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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

The Cold War Revisited

~Thursday, January 21, 2021~

Day 221

“It is insane that two men, sitting on opposite sides of the world, should be able to decide to bring an end to civilization.”

~John F. Kennedy, October 27, 1962

Everglades National Park houses one of the best reserved relics of the Cold War in Florida. A historic Nike Hercules Missile Base, dubbed HM-69 remains pretty much the same as it did when official use of the site was terminated in 1979.

At a time when national security against Soviet attack was America’s top priority, over 200 missile sites were constructed, the U.S. Army chose this strategic site within Everglades National Park to build an anti-aircraft missile site. Jeff and I thought it was a site built for missile to missile combat but they did not have the technology at the time. The base was completed in1964 at the height of the Cold War. And it was quite a harsh environment with the relentless mosquito problem, snakes, and of course lightening. Did you know that Florida has some of the worst lightning storms in the world? The service men’s time here would not go without incident.

Signing up ahead of time for the tour at Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, we met at the command center parking lot….a nondescript pink building which now houses a research center. No one knows why they chose pink (maybe to blend in with the flamingo pink that seems to be the dominant color in Florida?) When we arrived, we were greeted by park volunteer, Leon, a 72 year-old retired docent. He spent 25 years in the Coast Guard and man, let me tell you, I wish he had been the one giving my history lessons in my formative years. Maybe I would have paid more attention in class. With a witty, funny, heartfelt presentation, Leon would always circle back to the noble young men who bravely weathered the elements, stood guard, and protected our homeland from a nuclear attack that was just a heartbeat away.

Our group of about 12, toured the Alpha Battery which includes 22 buildings and structures, some of which were three missile barns, a missile assembly building, a guard dog kennel and barracks.

Leon shared a lot of interesting stories. Like the milk trucks that were routinely used to deliver assembly parts to build the rockets, inconspicuously. Stories of the 150 or so 19 year-old to 27 year old men, put in charge of something that could utterly destroy civilization (what a responsibility for such a young man). Stories of these men, who the majority of the time, had nothing better to do than get into a little mischief, racing their cars on the long dirt roads, or purposely driving their cars into a hidden boggy grave, knowing they were about to get stationed somewhere else. Stories of what a high security complex this was-example: for a soldier to go in and out of any building, the trained German Shepherds that were on high alert, securing the perimeter of the complex, had to be put back in their kennels first. And stories of how proud this “A Battery” was for receiving numerous “excellence” awards for precision and accuracy during their annual inspections, and for the restraint they held during this crisis. They are heroes of a war never fought.

After our amazing tour, we had a few errands to run. Sadie was overdue by a month, for her regular nail trim. Thank you Petco! We’ve used them ever since she was a puppy and they really do a nice job, and it allows us the flexibility to go to any Petco location throughout the U.S. making it ever so convenient.

Next…...picking up the water pump!! Yeah! It’s here. Thank you Amazon for preventing further delays on the convenience of tap water. I swear, you don’t realize just how much we take these little things for granted until they DON’T work. Anyway, we had the delivery sent to a UPS mailbox where they accept deliveries and hold them for you, for a $5.00 fee. It was free shipping with our Amazon Prime account and the pump replacement was only $55.00. So $60.00 to be back in business, not bad…..if this fixes the problem 😉Before we got back to the campsite we wanted to check out a local brewery called Miami Brewing Company. But unfortunately, they were closed for the day, so we’ll have to try another time.

O.k. the moment of truth. With a little wiring, and assembling, Jeff reluctantly turned on the switch for the water pump. Oh my goodness, that was it. It was the pump after all. It’s a good thing that was the problem, or else Jeff would have had to go to plan C (unkinking a line from the pump to the holding tank-and that would have been a nightmare to tackle). Thanks babe for paying attention in “dad school”.

After a nice dousing of mosquito repellant, we enjoyed a nice evening walk,

followed by a little “O Be Joyful Hour” at our campsite. No campfires yet, hoping for one tomorrow.

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