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Introduction to missiles

Travis Air Force Base, Calif., “The Gateway to the Pacific”, had been an Air Force installation since 1947, but it has always maintained close relations with the other armed services.

Between 1956 and 1971, the Army provided air defense protection for the base with Nike-Hercules Anti- Aircraft Missiles. Control of these missiles rested with the Army. The missile crews used a rotational schedule to maintain 24-hour readiness.

I had been at Travis a year when construction began with this defense system, and ground was broken for the first missile site.

Eventually, in 1971, the Army troops who numbered several hundred, left Travis without ever having fired a sot, and all missile sites were abandoned. Changing technology had made the Nike-Hercules Missile System obsolete. The departure of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) B-52 Bombers had also reduced the significance of the base as a nuclear target.

A 37-man unit of the Royal Air Force at Travis to service British military aircraft flying to various locations in the Pacific, would also leave.

My men and I were very happy when these units left. It was known that if war had started, Travis would be a number one target.

Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.

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