W. I. Juretzko
Cold War

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The Cuban Missile Crisis


Nike missile veteran Colin Sandell leads visitors through the former Base.

From left to right: Terry Klimek, Wisconsin National Guard Nike veteran, Werner I.Juretzko, Cold War historian, Waukesha Mayor Carol Lombardi, Parks Director Ron Grall, Colin Sandell, Nike Missile veteran, Chris Sturdevant, The Cold War Museum - Midwest Chapter Chairman, ( www.coldwar.org ) and Kimberly Redding, Carroll College history professor.

    Freeman Staff

    WAUKESHA - The anniversary passed with barely a whisper, but 40 years ago the world was on the brink of destruction as the Cuban Missile Crisis unfolded.
    Its an anniversary that caught the attention of Colin Sandell. During the crisis, Sandell was stationed at the radar installation site on Davidson Road - just a few miles from the old Nike missile silo that once stood at the ready to intercept Soviet bombers.
    I had just been transferred there three days before from basic training, so I was a green soldier, said Sandell, who now lives in Cedarburg. There was a number of us who were asked to guard one of the officers who would have to burn secret documents if we went to a higher level of alert. My immediate task that day was to grab some ammunition and provide security in case we had to do that.
    That never occurred, but Sandell recalled sleeping in full uniform, with his boots on, with a gas mask and gun at his bedside during the crisis. He spent much of the next week on-call to guard the perimeter fence.
    We were at five-minute status, which meant that all equipment had to be up and ready to fire within five minutes, Sandell said. Normal high alert was 15 minutes. This meant everybody was glued to their work stations for 24 hours a day. I don´t think the country was ever at that level for a sustained period of time. It was unprecedented.
    Sandell said it is important to remember just how close we came to nuclear annihilation. At the time, Sandell said morale at the Nike site was high but the soldiers stationed there wondered if they would live to see another day.
    Forty years ago (Tuesday), we thought for the next seven days that we would end up in a mushroom cloud, Sandell said. It´s significant that it was the absolute height of the Cold War, which lasted basically from 1945 to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Not only that, it was the closest we came, within one or two bad decisions, to an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
    Mayor Carol Lombardi recalled being a younger mother, starting her family, and watching news reports about the crisis. Knowing that Waukesha was home to a missile site, the bombs were literally in our backyard, she said.
    Lombardi and other city officials and historians visited the radar site on Tuesday, the 40-year anniversary of President John F. Kennedy´s emergency declaration that readied the nation for war. Sandell gave the group a tour, walking through his actions at the time.
    It was a very important gathering to hear that history, Lombardi said. We are two generations away from that now. To continue that historic knowledge, I feel, is a benefit to all of us.
    The anniversary is a reminder that Waukesha was on the front line of the Cold War, said Chris Sturdevant, 29, the chairman of the Midwest Chapter of the Cold War Museum. In addition to the Nike site, Waukesha was home to Amron, which produced casings for ballistic weapons and missiles for the military.
    Everybody probably knows somebody who was in Korea or Vietnam, Sturdevant said. A lot of close personal connections are here. Even though we probably felt the Cold War happened somewhere else, it happened here, locally.
    Sturdevant said that the youth of today and tomorrow need to understand how different the world was a mere 20 years ago. If it´s not us (teaching them), I don´t know who would, he said.

    (Brian Huber can be reached at
    bhuber@conleynet.com )

  • Museum desired for Nike site

    WAUKESHA - A local historian hopes to convert the former Nike missile site from a place for weapons to a place for preservation.
    Chris Sturdevant, chairman of the Midwest Chapter of the Cold War Museum, said he has had very informal discussions with city officials about using the site as a place to remember the Cold War.
    The Nike missile site is actually on Cleveland Avenue, just east of Highway 164. But on Davidson Road, there is a site that has several associated buildings and two radar towers. It is there that Sturdevant would like to see a museum of some sort built. The site was owned by the U.S,. military until 1971, when it was given to Waukesha for use as park space.
    Weve been kind of talking back and forth, Sturdevant said. They are looking for an idea for the place, and this is certainly a good idea, I felt, given the location and the significance historically. I think it would be a nice thing for Waukesha.
    Mayor Carol Lombardi said she would ³most definitely support a museum at the site. She said it was one of only three Nike sites remaining in the U.S. that have original structures remaining on the site.
    History is so important for whatever generation is here now, but to also have a reflection on the United States and the various types of conflicts trying to impede the freedoms in the U.S., she said. With Waukesha being a part of that story, I think it is exciting.
    Lombardi said there was a small amount of money to help with the upkeep of the site.
    Sturdevant said the museum was a way to preserve local and national history for this and future generations.
    It´s a way to show that history can be an active process as opposed to passive learning in book, he said.

    - Brian Huber

    Peace. Better dead than red.

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