Port Austin Was Part of Cold War Defense
Port Austin Air Force Station was one of twenty-eight stations built as part of the second segment of the Air Defense Command permanent radar network. Prompted by the start of the Korean War, on July 11, 1950, the Secretary of the Air Force asked the Secretary of Defense for approval to expedite the construction of the permanent network. Approval was received on July 21, 1950, by the Defense Secretary. The Air Force directed the Corps of Engineers to proceed with construction.
The radar station was placed into operation in 1952. Over the years, the equipment at the station was upgraded to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the information gathered by the radars. Initially the site was a Ground-Control Intercept (GCI) and early warning mission. In 1959, the Port Austin Radar station was transitioned to a Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE). The site was updated again in 1965 to a BackUp Intercept Control (BUIC) system. It remained a BUIC until the station was closed. The site came under Tactical Air Command control in October 1979 with the inactivation of Aerospace Defense Command and the transfer of the site to Air Defense, Tactical Air Command (ADTAC).
In 1982, the main bearing of the search radar failed “catastrophically”. The FAA long-range radar located in Canton Michigan was utilized as a temporary data-tie site until a replacement search radar could be installed at the base in 1983. The site remained in operation until September 1988 when the base was completely shut down.
Today the site of the former Port Austin Air Force Radar Station is an economic zone for various industries. It was also the former site of the Port Austin Bible Campus. It’s now owned by Huron Castings, the county’s 5th largest employer and it will be used for worker housing.
- Port Austin Butterfly House and Gardens – The Port Austin Butterfly House and Gardens give a chance to see various Michigan species of butterflies up close and personal. The 30×50 netted house and surrounding gardens are beautifully landscaped and many of the plants are identified.
- How Art, Kayaking, and a Farm Market Saved Port Austin – The town at the tip of the Thumb has taken a different approach; offer the community has a destination for the entire summer season.
- The Historic Lightship Huron – In Port Huron in a county park, is the Lightship Huron. Lightships are floating lighthouses that could be anchored on the lakes where it was too deep or impossible to build a lighthouse. Lightships displayed a light at the top of a mast and, and in foggy conditions, it sounded a signal. Locals called the Huron “Old B.O.”
- Port Austin was Once a Huge Salt Producer – The first successful attempt to manufacture salt in Michigan was made by the East Saginaw Salt Manufacturing Company in 1859. The success of this company led to the rapid development of the industry in the Saginaw Valley where the blocks were operated in connection with sawmills.