Goddard Middle School's old missile is bound for Pueblo

After more than 50 years, symbolic missile will give way to parking lot expansion

David Gilbert
dgilbert@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 3/6/20

Goddard Middle School's old missile will soon be lifting off. Littleton Public Schools will donate the old Nike Hercules surface-to-air missile to the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum this spring, …

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Goddard Middle School's old missile is bound for Pueblo

After more than 50 years, symbolic missile will give way to parking lot expansion

Posted
Goddard Middle School's old missile will soon be lifting off.
 
Littleton Public Schools will donate the old Nike Hercules surface-to-air missile to the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum this spring, said Terry Davis, the district's director of operations.
 
The missile, which was placed outside the west Littleton school when it opened in 1968, is being removed to make way for a parking lot expansion.
 
Davis said he's thankful the missile will be going to a museum where it can be restored and cared for, and can be given proper historical context and interpretation.
 
“It gives everyone in Colorado a chance to see it,” Davis said. “It will be taken care of the way it deserves.”
 
Davis said numerous organizations from around the country reached out about acquiring the missile after Colorado Community Media published an article about its unknown fate.
 
Strong contenders included the Nike Site Summit, a former Nike missile base now operated as a museum in the mountains outside Anchorage, Alaska, and Nike Elementary School in Pacific, Missouri, built adjacent to an old Nike missile base.
 
Other contenders included Colorado Air and Space Port, formerly Front Range Airport, near Aurora, and a military museum in Texas.
 
Davis said his goal with picking a recipient was to keep it in Colorado and to maximize its preservation and educational potential.
 
“We really just didn't have anything like that materialize in the Denver area,” Davis said. Numerous local agencies and museums turned down the missile.
 
Davis said he knows many locals hoped it could simply be moved to another spot on the Goddard grounds, but said the missile would simply continue to degrade under that scenario.
 
Davis said he regretted the district's initial plan to quietly have the missile cut up for scrap.
 
“We really underestimated how much this meant to the community,” Davis said. “We didn't realize how many people it would impact. If I could go back I definitely would have been looking for other options from the start.”
 
The missile's fate came to the public's attention thanks to Randy Trujillo, a 1971 Littleton Public Schools graduate whose Facebook post on the subject went viral. Trujillo did not respond to numerous calls and emails for this article.
 
The staff of the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum is tickled pink to be getting the missile, said curator Shawn Kirscht.
 
“We've already got a Hawk missile and a Pershing missile, and we've been wanting to do a missile park out front for a long time,” Kirscht said. “It won't be put out front right away, because we're going to take our time restoring it and bringing it back to military specs. There's a lot of paint on that thing.”
 
The missile has to be out by June 7, Kirscht said, though the plan is to take it to Pueblo sometime in April or May. Kirscht said plans are in the works to hold a ceremony for Littleton to say goodbye to the missile that became an emblem of Goddard.
 
Taking the missile to Pueblo will be a return of sorts. Littleton Public Schools teacher Dr. Ben Millspaugh acquired the missile from the Pueblo Army Depot, a military hardware disposal site, in 1968. Nike Hercules missiles were largely decommissioned in the United States by the early 1960s.
 
The Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum hosts an impressive array of military aircraft, including F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, and a World War II-era B-29 bomber.
 
Pueblo also boasts a proud legacy of military service. The city's nickname is “The Home of Heroes,” in honor of the four Medal of Honor winners who hail from the southern Colorado city.
 
Reaction to the announcement online was mixed. Many Littleton old-timers said they were upset the missile wouldn't stay in Littleton. Some had discussed starting fundraisers to move the missile to another spot on the Goddard grounds.
 
"As a kid going there, there was always something about seeing the rocket out front,"  Samantha Magnuson wrote on Facebook. "It made you feel like somehow your school was cooler then the rest! It was comforting to see it day in and day out. I think it is a sad loss for not only the school itself but for all the future generations to come!"
 
Littleton School Board President Jack Reutzel was among those disappointed.
 
"You see the missile, and you know where you are," Reutzel said. "It's unique. I wish it was sticking around. I'm sad to see it go, but I'm glad it'll have a good home."
 
Asked why he couldn't order the missile kept in Littleton, Reutzel laughed and said, "I think some people overestimate my power."
 
Millspaugh, the retired teacher, said he's thrilled with the outcome.
 
"I'm just elated," Millspaugh said. "It's spent more than 50 years making its point at Goddard, and now it can go to a place where everyone can see and enjoy it."
 
Millspaugh said Goddard's first principal asked him to help plan opening ceremonies for the school, and Millspaugh had the idea to ask the Pueblo Army Depot for an old missile, in honor of Robert Goddard, the school's namesake and a pioneer of rocketry. Expecting a 10-foot Shrike missile, Millspaugh said he was shocked when military officials arrived toting the 41-foot Nike Hercules.
 
Millspaugh's teaching career began after he was rejected for a career as a pilot due to injuries sustained during a childhood bout of polio. As a teacher, he developed and led an aerospace program at Littleton Public Schools that sent hundreds of students on to careers in flying, engineering and the military.
 
"A lot of kids inspired by that missile went on to do great things," Millspaugh said. "I'm sad to see it go, but it served its purpose and made its mark on Littleton. If people in Littleton want to show it to their kids, all they have to do is drive a hundred miles south."

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