From 1958 to 1969, Thomasville was the home of an Air Force Radar Station which operated a long-range warning radar system. The radar antenna at this radar station was 70 feet high and nearly the length of a football field. It was mounted on the top of a 5-story concrete tower that is about 85 feet tall. On clear nights, the lights on the rotating antenna could be seen from many miles away. Today, only the 5-story radar tower remains. The antenna was removed years ago.
This Air Force Radar Station was located on the north side of Thomasville on Choctaw Corner Road. Today, there is a historical marker that was erected by the Clarke County Historical Society in November 2019 near the 5-story radar tower. This marker provides additional details about the former Thomasville Air Force Radar Station (see below).
Text on Historical Marker:
Thomasville Radar Base
On this site was the Thomasville Air Force Station. Manned in 1958, it was home to the 698th Aircraft Control and Warning Radar Squadron. The station was the prototype for long range AN/FPS-35 radar. The antenna, nearly the length of a football field, was over 70 feet high and weighed over 70 tons. The extant 5-story tower on which the antenna was located is about 85 feet tall. The squadron’s mission was to guide interceptor aircraft toward unidentified intruders picked up on the units radar. About 110 military personnel were stationed there. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962 the radar was part of an improvised missile warning system for Soviet missiles located in Cuba. Additional stations in Texas and New Jersey were aimed at Cuba to detect possible missile attacks. The first sweep over Cuba came from the radar in Thomasville. It served this function until late December 1962 at which time it was again directed to detect incoming unidentified aircraft. The station was divided into the main site, cantonment area, housing area and radio site. The main site housed the operations buildings, the radar towers, and backup generators. The cantonment area housed the enlisted barracks, the bachelor officer’s quarters, orderly room, dining hall, motor pool and other support buildings. There was also small 27-unit housing area for married personnel. The station was closed December 31, 1969, and the property was subsequently transferred to the State of Alabama.
Pictures that are provided include two black & white photographs that show the radar base when it was still in operation. (The photographer who took these pictures is not known.)