Montauk - Ft. Hero

While there are many conspiracy theories about this place, we know for a fact that Fort Hero's huge SAGE surveillance radar played a key role in the defense of the US during the Cold War.

Fort Hero was established in 1942 on Montauk Point to take advantage of the strategic location on the far east end of Long Island overlooking the entrance to Long Island Sound.  Join Army and Navy operation with docks, seaplane hangers, barracks and a torpedo testing facility were built and by 1943 the facility comprised 278 acres and included 16-inch naval guns in concrete bunkers.  In addition they had fifty caliber machine guns and 90mm and 120mm artillery.

After WWII ended the base was temporarily shut down.

In the 50s the Army gave their portion of the base over to the 773rd Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron who's job was aircraft identification.  The Air Force had the western portion of the base while the Army retained the eastern portion.

In 1952 the 773th became the 26th Air Division and the facility became an Air Defense Direction Center utilizing several different types of ranging and height finder radar systems.  The Army closed their portion of the base because Soviet bombers were by then able to fly higher than the range of the artillery.  The eastern portion of the base was donated to NY state but remained closed.

In 1958 a Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) radar system was installed and the name of the facility changed to Montauk Air Force Station.  The giant Sperry AN/FPS-35 Radar utilized a reflector that was 126 feet long and 38 feet tall and weighed 40 tons.  It was able to detect airborne objects at a distance of well over 200 miles so the radar became a major part of the NORAD's air defense network.  In 1963 the unit was renamed the 773rd Radar Squadron.

In 1978 the military had no further use for the base since the surveillance was being taken over by the ballistic missile early warning systems which would "see" much farther and by space satellites.  However, since the radar was being used by the FAA to track civilian flights the radar continued in operation until January 31, 1981 when a new radar in Riverhead, NY assumed the role.  The radar was abandoned in place since it was impractical to dismantle it due to its large size.


 See our companion site covering the Cold War history of Massachusetts


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