Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Recommended Book: One Minute to Midnight, by Michael Dobbs

I bought a copy of One Minute to Midnight at the Everglades book store following our wonderful tour of the Homestead Nike Site, which piqued my interest in the Cuban missile crisis. Writing in the mid-2000s, Washington Post journalist Michael Dobbs was able to access many declassified documents and to interview key participants who had once been unwilling or unable to discuss the events of October 1962.  Dobbs' scholarly technique (the book is exceedingly well-cited) and journalistic style are well-balanced, and he manages to create a suspenseful page-turner about an event with an exceedingly well-known outcome.


Homestead Nike Missile Site

Naturally, when one lives on an island full of abandoned Cold War-era military buildings and assorted detritus, the first priority upon leaving said island is... to find more Cold War-era historical sites! At least if you are Ivan. Because I am the best wife ever, I woke up at 5:30am and drove (well, he drove, I napped) four hours from Palm Island to the Everglades to tour the Homestead Nike Site. (More on Palm Island and The Villages later...)

Ivan is involved in the preservation efforts for the Anchorage Nike site (Site Summit) through Friends of Nike Site Summit, so he was particularly excited to see this lower-48 counterpart, which was erected following the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 to provide defense against potential air attack from Cuba. Interestingly, the Anchorage and Homestead Nike sites are the only three (of dozens, mostly concentrated around major metropolitan areas) to be primarily above-ground. In Anchorage and Fairbanks, it was impossible to have below-ground silos due to permafrost, while in the Everglades, the extremely high water table was to blame.

Much much more on Nike missiles here. And now, pictures!

This was a particularly creepy sign (and written in high school Spanish!) 

Folk art, with an additional tag from local hooligans. If it were 40 degrees colder, this could have been taken on Adak...

The "barn," where a restored missile is stored.

Another could-be-Adak moment-- the firing bunker (where the crew would retreat after performing their readiness tasks, and from which the missiles would actually be launched). 

The dramatically-revealed missile. Quite a sight!

The warhead casing.

Inside the storage area. Note the instructions for electrical injury. 

The administration building, about a mile away and near the radar domes. Painted pink as an attempt at camouflage (or possibly because it was the only color of paint available in 60s South Florida!)

The Nike site was well worth the drive, and the volunteer-led tour was very informative. The tour guide did a great job setting the scene and the mood, and led us all to imagine what it would have been like the man to missiles and radar. 

We also had enough time to visit the Royal Palm Visitors Center and the main Welcome Center, and to walk the Anhinga and Gumbo Limbo trails. Many more pictures-- including close-ups of alligators!-- to follow.
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