My name is David Procuniar, I received a notice from the draft board to report while living in Dayton Ohio sometime in November of 1964.  I reported to the Cincinnati, Ohio recruiting office for my mandatory 2-year Army hitch.  However while there I was talked into taking some tests and after a pep talk I enlisted for a three year hitch with the promise to be sent to California to a Nike Hercules missile site where I would spend at least two years there.  After basic training at Fort Knox Kentucky (January 1965 through April 1965) I received my accelerated advancement to Private E2 on April 1, 1965 and was shipped off to Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, California for advanced training and then sent to my permanent assignment at the Nike Hercules Missile site Saugus, California LA-94 from April 1965 through January 16th 1968.  

Upon arrival at the Saugus Nike Missile Site I was given a pep talk by Captain Moltz who commented on my personnel file test scores and sent me to be indoctrinated so to speak by a Chief Warrant Officer Ed Durffee who gave me a difficult time of it at first.  (This was expected, typical Army practice).  I was being assigned to the IFC (Integrated Fire Control) area to be trained on the (TTR) Target Tracking Radar.  I remember CWO Durffee walking me around the IFC area that very first day (the IFC was fenced in by the way) which was located on the highest elevation of the hill and CWO Durffee pointing to the launch area on a hill way below even the barracks (where the missiles were kept) saying "you don't want to be a launch rat and work in the pits spit shinning missiles  .... this is better duty up here so use the brains God gave you and you will be ok." CWO Durffee was always frank and to the point with everything he said.

As you can see by the photos I have on this website that our barracks (home to us for a few years) was simple to say the least.  Just concrete block walls, concrete floors, three inch partition between bunks, showers, a few sinks and toilets.   All barracks were on the south side of the hill with the PX, Personnel, Post Exchange, Orderly room, Day room, Supply room, Hobby Shop and Mess Hall on the opposite side of the road. About 98% of our supplies (food, beer, clothing (military and civilian) etc were brought to the site from Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, California.  At the bottom of the hill (near Saugus) the Army built the housing area for married missile men and their families.

Of course the officers had their BOQ (Bachelor Officers Quarters) on one end of the hill, which even the married officers used when they were on duty for 24 hours.  There was also a NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) barracks where rank E-5 and above lived which I was able to utilize after making the rank of E-5 after only 19 months of Army service.  We had  separate rooms at first but I shared a room due to too many single NCOs on the site.  All other buildings were of concrete block with several coats of green paint on every wall.  

There were guard dog handlers to guard the missiles at the site and as far as I know they did their job without much supervision.  I do remember being on CQ (Charge of Quarters) one night and driving an Army jeep to the launch area to post guards when one of the guard dogs broke from his handler and began biting the rubber tires on my jeep.  The guard I was posting refused to get out of the jeep unless he had permission to shoot the dog.  Lucky for us the dog handler realized what was happening and leashed the dog and all were happy.

Actually the chow was pretty good at our Nike Site, we had experienced cooks and they took pride in preparing meals.  I know this first hand since when I arrived at site LA-94 I was put on KP (Kitchen Police) several times until I was able to obtain rank and then never had to worry about KP again, except a few times I took the place of other GI's KP duties while they left the hill and went down into the Valley to chase girls.  I could make $20 a day doing their KP duty and in 1965 that added up pretty fast.  Every Wednesday at noon we had to eat what they called C-Rations since they had an expiration date and of course the Army didn't want to waste anything and made us GI's eat it right before it spoiled.  I didn't complain since the C-Rations tasted pretty good to me!  I even liked the taste of what they called SOS and after getting married I asked my wife to make SOS often.

Duty at Nike Missile Site LA-94 wasn't all that bad but boring at times since you drilled and drilled over and over again (The Army has been that way since its inception)  We did travel to White Sands Missile Range (NM) on two occasions and actually would shoot a Nike Hercules Missile at a flying target.  After the shoot we were given a three day pass to go to Mexico and have some fun in Juarez.  I was promoted to E-4 after about a year and then five months later I was promoted to E-5 in November of 1966. (after approximately 19 months of service)  Some of the old timers "Lifers" complained saying it took them five years to get their E-5 promotions.

Not everything was routine and boring at this site ... on November 1st of 1966 between 4am & 5:15am a fire alarm was sounded by the IFC gate guard when he saw a red glow around his immediate area.  I was awakened from sleep and joined two other Nike men Kennedy and Smith in fighting the flames as they raced up towards the IFC area.  The fire was so hot that it burnt the fire hose in half that I was holding while spraying the flames.  Then I noticed the 100 foot flames engulfing all three of us and grabbing Smith and Kennedy we ran through the flames while using our shirts to protect our faces.  We learned later that ten young fire fighters from the El Cariso Hot Shots team were trapped and burned to death before anyone could rescue them.  

 As it ended up I spent two years and nine months at my duty station (Nike Site LA-94).  When I took my 30 day leave of absence in January 1967 (we got 30 days each year) I went back to Ohio, saw my folks and purchased a brand new 1967 Yellow Camaro and drove it all the way back to Saugus, California by myself.  I hit a lot of snow on the way but that Camaro handled very well in snow.  That way I had a new car to run around in and enjoy the sites of San Fernando Valley and Van Nuys, California the last year I spend in the Army.      

After my honorable discharge in January 1968 I returned to Dayton, Ohio went back to work for Delco (a job I had prior to my hitch in the Army), married later that year and together we have three children.  I am retired now (November 2010) from General Motors and just taking it easy day by day.  

Dave Procuniar


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