LA defense area Ed Thelen

The Continental United States are under the watchful eyes of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

During the Nike Missile Defense years of 1955-1974, the Army Air Defense Command (ARADCOM), worked along side with NORAD to manage the Army missile defense network of the United States. If there was a Soviet Air attack, Air Force interceptor fighters would meet the enemy hundreds of miles away from the U.S.

Those Soviet aircraft that got past the US Air Force interceptor fighters, sent to engage the attacking force would be dealt with by the Nike Missile Batteries in the region. These Missile Batteries were considered the last line of defense. 

NORAD was the central monitoring point for all air traffic with 3 Distant Early Warning radar networks across the Arctic circle to Greenland, and Canada along with Navy picket radar ships and Air Force Radar Planes watching the skies 24/7.

If a threat was detected, it would be relayed down to the Air Force SAGE Sector Command Post in that sector. In the Los Angeles Defense area, the Air Force SAGE Command Post was at Norton AFB, near San Barnardino.

Then it was relayed to the Army Air Defense Command Post (AADCP) at Ft. Mac Arthur, LA-45DC. and the The 670th.Air Force Radar Squadron atop Palos Verdes Hill.

The Air Defense Command Post (AADCP) had a tracking console that could track 200 targets simultaneously. As each Nike site could only fire one missile at a time, the targets were selected by the AADCP, and assigned to the individual Nike Missile Batteries.

Headquarters of the 2 battalions were located at Ft. Mac Arthur, San Pedro HQ-47BDE. 

Norad still monitors the airspace over the world with Satellites instead of ground based terrestrial radar networks.

In the late 1950’s to early 1960 there were 16 Nike Missile Sites protecting the military and industrial assets of the Los Angeles area. Those numbers were reduced to 9 sites by the late 1960’s due to the introduction of the more powerful Nike Hercules which replaced the Nike Ajax.

In the Los Angeles Defense area, Half of the sites were managed by the regular Army, 4th. Battalion 65th Artillery and the other half were managed by the California National Guard 4th Battalion 251st. Artillery. The shared responsibility of the Regular Army and the Army National Guard protecting the airspace was repeated throughout the US. 

During the operational years from 1955 to 1974, there were always 2 Nike Missile Batteries in the Los Angeles area, ready to fire at an enemy target within 15 minutes.

These were called “Hot Batteries”. The number of hot batteries could be increased depending on DEFCON levels, as determined by the Pentagon.

The Highest DEFCON level was during the Cuban Missile crisis, October 1962. I was told that a Marine reserve unit set up 50 Cal Machine gun emplacements around the launch area during that time.

During my time at LA-88 the DEFCON level was at high alert during the Operation Linebacker bombing of North Vietnam during 1971

Nike Organizational Chart (Top Down)


North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Cheyenne Mountain Complex, Near Colorado Springs

Army Air Defense Command  (ARADCOM)  Co-Located within the NORAD Complex

Air Force Sage Sector HQ.  Norton AFB near San Bernardino

USAF 670th Radar Squadron    (RP-39)|On top of Palos Verdes hill near San Pedro

Army Air Defense Command Post (AADCP) Site LA-45 DC Missile Master Ft. Mac Arthur – San Pedro

( An air traffic control system that could track 200 targets simultaneously).  Enemy aircraft targets were assigned to the individual batteries to fire.

Headquarters –  19th Air Defense Artillery Group Ft.  Mac Arthur – San Pedro

Headquarters Battery 4th Battalion 65th Artillery (LA-96) (Regular Army) 15990 Victory Blvd. Van Nuys

Headquarters Battery 4th Battalion 251st. Artillery (LA 41) (California National Guard) 2200 Redondo Blvd Long Beach

4 Regular Army Batteries in the Los Angeles Defense

4 California National Guard Batteries in the Los Angeles Defense

( In the late 1960-1974 Period)