Gravitation Physics Laboratory

Former Nike Missile bunker

DOE aerial photos, montage by P. Boynton.

Between 1955 and December 1958, The U.S. Army operated this site as one of a couple hundred across the nation as part of the cold war defense effort. Designated H-52, this Nike missile bunker pair was controlled by a radar system on the top of nearby Rattlesnake Mountain. The north and south bunkers each contained 10 type A missiles (Ajax, conventional warheads) that could be loaded onto one of 4 launchers per bunker. Hydraulic lifts moved the assemblies to the concrete platform on the surface where the launches would be performed. Additionally there were 2 type B missiles (Hercules, conventional warhead) positioned on the surface in their own launch systems. There is a non-profit organization dedicated to the Nike air defense system. The site was later converted to an emergency operations center and designated building 6652L (L for launch). Later still it was converted to the Gravitation Physics Laboratory.

The location was initially chosen to defend the Hanford Nuclear Facility. Hanford has since produced 2/3rds of the nation's plutonium metal used in manufacturing nuclear weapons. In fact, Hanford plutonium was used in the first atomic bomb test conducted at Alamogordo, NM in July 1945 as well as the atomic bomb the U.S. dropped on the city of Nagasaki, Japan in World War II. The land has since become a wildlife preserve under the auspices of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The bunker is located at 46.39084N, -119.53494W, +385m according to our local GPS unit.

An almost completely reconstructed Nike missile site is located in the Golden Gate Recreational Area near San Francisco, CA and is open for public tours. updated 1/19/2014