PH-58 Nike Missile Site in Woolwich Township

PH-58 Nike Missile Site in Woolwich Township

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.

Nike Battery PH-58 IFC Control Building by Richard Lewis

PH-58 IFC Control Building by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Nike Missile Radar Towers by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Radar Towers by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Nike Missile Radar Tower Base by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Radar Tower Base by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Generator Building by Richard Lewis Nike Missile

PH-58 Generator Building by Richard Lewis 2016

PH58 Generator Building Interior by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Generator Building Interior by Richard Lewis 2016

Barracks and Administrative Buildings

Right next to the IFC is the barracks and administrative area which has three simple, one story buildings that contained the headquarters, mess hall, living quarters and other services for the soldiers stationed there. Again, overgrowth around the buildings made it impossible to photograph the exteriors.

PH-58 Nike Missile Armory by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Arms Locker by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Launcher Area Administrative Building by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Administrative Building by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Nike Missile Headquarters by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Headquarters Lobby by Richard Lewis 2016

Ph-58 Nike Missile Barracks by Richard Lewis

Ph-58 Barracks by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Barracks Latrine by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Barracks Latrine by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Nike Missile Base Mess Hall by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Mess Hall by Richard Lewis 2016

The Launcher Section – Magazines

The Nike missiles were stored underground in large missile magazines. They would have been brought up to the surface for launching on large elevators. Security around the magazines was tight. In addition to armed soldiers, guard dogs roamed the area at night.

PH58 Missile Magazine Door by Richard Lewis 2016

PH58 Missile Magazine Elevator by Richard Lewis 2016

PH58 Nike Missile Blast Plate by Richard Lewis

PH58 Nike Missile Blast Plate by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Nike Missile Electrical Connections by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Nike Missile Electrical Connections by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Nike Missile Magazine Guard House by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Missile Magazine Guard House by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Nike Missile Guard Dog Kennel by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Guard Dog Kennel by Richard Lewis 2016

The Launcher Section – Missile Assembly Building

This building would have been where the Nikes were assembled and maintained. They would then be moved to the Warhead building to be armed.

PH58 Nike Missile Assembly Building Exterior by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Nike Missile Assembly Building Exterior by Richard Lewis 2016

Nike Missile Battery PH-58 Missile Assembly Building by Richard Lewis

Nike Missile Battery PH-58 Missile Assembly Building by Richard Lewis 2016

The Launcher Section – The Warhead Building

This simple building would be used to arm the missiles. It was surrounded by a high dirt berm in order to help contain an accidental explosion. While that berm would have worked in the early days of the Nike missile program, one wonders how much help that berm would have been once the Nikes went nuclear.

PH-58 Nike Missile Warhead Building by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Warhead Building by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Nike Missile Warhead Building by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Warhead Building Interior by Richard Lewis 2016

 

PH-58 Overgrown Nike Missile Warhead Building by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Overgrown Missile Warhead Building by Richard Lewis 2016

The Launcher Section – Other Buildings

There were other buildings in the launcher section including a Ready Building with rooms for meetings, arms storage and one of the few restrooms. There was also a barracks, generator building, chemical storage building and a water filtration plant.

PH-58 Nike Missile Base Ready Room Caution Signs by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Ready Building Caution Signs by Richard Lewis 2016

Nike Missile Battery PH-58 Launcher Administration Building by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Launcher Ready Building by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Nike Missile Launcher Area Ready Building Interior by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Launcher Area Ready Building Interior by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Nike Missile Fuel Storage Building by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Fuel Storage Building by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Nike Missile Fuel Storage Building by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Fuel Storage Building at Sunset by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Nike Missle Base No Smoking by Richard Lewis

PH-58 No Smoking by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Nike Missile Launcher Area Barracks by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Launcher Area Barracks by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Nike Missile Generator Building by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Launcher Area Generator Building by Richard Lewis 2016

PH-58 Nike Missile Base Water Filtration Plant by Richard Lewis

PH-58 Water Filtration Plant by Richard Lewis 2016

Honoring Our Cold War Veterans

The soldiers of the cold war were tasked to defend our nation against the threat of a nuclear holocaust that was unprecedented in world history. The Nike missilemen at PH-58 and other missile batteries were the last line of defense. Using sophisticated radar and nuclear guided missiles they guarded our cities and industrial centers from Russian bombers carrying atomic bombs. The fact that our military was willing to detonate a nuclear device over US soil shows how desperate we were during the cold war to defend our country. If these soldiers were called to actually practice their craft, the world would have been in the gravest of situations.

Enjoy 

Click Here for more photographs of this and other Nike missile sites

2017-05-19T10:35:49+00:00 April 14th, 2016|19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Laura (PA Pict) April 14, 2016 at 5:37 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the images and words. Both provide a fascinating insight into the history of that period and a sense of how quickly something so present becomes past. It seems your photographs will be the act of preservation as the site looks too far gone to be saved even in its current state.

    • Rich Lewis April 14, 2016 at 8:00 pm - Reply

      Thanks, as always, for your comments Laura. This site is definitely too far gone to be preserved. It is the only intact Nike missile site in the Philadelphia area, but from what I hear, it is slated for redevelopment. I’m glad I was able to photograph it to help preserve this important, and scary time in history.

  2. larryalyons April 14, 2016 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    It really is hard to believe that this facility at one time was there to defend and deliver nuclear warheads. I really do not consider 1974 when this facility was decommissioned that long ago- just a little over 40 years. It is just amazing how it has become so dilapidated. Another interesting post Rick. Thank you.

    • Rich Lewis April 15, 2016 at 8:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks Larry. It’s not just the fact that this facility closed 40 some years ago that intrigues me, it’s that there were nuclear missiles housed there, ready to fire at a moments notice.

  3. infraredrobert April 19, 2016 at 7:56 am - Reply

    Great tour of this Nike site…the proximity to cities and housing for these places still amazes me.

    • Rich Lewis April 19, 2016 at 10:27 am - Reply

      Thanks for the compliment, Robert. The one thing that is still find amazing and is that these sites with nuclear warheads were located right next door in the towns surrounding the cities and industrial centers they were defending.

      • infraredrobert April 19, 2016 at 12:51 pm - Reply

        We had them here in CT

        • Rich Lewis April 19, 2016 at 1:22 pm - Reply

          They were defending Bridgeport and Hartford. I believe they are all gone now. The land in those areas is valuable real estate so it wouldn’t remain vacant.

          • infraredrobert April 19, 2016 at 3:18 pm

            I went to one in Middletown, CT – the FCC has been converted into a Fire and Rescue training center for the town.

          • Rich Lewis April 19, 2016 at 4:17 pm

            This site is one of the only ones I’ve seen that was closed and never repurposed or demolished although that will change soon as it is slated for demolition. In a previous post I posted photos of PH23/25 in Lumberton New Jersey. The barracks and administrative buildings were used as a private school for leaning disabled children before it was abandoned and demolished. Parts of the launcher area are still around and used for storage by the Public Works Department. Did you photograph the site in Middletown?

          • infraredrobert April 19, 2016 at 5:56 pm

            Yes I did…nothing as interesting as what you found though…

  4. John Babula June 30, 2016 at 10:24 am - Reply

    I was stationed at PH-58 Swedesboro, NJ 1962 – 1964….Then transferred to Headquarters, Pedricktown, NJ….

    • Rich Lewis June 30, 2016 at 11:04 am - Reply

      Thanks for your comments John. I’m not sure if we have met but your name sounds familiar. I’d love to talk to you sometime about your experiences in Swedesboro and Pedricktown.

  5. Dennis Hill April 2, 2017 at 1:10 am - Reply

    Bittersweet memories of my own time in Florida. There I was an electronics specialist for nuclear warhead support. It’s only in recent times that the true gravity of the situation has come back to haunt me, badly. I thank God that we never heard the “Blazing Skies” alert call and tell myself that what we did was in service to our country. Small comfort when you speculate on what would could have been. To this day I shy away from viewing images of nuclear clouds.

    • Rich Lewis April 3, 2017 at 6:25 pm - Reply

      Dennis thank you so much for your thoughts here and for your service to our country. I can only imagine what it would have been like for you had the alert been called. You Nike Missile Men were our last line of defense and the idea that you would have detonated a nuclear device so close to our shores must be a tough thing to live with. However, As you said, thank God it did not happen. I do hope you take comfort in the fact that the alternative to not having these Nike missiles would have been worse than having to use them to defend our shores.

  6. James Tinnes April 23, 2017 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Richard, these photo’s bring back some memories as I was stationed there from 6/72 – 7/74 and left just before it was dismantled. Some of the pics I don’t recognise but others I can. I was an mp so I recognized the guard shack. It was just a square bulding with a counter in the front were the dog handlers let the dogs rest. It’s sad to see the site in such poor condition, you’d think the gov’t would have turned it into a park for memories.

    My best friend on base was Steve Ganitch (also an mp), I was his best man and he introduced me to my wife. I was married in 1974 while stationed in PH-58, and we’re still married for 42 years. When I was dating my wife, should we bring me dinner when I worked guard duty and pass it through the fence. We had a some good times in old Swedesboro and maybe we’ll reuturn the see the shell of its remains.

    I was sent to Germany for the next few years and ets in late 1977.

  7. David Tetkoskie June 7, 2017 at 10:35 pm - Reply

    I am 78 years old now. In May 1956 my first military assignment was Site 58. It was D Battery, 176 AAA Msl Btry, Swedesboro, New Jersey. I was an Acquisition Radar Operater for two years prior to being assigned to Ft. Bliss, Texas attending a year long Technical School on repair of the radar systems and a ratty analogue computer. Your pictures and short stories brought back pleasant memories for an old man as a 17 year old Army Private.

    • Rich Lewis June 9, 2017 at 7:02 am - Reply

      David, thank you so much for your comment and for your service to your country, especially at such a young age. You were probably there when this site opened and it must have looked a lot different. Thanks also for sharing a little of your history at PH-58. One of the reasons I photographed these sites and blogged about them was to bring to light the importance of Nike program to our defense at the time. I’m also glad that these photographs and comments from others brought back some good memories. Thanks again for your comment.

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