Nike site veterans reunite Aug. 23
A very special gathering will take place Saturday, Aug. 23, in Roberts Village Park at the lower pavilion, one that has been months in the making.
Anyone stationed at the Nike missile site outside of Roberts during its 1959-1971 operation is invited to attend a reunion of military comrades beginning at 9 a.m. and running until 11 p.m. -- an all day affair.
The Nike missile site (MS-20) was one of four Nike Hercules missile sites protecting the Twin Cities from the Cold War threat of Soviet bombers and nuclear weapons strikes. It operated as part of the Army Air Defense Command from October 1959 through June 1971. The headquarters were at Fort Snelling, and the site that once housed them is now part of Fort Snelling Cemetery.
The Roberts site now houses a privately owned storage facility. It’s located at 1102 120th St.
Tom Baker and Tom Walczak, both stationed at the base as launcher crewmen in the 1960s, visited to The News last winter seeking help in finding Nike veterans to attend the reunion. At that time they had been in contact with about 10 people. That number has grown to include 75 veterans bringing 78 guests, for a total of 153 people, Baker said.
“It’s a struggle,” Baker said in December of trying to find their former comrades. “A lot of people have dropped a landline.”
The two men rounded up a few of their former comrades through word of mouth, searches on the computer and going to a local library. A call to the Army for a list of men didn’t provide much help.
“We want to get as many as we can get,” Baker said in December. “We had a lot of fun with a lot of these people.”
Walczak said almost 90 men were stationed there at any given time, though they were allotted to have 120 men. Many of the men stationed at the base also formed close bonds with the locals, from helping area farmers, hanging out at local hot spots or committing acts of community service.
The reunion is open to the public as well, Baker said. Meals will be provided for the veterans and their guests, who signed up to attend, but will not be available to the general public.
The Nike site will also be open to the public for tours from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“The Nike site is also open, but remember the site is all storage now,” Baker said. “People have asked me if the missiles were nuclear. That would be a good question to ask the two commanding officers. Of course, the missiles are no longer stored there, but the launching pad is still there.”
According to Baker, at least two commanding officers will be in attendance: Erv Kamm and Peter Zielinksi.
Besides opportunities for reminiscing, attendees will have the option to play cribbage, try a pitching game with golf clubs and golf balls or peruse the “memory lane board,” Baker said. Door prizes will be available for the veterans.