Willow Run Manual Direction Center P-23

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Willow Run Manual Direction Center P-23 (1952-1959) - A Cold War Manual System Direction Center first established in 1952 on Willow Run Air Force Station, Ypsilanti, Wayne County, Michigan. Named Willow Run Manual Direction Center after the location. Assigned a Permanent System ID of P-23. Deactivated as a Manual Direction Center in 1959.


The U.S. Air Force returned to Willow Run and established Willow Run Air Force Station in 1951. On 7 Apr 1952 the Air Force Station became operational with Headquarters, 30th Air Division at the site and a Manual Air Defense Control Center (ADCC). Willow Run AFS and the ADCC operated until April 1959, when the 30th AD was reassigned to Truax Field, Wisconsin as A SAGE System.

The Manual System Command Centers were based on the standardized AC&W infrastructure site design of the Chicago design firm of Holabird, Root & Burgee. These designs dated to 1949 but construction did not begin on any facilities until after the beginning of the Korean War. At system completion, 16 of these command centers were built. The Command Center was designated as a Type 4 Site while the most common operations center configuration at the AC&W radar sites was the Type 2. The Type 2 Operations Center had similar characteristics to the Type 4 Direction Center except the operations centers were single story. The site designs included, where appropriate, a power plant, an administrative building and one or two radomes all incorporated into a secure compound. The Command Centers and the Operations Centers can be easily identified by a small louvered ventilation tower that rises above the roof.

Key features of the Type 4 Manual Control Center
  • Reinforced concrete column-and-beam structure, oversized columns and thick beams
  • Flat, reinforced concrete roof (thick)
  • Double concrete-block exterior walls, with intervening airspace
  • Four-inch thick interior concrete-block walls
  • Heavily protected communications cable trenches
  • Exterior pilasters (reinforcing strengthening)
  • Windowless
  • Outer- and inner-lock rooms
  • Air baffles and chemical filter banks
  • Pressurized interior air system (air conditioning)
  • Ventilation shaft (tower)
  • Clean- and contaminated-clothes areas, with disinfector
  • Decontamination showers
  • Gas-proof clothes chutes
  • Communications, code equipment, and message rooms
  • Two-story, open central operations room with balcony glassed-in observation cubicles
  • War room
  • Associated administrative building (type 3 station), power plant, and radomes

The Manual System Direction Centers did not survive the transition into the SAGE System because they were far too small for the massive SAGE computers and consoles and did not have big enough power or HVAC plants. The radar site Type 2 operations centers did survive into the SAGE System but each one required the construction of an attached SAGE Annex for the large FST-2 computer system and later additions were necessary for those chosen as BUIC Sites.

The Willow Run Manual Direction Center P-23 remained operational until April 1959 when the 30th AD was reassigned to Truax AFB and the Truax SAGE Direction Center DC-07 became operational.

The facility was then sold to the University of Michigan. Some of the former Air Force buildings still exist on the site and are used by various organizations.

Willow Run Manual Direction Center P-23 Radar Sites (edit list)
Location Type State Unit ADC NORAD JSS From To GPS Notes
Calumet AFS MI 665th P-16 Z-16 J-59 1952 1960 47.37167,

Current Status

Manual Direction Center building still exists on Willow Run Air Force Station in Willow Run, Wayne County, Michigan.

Location: Willow Run Air Force Station, Willow Run, Wayne County, Michigan.

Maps & Images

Lat: 42.24249 Long: -83.499621

  • Multi Maps from ACME
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  • Elevation: 696'

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