A decommissioned missile base hides tucked away within the heavily forested Florida Keys. Looking down the old SR-905 in Key Largo, you can barely see the crumbling remains of a former radar site, rusting to dust between hectic overgrowth. The three radars found at this site were the target ranging radar, target tracking radar and the missile tracking radar.
The Cuban missile crisis of 1962 served as a huge eye-opener to the U.S. needing more defenses – thus came the construction of HM-40 only a few short years later in 1965. With the Cold War lasting well through the 1980s, the U.S. continued to send troops and weapons into Florida. This included sending soldiers into the Everglades, where they would then be stationed with mobile anti-aircraft weapons.
HM-40 was one of the first places where HAWK missile units were used, before transitioning to mostly NIKE. What you see here is part of a defunct communications/command post known as an IFC, or integrated fire control. This part of HM-40 controlled the radars, which controlled the missiles. The use of Nike missiles was thought of as extremely advanced during this time, as they were one of the first types of missile to actually track their targets. During these years, soldiers were also living within the grounds of this particular part of HM-40.
In June 1979, HM-40 was abandoned permanently, while the launch site – which no longer stands – was under federal control and became part of the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The radar site, as shown by my photos, was under state control and had become part of the Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park. There are plans set to let the areas natural vegetative state consume all that was left behind, returning it to the rich and earthy piece of land it once was. Over these next decades, the Earth will continue to swallow what we have left behind, and some day the soil here will breathe freely once more.
Following photos from the December 17, 1969 issue of the Upper Keys Reporter