By Gene Kalb
As The Bedford Citizen enters its sixth year we are bringing our readers a new feature called “Bedford Explained.” While I’ve lived in Bedford for over 25 years, there are things around town that have made me curious, but after seeing them so often those curiosities have become part of the scenery. But those things have a story, so The Bedford Citizen is working with the Bedford Historical Society to bring our readers explanations about those things that make us curious.
Nike Missiles in Bedford
I’ve heard for many years about the Nike Missile site right here in Bedford. It was one of those stories you sort of knew about, but details were pretty slim. We have a friend who lived on Notre Dame, up on a hill that had this strange concrete slab in his backyard. He was told it was part of the Nike Missile Base.
So, it got me thinking. What is the story about the Nike Missiles in Bedford? I headed over to the Bedford Historical Society and they pointed me to this website, Massachusetts in the Cold War. http://coldwar-ma.com/. And the Bedford page (http://coldwar-ma.com/B-85_Bedford.html). It’s a great site with lots of pictures and information about what was going on both here and throughout New England. I called up the site owner, John Ramsey, he’s a wealth of information. He’s been collecting and organizing all this for some time. He told me that there were 16 Nike Missile sites in Massachusetts, Bedford being just one.
So, what were the Nike Sites?
The Nike sites were built in the mid-fifties, during the height of the Cold War. Nuclear War was foremost on everyone’s mind. This was the era of the “duck and cover” civil defense drills. The late fifties were before space travel and before the era of the ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles).
The primary threat from Russia was an attack from Russian bombers with nuclear bombs. The Nike Missiles were primarily just a large anti-aircraft battery. The sites had two components: There was a missile silo and a couple of miles away was a radar/radio site. There were also barracks for the men working at the missile battery.
In Bedford, the radar site was off Davis Road, on the top of a hill. The site was where the current Revolutionary Ridge neighborhood is now located. The missile silo was off Route 225 and the end of Old Causeway Road. You can still see the abandoned remains.
The Nike missiles were not armed with nuclear warheads; they were what is called fragmentation bombs using conventional explosives. They were designed to explode in front of the bombers and destroy them with shrapnel. Later, in the early sixties, the Nike Missiles were replaced with the Hercules Missile that did contain a nuclear warhead. This was taking the shrapnel idea to the next level — They were NOT deployed in Bedford. The closest Hercules site was located in Danvers.
I talked with Jim Cozzi who was stationed at the Bedford site. This is why he came to Bedford. While stationed here he met his wife and has lived here ever since. He said at the time there were about 35 people stationed at any given time, both at the radar site and the silo. I asked him if there were any close calls, he said he doesn’t recall any. They did track the Trans-Atlantic flights coming from Europe and they were on alert until they confirmed what it was.
So that’s the story. Check out the website, lots of interesting information there, well beyond the Nike sites in Bedford.
Ever wonder about something you see around Bedford?
Let us know! Email your suggestions for future Bedford Explained stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
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