Neighborhood Nukes in South Jersey
In the rural Southern New Jersey community of Woolwich Township are the remains of another cold war relic, Nike Missile Battery PH-58. Unlike the Lumberton site, PH-23/25 from my previous post, when this site was decommissioned in 1974, it remained abandoned and was never repurposed. Now it stands as a dilapidated, overgrown memory of a time when our military needed to defend our major cities against an attack with nuclear warheads mounted on surface to air guided missiles.
I was pleasantly surprised when the Woolwich Township Committee agreed that this site needed to be preserved photographically and gave me permission to do so. My guide was one of the town’s Committeeman named Jordan Schlump. I owe him a lot of gratitude because he happily agreed to work a photographer’s schedule, starting before sunrise on several cold mornings.
Nike missile batteries were divided into two sections. One was the Integrated Fire Control (IFC) or radar section for tracking enemy aircraft and guiding the missiles. The other was the Launcher Area where the Nike missiles were stored, maintained and would have been launched if necessary. These two sections of a Nike battery were about a mile or more apart. There were technical reasons for this, but one result was that the personnel stationed at the IFC and the Launcher Area lived separately and sometimes developed a rivalry with each other. Why not? The radar guys must have been the geeks working on computers and radar scopes while the launcher crews were the mechanics who got their hands dirty keeping the Nikes in prime flying condition.
Another difference between this Nike missile site and the one in Lumberton is that the rural farm land around it is not much different than it would have been in the 1950’s and 60’s. As I walked around PH-58, I could imagine what it was like to be stationed here. These soldiers were carrying out an important, but probably monotonous duty watching the skies for Russian bombers that, thankfully, never came. Being stationed in a rural South Jersey must have also left little for these young men to do when off duty.
Integrated Fire Control (IFC) Radar Section
The layout of this section included four radar towers and control and generator buildings. Although the site was pretty well cleaned out, there were still quite a few leftover elements of its active duty days. The site is very overgrown making exterior photographs of the buildings and towers difficult, if not impossible.