KL-HM-40-Under-Construction

On August 30, 1961, Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev announced the end of a three-year moratorium on nuclear testing and Soviet tests recommenced on September 1st, initiating a series of tests that included the detonation of the Tsar bombs. In response to the announcement, President John F. Kennedy authorized Operation Dominic, which would later become the largest nuclear weapons testing program ever conducted by the United States, and the last atmospheric test series conducted by the U.S.

B Battery participated in a test named “Tightrope” on November 4, 1962 from the Johnston Atoll with between 1–40 kiloton W31 warheads in Operation Fishbowl. The successful kill at 21 km (69000 ft) altitude, the Nike Hercules missile test is regarded to be the last true US atmospheric nuclear test. Upon returning from the Pacific, B Battery was located just outside the entrance to Everglades National Park, the site being designated as HM-66, adjacent to A Battery.

KL-RadarInstallation69

In 1965, B Battery was relocated to a permanent site on North Key Largo, built by the Army Corps of Engineers and re-designated HM-40. When the site was first built, the highway was on the east side of the site and was actually the original State Road 4A. As the nearby community of Ocean Reef grew, the road was upgraded for a more direct route, built just west of the IFC site putting it in a triangle surrounded by roads.

As with all other Nike Hercules sites, HM-40 was built with a total of five radars. The most noticeable was the high powered acquisition radar(HIPAR) which had a geodesic fiberglass dome covering the actual radar antennae and had a range of over 150 miles. Nearby was the low power acquisition radar (LOPAR), which was primarily used as a backup but helped in the way of accuracy, as target location should be the same on both the HIPAR and LOPAR. By the 1960s, electronic jamming became a concern and the LOPAR’s different frequency was an advantage as both radars would have to be jammed. The other three radars were the Target Ranging Radar, the Target Tracking Radar, and the Missile Tracking Radar.

The site was decommissioned in 1979 and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assumed ownership from the Army to create the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge in 1980. The refuge was established to protect critical breeding and nesting habitat for the endangered American crocodile and other wildlife, and included the demolition and removal of the launch area. The future of the IFC site remains uncertain.







21 Comments

  1. AWESOME! I drove past this a few weeks ago, glad to see these pics up.

  2. I served there as a radar repair tech 1968-1969, and have many pictures of what it was like during those days. At times the elements were tough down there next to the ocean, and the insects owned the night time. If you ventured out at night, you ran, not walked as the flying Super Fortress B29 Mosquitos as we called them, would drain you like a Dracula. I climed those 60 foot towers many, many times, carring equipment and tools, to the extent, that now some 44 years later, both of my knees are gone. It was an experience living and serving there in the last 60’s Very remote back then./Robert Tully

    • Christian Rodriguez

      Robert,

      You should share your pictures and stories with Everglades National Park. I had the pleasure of visiting the Nike missile base there. They give tours now and are making it really nice for visitors. In our group, there were a few guys that worked at various posts and the guide was asking them for information because many of the facts and pictures aren’t documented.

      Must have been interesting to work there and thanks for serving!

  3. What most do not know is that some of the participants at Johnston Island for the Operation Dominic, Tightrope tests, were from “C” Battery, which ended up in Cow pastures, just north of Carol City, Fla.. I was one of the tracking radar operators (TTR) for the Pacific tests.
    I have the group photo’s for the IFC Crew and the total IFC and Launcher Crew. When the Thors were blowing up, we were evacuated to the USS Princton, off Johnson. The Battalion was still located at Ft. Bliss, when we departed for Johnston Island

  4. Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be

    okay. I’m definitely enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

  5. Drove past here this week (New Years) and there are No Trespassing signs everywhere and a tall chain link fence. I wasn’t able to get in.

    • Thanks for the update. I heard they were cracking down on visitors there but I wasn’t aware of the fence.

  6. Is there any way to visit there legally?

  7. Can anyone tell me where it’s by? I know it’s by Homestead but I would really like to know where.

    • Cross the Card Sound Road Bridge towards the ocean. At the dead end, turn right on SR 905. In 1/10 mile on your left, you can see the HIPAR tower rising up through the trees. Access can be obtained through the Director at the Pennekamp State Park who is the custodian.

      • grandpacharlieChuck

        The Tower is still there? I have to make a trip now. Is “Alabama Jack’s still in business?

        • I visited there today. Got lots of pictures, and everything is still there. I was thrilled to find this info, since I’ve been wondering what it was for years. Thank you!
          Alabama Jacks is still there!

        • Jack’s is till there and was featured on a food channel broadcast not long ago. I was an ACQ operator from 9/70 to 1/74. Best part was Big Daddy Lounges.

  8. Live off card sound. Legal entry only with Back Country Permit via Pennekamp State Park. Not much left to see that nature hasnt taken back..

  9. I visited the site today very cool don’t try to climb tower 2 the top ladder is held by a rope we tied up today. Also ran in to 4 kids in the The main barracks taking pictures it scared the crap Out of them when they seen me standing in the hallway holding a machete. I told them I was friendly and not going to chop them up. We had a great time.

  10. I served at this missile site from 11/75 through 5/78. I haven’t been back since i i left the military but have often wondered what happened to the site. Many memories. Thanks

  11. Hi, trying to find some info for a friend on someone who served in there. His name is Larry E. Williams. He was Army and she thinks he was a PFC. He was there in 1969. She was wondering what happened to him. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Ray Hilson, Sgt. Wildflecken,Germany 1972

  12. Was there 70- 72. MP Sentry Dog Handler. Enjoyed my time there and at Jacks! LOL

  13. Oh shit, we went here together lol.