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Members of VFW Post 1617 in Derry  rededicated the Nike-Ajax missile in front of the Railroad Avenue post on Sept. 22. The missile has been displayed there since 1964 and recently was painted and restored. Pictured are Richard Tripp, Justin Hoitt, Devon Hedderig and Mike Reny.

DERRY | People who pass by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1617 on Railroad Avenue often wonder about that rocket-shaped object situated in front of the building.

Some remember how it got there, and others just wish they knew more.

For those who remember the day the slender Nike-Ajax missile came to rest in the front yard of the post home in 1964, it was a day of celebration, patriotism, and community spirit.

More than four decades later, the missile has received much-needed restoration and was re-dedicated Saturday night at the VFW.

Post Commander Richard Tripp thanked the Men's Auxiliary for the hard work in restoring the missile, giving it a new red, white and blue paint job.

The Men's Auxiliary took on the task of bringing the famous missile back to its original color and condition.

Justin Hoitt, current Auxiliary president, said about 10 members took part in the missile restoration work.

"We scraped this thing right down to nothing," he said, adding the missile received new paint and other updates to keep it in good shape.

"It's been 43 years since this [missile] has been put here," Hoitt said. "You can imagine the layers of paint we took off that day."

The United States deployed the Nike-Ajax missile in 1954 as the world's first operational, guided, surface-to-air missile system. As World War II ended and the Cold War developed, the missile was rushed into production and deployed to various domestic and overseas locations. By 1958, the Army deployed nearly 200 Nike-Ajax batteries around the nation's cities and vital military installations.

The last missile batteries were deactivated by late 1963, replaced by a longer-range nuclear-capable Nike Hercules. The missile standing on Railroad Avenue in Derry was dedicated during a Veterans Day ceremony in November 1964.

No one seems to know for certain the exact circumstances that brought the missle to the VFW, though a 1964 Derry News article credited then-state Rep. Charles Gay for securing its donation. Gay then represented Gov. John King at the dedication ceremony.

Post commander Richard Tripp told guests the original missile dedication back in 1964 was only part of a long list of significant events in the history of the Derry VFW during that decade. Other notable events included the Wall Street Post Home fire of March 1963, and the dedication of the new Post Home on Railroad Avenue on Nov. 11 of that same year.

"It amazes me that Post members could react so quickly, and positively, to such adversity," Tripp said.

On that day in 1964, the Derry News reported on the Nike missile's journey to its new home at the VFW Post and said a brief parade made its way up Broadway that "warmed the hearts of those who came to pay tribute once again to the fallen heroes of our great and wonderful land."

The missile dedication took place after the parade with master of ceremonies Ken Lord telling the gathering, "It is only fitting that the town which has won world fame through the nation's first man in space be chosen... through this Post... to display the weapon which has become a symbol of American rocket technology."

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