The Time That The Nike-Ajax Missile Came To McHenry

During the Cold War is was fairly common for countries to display their military might. This wasn’t just to intimidate their foes, but could also be used as a way to reassure their citizens that everything was under control. The American government was no different, often offering opportunities to see the military at work.

Schematics For The Nike-Ajax from the Library of Congress.

During an event held by the McHenry Chamber of Commerce known as McHenry Spectacular Days, a Nike-Ajax missile was displayed. The missile was on display in McHenry for three days from October 20-22, 1960. It was placed at the corner of Elm Street and Green in front of the Pries Certified Store. This made sense, as the Pries and the U.S. Army coordinated the effort for the missile. The army also provided missile technicians to inform the public about the workings of the missile, as well as showing informational films about the Army’s effort in the Cold War. The Nike-Ajax was also featured at the McHenry County Fair that year as well. At the fair, the Army provided examples of food displays with dehydrated food examples, an army duck and a performance by the Army band.

Front page Picture of Pictorial Newsletter Coverage from 5 November 1960.

In its time, the Nike-Ajax was one of the finest missiles in America’s military arsenal. It was the US’s first surface-to-air guided missile. It could fire from any direction and had a range of 25 miles. Traveling at over 2100 miles an hour, the Nike-Ajax stood over 60 feet in the air on its platform then fired. It was part of an air defense system that had over 240 sites. There were 23 Nike Installations in the Chicago-Gary Air Defense System, which operated from 1956-1963. What was so impressive about the Nike-Ajax was the technology used in its operation. The missile was launched remotely, firing almost the instant that the technician pushed the button. In that instant, the computer in the system analyses the target using radar and tracks it until the missile hits its target.

Advertisement for the “Ajax Event” from the October 20, 1960 McHenry Plaindealer.


  • “McHenry Spectacular Days To Feature Appearance Of Ajax Missile In City Oct 20-22” McHenry Plaindealer (McHenry, IL) News. 20 Jan 1960, 1. Web. 14 Mar 2020.
  • “Nike Ajax Spotlights U.S. Army Exhibit at McHenry County Fair” The Herald (Crystal Lake, IL) News. 4 Aug 1960, 17. Web. 14 Mar 2020.
  • “Suburbanites See Nikes In Action” Arlington Heights Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) News. 8 Aug 1957, 1. Web. 14 Mar 2020.
  • “County Fair Opens Tonight” McHenry Plaindealer (McHenry, IL) News. 4 Aug 1960, 1. Web. 14 Mar 2020.
  • “Nike-Ajax Missile Shown In McHenry” Semi-Monthly Pictorial Newsletter (McCullom Lake, IL) News. 5 Nov 1960, 11. 19 Mar 2020.