One day during the summer of 1963, our Cub Scout leader had a surprise for us on a weekend field trip. Five or six of us in our little decorated uniforms were driven to a location not far from home in Gary, Indiana, just off the beach on Lake Michigan where the sand dunes seem to go on forever. Just as I lost track of our exact location in the scattered thickets of pines, cattails and tall grass, we stopped where a number of olive-drab tents were set-up just as in a scene in some war movie. As an officer began the tour of the site, we gradually began to see the stuff only seen in movies and magazines at that time; brilliant white, sleek, angular missiles laying very low against the white limestone gravel, on their olive-green launch structures. Sometime later, I found that these were the Nike-Hercules anti-aircraft missiles briefly seen in the Civil Defense films shown in our classrooms just before we drilled on the "duck-and-cover" method of avoiding harm during a nuclear attack. I was quite fascinated by the one right in front of me as I reached up and ran my hand along the smooth, white surface of the missile, which felt quite solid and not something rather hollow like a propane tank or the fender of a car. I stared at it a while, imagining it rocketing upward on it's suicide mission into the dark blue of the northern sky towards some commie Russian bomber trespassing over Lake Michigan. I remember wondering, "are they really letting me do this?". Before long, we were whisked away to one of the tents, where an officer pulled aside the curtain-like doorway into a dark gathering of 3 or 4 soldiers seated in front of various electronic devices on long tables. One of them was seated in front of the very same radar screen that I've seen in sci-fi movies, with a fast-rotating bar of light that illuminated curious, odd blotches on it's circular screen, items which I wondered if the undistracted soldier could really identify. After the officer ended his brief descriptions of the operations in the tent, we moved on to another tent where we chugged milk and cookies before driving off into the dunes and home again.
Years later I found that these were not the rather tame Nike-Ajax versions, but were the Nike-Hercules nuclear-tipped missiles with 20-kt warheads (unlike the European-based missiles), and also that this was just one of 22 other sites in the Chicago Defense Area during the Cold War.
I'm curious if anyone else has a similar experience? Or, have any personal experience with nuclear weapons that you are at liberty to write about? Example: a friend of mine was a sailor on a "boomer"; he told me of sleeping on top of nuclear torpedoes "because they were nice and warm".