US Army Nike AA Missile Base
Bristol, Rhode Island

 This historical essay was written by our first Battery Commander, Colonel L. Nelson Leggette (USA Ret.). He has been a good friend for many years and has given me much information about the Nike site at Bristol that previously was unknown to me.

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This is the story of the first eighteen months on the Nike Missile Site located at Bristol, Rhode Island.

After completion of the Associate Air Defense Course (NIKE) at Fort Bliss, Texas, I was assigned as the Battery Commander of "C" Battery of the 751st Missile Battalion with its Headquarters located in Coventry, Rhode Island.

The Battalion Commander was Lt. Col. Marcus L. Parson. The location of "C" Battery was east side of the Narragansett Bay and Coventry is located on the northwest side of the bay. These location caused a lot of traveling from one side to another making the command responsibilities which must be carried out more difficult. When another NIKE site came to Rhode Island, the two Battalion Commanders reassigned the batteries so that the batteries on the east side of the bay were under one commander and the batteries on the west side of the bay under another commander. As a result, "C" Battery was reassigned to the 739th Missile Battalion, under the command of Lt. Col. Lawrence Ligon.

The Bristol Site had not been completed upon my arrival in September 1956. Therefore, the unit was housed at Fort Banks, Massachusetts. The cadre of the battery arrived from Fort Bliss shortly after my arrival. The troops, which were currently assigned to the unit and housed at Fort Banks, had not been trained as Missile Soldiers. Immediately, classes were started to get all personnel, who would later be assigned as operators in the system, trained to fill the positions. The Mess personnel, Mechanics and Clerks were well experienced upon arrival.

Since this was a first experience to have battalions of men stationed in civilian communities, public relations was necessary. As I look back, it appears that I was the only Battery Commander that took public relations seriously. Due to the great relationship established in the Bristol area, there was a flood of requests from the men in the other batteries wanting to be assigned in Bristol.

It was evident that the Battalion Commanders were not experienced in working in the civilian communities and as a result the battalion level seemed to be a lost cause. Because of the newspaper journalist covering the Bristol Site, there was a great amount of envy from other Battery Commanders.

The beginning of the public relations campaign in Bristol was with the Governor of the State, Commander of the National Guard of RI, Junior Chamber of Commerce, Churches, all civic organizations, Chief of Police, Local State Police, local Coast Guard Commander, who had been in Bristol for about three years, Real Estate agencies, Insurance agencies, etc. It was a day to day effort and talks were given during the night meetings. The public relations campaign was highly successful.

During the wait for the Site to be completely constructed prior to signing for the real estate, I worked with the President of the Ferber Company and the United States Corps of Engineers Inspector to insure correctness in the construction and functionality of the electrical, draining and sewage system. Accolades were received from all levels to include the Ferber Company and local people.

Concurrently, while waiting for the site to be completed, housing was needed for the married personnel. A town meeting was held to determine the local atmosphere of army personnel moving in "their" community. After some sharp words from some of the "high faluting" people, I spoke to their comments and received a standing round of applause of acceptance. It took only a short time for me to get housing for everyone wanting to locate in Bristol with the cooperation of the local people. The outstanding relationship and cooperation in among the people of Bristol.


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