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How can one small community centered around a naval base in the middle of California's Mojave desert have had an enormous impact on critical geopolitical events of the twentieth century, such as the Cold War, while being largely absent from the shared knowledge of the citizens of the United States? China Lake has been the United States Navy's premier weapons research and development laboratory since its establishment in 1943. For 80 years, it has produced such systems as the Sidewinder air-to-air missile that helped to keep the nation of Taiwan safe from a Chinese invasion and the Polaris submarine-launched nuclear ballistic missile, which guaranteed that the Soviet Union would face mutually assured destruction should they attempt a preemptive strike on the United States or its allies. By examining primary historical sources regarding China Lake's people and projects, I have found that the place I grew up in deserves more recognition as a place that had world-reaching effects on par with even well-known cities like Los Angeles or New York.


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