ANCHORAGE - The launch control building is covered in graffiti; the barracks are beyond repair. The Nike Site Summit in Arctic Valley might not be much to look at now, but during the Cold War it was bustling with soldiers who were prepared to be Alaska’s last line of defense against the Soviet Union.
The site operated from 1959 to 1979. Soldiers stationed there now have grandkids of their own and got to bring their families out to see the historic site over the weekend for the first ever public tour.
“It's quite a trip down memory lane. It enforces that a lot of time has gone by because I've seen one or two guys that I served with and they got old,” laughed Tim Linder, who was stationed at Site Summit from 1973 to 1978.
During the Cold War there were 145 Nike-Hercules missile sites around the United States. There were eight in Alaska, five in Fairbanks, and three in Anchorage. Site Summit was one of only two to actually test-fire missiles.
The Integrated Fire Control building contained the barracks, which housed hundreds of soldiers who have stories from their stint at the summit.
“I got a lot of extra duty,” said Greg Durocher, a military police officer from 1974 to 1976. “I was always not where I was supposed to be when I was not supposed to be there. But I never got in serious trouble. I had extra duty painting and mopping.”
“I was in charge of quarters one time and I heard this rumble, rumble, rumble in the barracks upstairs. The barracks is a long building with a narrow hallway. And they were bowling. They were rolling the ball from one end to the other. The didn't have pins so they kind of pretended,” said Linder.
The abundance of explosive material meant soldiers had to patrol the fence with guard dogs. They were German Shepherds that were mean but highly trained.
“So I calmly told the dog, 'get in your house,' and it was like turning off a switch. The dog stopped barking, meekly turned around and got in his house and I lowered the sliding door. The major was so impressed he said, 'I've seen enough!'” said Tom Namtvedt, who was the handler for his dog, Shadow.
The old kennels are on the list of buildings to be restored. Group members from “Friends of Nike Site Summit” have put in more than 2,000 volunteer hours to fix up the guard posts and launch control building. The barracks, however, couldn’t be saved.
“I was really disappointed by that. I spent two and half years of my life there and I would have liked to preserve it, but there was standing water on the floors, abatement issues that would have been extremely expensive and we just didn't have the money,” said Durocher.
With a little more time and a lot more money, volunteers hope they can preserve what’s left of the site so generations of people will be able to visit a piece of Cold War history high above Anchorage.