Above And Below – Exploring The Abandoned Cold War History Of LA-88 In Chatworth, CA
They definitely don’t lay out the welcome mat for you, in fact all the roads after you exit the 118 Fwy have multiple “No Trespassing”, “Private Road” and “Locals Only” signs posted on them. This gate was opened and shut numerous times while we were there. By who? Who knows but everyone drove white unmarked trucks and didn’t seem to like the fact that we were there walking along a PUBLIC road. But that didn’t stop us.
After a short semi-steep hike up the road, the base comes into view. I’ve been wanting to explore this 5-acre site for ages but after a box containing roughly 400 sniper bullets was found (and possibly stolen) from the site a couple of years ago, it’s been heavily patrolled by law enforcement including multiple daily flybys by the LA sheriff’s air patrol unit.
The ruins of the Nike missile base sit among the rolling green hills of the 2,326-acre Michael D. Antonovich Regional Park maintained by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
The old guard shack.
LA-88 opened in 1956 as one of 16 missile sites throughout Southern California known collectively as the “Ring of Steel.”
Missile loading area.
The missile base was the first in Los Angeles to house a Nike Hercules, a missile equipped with a nuclear warhead. The surface-to-air missile was designed to shoot down enemy bombers during the height of the Cold War.
Paint by Numbers
Rain + abandoned military installations = good times
While the above ground buildings were nice and all, I came for one thing and one thing only…to penetrate the underground areas of the site.
All of the doors leading down into the underground launch area were welded shut.
Bird Vent or Venting Bird?
Historical photo of LA-88
Launch doors from above…
…launch doors from below. Penetration complete!
I love going underground and fortunately we found a way in.
Launch door mechanics.
These were the actual controls that opened and closed the heavy steel launch doors.
Goomp + Arabic = Exciting
The bunk area for the launch crew…
…which sits behind a very thick blast door.
Yeah, I’m sure that would work.
One of the many escape hatches (all welded shut of course) found within the underground launch area.
Exiting the undergound.
Metro Transit Assassins
For 18 years, the local base was bustling with more than 100 military personnel whose motto was: “If It Flies, It Dies.” Then during a period of government budget cuts, and after the Nike Hercules was included in a U.S.-Soviet Union arms-reduction treaty, nearly all Nike sites in the country were shut down by 1974.
After it shut down, the site was then acquired by the city of Los Angeles and leased to the California Conservation Corps until 1990 in exchange for maintenance of the property.
The corps ceased its operations in 1990 due to lack of funding and the property was abandoned because of earthquake and fire damage.
In 1999, the City Council voted to transfer the missile site property from the city Department of General Services to the LAPD for Bomb Squad and SWAT training.
General Services continues to have jurisdiction over the property while LAPD has “responsibility and control” over the missile site.
Tag you’re it!
In order to protect the sites vital arsenal, the Los Angeles area air defense system became the first in the nation to use Army sentry dogs to protect missile sites.
In November 1958, four sentry dogs and their handlers began patrolling LA-88. Fortunately no law enforcement flybys or any other threats occurred while we were there.
Inside the old rusted Metro bus used for target practice over the years by LAPD SWAT.
That Sinking Feeling
A Warning Sign