Nike at Fort Hancock

Nike Ajax Missile Wanted!
(Inert, of course)

Posted: May 1999

The National Park Service at Fort Hancock, Sandy Hook, NJ, is looking for a Nike Ajax missile to replace a missile damaged by a storm.  The missile was part of an outdoor monument dedicated to the May 22, 1958 an explosion at the Nike site in Chapel Hill (Site NY-53), Middletown Township, NJ, that claimed the lives of 10 persons and destroyed 8 Nike missiles.

Killed in the explosion were 6 US Army and 4 Ordnance Corps civilian workers:

Sgt Jerome W. Mould, age 31, of Middletown, NJ
Spec 3 William I. Cochran, age 20, of Ellijay, GA
Sgt Daniel L. Lavengood, age 25, of Mandeville, LA
Spec 3 Walter E. Berry, age 20, of Chicago, IL
PFC Donald L. Marsh, age 19, of Alton, WV
PVT Nicholas J. Composine, age 19, of Lyndhurst, Ohio
Lee A. Parker, age 46, of Atlantic Highlands, NJ
Joseph Brokas, age 35, of Staten Island, NY
Charles Romano, age 38, of Staten Island, NY
Joseph Arciere, age 38, of Queens Village, NY

Brig Gen Charles B. Duff, Commander of the Army's New York Defense Area in 1958, described the accident as a disaster that "couldn't happen but did".

The monument at Fort Hancock is dedicated to the 10 men who died in this accident.  The monument was originally located at the site of the accident, but was moved to Fort Hancock when the site was closed.

A Nike Ajax and a Nike Hercules missile (without booster stages) were mounted vertically on steel pipes set in the ground.  The corrosive action of the steel pipe in contact with the aluminum structure missile weakened the structure until the missile fell over in a storm.

Anyone with information on an inert Nike Ajax that is available for donation or purchase is requested to contact us via e-mail at:

(Source: Asbury Park Press (Neptune, NJ), May 22, 1998, section A, page 12

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