“I Always Liked Where I Was”: Air Defense In The U.S., Greece, Vietnam, And Germany

Preston Motes


Preston Motes was born in Atlanta, spent the war years in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and moved around once his Quartermaster Corps father returned from World War II. The Motes family lived at various Army posts around the United States, and even spent a few years in Germany, visiting Berlin at the height of the Cold War. After high school, he enlisted in the Army and, shortly after Basic Training, he attended the prep school before being granted admission to the United States Military Academy. Academically, West Point was a challenge, and he viewed his tenure as a Cadet as a continual six-month renewal of his scholarship. He branched Air Defense Artillery because of a positive experience he had during Army Orientation Training (AOT), and he liked the amount of responsibility junior officers had at their batteries. After Air Defense Training, he was assigned to a Nike Hercules battery with the mission of defending the continental United States from a Soviet strategic bomber attack. Nike batteries were stationed around the United States, primarily defending large cities or air fields. In 1967, he was assigned to the 37th Artillery Detachment in Greece at a time when the Greek Army had recently overthrown King Constantine in a coup. His job was to safeguard American nuclear weapons in that country. He recalls being shot at more in Greece than he was during his next assignment in Vietnam with the Americal Division from December 1968 to December 1969. Returning to the United States, he commanded a battery in 4/1 Air Defense at Ft. Story, Virginia, which included two Virginia National Guard platoons and one Regular Army platoon. He remembers that the National Guardsmen brought a high level of technical expertise to the unit. From 1973 to 1976, and again from 1980 to 1983, he served in Germany with both the 94th Air Defense Group and the 32nd Air Defense Command, with the mission of ensuring readiness and technical proficiency across 16 firing batteries and 4 headquarters batteries. Between his assignments to Germany, he taught ROTC at the University of Utah, where he greatly enjoyed working with the Cadets, and he earned an MBA. His final assignment in the Army was at the Air Defense School, where he was a faculty member responsible for training and evaluations. After leaving the military, he worked as a financial planner and as a “stay-at-home” dad (grandfather). Now he spends his time traveling the country camping. In this interview, he talks about his childhood as an “Army Brat,” his West Point experiences, and service in the Army. He describes in detail the operation of a Nike Hercules battery, and provides examples of issues faced in isolated Air Defense posts. He discusses deploying to Greece, Vietnam, and Germany, and ends by reflecting on what West Point means to him.


conflicts Vietnam War Cold War
topics USMA 1965 West Point History Leadership Teamwork Camaraderie Military Techniques Military Family Life After Military
interviewer David Siry
date 18 October 2019


name Preston Motes
institution USMA
graduation year 1965
service Air Defense Artillery
unit 5/55 Air Defense; 558th Artillery Group, 37th Artillery Detachment; DIVARTY Americal Division; 4/1 Air Defense Artillery; 1st Region Army Air Defense; 94th Air Defense Group, 32nd Air Defense Command
specialty Nike Hercules Air Defense; University of Utah ROTC
service dates 1965 1984