VIGNETTE > Nightmare
December 1959. NORAD detects 200 Vladivostok-based Soviet “Bear” bombers off the Canadian coast flying south at 500 mph. They are expected to approach San Francisco from the northwest and drop a nuclear bomb on Alcatraz that would obliterate almost everything between San Jose and Santa Rosa. But Marin is prepared with well-trained military personnel at the radar station on top of Mt. Tam, and at four Nike sites: Fort Barry, Fort Cronkite, Angel Island and San Rafael. Their mission is to obliterate all 200 bombers before they reach Marin County by launching Hercules Nike missiles with nuclear warheads. Everyone is ready to execute well-rehearsed plans. When the Soviet commander realizes that US radar has locked onto his formation for targeting, he orders the bombers back to Vladivostok. This is of course fiction. But the Nike sites were ready for such a scenario. The point is that deterrence succeeded in preventing the nightmare of a nuclear disaster. Of the 265 Nike sites in the US, the Fort Barry site is the only one to be preserved as a museum. Volunteer docents are men who were stationed there between 1958 and 1974 when they were young soldiers.