Historic Timeline - January - August 1960 and before
Atlas F Missile Bases
556th SMS - Plattsburgh, NY
December 1958

President Eisenhower's Christmas message broadcast from space 
- "Peace on earth and good will towards men"
-- Satellite launched by an Atlas Rocket
More about Project Score (Wikipedia)
October 14, 1959
Air Force Clamps Secrecy On Essex County Surveys

Air Force Admits to making test drills in Essex County around Clintonville and 
Au Sable Forks.  They deny they are for missile sites, and waffle on what the surveys are for.
January 15, 1960
Plattsburgh to Get Atlas Missiles 

Not official yet, but Plattsburgh is expected to get Atlas missiles, so the rumors start.  
There was some speculation that Titan missiles could be built.
The project calls for 9 (nine) underground installations in a radius of about 30 miles around 
Estimated Costs: $3M per installation
Manpower: Additional 1,000 men
Construction start: August or September

Authority to proceed expected to be submitted to congress on January 25th.

January 16, 1960

Installation of Missiles Expected To Boost Economy of Plattsburgh Area

Local congressman, Dean Taylor, expects Plattsburgh to be confirmed on Monday January 18th.

Politicians expect the local economy to significantly benefit from the missile project.

The nine underground launching bases estimated cost is $30million.

Construction is expected to start August or September 1960.

State politicians calm people's anxiety by stating "Having missiles in Plattsburgh will not increase the area's desirability as a target".  

   [- This is true, as the area is already a target because of its role as a SAC bomber base.]

January 22, 1960

Titan Seen Possible Choice

Swanton Vt. Suggested as a possible missile site.  Local press is speculating that it could be a Titan rather than an Atlas missile base.

A decision on construction of the Plattsburgh area complexes was expected the following week.

January 27th, 1960

Plattsburgh One of 4 Atlas Sites
Air Force Confirms Selection

Plattsburgh Air Force Base is designated as one of four major Atlas launching systems in the US.

Nine Launching Sites to be built

Each site will cost an estimated $47 million (up from $30 million previously)
Construction is expected to begin as soon as land can be acquired
Two years to complete construction
Sites will be located in 
  • Clinton and Essex counties in New York, 
  • Grand Isle and Franklin counties in Vermont
Exact location of the sites won’t be disclosed until land has been acquired

Summary of the Atlas Missile:
  • 81-foot two stage intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)
  • 10 foot in diameter
  • Designed to carry a nuclear warhead at least 6,500 miles.  Recent claims have been made that its range may be considerably greater.  
  • The Atlas weighs 260,000 pounds overall.

After construction, it is anticipated about 700 men will be directly associated with missile operations.

Ethan Allen Air Force Base near Burlington (BOMARC Site) had been considered as a support for Atlas missiles.  However the Air Force has announced it will abandon the Burlington base next spring.

Swanton, Vt mentioned as a possible site.

January 28, 1960
Atlas Missile Network Seen as Short-Term Economic Boon
Business Leaders Comment

City officials believe a 47-million dollar ring of Atlas missile bases around Plattsburgh will help stimulate local business at least temporarily.  They hope construction workers will spend their money in Plattsburgh.  Long range effect will be hard to tell.

The director of civil defense noted evacuation plans are obsolete because it would take only 26 minutes for an ICBM to fly from Moscow – not enough time to fully evacuate Plattsburgh.  The only place to go would be underground. [This echoed the then current belief that underground shelters would protect everyone from a nuclear blast].

On the Vermont side of Lake Champlain, four farms, all in Alburgh at the north end of Grand Isle County, Vt.  have been surveyed as possible sites.
January 30, 1960
Potential Sites for Atlas Missiles Being Surveyed by Army Engineers 
10 potential places where U.S. Army Engineers surveys have been made.
  • 1) Au Sable Forks - William Votraw's and the Witberbee-Sherman Co properties about a mile north of the village
  • 2) Chazy Lake - Engineers have been in the area of Datus Dubray’s property
  • 3) Ellenburg Depot -  Clarence LaFreniere’s property on Bull Run Rd
  • 4) Sugarbush, north of Saranac Lake - Michael Keese’s farm
  • 5) Willsboro – Essex area, Route 22.  James Owens’ property 
  • 6) Chateaugay  - Stewart Swanston’s property due north of the village 
  • 7) Champlain - north of the village, near the Canadian border
  • 8) Alburgh Vt.  - properties of Grand Isle County Sheriff Charles Blair,  Joseph Bedard, Darby 
  • 9) Swanton -  Homer Thibault’s property north of St. Albans
  • 10) Georgia -  South of St. Albans, the farms of Henley Webster and Antonio Pelissier

The Air Force will make no announcements until the real-estate transactions are complete.
February 5, 1960
Air Force Marks $43.9 Million For Plattsburgh Missile Site
Work May Start Soon On Stations

The Air Force announced Jan. 26 that it would locate an ICBM base in nine underground launching sites within 35 miles of Plattsburgh. It will be manned by 700 persons when completed.

Politicians were informed that three or four launching sites had been selected and expected to have land acquired for all of them by Feb. 15, when a formal announcement is expected.

In its original announcement the Air Force said it preferred Clinton and Essex counties in New York and Grand Isle and Franklin counties in Vermont as launching areas.
February 6, 1960
Air Force Reveals Atlas Sites

[The original nine (yes, nine not 12) sites are announced.]

Senators Kenneth B. Keating and Jacob K. Javits said the Air Force informed them Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile launching pads would be located at:
  • 1. Swanton, 22 miles northeast of Plattsburgh in Franklin County, Vt.
  • 2. Alburgh, 22 miles north north-east of Plattsburgh in Grand Isle Count, Vt.
  • 3. Champlain. 21 miles north of Plattsburgh.
  • 4. Mooers Forks, 22 miles north northwest of Plattsburgh.
  • 5. Ellenburg, 23 miles northwest of Plattsburgh.
  • 6. Chazy Lake. 20 miles west northwest of Plattsburgh.
  • 7. Clayburg. 20 miles west southwest of Plattsburgh.
  • 8. An Sable Forks, 20 miles southwest of Plattsburgh.
  • 9. Willsboro, 24 miles south of Plattsburgh.

The Air Force released $43,980,000 on February 4, 1960 for construction of the base which is expected to take two years to complete.  When completed, the sites are expected to be manned by 700 Air Force personnel. 

Construction is expected to start in the summer of 1960.

The government has not yet begun to acquire the land.  

The Air Force will not announce the exact location of the nine Atlas sites until after the owners of the property had been informed.

The Air Force will supervise the job and the Army Corps of Engineers will be in charge of designing and constructing the missile base.
February 18, 1960

Atlas Equipment Pact Awarded to Contractor

A $1,560,735 contract was awarded Wednesday to Otis Elevator Co. of New York City for the installation of elevators at the launching sites.
- Includes missile elevators
- Facilities elevators

Real estate transfers to the Air Force are expected to be closed soon.
March 10, 1960

ISO Officer Takes Course On Missiles

[Ed. Comment – Newspapers of the day were published twice daily, morning and afternoon.  There was always room for side stories or ‘filler’ stories as illustrated by this article]

Capt. George O. Herkert, information officer at Plattsburgh Air Force Base, recently attended a Strategic Air Command missile orientation and indoctrination at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. 

On March 17 he will present a program on the Atlas missile at the Family Services monthly coffee at the Northstar Service Club.  A color film on an Atlas test launching, a missile slide briefing and information he gathered while attending the California conference.  He will also present this material at the Mr. and Mrs. Club meeting at the First Methodist Church in Plattsburgh on March 18.
March 18, 1960


Women Get Story on Atlas Missile and What Missile Sites Will Be Like
by Cyndi Ress

[This is another background/filler story, related to the previous story.  This article also illustrates the then current belief that women could not understand technical issues-- yes, we've come a long way since then!]

Capt. George O. Herkert, base information officer, addressed his talk to the Northstar Service Club women using terminology that they would understand.  He also presented a movie on the launching of an Atlas missile at Cape Canaveral.

The excerpt below is from the Plattsburgh Press Republican, March 18, 1960. 

“For the benefit of the ladies, who admittedly are not as technically mined as men, Capt Herkert described the missile as being an electronic monster similar in shape to an overgrown football.” 

He then outlines the basics of the Atlas Missile
  • Five engines (three thrust, two vernier)
  • Fuel and Oxygen tanks
  • Nose cone.
  • 81 feet long with a 5 foot nose cone (war head)
  • Travels faster than a bullet, over 12,000 MPH
  • Made of stainless steel thinner than a dime
  • Fuel tanks must be pressurized at all times to support the missile

He goes on to explain the launching sites:
  • Nine sites around Plattsburg
  • Entire site will be underground
  • Holes will be 15 stories deep
  • Sites will be called complexes
  • Each site will have a block house [LCC] for each missile
  • Missile will be stored vertically, lifted to the surface via elevator to launch
  • Everything is electronically controlled

Herket goes on to stress that no missile would be fired from these sites except in case of war.  Theses sites would not be a ‘tourist attraction’ as they would not launch any missiles from them.

He continued to explain, because the missile would never be fired from the sites, there was no actual danger involved.  This was in an attempt to minimize any worries that the women might have about the danger involved in the missile.

The Nose cone, actual war head, must be over 700 miles in the air before it can actually be armed and is equipped with over 12 safety devices that take over at this time to see that it functions properly.

Additional Atlas missile background was presented - 

  • The Atlas has had 21 successful firings.  The Atlas missile the Air Force currently uses is successful for its purpose [an ICBM].  
  • The missiles launched from Cape Canaveral are for testing different configurations and has no bearing on the capability and reliability of the Atlas as a weapon. Each missile launch from the Cape has over a quarter million items recorded on tape.  This gives scientists information for further study.  
  • Herkert added, “The Atlas ICBM is the most advanced in the free world.” “One of the problems we are still working on, is how to keep the men that man the missiles happy and awake in the underground station.”

April 1, 1960

Engineers Pinpoint Area Atlas Launch
By Roy Southworth

No comment as to whether there will be any more sites added to the $47 million project.  Present orders from the Air Force are to acquire land for no more than nine Atlas sites.  Previously it appeared the Air Force may locate more than the original nine in the Plattsburgh Area. 

The names of the 13 property owners involved in the acquisition of the nine sites were revealed by the New York District of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The sites will be located on property owned by the following:
  • 1. Two parcels owned by Mrs.Nellie Lavalley and Joseph S. Gooley in Champlain.
  • 2. Three parcels owned by Rudolph Miller, Reginald Miller and Arthur Burdo at Mooers Forks
  • 3. A parcel owned by Clarence Lafreniere at Ellenburg.
  • 4. Two parcels owned by Peter and Daniel Dubrev at Chazy Lake.
  • 5. A parcel owned by the Wetherbee - Sherman Co. at Au Sable Forks.
  • 6. A parcel owned by Andrew Weir at Clayburg.
  • 7. A parcel owned by Edward E. Stickney at Willsboro.
  • 8. A parcel owned by Nelson Westover at Alburg, Vt.
  • 9. A parcel owned by Homer Thibault at Swanton, Vt.

Property owners, town supervisors, Plattsburgh Mayor John Tyreli and about 50 other persons were invited to a get acquainted meeting the engineers held at Plattsburgh Air Force Base.

Charles H Duke, chief of the New York District of the corps, outlined general aspects of the missile launching site construction project and real estate details were discussed by William Roland, chief of the division real estate division.

The following points were made:
  • 1. The underground launching sites - each as deep as the height of a 15-story building - will be under construction within two to three months.
  • 2. All sites will be under construction simultaneously. The work will be done by "anywhere from 900 to 1,500 workers," 
  • 3. Contract bids will be let in May. The award will be made by mid-June. The successful bidder will be required to have work started within five days of the award.
  • 4. The contractors "should be pouring concrete before the first of the year."

Along with the construction of the missile sites, the engineers will also be in charge of “necessary construction” at the air base itself.  No details were provided for this construction.

The entire nine-missile system will require a total of about 90 acres. 

An additional eight more acres at each site for the use of the contractor during construction.  This land will be returned to the owner when construction is completed.

Each site will be located at least 1,200 feet from existing highway.

Proposals for buying the land will occur within the next few days with all property owners.  The land being acquired adheres to existing property lines as nearly as possible.

April 4, 1960


U.S. Stingy With Purchase Offers For Atlas Sites, Landowners Say
by Leo Stutin

Clinton, Vermont Men Irate

Comments on the offer for their land for the Atlas missile sites from the land owners: 
  • "Way too low."
  • “Doesn’t even begin to be reasonable.”
  • “It’s going to practically ruin me.”
  • Offers are one-half to one-tenth of what owners consider proper values.

The offers were made by real estate agents for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, builders of the Air Force installations. Most owners did not sign contracts for the sale of their land, however all gave the engineers permission to begin construction of the bases. 

Construction is scheduled to begin around May 15. Completion of the launching pads is expected in two years.

Nelson Westover of Alburg, Vt., said the base would cut his farm into three pieces and considerably reduce its value, should he ever want to sell the land. The government offer amounted to about $100 per acre, although his income from alfalfa on the land was about $99 an acre each year. He felt the government offer unjust because it did not consider the long-term loss of income the base would cause.  “It may be good for our county, but we hate like hell to give everything away.”

The nearby acreage required during the construction phase was not received well as the owners felt that after having been torn up by heavy construction equipment for two years, the land would be unusable for farming.

The contracts generally call for purchase of about eight acres for the installation, several acres for roads, the number depending upon the distance of the site from an existing road and temporary use of about 10 acres for construction purposes.

A Clinton County farmer, Clarence LaFremere of Ellenburg agreed that the missile site would cut the value of his property.  The others had similar feelings. “Who would want to buy a farm with one of those things in the middle of it,”.

Rudolph Mider owner of part of a tract near Mooers Forks on which a base will be built saw the construction cutting seriously into the farming value of his land.  He said the other owners of the Mooers Forks site Reginald Miller and Arther Burdy would also suffer.  In his case the government’s offer was less than he had paid for the land 14 years ago.

Homer Thibaut, a Swanton, Vt., farmer called the offer unreasonable, and said his land was worth twice what the government appraisers valued it at.

Another Clinton County farmer, Andrew Weir of Clayburg, saw the road cutting through the middle of his acreage as putting a major crimp on his farming operation.  He felt the buying price was less than one-half the land’s value.

Walter Blomstran, manager of Republic Steel’s mines at Minevillle, said his company has not received and offer for the tract near Au Sable Forks which it is leasing.  He said Republic Steel and the owner of the property, the Wetherbee-Sherman Co., would negotiate jointly with the government over the sale price.

April 5, 1960


Condemnation Only a Last Resort In Getting Atlas Sites

Condemnation proceedings will be used only as a last resort to acquire property for construction of Atlas missile sites.

William Rowland, chief of the real estate division for the New York District of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Monday that the engineers would "make every effort" to reach accord with landowners before taking over their property through condemnation

Landowners said Sunday that prices offered by the engineers for the missile launching pad sites, fell far below the owners' estimates of the properties' value. 

Rowland said that the government's first concern was to gain permission to go ahead with preconstruction studies. If owners agree to let work go forward on schedule, the engineers would continue to negotiate over prices.  But if owners refuse access to their land in an effort to force up its price, Rowland said, the government would initiate condemnation proceedings.

April 14, 1960


Air Force Boosts Number of Atlas Launching Sites

The Air Force plans to increase the number of launching pads' at its Plattsburgh, N.Y., intercontinental missile base from 9 to 12.

The Pentagon said its decision to increase the number of launching sites results from stepped up emphasis on missiles as a deterrent force.

The Air Force had confirmed several weeks ago that it planned to expand the Plattsburgh base, but until the Javits' announcement the additional number of sites was unknown.

Of the nine sites already pinpointed, six are in Clinton County. They are near Champlain, Mooers Forks. Ellenburg, Chazy Lake, Au Sable Forks and Clayburg.

One is in Essex County, near Willsboro, and the remaining two are in Vermont, near Alburg and Swanton.

The Corps of Engineers, which is supervising the building of the launching pads for the Air Force, began negotiations last week for the purchase of the announced sites.

Most landowners reported dissatisfaction with bids for their land, and declined to sell until prices are restudied. The engineers have been given permission to continue work on the land while price discussions continue.

Bids for construction are expected to be let in mid-May. Construction is scheduled to begin in late spring or early summer.

April 20, 1960


100 Men for Each Atlas, Vermont Town Learns

Approximately 100 men will be assigned to each Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile installations.

Assistant public information officer, Lt. David Whelan, Plattsburgh Air Force Base, told a group meeting Monday night in Swanton, Vt., that present Air Force manning plans call for the assignment of about 900 men to a missile squadron. Such squadrons operate missile complexes composed of nine installations, Whelan said.

The Plattsburgh missile complex, which will contain 12 underground launching pads, will probably be manned by a proportionately larger group. 

One launching pad is to be constructed near Swanton, and another at Alburg, Vt., only a few miles distant.

Whelan said, about 1,600 Convair employees, the builder of the Atlas missile, are expected to come Plattsburgh for the site construction program, starting around May 10th.

The economic effects of the construction project, Whelan said, would be "overwhelming" to the affected communities. But he could not tell the group how many local people could be expected to be employed on the project.

Married airmen assigned to the installations will be permitted to live in neighboring communities, Whelan said. But others are expected to commute from the air base.

 [the paragraph below is misleading as we know the sites were manned by a 5 man crew]

He added that about 15 men would be on duty at the underground sites at all times. Whelan said it takes the coordinated efforts of about that many people to put the missile into the air. 

The communications system which will control the installation will be the most complicated in the world, Whelan said. Each base will be in direct contact with
the Pentagon in Washington, from where any orders to launch will come.

In response to a question about the community's vulnerability as a target in case of war, Whelan said the missile site would not increase local danger. He said that since the construction of Plattsburgh Air Force Base, the entire North Country was a major target zone.

Although Whelan did not say that the missiles would be armed with atomic or thermo-nuclear warheads, he parried a question with the reply, "I wouldn't put a bow and arrow on it."

June 18, 1960
Work Starts at Atlas Site

On Friday June 17, 1960, Champlain was the site for ground breaking ceremonies for the 12 Atlas missile sites.

Survey parties started just as soon as their orders were received.  The Corps of Engineers was scheduled to complete their work by Sept 11, 1961.  When they have completed their job, the Air Fore Ballistics Missile Division will complete the work on the launching sites.

Raymond International Inc., of New York, was awarded the $24,408,000 contract for the sites.  [Actually 3 companies bid together – Raymond, Kaiser, Macco, Puget-Sound for the construction of the sites]

On Friday evening the Corps of Engineers District Engineer reviewed the development of U.S. missile programs.  Addressing the Society of American Military Engineers at a dinner meeting at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base, the district engineer pointed out the missile sites are the first intercontinental ballistic missile sites east of the Mississippi River.

The district engineer reviewed the Atlas performance with the group;
-Atlas is the first in the heavy class of ICBMs.  
-A test flight from Cape Canaveral to the Indian Ocean traveled a distance of 9,000 miles.   Normally the missile has a range of 6,300 miles.
-The Atlas is 82 ½ feet high and 10 feet in diameter
-Weighs 260,000 pounds at take-off.  
-Contains 40,000 parts
-Propelled by two booster rockets, a sustainer rocket, and two small vernier rockets to maintain the exact speed desired.  
-At the peak of its flight the missile attains a speed of 16,000 miles per hour.

The engineer defined a new term called “concurrency”. This is the ability of scientists, contractors and operational trainers to work together simultaneously to perfect a missile system in the least possible time. [this also led to some interesting and creative ways to solve design problems like plumbing and electrical conduits trying to occupy the same place according to the drawings]

The concurrency approach was used to avoid falling behind schedule, because of testing and retesting to come up with a perfect solution. It may have been right when installed in the field the first time when allowed to thoroughly test, but this first time accuracy was sacrificed to some degree to get the launch facilities, missile and systems in place faster.

June 18, 1960
Chazy Farmer Declares War on Air Force
by Al Farrell

Of course not everything went smoothly when land was being acquired.

Daniel DuBrey set himself against the U.S. Air Force claiming damage to his land and his pride, Daniel DuBrey barred “all government employees” from this land.

Apparently government contractors, taking sample borings for an access road to the Chazy Lake Atlas missile site went beyond the designated area, trampling his early hay crop.

So Daniel put up a sign after an offer for the land was made.   It read: “Private Property, All Government Employees Keep Off – Order’s of Daniel DuBrey.”

There were two documents signed by all property owners; one was for initial surveys; the second was to permit construction to begin.  All land owners were informed of their rights and told that land prices would be worked out while the projects were under construction.

DuBrey was offered money to compensate for the loss of the crop trampled by the Air Force.

Eventually this issue was worked out, and construction continued on the site.


June 28, 1960

Atlas Coming To Air Fete 

An Atlas missile at Plattsburgh Air Force base will be on display at  “Aerospace Days" on July 15 and 16, 1960.


July 16, 1960

Explosion Opens Missile Work at Champlain Site

Monday at 2:36 p.m. 2,000 pounds of high explosives was set off and construction officially began at “missile site 1".  

The blast covered an area 55 feet in diameter and blew debris 75 feet in the air. It opened up 427 drilled holes that had been loaded with high explosives.  The outer holes were about 30 feet deep with inner holes up to 7 feet deep.


August 5, 1960
3 More Missile Sites?
by Nancy Kane

More rumors start about adding 3 more sites to the 12 already approved.
1. A soil study at the three additional sites has been completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 
[this was probably done as a contingency incase one of the original 12 sites was deemed unacceptable]
2. A provision in the current construction contract allow for three more sites. 
[this was true with the original bid for nine sites and was exercised and included in the current bid for 12 sites.]

The sites now under construction are being built as a joint venture of 
  • Raymond International Inc., New York, 
  • Henry J. Kaiser Co., Oakland CA., 
  • Macco Corp, Paramount CA., 
  • Puget Sound Bridge and Dry Dock Corp., Seattle, WA.

The sites are located in [remember these are the Army Corps of Engineers names, not SACs!]
  • AuSable Forks
  • Champlain
  • Chazy
  • Clayburg
  • Ellenburg
  • Mooers Forks
  • Willsboro
  • Bouquet
  • Sugar Bush 
  • Harrigan Corners
  • Swanton
  • Alburgh, Vt.


August 10,1960

[As any good newspaper would do, the editorial page would often question the validity of building a facility for an ‘obsolete’ missile.

The following is an editorial from the Plattsburgh Press Republican from Friday August 10, 1962 in its entirety.]

How Long Before Atlas Becomes Obsolete?

What is the life expectancy of a particular type of missile?

We presume if we put that question to a missile engineer that he would shrug his shoulders and say that a missile, like the Atlas, grows more obsolete with each passing youth.

The reason: There are so many developments in the rapidly changing missile field that a missile like the Atlas is constantly undergoing modifications even before it is installed.

The firm making a missile must come to a point where it calls a halt to major changes, however, and gets a model of missiles into production. Otherwise it will never get its missile beyond the drawing board.

So it modifies present designs as long as it can reasonably do so, and then it switches to a new type of missile.

President Kennedy announced a few days ago that Britain was going to shut down its four Thor missile bases. These are American-made intermediate range missiles (1,500 miles).  They have been in Britain for three years as part of its defense setup.

We read the story with interest in view of the 12 Atlas missile silos being built around Plattsburgh. For we wondered, as we read it, when the Atlas missiles around Plattsburgh would be closed down for the same reason as the Thors in Britain . . . because they have become obsolete.

Experts say that the Thor was never intended to be more than a stop-gap missile. And they cited the disadvantage of the Thor:  It is a fixed-site missile, immobile, fitting above ground. The Thors use liquid fuel, requiring at least 15 minutes to "fire up" before blast off.

But the Thors were considered the best the West had three years ago.

The description of the disadvantages fit the Atlas, too, except for one point; the Atlas is housed-in a silo. If the points listed be disadvantages that eventually outmoded the Thor, we suspect in two or three years the Atlas missiles about Plattsburgh will also be considered out-moded.

Britain is going to depend more heavily on the Skybolt missile that can be fired from the wings of a 8-52.  But the Skybolt won't be operational until 1964.

The Atlas must be fueled up before firing, with a liquid fuel. Newer intercontinental
missiles like the Minuteman are solid fuel missiles and they can be fired virtually immediately. For the fuel is already in them.

One added thought: When the Atlas missiles become obsolete, the silos will be virtually useless. For they are designed solely for this model of the Atlas.

We can make no solid predictions in the life expectancy of the Atlas missiles about Plattsburgh . . . or of any missile.

But the rapid development in, the field and the abandonment of the Thors after three years are signs that the Atlas will be short-lived.

For missile technology is forging ahead at an unbelievable speed. And it doesn't take long before a military weapon becomes obsolete.


August 13, 1960

State Certifies Clinton As Rabid Animal Area

At Ellenburg Site 8, workmen found foxes rushing out at their vehicles and biting the tires. There had been a number of strange-acting foxes in the Churubusco and Ellenburg areas that were found to be rabid.

Clinton County became a certified rabies county along with Franklin County and all dogs and cats must be vaccinated in these counties.

August 19, 1960

Missile Base Water Line Under Study

The Willsboro town board is studying plans to provide water for the nearby missile base. The town supervisor contacted the Corps of Engineers for proposals of a pipeline be laid along the Essex road to the base. [The site water was provided by the town]
September 20, 1960
Missile-Pad Construction Lagging

All Atlas missile sites had delays, some labor, some material related.  This caused most sites to be more than three months behind schedule.  Sloppy workmanship, a steel strike (in 1959), supply bottlenecks and government red tape were cited as the primary cause for delays.

However, Plattsburgh sites were able to stay on schedule with only one minor (less than a day) work stoppage.  In short, the Plattsburgh installations where the ‘model’ example of how to build Atlas silos.  Because to this, Plattsburgh was able to escape criticism that plagued the other Atlas sites.

Other related high level discussions highlighted the reality of the U.S. not having any hard bases ready until mid-1961, adding more fuel to the ‘missile gap’ argument.

As of Sept. 1, 1960, the building phase was at least 50 per cent complete at seven of 13 Atlas bases.

The missile base program has been given highest priority to counter the looming, and largely unknown, Soviet threat.

Also pointed out was the current state of the US arsenal:
-SAC’s 1,800 manned bombers, each capable of carrying a nuclear bomb.
-Sixty intermediate range missiles are in Great Britain [Thor missiles].  
-Thirty in northern Italy  
-A Turkish base for 15 intermediate range missiles is planned. [This is the starting point of the Cuban Missile crisis.  We put missiles in the U.S.S.R.’s back yard.]
-Two Navy Polaris submarines, with 16 missiles apiece
September 21, 1960
Jobless Increase In Area Despite Atlas Site Work
by Nancy Kane

The ‘jobs for everyone’ mantra the politicians pitched in support of building the missile bases has had mixed results.

In Plattsburgh there was about 930 people working at the missile sites, however, unemployment is higher than at the same time last year.  839 persons had sought unemployment insurance benefits at the end of last week compared with 697 the same week last year.

There are bright spots on the labor horizon 

- The calling back of about 80 employees slated for Oct. 3 at the Republic Steel Corp. at Lyon Mountain
- An expected increase in employment at the Atlas missile sites—all 12 are expected to be working on three shifts a day within a week.

There are dark spots too:

- At Lyon Mountain only 80 employees have been called back out of 250 originally laid off July 3.
- About 500 workers at Republic's Port Henry District are still not working from the shutdown that began July 18.
- Sharron's department store is closing and will put about 35 people out of work.

Of the 930 working related to the missiles sites, it was estimated that 80 to 90 per cent of the civilians employed are from this area. Next month, it was estimated, about 1,400 persons—most of them local—will be working on the sites.  The work should peak next summer at around 2,000 workers, however not all will be local. [as we will see later, it appears “most” of the labor force was not local]
September 29, 1960
New Boss Coming For Missile Sites

Brig. Gen Akin C. Welling, commander of the newly formed Corps of Engineers Ballistic Missile Construction Office (CEBMCO) in Los Angeles, CA will be responsible for construction of all the ballistic missile bases for the Air Force.  Currently the Corps of Engineers has this responsibility.

Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Lipscomb, North Atlantic Division engineer, will officially transfer command to Gen. Welling in a public ceremony at 1:30 p.m. at the Champlain site.

The Army Engineers, New York District, began construction of the sites in June under a $24,408,000 contract with Raymond-Kaiser-Macco-Puget Sound.

October 1, 1960 
Atlas Sites Seen Deterring Attack Here
by Nancy Kane

[Caption below from Photo in original newspaper article]
CHAMPLAIN SITE—Workmen have a few more feet to go before they hit the 185-foot depth needed for the storage of the Atlas missile.  A 15-story building would be swallowed up in the hole. The missile would have to he raised by elevator to ground level before it was fired.

Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Lipscom, North Atlantic Division Engineer, U.S. Corps of Engineers spoke  at a news conference at the Officers Club at Plattsburgh burgh Air Force Base Friday morning. That afternoon, the Champlain missile site was the site for ceremonies transferring it to the engineers' Ballistic Missile construction office.

Gen. Lipscom stated, the Plattsburgh area, encircled by its ring of Atlas missile sites will be a safer place to be in the event of attack than a heavily industrial area without missiles around it. He explained the Atlas missile sites here was not an “attractive target.”, they would practically have to have a direct hit to knock them out.  An enemy would have to expend a very large number of missiles in the hope of knocking out some of the missile sites in this area.

In the event of attack, it is likely that missiles would already be on their way to their targets by the time enemy missiles arrived, making the sites themselves an even less attractive target.

Gen. Lipscomb said he believed a more attractive target for an enemy would be a heavily industrial area where missiles could cause great amounts of damage, presumably even if- slightly off course. [Now, just to add fuel to the fire, Plattsburgh was a SAC base, and probably would be a prime target rather than the missile silos.  So, the rhetoric saying the Atlas missiles would not cause Plattsburgh to become a more desirable target is mostly true – most likely it was already a prime enemy target!]

Earlier in the question period Col. Charles M. Duke, New York District engineer, said that other sites had been considered in the area here and soil samples had been taken at three other sites, a decision as to whether any more would be built lay with the Air Force.

The Army District, began construction of the sites in June under a $24,408,000 contract with Raymond Kaiser Macco-Puget Sound.  The first site is to be completed by Sept 11, 1961, the rest by November 1961. [the first site (Site 2 – Alburg, VT) was turned over to the Air Force on 13-Nov-1961, the last site (Site 11 – Sugarbush or rather Site 7 – Riverview – construction site names were different that the SAC names -- ) on June 1, 1962]

Construction supervision was transferred Friday to the newly formed Corps of Engineers Ballistic Missile Construction office in Los Angles.

Brig Gen. Alven C. Welling, commander of this newly corps, accepted the transfer of command in a ceremony at the Champlain missile site.

The organization of the Corps of Engineers Ballistic Missile office followed a meeting July 29 that  the Defense Department had with missile industry representatives.

At this meeting the Defense Department shouldered a good part of the blame for the overall slow pace of the missile construction program. It pointed to an over lapping and conflicting management setup.

One of the results was the formation of the new office (CEBMCO). The Plattsburgh project is the third to be transferred to it.

Another result was a meeting called Friday for Oct. 7 by Secretary of Defense Thomas S. Gates to which top labor leaders have been invited. Its purpose is to discuss lagging Atlas missile base construction program.

Excavation has been completed at many of them [Plattsburgh silos]. Concreting was slated to begin Friday at the Alburg, Vt. site.  One other site is in Vermont, the other 10 in this state.
November 9, 1960 
Atlas Site Rock fall Kills Man, Hurts 2 

Site 11 [SAC numbering] - Ellenburg - A 39-year-old father of six children was killed early Tuesday, and two other workmen wert injured at the Atlas missile site near here.

State police said John R. McCann of Chateaugay died of a fractured skull suffered when several larger rocks plummeted down on the workmen at the bottom of the missile silo. 

McCann, Darrell Hobs, 35 of Dannemora, and Larkin Cogdill of Ellenburg Depot were 150 feet below ground when rocks fell 90 feel from the side of the excavation.  Hobbs suffered a fractured leg.  Cogdill was treated for a back injury and released.

McCann was a native of Chateaugay. His wife is the former Margaret Ryan of Ellenburg.
They are the parents of six children, Patricia, Joan, Robert, Kathleen, Beverly and Susan.

McCann’s parents are dead.  He has two brothers and three sisters who survive him.

McCann’s death made the second fatality at the missile sites since construction began in June.  On Sept. 16, a 28 year old Joseph Ornsby of Gouverner was working at the bottom of the 100-foot deep pit and was killed when he was struck by a carrier bucket while he was working at the Alburg Vermont, site.
December 1, 1960 
Unions Will Study Peace Plan at Missile Sites
Government Seeks ‘No Strike No Lockout’ Agreement To Assure Rapid Progress

[This is more of a background article highlighting the relationship between the Unions and the Government at the time.  The article also shows the power the Unions had over most construction projects in the U.S. at the time.]

WASHINGTON (AP) — Construction labor unions agreed Wednesday to study the possibility of working out a no-Strike, no-lockout agreement for the nation's missile and rocket bases.

President C J. Haggerty of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department announced the study after a meeting of the department’s executive council, a group representing nearly a score of unions with some three million members.

Government efforts to build missile bases on schedule have met with a series of crippling and delaying strikes, many of them caused by jurisdictional disputes between rival unions.

A two-week strike on the launching pad job of the new Saturn and Centaur space rockets ended just last weekend with an interim agreement that put men back to work.  These are the rockets the U.S. is depending upon to beat the Soviet Union in putting a man on the moon.

Dr. Wernher von Braun, the nation’s top rocket expert, personally addressed the workers in the midst of the strike trying to get them back to work, but to no avail.  Some top Washington officials missed going to the Army-Navy game last Saturday getting this one settled.

Basically the labor disputes stem from disagreement on where construction work ends and the job of wiring, building ducts and other installation work begins.

At the Saturn project at Cape Canaveral, Fla., the situation turned into a dispute between Von Braun and the unions. The scientist wanted his own crew of government paid workers from Huntsville, Ala., to take over wiring of firing consoles for the space rockets.  Unions balked at giving up the work.  The settlement will be a compromise.

Haggerty said the matter of working out a system to forego work stoppages, based on methods that successfully stopped most strikes during World War II, will be studied and considered at the next building trades executive council meeting in mid-February.
December 6, 1960 
Phone Company Plans Ellenburg Expansion

[Not only did the local economy benefit from the construction, so did the infrastructure such as communications/telephone systems]

Plans for replacing the present New York Telephone CO. dial equipment at Ellenburg Depot were announced Monday.  An addition to the present central office building is under construction and will be ready for the new dial equipment early in January. The project will cost about $55, 000 and will completed in April, 1961.

The building is designed to provide room for expansion of telephone facilities needed for future growth requirements as well as increased demands for the construction of missile bases in the Ellenburg Depot area.
December 7, 1960 
Two Killed at Missile Site

Willsboro (Site 4).  Two men were killed Tuesday night when, they fell about 90 feet into a pit being dug for an Atlas missile site. State Police withheld their names, pending notification of next of kin. Authorities said one man came from Canada, the other from the western part of New York State. They were 31 and 36 years old respectively.

The accident occurred at 10 p.m. The men were installing steel reinforcements for concrete sides to a silo. One side of a scaffolding collapsed and the men plunged 95 feet to the bottom of the pit.

The twin deaths raised to four the fatality toll at the area missile sites.

Obituary - December 10, 1960

Funeral services for Charles E. .Martin, 31, Niagara Falls man who was killed in an accident at the missile project at Willsboro on Tuesday, will be held today in Plattsburgh. 

A high Mass or requiem will be celebrated at Our Lady of Victory Church at 9 a.m. Burial will take place in St. Peter's Cemetery.
December 22, 1960 
Champlain Telephone Co. To Run Missile Contacts

The Champlain Telephone Co. will help build and maintain communications between Mooers Forks and Champlain Atlas missile sites and their headquarters at the Plattsburgh AFB.  The work would amount to about $350,000.  

The New York Telephone Co is the prime contractor for all the missile site communications. The construction will be sub-contracted to CTC the lines enter CTC's franchise area. The work then will be contracted back to the New York Telephone Co. [Now, doesn’t that sound like a typical government deal….very confusing!]
December 27, 1960 
Atlas Sites Inspire Road Work

[Photo Caption]
WORK GOES ON — Snow halts most construction, but it fails to slow down work on the 12 Atlas missile sites around Plattsburgh. 

[More examples of infrastructure upgrades to support the missile program]

CHAZY (Site 9 – Dannemora) - A bid on a $43,000 highway project to replace a culvert on Route 191 between Sciota and Chazy, to strengthen it as an alternate route for defense access to the missile sites nearby, will be opened Thursday.  This project will involve replacing the existing culvert with a twin multiplate pipe arch structure with a span of nine feet, nine inches and a rise of six feet seven inches.

Another bid to be opened Thursday involving the missile sites is for additions to the superstructure of the single-span bridge carrying Route 22 over the Chazy River in Mooers. An $8,000 project is slated to increase the overhead clearance from 15 feet to 18 feet 2 inches to meet defense requirements.
December 28, 1960 
Unemployment Insurance Claims Rising in Area

The number of out-of-work persons in the Plattsburgh area who sought unemployment insurance continued to rise.

1,551 people filed claims for unemployment at the Pittsburgh office of the New York State Division of Employment, up 13 from November (1,138 claims).  

However, the December figure is down by 80 over the same period last year.  But it is considerably higher than 897 claims were filed in October and in September when 839 were filed.

Work on the 12 Atlas missile bases around Plattsburgh has absorbed some of the construction workers whose work normally undergoes a seasonal slump during the winter months. Employment - now considered at its peak - is estimated at about 1,600 men, though the number of men working on any single site fluctuates somewhat.

Still out of work are about 250 employees at Republic Steel Corp's works at Lyon Mountain.  Republic Steel Corp’s mine, mill and sintering plant shut down July 3 in Lyon Mountain. They opened up again the first week in October on a limited basis and closed down again Nov. 11 when the orders gave out.

Also, about 500 men at Republic's Port Henry District mines are out of work.  The Port Henry District mines have been idle since July 18 because of a lack of orders.
February 8, 1961
The Missile Sites: A Progress Report
Missile Sites – Part 1
by Nancy Kane

Unusually cold temperatures have not stopped round-the-clock construction on the 12 Atlas missile bases.  

Each launching complex is expected to be complete by the end of November 1961. Nine sites are in the process of pouring concrete for the silos.   To keep the concrete from freezing, the aggregates are heated as are the silos to keep the temperature above freezing.  Workmen work in sweatshirts at the bottom and heavy winter coats topside,

According to the contractor, Construction it going well, meeting the demands of the overall program despite the bad weather. 

The first control center is scheduled to be completed July 3; the last, Sept. 18. Deadline for first silo is Sept 11.  [dates were later revised; 1st silo complex complete 10-Nov-61, with the last being Sugarbush/Riverview on 31-May-62 where they ran into significant groundwater, soil and construction difficulties]

About 1,800 construction men and 140 members of the corps of Engineers were estimated to be required during the first stage, according to the Corps of Engineers. 

After the construction is finished, the missile installation and check out phase will begin.  

The 12 missile sites and their distance from Plattsburgh are as follows: 
- Site 1, Champlain. 39 miles
- Site 2, Alburg, Vt, 38 miles
- Site 3, Swanton, Vt, 52 miles
- Site 4, Willsboro, 30 miles
- Site 5, Au Sable Forks, 26 miles
- Site 6, Clayburg, 34 miles
- Site 7, Chazy Lake, 32 miles
- Site 8, Ellenburg, 27 miles
- Site 9, Mooers, 33 miles
- Site 10, Boquet, 28 miles
- Site 11, Sugarbush, 36 miles
- Site 12, Harrigan Corners, 39 miles.
- [these are the Army Corps of Engineers’ designations, NOT SAC!]

General information released about the missile sites:
- Only missile sites east of the Mississippi, 
- Silo-type missile launcher. 
- Control center for the launcher located 100 feet from the silo
- Silo 185 feet deep and 52 feet in diameter with a concrete wall varying in thickness from 2 ½  feet at the bottom to nine feet at the top.
- Inside the silo will be a structural steel crib. Within this crib will be the launcher platform on which the ICBM missile will rest.
- At the bottom of the silo will be 10 tanks, from 10 to 56 tons, for storage of missile fuel.
- Silo is capped with reinforced concrete doors about 30 inches thick. 
- When the missile is ready to be launched the doors open
- The launching platform —like an elevator—lifts the missile out of the silo into is erect “launch” position.
- Silos were designed to be strong enough to protect the missile from a near miss by a nuclear weapon.  
- Located underground is a cylinder shaped launch control center, where the crew for the missile will live.  A tunnel runs from it to the silo.
- The LCC is about 46 feet in diameter and 30 feet high.  Its reinforced concrete walls are about 2 ½ feet thick.  It will contain a steel crib which is divided into two floors.
February 9, 1961
The Missile Sites: A Progress Report
by Nancy Kane

Missile Sites – Part 2

Builders Overcome Natural Obstacles

Building a missile site seems almost as complicated as building a missile itself. There are bolt holes in a plate inside the silo that must be accurate to a thirty-second of an inch.

There is the constant pressure, from the Army Corps of Engineers, who’s ballistic missile construction office (CEBMCO) is supervising the first stage of construction.  Their headquarters on each site is a trailer, identical on every site.

Teams of Convair Corp men and Air Force are on the sites.  Convair is the integrating contractor during the second phase that will be supervised by the Air Force’s site activation task force (SATAF).  These men make sure that the heavy construction stage overlaps perfectly with the second phase in which the missile itself will be installed and the system checked out.

Besides the exacting standards and the urgency that the work be completed on schedule, other problems have arisen during the heavy construction stage.

The North Country weather has been a factor that the contractor has had to overcome.

[Eight days were lost in January-February 1961 due to inclimate weather. The minimum temp was -18.9 with an average temp of 10.5 degrees F in January.]

So far todate: 
- Four men have died in accidents on the sites
- Three sites are in terrain that has proved particularly troublesome for construction.  
o At the Chazy Lake [Dannemora] site rock so soft it is almost like clay, was problematic to excavate
o Quicksand has complicated excavation at the Sugar Bush site, which was located on glacial till.  
o Chemical grouting, where water and sodium silicate is pumped into the ground and then calcium chloride is added to make concrete, has been used extensively.
o At Mooers, water has been a problem.  As much as 2,000 gallons of water a minute was pouring into the silo before it could be stopped.  The water flows though a rock fault.  To stop it so that excavating could be resumed, a liquid mixture of cement was pumped into the cracks of the rock to seal it off.  Then a shaft was sunk outside the silo to pump out the water before it gets into the fault at the silo wall.
February 25, 1961
How much money does a construction worker get on one of the area's 12 Atlas missile sites?
by Nancy Kane

- If he's a common laborer, he makes $2.87 ½ an hour, with time and a half if he works more than eight hours a day.
o Sundays, he gets double time.
- A general iron worker foreman makes $4.90 an hour if he work one of the 10 sites in New York or $4.59 an hour on one of the two Vermont sites.
o Double-time if he works more than eight hours a day.  
o If he works on a Vermont site he gets an additional $6 a day on travel pay.
- A master mechanic gets $4.66 an hour.  
o Like all other members of the International Union of Operating Engineers working on the sites, he get $4 a day in travel pay.
o A master mechanic who works a 40-hour week would get, counting travel pay, a salary of $206.40 a week. 

The hourly base rates for the various classes of workmen as follows:
- Operating engineers: 
o Oiler, $3.28 ¾ 
o Heavy duty greaser $3.42
o Pump, vibrator, welding machine, air compressor and heater operator, $3.48
o Bulldozer operator, $3.67 ¾
o Frontend loader, $3.81
o Mechanic, $4.05 ¾
o Grader or scraper operator, $3.97
o Crane, shovel, backhoe and dragline operator, $4.03
o Master mechanic, $4.66
o Pumpcrete foreman, $4.30. 
o All members of this union get $4 a day travel pay and double time if they work more than eight hours a day.
o According to the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 106 there were about 200 members of this union now working on the sites and that about 95 per cent of them were from Clinton, Essex or Franklin County.
- Base rates for teamsters are 
o $2.75 for truck drivers 
o $3.15 for drivers of highway dump trucks.
o These men get time and a half for more than an eight-hour day, and double-time for Sundays or holidays, according to Local 648 Teamsters and Chauffeurs Union.
o The union had about 40 men now working on the sites In late summer and early autumn there were approximately 100 teamsters working there, all but about 15 drivers local.
- Base rate for a carpenter 
o $3.65 an hour
o Carpenter foreman, $3.95 an hour.
o These men get double-time for work in excess of eight hours a day, according to Local 1042, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.
o The union had about 200 men on the sites now, and close to 300 men there a couple of weeks ago. It was estimated there were about 50 carpenters from outside locals.
- The base rate for laborers is as follows. 
o Blasters, foreman, $3.50
o Drillers, $3.10
o Shaft laborers, $2.87 ½ 
o Electric, air and gas tool operators $2,52
o Common laborers. $2.37 ½ 
o Local 186, International Hod Carriers and Laborers, estimated there were about 75 laborers now employed from his local.
o During the late summer and early fall, he said, there were about 350 laborers on these sites—some 75 of them from outside locals.
o Laborers get time and a half in excess of eight hours a day. They get double time on Sundays.
- Base rates for iron workers is different on the New York sites and those in Vermont.
o In New York, they are: 
 Ironworker; $4 40
 Iron worker foreman $4.65
 General iron worker foreman, $4.90.
o In Vermont, they are 
 Iron worker, $4.09
 Iron worker fore man $4 34
 General worker foreman, $4.59
 In Vermont the iron workers get $6 a day travel pay.
o These men get double-time if they work more than eight hours, according to Local 12 International Assn. of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers.
o It is estimated there are 100 iron workers now working on the sites.  Most of them are local.
o The iron workers on the Sugar Bush site are from Local 440 out of Utica and on the Vermont sites, from Local 474 out of Manchester, N.H.
o During December there were about 160 iron workers on the sites.
March 4, 1961
Colonel Tells About Missiles

An Atlas missile will never be fired from the Plattsburgh area except in war, Lt. Col. Robert Clendenin told members of the Zonta Club. Col Clendenin is deputy commander of the site activation force in charge of preparations for the missile base around Plattsburgh.

He showed slides of work in progress on the missile silos, lined with reinforcing steel and concrete. “like a 17-story skyscraper in a hole in the ground.”  Each missile weighs about 280,000 pounds, he said and has a range of 5,500 to 9,000 miles.
April 26, 1961

46 Man-Days Reported Lost at Missile Sites

A Defense Department summary placed in evidence Wednesday in the Senate investigations subcommittee's hearings on work stoppages at missile bases listed the following numbers of strikes and resulting time losses at Plattsburgh Base, N.Y. 
- Three strikes since June, 1960, 48 man days lost.  [very low considering there were approximately 500,000 man days completed so far]

They were caused by jurisdictional disputes which resulted work stoppages of a portion of the men working at one single site for a day or half a day.

Unlike many of the nation's missile bases, work has never completely ceased at any one of the Plattsburgh sites because of labor disputes. [This is true throughout the entire construction phase, a tribute to the dedication of everyone working the sites]
September 15, 1961

Missile Squadron Shapes Up At Plattsburgh Air Base

A missile squadron of about 600 personnel is taking shape at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base.  Its name is the 556th Strategic Missile Squadron. Its temporary commanding officer is Lt. Col. Z. B. Ogden.

The squadron is being assembled gradually as the Atlas missile complexes are being built around Plattsburgh.

The completion at the first site by Raymond, Kaiser, Macco, Puget Sound (RKMP), the Joint contractors, is scheduled for Oct 4, according to the Corps of Engineers. [Actual Date was November 10, 1961]

Delivery of the first missiles is expected late this winter.
September 23, 1961

Concurrency Speeds Up Atlas Missile Development: Fite
By Roy Southworth

The concept of “concurrency” has hurried up the development of the Atlas missile, said Col. Calvin W. Fite, commander of the Site Activation Task Force (SATAF) at Plattsburgh Air Force Base.

He addressed the closing luncheon session of the 12th annual conference of the New York Vermont Interstate Commission on the Lake Champlain Basin(INCOCHAMP) at the Whiteface Inn here.

"In the old days, the development of a new weapon moved slowly from the engineer who
designed it and did research on paper, to the design proposal to agencies for approval or disapproval, then to the. Building of test models and finally to test flights," he said.  “It was only after exhaustive tests that they went into production. That was in the days of the development of the B17, the B24 and the B30 bombers.  "But in the case of the ballistic missile, because of the urgency, research and study, testing and site activation all went on at the same time," Fite said.

"This is what we mean by 'concurrency.' It speeds things up and some overlapping is necessary, it saves time — but it makes things a little more complicated at some points."
Fite showed picture slides of work in progress at the 12 Atlas launching sites around Plattsburgh.
December 7, 1961

Sugar Bush Excavation Completed

The missile sites are now at varying stages of completion including the last one at Sugar Bush is now completely excavated. Work there had been slowed because excavators ran into quicksand.

SATAF has taken title to the first complex - Site 2 at Alburg. Vt. - and expects to accept the second - Site 3 at Swanton, Vt. - in the very near future.  

Acceptance of the first site means that it has moved from Phase 1, construction, into Phase 2, installation and checkout.  When Phase 2 is completed. SATAF will turn the sites over one by one to the Strategic Air Command.

The prime contractor for Phase 2 is General Dynamics-Astronautics, the company that builds and installs the missile.

When the underground sites are ready, the Air Force will fly the missiles to Plattsburgh in converted C-133 transport planes. 

More Atlas details were provided: 
- The missile without fuel or warhead, weighs about 10,000 pounds.  
- A fueled up and loaded Atlas weighs about 260,000 pounds
- The missile’s skin is made of stainless steel thinner than a dime. It is kept rigid in flight – at speeds between 15,000 and 16,000 miles an hour – by the internal pressure of helium or nitrogen gas. It has no internal struts.
- The Atlas that Plattsburgh will use are the Series F with inertial guidance systems.
o The Atlas D, used in orbiting the chimpanzee Enos on Nov 29, is guided by ground control systems more suitable for scientific space experiments. [The Atlas launch vehicle has a stellar space history launching manned missions without a failure along with launching various commercial satellites after being decommissioned as an ICBM.]
December 21, 1961

Missile Site Accepted

The Site Activation Task Force (SATAF) Wednesday accepted the second of 12 missile sites under construction in Swanton, Vt.

General Dynamics Astronautics will now take over the installation and checkout of "environmental" equipment needed for the operation of the base – Phase 2.
December 22, 1961
Missile Workers To Return 

A day-long partial work stoppage at the Atlas missile site at Lewis ended this morning by agreement between the contractor and the union local involved. 

A dispute arose Wednesday over the discharge of a steward who is a member of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 497. Eight other members of the local went off the job in a protest.

The business agent of the local union, said the discharge of the steward was an example of "discrimination" against his local.  A spokesman for the company said no such favoritism had been practiced by the company. “We are a little confused about the union’s accusations but are pleased that it is all settled now,” he said
January 5, 1962
Air Force Takes Over Two More Missile Sites
By Roy Southworth

Col. Calvin W. Fite, Site Activation Task Force ‘SATAF’ commander at Plattsburgh Air Force Base said he’s accepted the first two New York State sites- those at Champlain and Willsboro.  The first two sites accepted were in Vermont  - Alburg  Nov. 20 and the one at Swanton shortly thereafter. When the Air Force accepts a site, it posts the site area with signs reading “Plattsburgh Air Force Base Auxiliary Site.”

Transfer to the Air Force (SATAF) from Raymond International, the prime contractor, means that the silos and control centers have been excavated and cemented and that heavy steel work is done.  It also means that second-phase installation work by General Dynamics Astronautics (GDA) can get under way.

Second-phase work started at Alburg in late November, is starting at Swanton and will be under way shortly at the first two New York State sites.

Progress is reported to be almost on schedule, except for Sugar Bush (Riverview). Sugar Bush was delayed at the start by excavation difficulties, delaying the start of  concrete poring until late November 1961. 

Construction at all sites was expected  to be completed on time and turned over to SATAF/GDA to start phase two work. [Sugar Bush/Riverview was significantly late, being turned over to SATAF/GDA on June 1962 – original completion date was estimated to be November 1961]

"I foresee no delays in site acceptances or to the start of second-phase GDA work on
schedule," Fite said
January 29, 1962
Atlas Missile Work Adds $31 Million To Champlain North Country Payrolls

General Dynamics Astronautics (GDA) payroll contribution to the North County is expected to total $20 million.  GDA and its associates will be installing final-phase equipment in the 12 missile sites around Plattsburgh. GDA’s peak employment will be more than 1,000.  

About 30 months are required for the job, starting from the arrival of GDA’s first employee until the sell-off to the Air Force. [This is for all 12 sites]

The construction phase in the Plattsburgh area started in the summer of 1960. It is now nearing completion

The missile program has been responsible for $13 million in business, with more than 230 small and more than 100 larger businesses in New York State alone.

During Atlas missile site activation, the No. 1 concern is to put the Atlas at the sites as early as possible.
GDA will not be here a long, long time – but the hope is to be just as good neighbors as possible.  GDA families are going to have a real impact on this community—on the schools, the hospitals, the utilities and stores, and occasionally on the tempers of those living here.
March 6, 1962
10 Missile Sites Accepted by Air Force

The Air Force has accepted 10 of the Pittsburgh area's 12 Atlas missile sites and may approve the 11th  today.  Acceptance of the sites from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers means that the projects are moving from Phase I site preparation, to Phase II, installation and checkout. Phase II is the final phase. It will include actual installation of the Atlas missiles.

The two sites that hadn't been accepted as of Monday March 5th were the ones at Mooers Forks and Sugar Bush.  The Air Force was inspecting the Mooers site Monday in preparation for acceptance, which may come today.

The base information services office said Monday at the first missile will probably be delivered at one of the sites before the end of 1962.  The date of the delivery of the first missile is classified. The Air Force has said, however, that the missile will be flown in a C133 transport plane.

The missile sites that had been accepted by Monday March 5th are at Champlain, Ellenburg. Au Sable Forks, Clayburg, Chazy Lake, Boquet, Willsboro and Harrigan Corners in New York and Alburg and Swanton Vt.

[Just as a reminder, the Corps designations and SAC designations are different.  During construction, the Corps’ designations were used, when the Air Force accepted the sites, they were renamed using the SAC designation.]

Site Designations
SAC  CorpsSAC Corps
 11  Champlain   Champlain
 22  Alburg, VT   Alburgh
 33  Swanton, VTSwanton
 44  Willsboro    Willsboro
 510Lewis   Bouquet
 65  AuSable Forks    AuSable Forks
 711Riverview     Sugarbush
 86  Redford       Clayburg
 97  Dannemora Chazy Lake
1012Brainardsville       Harrigan Corners
118  Ellenburg     Ellenburg
129  Mooers        Mooers Forks
SAC - Strategic Air Command
Corps - Army Corps of Engineers

March 13, 1962
Missile Dispute Hearing Continues

A federal mediator will conduct a second meeting today on a jurisdictional dispute at the Boquet Atlas missile site.  The dispute, involving the installation of communications equipment, resulted in half-a dozen workers' walking off the job Thursday. They returned on Friday.

The dispute arose when a subcontractor of General Dynamics Astronautics employed a lineman for a job the operating engineers union claimed should have been assigned to one of its members.

March 30, 1962
Trade Union Locals Told to Ignore Picketing at Area Missile Sites

Trade union locals whose men stayed away from their jobs at three of the 12 Plattsburgh area Atlas, missile sites Thursday were to be back at work today.

They received orders late Thursday to ignore picketing initiated by the International Union of Office Employees, AFL-CIO, at the Ellenburg, Champlain, Chazy Lake and Willsboro sites.

The vice president of the office employees' international union arranged the picketing in protest against the Bechtel Corp., a General Dynamics Astronautics subcontractor in charge of second phase installation.  The dispute was centered in the lay-off of four of his "most active union people."

The pickets at the Willsboro site were withdrawn soon after they arrived, a union spokesman said.  At the three remaining sites, the trade unions — plumbers, electricians
and others employed for installation work—honored pickets all day Thursday.

The orders for them to return to work today, ignoring the pickets, was received verbally by Plattsburgh trade union leaders Thursday night.  The agreement among the unions was announced in Washington by a spokesman for the  President's Missile Sites Labor Commission.

The office employees' international union had been organizing Bechtel office workers for about three months. Following a meeting last Wednesday, four of the most active union people were laid off on the basis of a reduction of work force. But their work was still there. Other employees with less service were put on their jobs and in one case a new employee was hired to fill the job. vice president of the office employees' international union said this constituted unfair labor practice. He said it was an example of discrimination against employees for union activity.

He also said the recent layoff of about 200 Bechtel employees was unrelated to his dispute with the company.  The air base information office said the four union members were simply among the 200 laid off.   The lay-offs occurred when the company cut back from eight-hour shifts to one 10-hour shift on a five-day week starting Monday.

The company explained that the two-shift operation had been an experiment that had proved to be unfeasible.

The installation program in Phase II work at the missile sites includes electronics, launching equipment and other work required to prepare the sites to receive the missiles.  Bechtel is in charge of this work for General Dynamics.

Meanwhile, the Air Force announced that a labor dispute at the Boquet site neat Lewis in
Essex County has been settled.  Twelve members of the operating, engineers union, of whom five stayed off the job for two weeks, were all working this week, the air base said.
The dispute arose over use of linemen to do communications installation work that the engineers said should have been assigned to their union.
April, 2, 1962
NLRB Due In Missile Dispute
By Roy Southworth

The National Labor Relations Board will enter the Plattsburgh area missile site dispute as the result of a meeting Saturday between Bechtel Corp. and union officials, according to Leo Wallace, vice president of the international Union of Office Employees AFL CIO.

A National Labor Relations Board field agent is to arrive in Plattsburgh to accept
charges which will be filled by the aggrieved individuals.

The picket lines were withdrawn Friday "in the interest of national defense and on the promise of a representative of the President's Missile Site Committee to be assigned to hear our charges."   Picket lines were organized by Wallace's union and halted work Thursday at the Ellenburg, Champlain and Chazy Lake sites.  The dispute arose over dismissal of four Bechtel Corp. office employees.

Bechtel maintained its position that the four workers were laid off as a part of the reduction of forces and that they did not have the authority to return them to work at this meeting.

The unions position was that these men felt they were laid off because of their union activity. They were replaced by employees with less service than these men had and that this was an unfair practice on the part of the company. This seemed more apparent when one of the jobs was filled two days later by a newly hired employee.
April 6, 1962
First Atlas Missile Arrives At Plattsburgh Air Base
By Roy Southworth

The first of 12 Atlas F missiles has arrived and will be shown to a gathering of 60 leading area citizens Monday afternoon.

The sleek, glistening missile made its debut at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base flight line Thursday morning. It was taken to the Black Hangar, now converted into a Missile Assembly Building MAB. The missile will be undergoing tests and receiving final preparation for two or three months until it’s ready for transport by trailer to one of the 12 launching sites.  The first missile would most likely be installed at the Alburg, Vt. site. [This is the lead site]

After that, the guests will be taken on tours of the missile sites. They will gather at the Officers Club for dinner in the evening.

A C133B cargo plane bearing the Atlas landed at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base about 4
a m. Thursday. It had flown from San Diego, Calif., in about eight hours.  Actual unloading operations from the rear of the transport started about 9 a. m. The job took an hour and 50 minutes.

An Atlas, whose maximum diameter is 10 feet, fits into C133B with about an inch to spare on each side.  The missile had been stripped of rear cowlings and vernier engines to make the tight squeeze. It was cradled on its own trailer in the plane’s belly so that the entire assembly could be winched out by stationary trucks. 

When an Atlas is transported by air, its weight is about 13,500 pounds, since it carries no fuel or warhead. Loaded, its weight shoots up to 260,000 pounds.  The missile is constructed without interior struts. Its skin is stainless steel thinner than a dime.  Nitrogen gas is pumped into the missile to keep it from collapsing like a balloon while it is being transported.

The first missile, after its two-to-three-month shakedown in the MAB building, will undergo further tests for three or four months in its launching silo before it is declared operational.  By the time the entire 12 site complex is operations, Plattsburgh will actually have 13 Atlas missiles – one in each underground site and one spare kept in the MAB building.
April 7, 1962
Public Viewing of Missile To Begin at Base April 16

The first of 12 Atlas F missiles which arrived at Pittsburgh Air Force Base Thursday will be put on public view Monday, April 16.  A group of 60 area businessmen and political leaders will be invited to the base to see the 80 foot missile at its temporary home, the Black Hanger on the flight line.  Guests will also be taken on tours of the missile sites. They will gather at the Officers Club for dinner that evening.
April 14, 1962
70 to View Missile, Take Tour of Sites

About 70 persons —government officials, area businessmen and news media—have been invited by the Air Force to a tour of the missile sites and a look at the first Atlas F missile.

Monday's ceremonies will begin with registration at the Platsburgh Base Officers' Open Mess. A briefing session by Col. Winton R. Close, commander of the 820th Air Division; Col. Calvin W. File Jr., Site Activation Task Force commander; and Col. Richard Beck, commander of the 556th Strategic Missile Squadron which will eventually be in charge of the sites, will follow. The guests will tour the Missile Assembly Building at 2:30 where they will be briefed by Waller Dunn, base manager for General Dynamics Astronautics.  A tour of the missile site will begin at 3:15.

After that guests will gather at the Officers' Open Mess for cocktails and dinner.

Among those invited to the first in a series of tours are Mayor John J. Tyrell, members of
Common Council, Supreme Court Judge Sherlock E. Haley, Assemblyman Robert J. Fienberg, PSUC President George W. Angell, Rev. Ralph Turner, and representatives of newspaper, radio and television in Plattsburgh and Burlington, Vt.

May 3, 1962
Bechtel Corp. to Wind Up Work At Alburg Missile Site Tuesday
By Roy Southworth

The Bechtel Corp will complete its phase of installation at the Alburg, Vt. Atlas missile launching site next Tuesday.  The Alburg site is the farthest advanced of the 12 missile sites.  Bechtel's work will be coming to completion at the 11 other sites one by one at approximately one-week intervals.

 Bechtel's employment reached a 1,800-to-1,900 peak last month but is already beginning to taper as work at Alburg nears the completion target, Allen said.  The 138-man manual trades work force at the Alburg site will drop to 50 by the week of May 21.  Bechtel's final work will be done at the 12th site by Aug. 31, and the work force will rapidly thereafter dwindle toward the 200 mark that will be reached by Dec. 31.
May 14, 1962
Willsboro to Hear Of Missiles

Col Richard W. Beck, commander of the squadron that will be in charge of the area's Atlas missile sites, will speak at Willsboro on Tuesday.  He will show picture slides on the Willsboro missile site
June 21, 1962
2nd Atlas Arrives At Base

Plattsburgh received its second Atlas missile Wednesday.  Unlike the first Atlas which made the trip from San Diego, Calif , in a C133B cargo plane, the newest arrival came cross-country by land.  The Atlas missile left San Diego several days ago by truck across the nation's highway system.

First step in checking out the missile while on base will be an acceptance inspection and  then it will be taken to the Missile Assembly Building (Black Hangar) and will be run through additional checkouts. 

The first of the 12 missiles arrived April 5. It has been undergoing a series of tests and receiving final installations before it is transported to one of the launching sites.

It is expected that the base would have several missiles on base before any are taken to the launch sites. The missile, after its two-to-three-month shakedown, in the MAB building, will undergo further tests for three or four months in its launching silo before it is declared operational.
July 5, 1962
Area Seeks Means to Cushion End of Missile Boom
By Roy Southworth

[This article provides an overall view of the missile construction and its impact on Plattsburgh in its entirety from:
Plattsburgh Press-Republican 
Thursday Morning July 5, 1962]

One of these summer days the first of 12 Alias missiles destined for installation in this area will be taken out of its hanger at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base.

It will be trucked to a launching site probably at Alburg, Vt., and lowered into a 174-foot-deep underground silo. It will become operational next fall.

Soon more Atlases — two are at the base now — will be arriving one after another.

Each will eventually be tucked out of sight, like the first one, beneath a tidy lawn surrounded by a steel mesh fence and guarded day and night by soldiers and sentry dogs.

Plattsburgh will be sorry to see this happen, for the Atlas missile project will have meant jobs for about 800 local men in its two and one-half years.

Altogether, the project has meant jobs for 2,000 at its peak; the prime contractor believes you could put the total payroll at $30 million, spread over the whole contract period.

Sometime in 1963 the 12 launching sites will be turned over to 556th Strategic Missile Squadron, and the party will be over.

It was good while it lasted, but Plattsburgh has seen this kind of thing before.

There has been some kind of military installation here almost uninterruptedly since the War of 1812.

During World War I, the Plattsburgh Barracks turned out 5,500 of the first 90-day wonders – Civilians mass-converted into Army lieutenants.

But up until the advent of the missiles, the biggest thing in a military way that ever happened lo Plattsburgh was the construction of a $100 million Strategic Air Command base 10 years ago.

Plattsburgh is the county seat of Clinton County, whose population rose from 50,000 in 1950 to now than 70,000 in 1960.

The missile boom has been superimposed on the earlier air base boom in housing retail sales and job creation.
The military-generated boom hasn't been the only one, either; there is tourism, still the No. 1 industry for Plattsburgh and its environs.

Nevertheless, the tired gray spectre of unemployment hangs on.

For this is a depressed area; 8 per cent of its labor force is persistently unemployed and has been right along, boom or no boom.

It probably cost $50 million just to dig those 12 silos and concrete  them and install the steel cribbing that holds the Atlas in place and fashion the spherical underground
control centers, 40 feet in diameter, where the missile crews will be stationed.

That phase of work was accomplished by Raymond-Kaiser-Macco-Puget Sound, joint venturers, in a few days less than two years-from June 18, 1960  to May 31, 1962.

Its been a might job the first missile base east of the Mississippi.

The first Atlas — a 75 – foot monster without its nose cone – arrived here by cargo plane from California April 5.

It was whisked into its present hanger on the air base for overhaul and technical changes, so that mechanics could get two or three months’ experience at being nursemaid to a rocket.

On April 16, a group of 60 high-placed Plattsburghers got their first look at the Atlas at an invitation-only briefing session.

General Dynamic Astronautics technicians discussed the dimensions and capabilities of “the bird." 

Its stainless steel skin is thinner than a dime. Nitrogen gas pressure from within is the only thing that keeps it from collapsing. It flies at 16,000 miles an hour although it weighs 130 tons. It can deliver a nuclear bomb a quarter of the way around the earth in about a half hour.

The North country visitors took in the statistics as they eyed the rocket's sleek lines, translating them into masses of dollar signs.

The necessity for Atlas missiles in general — Symbol of man's in-humanity to man — may be a cause for regret but people here keep that thought in the back of their minds.

“I think all people deplore the necessity of the missile and the billions of dollars we’er spending for military purposes, but preparedness requires that there be no letup,” the Rev. Winston Saunders, pastor of the Plattsburgh First Methodist Church, said the other day.

“We don’t like to spend money in ways that are wasteful of human life—but we’ve got to be realistic,” he said.

The Plattsburgh Unitarian, Fellowship sponsored a let's-get-sensible-about - this resolution that was adopted last week by the Unitarian – Universalist Assn. in  Washington.

The resolution made no mention of Plattsburgh’s missiles.  

It just called for an uninspected moratorium on nuclear weapons testing while heads of governments negotiate on a permanent nuclear ban backed by controls.

“Being in the midst of a prime target area makes some people uncomfortable; they have a sort of leery feeling,” said Dr. Ernst Wiener, social studies professor at the Plattsburgh State University College and a member of the Unitarian Fellowship.

“But my own personal feeling is that it’s already been a target area for a long time.  I don’t think it will make much difference if war comes, whether you are a target area or not.”

"The most  pressing problem; the chief concern to us all; is the need for diversification of industry. We have unemployed people" now; what will it be like when the project is finished?” Wiener said.

"I think that people who feel uneasy about being in a target area have already moved out," said Bennett Clute, secretary of the Clinton County Real Estate Board.

“After all, they’ve had ample warning. We've been a prime target area for a decade," he said.

During any boom, you'll find about what happens afterward.

But in Plattsburgh, there is more than nail-biting going on. How to catch and hold a boom
is the chief topic of conversation these days.

The thinking has given birth to the Champlain Development Corporation, a non-profit organization with a budget of public and private funds whose aim is to bring in new industry, particularly Canadian industry eager to exploit the American market from this side of the nearby international border.

The Corporation is having some luck .It is dickering with three or four firms right now.  Three have moved into the area in the last six months.

A boom has advantages and disadvantages.  Here are some of both, as Plattsburgh has experienced them:
1. New jobs are created for a limited period bat it isn’t local people who necessarily get them all or even most of them.

"We've probably got 4,400 to 5,000 people — missile workers and their families— here in the county now and that has had a big effect on retail trade and housing.  But it doesn’t mean jobs for our own local people,” says Arthur G. Dillon, Plattsburgh office manager of the State Employment Service.

“A while ago, the Bechtel Corp. (a prime second-phase subcontractor) laid off about 200 people but my office only got 15 or 20 of them looking for jobs.”

“Most of the rest had probably come here from outside the area and went back home to do their job hunting”.

“When Raymond Kaiser (the prime contractor for excavation) pulled out of here this month, we got no great number of applicants for new jobs and I guess they hired 1,500 to 1,800 people.”

“Of course Bechtel hired a lot of Raymond Kaiser people for the second-phase work, office workers and trades workers both.”

“But we were still expecting a lot more job hunters than we actuall got when Raymond Kaiser pulled out.”

"The explanation is that a high percentage of missile workers have been imported, particularly heavy equipment operators and other skilled workers that our local labor force just wasn’t equipped to furnish.

“Now that the missile project is past the peak, we’ll soon be getting down to the unskilled and semi-skilled workers who’ve always lived here and unless we get other construction projects they'll have to go elsewhere to find Jobs.”

"Local construction is petering out. We're getting into a new situation and frankly I don't know how it's going to work out."

Karl Schweikert of Peru, president of the Plattsburgh Building Trades Council, says that local workers are hired first when a new project starts.

“After the local men are hired hiring branches out all over the state and on over into New England.”

“We’ve had a lot of missile workers from Buffalo, Syracuse, Syracuse, Albany and other places in New York State and others from New Hampshire and Maine and some from Ohio.”

“These aren’t men who have been traveling from base to base in the West with the same companies that had contracts for Vandenberg or Altus or some of the other Atlas missile projects – and so you see that when you’re talking about ‘local’ workers you finally come to covering a pretty wide area.”

2. A missile project doesn't have any noticeable effect on the wage level.

"The labor contracts we sign with these missile contractors are all at the going rate of pay.”

"If wages are higher in this area now than they were three or four years ago, they would have-been higher anyway, even if the missile people had never come here," Schweikert says.

3. The project results in an upsurge in job education.

Schweikert feels that this is probably the most lasting contribution the project has made to the local labor force.

"The Plumbers & Steamfitters and the Electricians have set up their own schools to teach their  men new techniques," he says.

These trade schools were organized last fall with aid from the union international headquarters.

Classes in theory and in the practice of things like welding plastics, the use of heliarc welding equipment and measurements where thousandths of an inch are crucial – techniques and methods foreign to the North Country up to now – have been organized for 20 to 30 students, including apprentices.

For trades unable to get inter-education shop classes at the Peru Central School are providing additional instruction, Schweikert says.

“All the trades are trying to get some kind of an educational program going for their own men.”

“This project has taught us that a man just can’t get a job anywhere unless he has had a high-class eduction.

“That is what is happening not only here but all over the country,” Schweikert says.

4. A missile project has direct and indirect effects on the housing industry but the chief heir after it's all over will1 probably be the tourist industry.

Many blue - collar workers with families have come to Plattsburgh in their own house trailers.  They know they’ll only be here a couple of years. They aren't interested in building homes. 

Blue collar bachelors have moved into country hotels and rooming houses in hamlets and
villages in the neighborhood of the missile sites.

“It has been our policy to house our people out in the country as much as possible so as to keep them handy by the missile area and at the same time take some of the pressure off housing in Plattsburgh itself,” says a spokesman for General Dynamics Astronautics (GDA), the California company that makes and installs Atlases.

But GDA's top-drawer technicians with families have moved into Pittsburgh itself. The city has had to expand to accommodate them. 

Frank Richards, an Oklahoma City contractor, built a 122-unit $1 million motel on Margaret St. in the city.

Porter Reed of Glens Falls built a $250,000 colony of 25 cottages at Mooney Point on Lake Champlain about eight miles north of the city.

Some existing motels have been converted into temporary year-round apartment houses.

Richard and Reed both have 18 - month total – occupancy guarantees with GDA. Their housing projects will be used for the tourist trade when the GDA people move out.

Clute, who handled the Richards real estate deal, says rents in the city have drifted up about 10 per cent is the last couple of years.

That brings them back up to about where they were during the height of the air-base boom, which lasted until 1958.

"An. apartment that rented for $90 a month two-years ago is up over $100 now,” Clute says.

"But I'm not as sure that wouldn't have happened anyway without the missile project.  It’s  a natural growth trend. New families keep-forming.

"These higher rents have created a new housing boom because people are coming to the conclusion they might better build than rent, at those prices.”

"Every year, you get some people coming up here to retire. A lot of them build. New industry is bringing in others.

"There is also a certain number of the people who have been working for GDA and Bechtel and have decided to retire here or go into some other line of business here," Clute says.
July 27, 1962
Off the Beaten Track
By Roy Southworth

The first missile was moved to its Swanton, Vt., site on Wednesday. Now the big birds will be moving out every so often from now on.  The second Atlas was on its way to the Alburg, Vt, site, taking roughly the same route as the first one.

The remaining missile movements would not be announced.  Locals would sometimes confuse a water bird with an actual missile, leading to some confusion. 

A water bird (there are three of them at Plattsburgh) are also arousing some interest through the countryside. They're mock missiles that resemble an Atlas except that they are transported from site to site is sections. Atlases can't be cut up into sections.

The water bird sections are assembled on the launching sites and  put on the silo elevator and raised and lowered to be sure that everything is in shape to handle the real Atlas when the time comes.

Another bit of trivia - about hardhat colors - Yellow is for visitors; green, for supervisors; white for General Dynamics Astronautics safety engineers; light blue is for hourly employees and technicians, dark blue for the Air Force and a kind of bright orange, is for the rescue squad.

[Editor’s note: Starting in about August or earlier, the Air Force, GDA and the related support groups were put into ‘high gear’ as tensions with the Soviet Union where high and the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis was just on the horizon.  So far, there have been no local stories in newspapers about the missile sites during this time period – October 1962.  However, all sites were on alert during this time with a missile at the ready. Confirmation of individual site actual readiness is being confirmed slowly via contact and discussions with servicemen who were sequestered “down below” during this time]
August 4, 1962
 [Photo Caption]
WHEN A MISSILE'S NOT A MISSILE — Peru residents saw this object being transported through their town Thursday. On second glance, they knew it wasn't as Atlas missile, because it was being transported in sections — a thing you can't do with a real missile.  Actually, it was what General Dynamics Astronautics people call a "water bird" — a missile mockup filled with water to the Atlas' weight and used to test the elevator and other equipment in the missile sites. This one was bound for the site at Au Sable Forks.

August 13, 1962
State Certifies Clinton As Rabid Animal Area
By Roy Southworth
[OK, so this really isn’t a ‘missile’ story, but it is related!]

Clinton County became a certified rabies county Wednesday.  This means that all dogs must be kept confined or on leash until at least 70 percent of them are vaccinated.

This state of affairs has come about because a number of strange-acting foxes in the Churubusco and Ellenburg areas were found to be rabid.  At Atlas Missile Site 8 (Ellenburg), workmen found foxes rushing out at their vehicles and biting the tires.  But you can't fire a gun near a missile site. It isn't advisable to try to shoot a rabid fox away, either; he has a crazed desire to bite you.
September 26, 1962
Champlain First Stop In Rockefeller’s Tour

Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller is due to hit Clinton County about 4:30 p.m. today for a round of stops that will end with a GOP rally at Airborne Park at 8 p.m.

He'll start the day off in Montreal, Que., where he's scheduled to open the New York State tourist bureau.  He is due to arrive at the Champlain Atlas missile site for an inspection tour at 4:30 p.m. He will be met there by Gen. Winton Close, Plattsburgh Air Force Base commander. Rockefeller is chairman of the Governor's Conference on Defense.
December 19, 1962
Missile Sites Now Operational
By Roy Southworth

[This is the first public admission that all missile sites are operational as nothing was written or documented during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 when the defense system was at DEFCON 2.]

The Plattsburgh area's 12 Atlas missile sites, now operational, will be turned over to the Strategic Air Command this morning.  The entire $120-million project—the only missile installation East of the Mississippi has been completed 19 days ahead of schedule. Ground was broken for the first site at Champlain on June 17, 1960. The project was to have been completed Dec. 28, 1962.

The commander of the State Activation Task Force (SATAF) said the construction phase - digging the 174-foot-deep silos and concreting them and the launch control centers - was completed February 1st.

[The following chronology is confusing since ‘all sites’ were assumed to be fully functional in October 1962 – or were they?]

Slightly overlapping the construction phase, came the installation and checkout phase which was completed last Sunday, General Dynamics Astronautics, which manufactures the Atlas missile series, was the prime contractor during the installation phase.

December 20, 1962
We Hope It Won’t  Be Fired
By Roy Southworth

Maj. Gen. Marcus F. Cooper, deputy chief of staff, Systems Headquarters, Air Force Systems Command presented a symbolic key to Lt. Gen. Joseph J. Nazzaro commander of the 8th Air Force, Westover, Mass.; and the nation's 556th squadron became officially operational.

The simple turnover ceremony was held in a Quonset-type building at the Champlain missile site. About a hundred people attended the ceremony - civilian technicians, military personnel, area civic leaders and newsmen. In guided groups, they made a tour of the underground silo and launch control center.

It took a little short of 2 ½ years to dig the holes and install the missiles.  For every 2,200 man-days of work that went into the 12-site project, there was a loss of four days due to strike activity. Put another way the project took 1,675,302 man days; the loss was 4 thousandths of one per cent. That is the best record for all the missile sites all over the country.
Articles can be attributed to:
Plattsburgh Press Republican
Roy Southworth
Cyndi Ress
Al Farrell 
Other articles may have been written by the authors above or other staff writers, but may have been left off the by line or the by line was not legible from the microfilm reproduction.