Paradis native marks historic role in nation’s anti-missile defense

It was soon after the nation’s War Department sought a new air defense system that Milton “Moon” Hill came on the scene with Bell Laboratories’ Project Nike to answer the call.

Hill, a member of the technical staff, worked from July 1960 to March 1974 on radar development for the Nike Zeus, Sentinel and Safeguard projects. They helped realize the country’s anti-aircraft missile systems, which was considered quite an accomplishment for an African-American, as well as one for the native of Paradis.

“It was a great opportunity,” Hill said. “And I met a whole lot of great people.”

Born on May 18, 1936, Hill was the eighth of 11 children. He attended Paradis Colored Grade School and then Hahnville Colored School in 1949. He then graduated from George Washington Carver High School in 1953. He enlisted in the military from 1953-57.

Five years later, Hill attended and graduated from the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

After graduation, he helped make military history.

Hill was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the digital computer and associated equipment that controlled the “target track radars” of the Nike Zeus system at Whippany, N.J., Ascension Island, White Sands, N.M., and Kwajalein, Marshall Islands. By 1964, he was responsible for the Discrimination Radar on Kwajalein.

Hill recalled the philosophy of the time as “It was a go and attack and destroy.” His technical skills later took him to special projects such as upgrading equipment to improve radar system performance.

His most significant achievement came in 1970 when he designed a “digital video recorder system” for the Missile Site Radar at Kwajalein. It recorded on computer tape the returns of 10 warheads carried on the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) launched from California.

From 1974 through retirement in 1987, Hill said he worked on domestic and international communication systems for Bell Telephone Laboratories in Denver, Colo. His strong ties to St. Charles Parish brought him home and he lives at Ormond Assistance Living Center in Destrehan.

Hill said he understood the importance his work and as a African-American who rose to the opportunity as “an over achiever” and determined to “rise above as an African-American in his position.”

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