Nike Park was originally part of a network of 13 Nike missile batteries that surrounded Washington DC during the cold war - this is where it got the Nike" name. It's name was "Herndon Site W-83" and the other sites werelocated in Davidsonville, Bay Bridge, Croom, Brandywine, Waldorf, Accokeek, Pamonkey, Lorton, Pohick, Rockville, Gaithersburg & Laytonsville.
The Washington-area Nike batteries have great historical significance, as when they first became operational in 1953, they were the very first surface-to-air guided missile system to enter operational service in the world.
Each Nike battery consisted of 2 separate facilities: a Launch Area & an Integrated Fire Control Area.
The layout of all Nike sites was characteristic in that the launch site was situated 1-3 miles “downrange” from its Integrated Fire Control Area, along the axis toward the anticipated targets,such that the radars at the IFCA would have a line-of-sight toward both the missiles & the target.
To build Herndon Site W-83, in 1955 the US Government obtained property on Utterback Store Road (to be used for the launch site), as well as an additional 12 acres from the dairy farm of Mark Turner (to be used for its companion Integrated Fire Control Area).
Herndon Site W-83 was activated in 1955. The earliest depiction which has been located of Herndon Site W-83 was a December 1956 aerial photo (courtesy of Thomas Page).
The Herndon Nike site operated the first-generation Nike Ajax missile. The Nike Ajax missile was huge: each one stood 34' tall & weighed 2,400 pounds. It had a range of 25 miles & a maximum speed of Mach 2.3.
Five of the Washington area batteries were later converted to fire the 2nd-generation Nike Hercules missile. Herndon Site W-83 was not among the Nike sites upgraded with the Nike Hercules missile, and it was closed in 1962.
The former Nike Launch Area on Utterback Store Road was turned over to Fairfax County in 1975.
The area previously containing the barracks has become the site of Forrestville Elementary School,and not a single Nike building remains. Most of the property surrounding the location of the launchers has become "Great Falls Nike Park", a complex of athletic fields. In the center of this area is a rectangular raised earthen berm, which obviously was the protective berm surrounding the launchers. No other physical trace remains of the launchers, but the ground of this area is noticeably higher in elevation than the surrounding area, which makes it appears likely that the underground magazine was left intact & simply buried. This contention is supported by accounts from local residents.
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