by David Bedell
There are no signs pointing the way to Above All State Park. It is not even marked on the newer editions of the official state tourism map, nor is it included in the official list of state parks. Nevertheless, it is a public park managed by the CT Department of Environmental Protection, like the other state parks. And it is the former command center for Connecticut's network of nuclear missiles.
To reach the park, you have to follow Above All Road in the town of Warren, up to the summit of a hill overlooking Litchfield County. At the entrance is a small marker to show it is state property, and a gate just high enough for a bicycle to pass underneath (without rider). A dirt road leads up to a meadow in the woods.
In the 19th century there were plans to build the "Above-All Mountain House" as a holiday resort, but nowadays the road is frequented more by little red salamanders than by human visitors.
At the top of the meadow is an empty cinder block bunker. Behind the bunker is the concrete base of what was once a launchpad for Nike anti-aircraft missiles. Each missile carried a 2-to-40 kiloton nuclear warhead. This was the control center for 12 Nike launch sites distributed around Connecticut during the Cold War. Ours was the only state to have had every square inch of its territory protected (or targeted) by nuclear weapons.
The Nikes were intended to defend against Soviet bomber planes, but they were never tested since even an unarmed missile could have killed people if it fell to earth in a populated place like Connecticut. And they became obsolete soon after installation because they were useless against the new Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) which replaced bombers.
After the 1972 SALT treaty banned rapid-fire Nike missiles, the launchpads were dismantled. The Above All site became a state park again. For a while it reappeared on the maps, but now it has reverted to secrecy and is seldom mentioned.
The only Red Menace now are the red efts which creep across the road and which you have to watch out for if you want to avoid squashing them under foot or tire. I am reminded of Karel Capek's War With the Newts, the 1936 Czech science-fiction satire in which salamanders take over human military installations, and the world descends into a nightmarish arms race and world war.
Fortunately, these newts seem to be the peaceful kind.