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With all the happy dogs frolicking around at this SeaTac park, you’d never know the location used to house a Cold War-era missile defense system. In the late 1940s a defense system against incoming Soviet bombers included nearly a dozen Nike Missile sites in Washington state, this being one of them!
A film by Steve Edmiston. To learn more, visit Quadrant 45.
What is the happiest place on earth? Well, if you're a dog, it's probably the City of SeaTac's Grandview Off-Leash Dog Park in Seattle Southside. Grandview has 37 fenced acres of walking trails, forest paths, agility courses and open fields for play, and, of course, the namesake, the grand view. But while you're enjoying a sprint, sniff, shake, or catch with your Fido, Kingsley, or Emmylou, what you might not know is what actually happened here at Grandview nearly 60 years ago, or more accurately, what didn't happen here at Grandview. Because here in the 1950s and 60s, this delightful spot was anything but the happiest place on earth. Here Ajax, Zeus, and Hercules weren't just great dog names borrowed from the gods, they were supersonic missile-based air defense systems designed as a last line of defense to bring down overflying Soviet bombers during the years when humankind came closer than any other time to nuclear incineration and in which the United States and the Soviet Union began the greatest arms race in history. And today's Grandview Off-Leash Dog Park, here in Seattle Southside, was project Nike Missile Launch site S-43. Grandview got the Nike Ajax missiles in 1954, one of 11 Nike sites forming a defense ring around Puget Sound. Here Site S-43 could launch 30 missiles, each with a 30-mile range carrying three high-yield explosive warheads ready 24/7.
The mission was to stop enemy bombers that escaped interceptor squadrons. A Nike site commander said, "We are the goaltenders". But how can we even begin to understand the tension that must have existed here at Site S-43 and what about in late October 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis when the Soviets were building missile bases only 90 miles away from the United States.
"All ships of any kind bound for Cuba from whatever nation or port where they found to contain cargos of offensive weapons be turned back. It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launch from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union". The word is things got edgy at Nike Ajax sites. One Nike site colonel was quoted, "We were told our life expectancy was five minutes. By the time we launched everything, we were going to be gone. All that we were going to do was slow them down." A Nike launch bay crewman agreed. "We would have probably been the first target that they would have taken out. There were no guns in our possession here whatsoever, so we couldn't fire back. Our job was over, and you just figured it out; you are the target."
But we know exactly what didn't happen at Grandview. We did not go to war and the Cuban Missile Crisis ended with a secret behind-the-scenes deal. We've come a long way from that tense time and it just might be that the perfect successor in every way to the machines of the Cold War is a vast off-leash dog park where war games are turned into chase games, fetch, and never-ending exploration. Come see for yourself at SeaTac's Grandview Off-Leash Dog Park in Seattle Southside. And with apologies to Master Shakespeare, "Let's slip the dogs of play." For more must-see Seattle Southside scenes, go to SeattleSouthsideScenes.com
Address: 3507 S 228th St, SeaTac, WA 98198
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