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Everglades were once home to Cold War missiles

The Everglades attracts more than 1 million tourists a year who want to catch a glimpse of alligators or check off the dozens of bird species on their bird-watching lists in the “River of Grass.” The national park, though, is also home to a Cold War relic.

The HM-69 Nike Missile Base was referred to by base personnel as “The Hole-in-the-Donut.” It was one of 240 sites built across the U.S. and four in South Florida in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

The base housed Nike surface-to-air-missiles, also known as Hercules missiles, that were to shoot down enemy bombers in the event of a World War III attack.

Some were armed with nuclear warheads. Used until 1979, the site features 22 buildings, including three missile barns. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, the site was opened to tours in 2009.

Designated as A Battery, the three other South Florida Nike Hercules missile sites were B Battery in north Key Largo, which is now Key Largo Hammocks State Park; C Battery in Miramar; and D Battery in Miami, which is now the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Krome Detention Center.

In its operational days, the base had about 140 crew, having once even earned a meritorious unit commendation from President John F. Kennedy.

Tours are only offered December-April, but you can see the relics such as the old landline dial phone with the message, “DO NOT DISCUSS CLASSIFIED INFORMATION” and an actual 41-foot Nike Hercules missile on display.

If you go

Everglades National Park HM-69 Nike Missile Base

40001 S.R. 9336, Homestead

305-242-7700

nps.gov/ever/learn/historyculture/hm69.htm

rtribou@orlandosentinel.com, 407-420-5134

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