The Nike Missile System


Nike Missile Sandy Hook NJ
Nike Missile Museum, Sandy Hook, NJ. Photo: ©SMS

A fairly unknown army base lies in a little peninsula on the north shore of New Jersey. It is not in use now but once was a thriving anti-missile installation where soldiers would be on alert for enemy missiles and planes heading towards New York City.

The Cold Days

It was the Cold War and enemy nations, namely the Soviet Union were working tirelessly towards advancements in jet planes and ballistic missile production. Given this, the United States established anti-aircraft systems across the country. They were strategically deployed around the major cities to combat this potential threat.

Due to the accelerated research and development that was occurring, missile technology took a giant leap forward. Additionally, the fear of Russian Bear Bombers entering American airspace was becoming more imminent than the threat of German or Japanese aircraft entering the United States after Pearl Harbor.

The Nike Missile System

Nike Missile, American Air Power Museum, Farmingdale , NY
Nike Missile, American Air Power Museum, Farmingdale, NY. Photo: ©SMS

Beginning in 1954, Nike Missiles replaced the gun batteries located across the United States. These were supersonic (Marc 2.25) command guidance systems and solid rocket booster missiles. They were designed to intercept long-range Soviet bombers and destroy them while still over the ocean. 

Soldiers stationed at these sites were on 24-hour turnaround shifts and lived in ready-made barracks. Examples of Nike Missile battery sites were Fort Tilden and Fort Hancock, New York, which had a Missile Launch Area (the radar area), AKA, the Integrated Fire Control Area (IFC). 

The sites had two missile batteries, known as double battery sites, and subsequently, each battery had two underground storage rooms for a total of four magazines at each site.

A missile magazine is the hardened storage barrier where the missile lies when inactive. Rooms accompanied the magazines; each had an elevator unit that raised and lowered the missiles.

Enter Ajax and Hercules

The Ajax was the first Nike Missile deployed. It was designed to destroy aircraft from 30 miles away. By 1958, a new, more advanced rocket replaced the Ajax, called the Hercules, which had a range of over 96 miles and was designed to carry a nuclear warhead.

Unbeknownst to the general public, there were close to 250 Nike missile bases across the United States and more located in Europe. The New York City area contained one of the largest networks of anti-aircraft Nike batteries, with over 20 sites circling the city in New York State and New Jersey.

From Missile Defense to Missile Offense

Cold War

NORAD Command Center Cheyenne Mountain Colorado
NORAD Command Center Cheyenne Mountain Colorado. Photo: Wikimedia US Gov. Public Domain

Building anti-missile bases was just one aspect of the country’s overall defense. In 1958 the North American Air Defense Command –  NORAD, (now called the North American Aerospace Defense Command) was commissioned.

Its origins trace back to World War II when the US and Canada began cooperating in air defense against the Soviet bomber threat.

In 1956, the two countries proposed to form an air defense system, and two years later, the joint Canada-US Military Study Group recommended more radar networks.

General Earle E. Partridge, the commander in chief of the newly formed joint US Command, Continental AirDefense Command (CONAD), directed another study of North American defense, which eventually led to the establishment of a combined air defense organization (NORAD) under a single commander,

The Ending of the Cold War


The takedown of the Berlin Wall marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War and resulted in the United States becoming the only superpower left.

Nike missiles were part of the U.S. Army Air Defense Command (ARADCOM), and in agreement with the SALT treaty, all missiles were decommissioned and removed in 1974; however, a few remain. The Sandy Hook, New Jersey, (NY-56) site is one of those Nike missile batteries that are currently open to the public.

NORAD’s mission remains however, and it now provides aerospace warnings for North America, which includes the monitoring of man-made objects in space, and the detection, validation, and warning of attack against North America whether by aircraft, missiles, or space vehicles.


The removal of the Nike missiles was not the end of missile deployment. It was only the beginning. After they were removed, a new, much more powerful rocket – the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile or ICBM, was deployed on both sides of the Atlantic, and still exists today.

These missiles are not anti-aircraft designed for defense, but take on an offensive posture following the Cold War strategy – A good defense is a good offense, or as some call it, “Peace Through Strength”.

2023 Update

Given the recent events following the surveillance balloon from China and its intrusion into US airspace, NORAD has modified its sensory equipment to detect smaller objects such as balloons.

What the Future Holds

No one can say for sure where this world is heading, but given the war in Ukraine, China’s threat to take over Taiwan, and Iran’s passion to build a nuclear weapon, it is essential that NORAD remains in existence and possibly a reevaluation of this nations air defense might be prudent.


The Iconic Chrysler Building


Chrysler Building form 42nd Street
Photo: ©SMS

Still the tallest brick building in the world and currently, the 11th tallest building in NYC, the Chrysler Building has been noted as one of the most graceful art-deco buildings ever built, the 1,046-foot (319 meters) skyscraper adorns the New York skyline with its silver spire, eagles, and scary gargoyles. 

Constructed by Chrysler Car Corporation, the building was designed to reflect the automotive industry with a decorated granite lobby, a showroom for the latest Chrysler cars, and its hood ornaments enriching the building’s exterior which is designed to resemble radiator caps.

Architect William Van Alen designed this masterpiece. 


New York City donated the land between 42nd and 43rd streets and Lexington Ave to The Cooper Union school in 1902 before the Chrysler Corporation took it over in the 1920s. 

Located just west was the Grand Hyatt Building, now being demolished to make way for the supertall 175 Park Avenue, which wasn’t without controversy since many feel it will block the skyline view of the Chrysler from the west side. 

The Design

Close up collage of the Chrysler Building
Radiator caps on the Chrysler Building’ Photo: ©SMS

The Chrysler Building is laminated with Nirosta stainless steel, which is a metallic alloy of 18% chromium and 8% nickel, but contrary to popular opinion, the structure does not have scary gargoyles.

Starting on the 31st floor, we see radiator caps, relative to the year the building was constructed, and embellished, and then, moving up to the 61st floor, we find silver eagles, representing the official bird of the United States.

The eagles that some do call gargoyles are made of stainless steel and are approximately 20 feet tall, including the pedestal they stand on. They were designed to be both decorative and functional, serving as lightning rods to protect the building from strikes.

There are a total of 50 ornaments in all that adorn the Chrysler Building. The skyscraper contains 3,826,000 bricks a total of 3,862 windows.


The Chrysler Building does not have gargoyles. Instead, it features eagle head sculptures called “Eagle Gargoyles” or “Eagle Finials” on the corners of the 61st floor. These sculptures were designed by American sculptor William Van Alen, who also designed the rest of the building’s decorative elements.

The eagle gargoyles are made of stainless steel and measure approximately 20 feet tall, including the pedestal they stand on. They were designed to be both decorative and functional, serving as lightning rods to protect the building from strikes.

The building has a solid core that stabilizes the structure and setbacks that help deviate wind forces.

Spire War

Top of Chrysler Building Includig Spire
Top of Chrysler Building Including Spire. Image by Pexels from Pixabay

During its construction, the building was in the midst of a battle with Lower Manhattan’s Bank of Manhattan at 40 Wall Street (now owned by Donald Trump) regarding who would have the tallest building in the world. 

The Chrysler Building was rising four floors a day and in 1929, both buildings reached 925 feet, but 40 Wall’s architect H. Craig Severance added two more feet to the top of his building, laying claim that it is now the world’s tallest building.

This distinction lasted briefly as William Van Alen secretly built a seven-story, twenty-seven-ton spire inside the Chrysler Building. Just a few weeks after the Bank of Manhattan claimed its fame, Van Allen lifted the spire through the roof of the Chrysler Building, and within 1½ hours, it became the world’s tallest, soaring 77 stories and 1,046 feet high (319 meters), beating the Bank of Manhattan by 119 feet. 

It wasn’t long before the Chrysler Building would lose its status though, as the Empire State Building topped it out only one year later in 1931. 

The Observatory

Back in the day, there was a speakeasy on the 66th, 67th, and 68th floors called the Cloud Club and there was an observatory, but for over 60 years, this has not been the case. That will all change soon. In 2020, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved rebuilding a new observatory on the 61st floor, right alongside the eagle ornaments. 

Construction has not started yet but you can sign up for it and be notified when the observatory becomes a reality.

Chrysler’s Beauty Endures

No matter what skyscrapers might encircle it, nothing will keep the building’s brilliant art-deco stainless steel design and its majestic spire from decorating the City of New York skyline. Many consider the Chrysler Building to be the most beautiful in the city.