On November 3, 1967, the Dept of Defense publicly revealed the first 10 locations slated to receive the Sentinel Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) system designed to protect the continental US from ICBMs. Heading the list, Boston would host the first site. Throughout 1968, representatives from the Huntsville District and the local Army Corps of Engineers District teamed with members of the Army Air Defense Command (ARADCOM) to survey potential sites around Boston.
On August 16, 1968, DOD solicited Congress for acquisition of land near Sharpner’s Pond near Andover, MA for the huge Perimeter Acquisition Radar (PAR) facility and for a plot on a nearby National Guard facility for the Missile Site Radar (MSR). With Congressional approval granted in September, the Army implemented a three-phase construction plan. Learning from difficulties encountered with ICBM silo construction, Corps of Engineers and Department of Labor representatives met with local labor leaders to develop dispute-handling mechanisms. The Corps also incorporated a special road damage clause into the construction contracts to assuage local government officials concerned about highway maintenance.
By submitting a low bid of just over $767,000, George Brox Inc. of Dracut, Massachusetts, won the Phase I contract to construct the site access road, clear the site, and perform some excavation work. Once the Corps gave notice to proceed on September 24, Brox quickly commenced work. Phase II began on January 22, 1969, when Morrison-Knudsen Inc. of Boise, Idaho, was awarded a $2.2 million contract for preliminary construction work.
Initially, local reaction to the construction was subdued. However, with the upcoming national election, Sentinel sites became topics for debate, especially at the locations designated to receive them. With Sentinel construction actually under way near Boston, Ballistic Missile Defense opponents had a focal point to rally against. On January 29, 1969, the Corps hosted a public relations meeting at Reading High School. Despite a blizzard, over 1,000 people attended, including many local and out-of-state BMD opponents. The meeting received wide attention in the media as Huntsville Division’s Maj. Gen. Robert P. Young repeatedly was subjected to catcalls and hostile anti-BMD arguments.
The meeting sparked additional opposition efforts and the successful recruitment of Senator Edward Kennedy into the BMD opposition. The Senator’s January 31st letter to Defense Secretary Melvin Laird criticizing Sentinel ignited a contentious debate. On February 6, facing the threat of congressional cutoff of appropriations, Secretary Laird directed a program review. At a press conference on March 14, President Nixon announced the results of the review, which recommended a reorientation of BMD to protect ICBM bases. This new network became known as Safeguard.
The announcement of Safeguard spelled the death-knell for the Sharpner’s Pond site. With the announcement of the February 6th review, the Huntsville Division directed George Brox Inc. to limit operations to maintenance work. After the March 14 announcement, the Morrison-Knudsen contract was terminated.
If the Sentinel Anti Ballistic Missile Site had been built would have consisted of two separate sites:
1. The Perimeter Acquisition Radar (PAR) site on Sharpners Pond Road in N. Andover, MA. The site is now a public park and the excavation for the underground radar building is now filled with water and appears as a square pond.
2. The Missile Site Radar (MSR) site and the primary missile field itself were to have been at Camp Curtis Guild in Reading, MA (near the existing Nike missile launch facility, B-03L). The MSR would have been equipped with Spartan and Sprint nuclear missiles.