or structures warranting a full stop. The Army had use of this airport early in W.W.II, then the Navy briefly used it (as Marathon Outlying Field) to support NAS Key West.
HM-40C FL After obtaining the necessary Back Country Permit, I parked my car and hiked into the former Nike control site. As recently as the mid 1990s, the grass was cut and all the buildings and structures were clearly visible. Times have changed. From the large parking lot inside the gate, I could barely see the deteriorating buildings among the trees. Working my way down the trail, I could barely see the radar towers only a few feet in front of me. Looking up, the tops of the towers were difficult to see among the tops of the trees. A building past the towers was a bit easier to see.
I made it back to Homestead at 1500, driving 295 miles in 9.5 hours.
Tuesday, 2 Feb 2010
I was done in Homestead, so I checked out of my motel room before hitting the road at 0930 (after a leisurely breakfast). It was time to start working my way north.
HM-12 FL Unfortunately this former Hawk site is now filled with new construction.
Naval Air Station Richmond FL Visiting this site meant visiting the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, as their facility sits on the remains of one of the large airship hangars that used to stand here. The concrete supports from one side of the hangar still stand, giving a sense of the huge size of the former wooden hangar. Also still standing is one of the large masonry door pocket structures. I'm sure lots of people see this from a distance and assume it is a Hurricane-proof radio antenna tower (and it does serve that purpose) because it is so tall. Several support buildings from the Navy era still stand nearby, some of them also used by the railroad museum. Some of the buildings were integrated into the side supports of the hangar.
Dinner Key Naval Air Facility FL This pre-war seaplane base was used by the Navy in W.W.II. Now, the Art Deco airport terminal building serves as Miami City Hall. Some possible hangars are nearby and used for boat storage, but I'm unsure of their vintage. A few outbuildings are visible near the terminal building.
Pratt General Hospital FL Known during W.W.II as AAF Regional Hospital #1, or AAF Regional and Convalescent Hospital, the Biltmore Hotel was leased by the Army Air Forces during W.W.II. On 15 May 1946 it was named Pratt General Hospital. It is once again a luxury hotel.
Miami ATC Housing Battle Creek Hotel FL The Battle Creek Hotel was leased by the Army Air Forces during W.W.II and used by Air Transport Command for housing. It is now a senior citizens home. Due to the congested traffic in the area I did not stop for photographs.
Opa Locka Airport FL I saw no traces of W.W.II buildings or structures at this former Navy field.
Army Air Forces Redistribution Station #2 FL The Army Air Forces leased numerous hotels in Miami Beach during W.W.II, for a variety of training, hospital, and personnel processing functions. Redistribution Station #2 was composed of a large cluster of hotels in the northern part of Miami Beach, in an area since identified as the Collins Waterfront Historic District. That designation helped me to locate many of the former AAF hotels that were still standing. Note: Some of these photos were taken Tuesday evening, others on Wednesday morning, but I've kept them together here for your convenience.
(Arlene Arms Hotel)
(Atlantic Beach Hotel)
(Copley Plaza Hotel)
(Coral Reef Hotel)
(Grand Plaza Hotel)
(Lord Tarleton Hotel)
(Monroe Towers Hotel)
(Ocean Grande Hotel)
(Ocean Spray Hotel)
Miami District Convalescent Hospital FL Three of the hotels I found in Miami Beach served not only the Redistribution Station, but also the Convalescent Hospital.
(Claridge Beach Hotel)
(The Glades Hotel)
My evening stop was the former Cadillac Hotel (now the Courtyard Miami Beach Oceanfront), one of the former AAF hotels featured above. This foray into Miami Beach had taken me 5.75 hours and covered 94 miles.
Wednesday, 3 Feb 2010
After breakfast I spent some time on foot documenting hotels in the area; it was 1030 before I was in the car and heading back onto the mainland.
Boca Raton AAFld FL I saw no historic buildings or structures at this former W.W.II field.
Jupiter Missile Data Collection Annex FL This property has an interesting history. For many years the Jupiter Lighthouse has been operated by the U.S. government. In W.W.II the Navy took over much of the reservation and operated a secret, signals intelligence facility here. The Air Force operated a data collection annex here as part of the space program, from the early 1950s through the mid 1980s. Since then the property has reverted back to the Coast Guard, who use the southern part of the property as a housing area with a few amenities (I bought snacks in their small but well-stocked Exchange). The top of the lighthouse offered a distant view of the former Air Force antenna field located on the northern part of the property. The abandoned Air Force compound is accessible on foot through the Jupiter Inlet Natural Area. The main features still standing are two vertical poles.
Jupiter LORAN Station FL I had read of all LORAN stations being turned-down, but this facility was still an active Coast Guard installation.
Valkaria Satellite Field FL I saw only recently-constructed buildings and structures on this former Navy field, which is now a general aviation airport.
Patrick AFB FL I stopped here for dinner and the obligatory BX visit before heading to the hotel.
I stopped at 1815 in Cocoa Beach. This was a 241-mile day, taking 7.75 hours to cover.
Thursday, 4 Feb 2010
Had the space shuttle launched on its original schedule, I would have had a great view from my hotel room balcony. Oh well. Since the shuttle had been rescheduled, I slept in -- again -- and hit the road at 0930.
Kennedy Space Center FL The visitor center has a nice display area including this heavyweight Saturn 1B. An early launch control center is preserved. From the bus tour, the Vehicle Assembly Building (in my youth it was called the Vertical Assembly Building) was visible for miles.
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station FL I signed up for the "Cape Canaveral: Then and Now" tour at Kennedy Space Center because it takes you across the river onto Cape Canaveral AFS. We drove through the main industrial area of the station, driving past Hangar AE, Hangar AF, Hangar AM, Hangar AO, Hangar M, Hangar N, Hangar S, Hangar T, and Hangar U. We drove past the munitions storage area, seeing many typical and not-so-typical storage igloos. We stopped at Complex 26 (launch site of Explorer 1, the United States' first satellite) and toured the blockhouse. It is nicely preserved, including the racks of vintage electronic equipment in the interior of the building. Outside the blockhouse, we could see the various items on display (such as the Complex 19 White Room) as well as this nearby storage area. (Note: when I was a kid, access to the museum area was much simpler, and you could spend all the time you wanted exploring. Now you're limited to the length of the stop on the bus tour.) We drove the short distance to Complex 5/6 (Complex 5 was the launch site of Freedom 7, the United States' first manned space flight) and its similar blockhouse. From there, we could see the replica Redstone rocket on the pad. We drove past the water fixtures that sprayed-down the launch to control heat and sound. We drove past several other complexes that I cannot identify from the photos. We stopped again at Complex 34, site of the fatal Apollo 1 fire and now a memorial to those three astronauts. From Complex 34 we could see a Delta IV at SLC-37B, scheduled to launch in May with a GPS Block 2F satellite.
After 11 hours and 283 miles on the road, I stopped in Lake Park, Georgia, for the night.
Friday, 5 Feb 2010
I was on the road at 0800, in the rain again.
Moody AFB GA This was my first visit to this base, the theoretical model for the "objective wing" back in 1992. (If you don't get that insider reference, be glad you don't!)
Spence Air Base GA Much of this industrial park was closed off for a special event. That, and the pouring rain, limited my visit. Two of the typical 184-foot Demountable Type DH-1hangars still stand from W.W.II. The old control tower still stands, seen here with a newer elevated water storage tank. This was Spence Field during W.W.II. During the 1950s as Spence Air Base, it was a contract flying school operated by the Hawthorne School of Aeronautics.
TU-28L GA The Turner AFB Defense Area had two Nike batteries, operational from 1960 to 1966. This Nike launcher site is now a junkyard. The ready building still stands inside the outer gate, and the assembly building stands near where the launchers berms once stood.
TU-28C GA This Nike control site was gated and secured.
Turner AFB GA Unfortunately the remaining airfield features of this former SAC base are landlocked by private businesses. I noticed a cold storage building, warehouse, and a small outbuilding.
TU-79C GA This Nike control site is now a limited-access residential center. Several vintage buildings still stand, as seen from outside the gate.
TU-79L GA Unfortunately this Nike launcher site has been remediated -- aerial photos show no trace of vintage buildings or structures -- and the property is surrounded by private residences.
Albany Municipal Airport GA Three hangars stand which may date back to W.W.II, although I'm not positive (contract schools sometimes used non-standard hangars). Two are on one side of the present terminal, and one is on the other side. A historical marker in the parking area tells that this was an Army Air Forces contract flying school operated by Darr Aero Tech Inc..
Bainbridge Air Base GA Two 184-foot Demountable Type DH-1 hangars remain from W.W.II. One was not closely accessible. The other was approachable from different angles. An elevated water storage tank may date to Air Force use. This was Bainbridge AAFld in W.W.II and served again in the 1950s as Bainbridge Air Base, a contract flying school operated by Southern Airways Schools. This was the last of my Georgia visits, and from here I headed back into Florida.
Apalachicola AAFld FL This was a W.W.II field that also served the Air Force into the mid-1950s. Air Training Command listed it as "Apalachicola Air Force Base" in their installation directories from 1951-1953, but USAF records from that period refer to it as "Mun Apt" or "Afd." I found only recent construction, and saw no buildings or structures dating to Air Force use.
My stopping point for the night was Apalachicola; motel check-in at 1700 allowed for dinner in the historic part of town before sunset. This was a 358 mile day, taking 9 hours on the road.
Saturday, 6 Feb 2010
I headed east after an 0715 start.
Carrabelle Flight Strip FL A quick windshield survey revealed no buildings or structures dating to the W.W.II use of this Flight Strip by the Army Air Forces.
Carrabelle Missile Tracking Site FL This property served a missile tracking function, first for Patrick AFB then for Tyndall AFB. To my surprise it had current Air Force signage identifying it as "Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation." I'm not sure when that new mission started. Other signs suggest that the underlying property belongs to the Coast Guard.
Carrabelle GFA FL This one was a hike from the main highway up a sandy access road. The gap filler building still stands though it has considerable damage. The three tower supports are extant, as are the concrete saddles that formerly held a small fuel tank. This was gap filler TM-198A/Z-198A, supporting the long range radar site at Tyndall AFB from 1959 to 1970.
Perry GFA FL This one is tucked onto the northwest corner of Perry AAFld, and the former radar tower is used to mount the airport beacon. This was gap filler TM-200A/Z-200A, supporting Cross City AFS from 1961 to 1970.
Perry AAFld FL The Army Air Forces hangar from W.W.II is still standing, and I was able to view it from all directions. Several foundation remnants are visible nearby, along with a building that may be wartime-vintage. Thanks to the kindness of the airport manager I was allowed to drive out on a taxiway to the firing-in butt. I don't find many of these in my travels; they were used for testing and aligning guns on fighter aircraft. The concrete structure had sand inside it to absorb fired projectiles, and timber mounted on the exposed concrete would prevent stray rounds from shattering the concrete. I also saw the remaining W.W.II sewage tank, almost hidden in the trees.
Naval Air Station Lake City FL I was disappointed to find no buildings or structures dating to the Navy's use of this airport.
Alachua AAFld FL Another disappointment; I saw nothing historical to photograph at this W.W.II airfield.
Melbourne was my evening stop (after an unplanned but enjoyable stop at Don Garlits' Drag Racing Museum). I covered 433 miles in 11.25 hours.
Sunday, 7 Feb 2010
I was up and out of the hotel at 0400, taking a good position to watch the launch of space shuttle Endeavor. Cloud cover postponed the launch for a full day, so I went back to bed for a few hours. I was on the road at 1030, heading toward the airport with but one historic stop left on this adventure.
Pinecastle Jeep Range FL Aerial photos show that the "quad oval" (to borrow a NASCAR term) shape of the berms was neatly cut in two, and the northern half of the berms removed, to make room for a school that now occupies half of the former range. Signs reference the Corps of Engineers -- a clue that I'm sure many visitors see but don't understand. Only a hint of the berm is visible, behind a fence and in the trees south of the school. This gunnery training range served the nearby Pinecastle AAFld during W.W.II.
My trip to the Orlando airport was only 53 miles in a brief 1.5 hours. This airport was formerly McCoy AFB FL, as I've documented on a previous trip. I was pleased with the Ford Fusion except for one major problem: Difficult to read gauges because of poor lighting on red needles against dark backgrounds. In fact, this was the hardest-to-read speedometer I have experienced, EVER. Shame on you, Ford, for making your gauges hard-to-read. My flight from MCO to DEN was delayed due to weather, and I got home about 2100. The trip totalled 1,757 miles.
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