Pickstown Air Force Station

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Pickstown Air Force Station (1961-1968) - A Cold War Air Force Radar Station first established in 1961 near Pickstown in Charles Mix County, South Dakota. Named Pickstown Air Force Station after the location. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of SM-134, later a Sage ID of Z-134. Abandoned in 1968.

Pickstown SD, USAF Cantonment Bldg. in Lower Right.
Pickstown SD Plan, Showing Old Buildings and Locations.
Pickstown Air Force Station circa Mid 1960s.

History of Pickstown Air Force Station

Established in November 1960 and became operational on 14 Dec 1961 as Pickstown Air Force Station manned by the 695th AC&W Squadron. The station was purpose built as a SAGE System long range radar site. The site also had a limited capability for both a manual Ground-Control Intercept (GCI) and early warning mission. The manual early warning mission involved tracking and identifying all aircraft entering their airspace while the manual GCI mission involved guiding Air Force interceptors to any identified enemy aircraft. Controllers at the station could vector fighter aircraft at the correct course and speed to intercept enemy aircraft using voice commands via ground-to-air radio.

Initial equipment included the FPS-66 search radar, two FPS-6 height-finder radars and a FST-2B Coordinate Data Transmitter.

SAGE System Operation

Pickstown SAGE Direction Centers & Sectors
Assigned Direction Center Sector
16 Apr 1961 - 1 Apr 1966 Sioux City SAGE Direction Center DC-22 Sioux City Air Defense Sector
1 Apr 1966 – 8 Sep 1968 Sioux City SAGE Direction Center DC-22 30th Air Division

The site began operation as a SAGE site on 14 Dec 1961 initially feeding the Sioux City SAGE Direction Center DC-22. The Sioux City Air-Defense Sector (SCADS) was deactivated on 1 Apr 1966 and the 30th Air Division took up operations at the Sioux City SAGE Direction Center DC-22 and Pickstown AFS remained connected to that direction center.

On 18 Sep 1968, in the third round of SAGE System closures, the 30th Air Division and Sioux City SAGE Direction Center DC-22 were both deactivated. Most of the attached radar sites were closed on or about the same time, including Pickstown Air Force Station.

Closure

Pickstown Air Force Station and the 695th Radar Squadron (SAGE) were deactivated on 8 Sep 1968.

Physical Plant

The main site and operations area was located about a mile and a half east of Pickstown South Dakota. The main site housed only the three radar towers covered with radomes and the operations building that housed the manual operations equipment and the SAGE System FST-2.

The cantonment area was located in the old General Pick Hotel in Pickstown, South Dakota, see #25 on the plan above. The hotel housed the Headquarters, administration, the enlisted dorm, the bachelor officer's quarters, the dining hall and the dispensary. The building was completely remodeled for the Air Force and was a unique cantonment area. A separate recreation building was remodeled and became the Post Exchange, see # 21 on the plan above. The supply section was housed in the remodeled old Pickstown Garage.

A number of houses in Pickstown were remodeled and made available to Air Force families.

A separate SAGE System GATR radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts.


Pickstown AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems Radio
Unit Designations
  • 695th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1961-1961)
  • 695th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1961-1968)
695th Assignments
  • 18 Apr 1961 - Activated at Pickstown AFS, SD, assigned to Sioux City ADS.
  • 1 Apr 1966 - Transferred to 30th AD.
  • 8 Sep 1968 - Discontinued.


Pickstown Air Force Station Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1961~ Major Steele, Wendell A. N/A
1967 Major Holiday, Robert N/A
1967? Captain Jacobson, N/A

Current Status

The main site is currently the Fort Randall Casino & Hotel operated by the Yankton Sioux Tribe, no remains of the Air Force Station.

The town has a Museum named Fort Randall and Pickstown Museum. It has well over 2,000 exhibit artifacts along with over 450 professionally done wall exhibits regarding the town history.


Location: Pickstown in Charles Mix County, South Dakota.

Maps & Images

Lat: 43.08306 Long: -98.47528

See Also:

Sources:

  • Cornett, Lloyd H. & Johnson, Mildred W., A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization (1946-1980), Office of History ADC, Peterson AFB, Colorado, 31 Dec 1980, 179 pages, Pdf, page 161
  • Winkler, David F., Searching the skies: the legacy of the United States Cold War defense radar program, USAF Hq Air Combat Command, 1997, 192 pages, Pdf, page 154
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2089924
  • The Daily Republic (Mitchell, South Dakota)
    • Mon, 6 Feb 1961, Page 14 - Work Underway at Pickstown on New Air Force Project.
    • Wed, 31 May 1961, Page 19 - Work Progress at Radar Warning Site.
    • Wed, 27 Dec 1961, Page 16 - Activity Mounts at Pickstown With Opening of New Radar Unit.
    • Thu, 28 Dec 1961, Page 10 - CO At Pickstown Radar Site Has Been in Work for 19 Years.
    • Fri, 29 Dec 1961, Page 12 - Headquarters of Radar Squadron at Pickstown in Old General Pick Hotel.
    • Fri, 25 Aug 1967, Page 14 - Name New Officer at Pickstown AFB
  • The Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota)
    • Sun, 12 May 1968 · Page 1, 6 - Air Force to Close Base at Gettsburg.

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