My Old Army Unit Did What!?!

28 May 2021 On a mailing-list I follow today somebody commented about how a UK author confused a Mangrove swamp with a forest of Mango fruit trees.

Let me assure everybody that there is nothing in the least “romantic” about a mangrove swamp.

After rushing to Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis elements of the U.S. Army’s Hawk and Nike Hercules anti-aircraft missile batteries settled in. Don’t know much about where the Hawk batteries ended up, but two of the Herc units got stuck with problems.

One got placed in Everglades National Park. That meant that unmarried troops were expected to live in the park, gators and all. The Battery I served with was located on Key Largo, of Boggie and Bacall fame. To make the small post, in the middle of a Mangrove swamp, they tossed in chunks of coral and rocks until the area was about one foot above sea level. Then they put in dirt, grass seed, and buildings. For all but a few weeks of the year mosquitoes swarmed, and drank our blood. If you pulled gate guard duty you wore a bee-keeper’s head-net and kept a mosquito coil smoldering in the gate shack.

Relief arrived about the beginning of August in the form of several gazillion Dragonflies. For about four weeks you could not have bought a mosquito, alive or crushed, for $50.USD on Key Largo. Even today, nearly fifty years later, I feel a thankful attachment to any Dragonfly I see.

The Battery’s compound is still there in some form. Today the Hi-Par (most powerful) Radar is still used for drug interdiction.

One last point, no one had planned for the rapid deployment of the Nike Hercules system in the U.S. To quote Clint Eastwood, in Heartbreak Ridge, deployment to the Miami area was a real “Cluster-Flock.” Except for the Battery that ended up on Key Largo. In late 1961 the unit, that I joined ten years later, was deployed in the remote Pacific firing live nukes! (According to the new version of Godzilla’s history, all atomic and H-bomb explosions in the Pacific were attempts to kill the King of the Monsters(tm). Therefore my old Army unit took a shot at Godzilla!)

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