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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Great Falls in Fairfax County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Great Falls Nike Missile Site

 
 
Great Falls Nike Missile Site Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, August 14, 2007
1. Great Falls Nike Missile Site Marker
Inscription. Just to the southeast were radar and other control equipment that formed a portion of one of three Nike anti-aircraft missile complexes in Fairfax County. The site was operated by the U.S. Army between 1954 and 1962. Established during the Cold War to defend Washington from Soviet air attack, this complex, along with those at Fairfax and Lorton, was among the thirteen sites that encircled Washington and Baltimore. The ring of Nike missile sites was reminiscent of the perimeter of forts that guarded the capital during the Civil War. The missiles, positioned on above-ground launchers, were located near here to the west.
 
Erected 1994 by Department of Historic Resources. (Marker Number T 46.)
 
Location. 38° 59.851′ N, 77° 18.865′ W. Marker is in Great Falls, Virginia, in Fairfax County. Marker is at the intersection of Springvale Road (County Route 674) and Wynkoop Drive, on the right when traveling south on Springvale Road
Great Falls Nike Missile Site Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, August 14, 2007
2. Great Falls Nike Missile Site Marker
. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Great Falls VA 22066, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Sharpsburg (Antietam) Campaign (approx. 1.2 miles away); Historical Statement (The Bell) (approx. 1.2 miles away); Forestville School (approx. 1.6 miles away); Action At Dranesville (approx. 1.6 miles away); Fields of Fire (approx. 1.6 miles away); Old Road To The West (approx. 2.2 miles away); Reston (approx. 2.4 miles away); Robert E. Simon, Jr. / Reston, Virginia (approx. 2.4 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Great Falls.
 
Regarding Great Falls Nike Missile Site. The radar site is located approximately 150 yards further south on Springvale Road, with one other existing outbuilding, on Turner Farms County Park. The launch facilities site is located around 1000 yards southwest in Great Falls Nike Park, at the corner of Leesburg Pike (Route 7) and Utterback Store Road (Route 717).
Radio and Radar Buildings Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, August 14, 2007
3. Radio and Radar Buildings
At Turner Farm County Park, two prominent structures from the site still stand just to the east of Springvale Road. Both were originally radar towers when the missile site was active.

 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker.
 
Also see . . .
1. Nike Related Manuals, Books, Articles. (Submitted on August 14, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
2. Utilization Plan for Tunerís Farm Park. (Submitted on August 14, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
3. Air Force Gap Filler Radar Sites. An article detailing the type of radar which used the radome found at the launch site. (Submitted on August 15, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 
 
Additional comments.
1. GPS Development Site
In the 1980s the radar site (Turner Farm Park) was used by the Defense Mapping Agency (DMS), and the radar towers were converted for use as optical and radio observation towers. This explains the observation dome, in place of a standard geodetic dome used when the Nike site was active. Under the DMS these structures played an unheralded role in matching Global Positioning System data to topographical maps. The research allowed, among other things, accurate ploting of historical markers!
Close View of the Observation Tower Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, August 14, 2007
4. Close View of the Observation Tower
Plans call for the installation of a reflecting telescope in the observation tower. Part of the park theme is a celestial discovery center for educational purposes.
    — Submitted August 14, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.

2. Missile Site W-83
According to “Rings of Supersonic Steel” by Mark L. Morgan and Mark A. Berhow, when active this site was numbered W-83. The headquarters facility was to the south in Vienna, shared with the sites at Lorton and Fairfax. Both Nike-Ajax and Nike-Hercules missiles were used at this site. The sites were transfered over to the Fairfax County Parks Department, who has transformed these to multi-use recreation areas.
    — Submitted August 14, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.

3. Herndon/Dranesville
Officially site W-83 was known as Herndon/Dranesville, not Great Falls as indicated on the marker. The name “Great Falls” caused some confusion with a similar site at Great Falls, Montana. (Thanks to Thomas Page and Mark Morgan for additional background information.)
    — Submitted August 17, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.

 
Categories. War, Cold
 
Site of Launch Facility Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, August 14, 2007
5. Site of Launch Facility
Trees cover the site of the old launch facility at the Great Falls Nike Park. Today ball parks and soccer fields have replaced the barracks, administrative offices, and maintenance sheds. Presumably, the concrete bunker encasing the missile magazine still lays under the berm.
Radome at the Launch Site Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, August 15, 2007
6. Radome at the Launch Site
This radome currently sits on the launch facility berm, but was not part of the original site equipment. Sources link the equipment (by serial number) to an Air Force early warning radar, which was not known to have operated at the Great Falls site.
Inside the Launch Facility Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, August 15, 2007
7. Inside the Launch Facility
When active, this portion of the site housed the missile fueling and warheading area which was surrounded by high berms. The launchers (12 in all) were located in the area now occupied by the tennis courts and the grassy area SE of the tennis courts (i.e. to the immediate right of the wooded area shown in photo #5). The magazines are indeed still present, but are buried under several feet of fill. A small part of the top of one of the underground missile magazines is exposed on the edge of the ramp immediately SW of the tennis courts.
 

 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 13,116 times since then. Last updated on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page was the Marker of the Week Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   6, 7. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page.
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