White Sands Missile Range History
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White Sands Missile Range History

Browse through the history of the area which makes up the Missile Range. From the Native Americans, through the Old West ranching and mining era, as well as, the Atomic and Missile age. Just click on the topics below to read and see the varied history.

BlueballBase Newspapers, - - - This link takes you away from the Museum Website.  Use back arrows to return here.  This link takes you to a website where all available base newspapers (Wind & Sand and late, Missile Ranger) have been scanned to searchable pdf files covering the period 1950 thru 1990.  The Newspapers provide lots of historical information about people and events.  This resource was made possible through the efforts of William (Bill) Godby, an archeologist at White Sands Missile Range.

BlueballFiring Records, - - - A database containing information on all daily firings at White Sands Proving Ground/White Sands Missile Range beginning with the first launch, a Tiny Tim Booster, on 26 September 1945 and going through 21 December 1956, the last firing during 1956.  Unfortunately, beginning in 1957 and continuing through the end of November of 1988, only monthly summary records are available, as below.

A Firing Records Summary database, which has a monthly summary by project for each year, beginning in 1945 and running through 1977, is available for access below.

Select Year
1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955
1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966
1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977

We have Firing Record Summaries for 1978 through April 1989 and daily mission schedules (includes firings) from 1989 through Fiscal Year 2005.  These are available for viewing only after Operational Security (OP-SEC) review of your request and subsequent release by White Sands Missile Range.

BlueballV-2 Calibration Stand, - - - The V-2 Calibration Stand was used to fine tune the fuel pumping and injection system of the V-2 Rocket motor.  The Steam Turbine Pump operated at 5,000 rpm on two auxiliary fuels, namely hydrogen peroxide (80 %) and a mixture of 66% sodium permanganate with water 33%.  This turbine moves two pumps that inject the Methyl alcohol, at 58 kg/sec and liquid oxygen at 72 kg/sec into the burn chamber.  In order to make fine adjustments on the fuel pumping and injector system, V-2s were placed in the Calibration Stand and their fuel tanks filled with water.  The pump ran as usual and adjustments were made throughout the pump and injector system to optimize rocket motor performance.  The photos linked here show two views of the Calibration Stand, one while it is actually being used.

BlueballLaunch Complex 33, a National Historical Landmark and a state of New Mexico Historical Monument - - where it all began! Soon after White Sands Proving Ground was established, work began on a launch complex for testing the rocket and missile technology being developed. On September 26, 1945, a Tiny Tim booster was fired at the complex. This marked the first "hot firing" on the proving ground. On October 11 a Tiny Tim boosted a WAC Corporal rocket from a launch tower at the complex. The WAC Corporal rocket motor then took the second stage to a record altitude of 43.5 miles.

     Later this launch complex was the focal point for V-2 firings and developmental testing for such missiles as Nike Ajax, Nike Hercules, Viking, Corporal, Redstone, Lance, Multiple Launch Rocket System, and Army TACMS. The complex is still in use today for initial firings of many of the new missiles under development.

BlueballLaunch Complex 35, (LC-35) has been Navy territory since the very early days of White Sands Proving Ground. Situated approximately 10 miles east of the Headquarters Area, it is ideally located in the center of the launching areas along Nike Avenue. The Navy came to White Sands in 1946, a year after WSPG was established. Although there was no specific Navy program requiring launch support facilities, Captain Robert McLaughlin said the Bureau of Naval Ordnance recognized that guided missiles were going to become a vital part of Navy fleet air defense in the future and he was ordered to develop a testing capability.  Click on the link above for a few pictures of LC-35 history.

BlueballThe Broomstick Scientists. Who were the Broomsticks? They were the guys who made up the 1st Ordnance Guided Missile Support Battalion. They referred to themselves as the Broomstick Scientists, a name they adopted after an envious Captain commented that he was no more impressed with them than he would be with a bunch of broomsticks. He did not approve of the ease that they climbed the promotion ladder due to their civilian experience. They all had extensive engineering or scientific backgrounds prior to being drafted, or in some cases, recalled to active duty from the Reserves. It was made up of personnel associated with a diversity of missile programs, the NIKE, V-2, Hermes, LOKI, Terrier, Corporal, etc.

BlueballFourth Ordnance Company (GM/DS). The Fourth Ordnance Company was one of the first (if not the first) Tactical Guided Missile Support unit stationed at White Sands Proving Ground (WSPG).  In addition to providing Direct Support for the Nike Ajax equipment located at WSPG, they also provided a 10 man support team to Red Canyon Range Camp located in the North-East corner of WSPG and operated by Fort Bliss.  The company was at WSPG during 1954 and 1955.  They moved to Fort Bliss and became a part of the 61st Ordnance Group in 1955.  The 4th Ordnance Company was later re-designated from a Guided Missile Direct Support Company to a Guided Missile General Support Company and was posted to Miesau, West Germany, where they provided support for Nike, Hawk and other missile systems, including Patriot, into the 1990s.

BlueballRed Canyon Range Camp Red Canyon Range Camp was established by the Air Defense Center at Fort Bliss, Texas in the Northeast portion of the then White Sands Proving Ground (WSPG), now White Sands Missile Range (WSMR). This range camp was established in 1953 and was utilized for two different purposes. First, after soldiers completed their individual training in their respective Nike Ajax Air Defense specialties, they were assigned to units that were forming to be deployed to a Nike Ajax site at various locations throughout the United States. Once these units had all the required personnel assigned, the underwent Unit Training to prepare them to function as an efficient Air Defense team. At the end of this Unit Training, the graduation exercise was to proceed to Red Canyon Range Camp (RCRC) to demonstrate their unit proficiency by preparing Missiles and Fire Control System, and firing these missiles at Radio Controlled Arial Targets (RCATs). The second purpose was Annual Service Practice (ASP). Units that were deployed throughout the U.S. returned to RCRC annually to demonstrate their proficiency - or lack thereof. The ASP was essentially the same as the Unit Training graduation firings.

This process continued through approximately the middle of 1959 when all of these functions were transferred to McGregor Range, New Mexico much closer to Fort Bliss and was owned/controlled by Fort Bliss.

For more details about the Army Nike training program and how Red Canyon Range Camp fit into the process, visit the Redstone Arsenal website and scroll down to the "Nike Training" section.

BlueballLaunch Complex 37, originally referred to as Army Launch Area Three, was built for testing the Nike Ajax and later the Nike Hercules Air Defense Missile systems.

BlueballLaunch Complex 38, originally referred to as Army Launch Area Five, was built for testing the Nike Zeus Anti-Ballistic Missile system. The Zeus system required more real estate and infrastructure than any single system ever tested at White Sands Missile Range - before or since. Most of the buildings constructed housed system radars and other equipment, some of which you can see by clicking the link above.

     As the Zeus system transitioned into the Nike X system, LC-38 retained only the facilities for assembly and check out of the Sprint Missile, the Missile Control Building, and some limited office space. The Zeus Acquisition Receiver building was modified by adding a structure on top for a phased array radar of another test program. The Discrimination Radar (DR) and Target Tracking Radar (TTR) were used as a part of a re-entry signature studies program.

     In 1969, a new R&D air defense system, at the time referred to as SAM-D, later re-designated "Patriot," started to take over most of the structures at LC-38 as the Sprint test program was winding down at White Sands and moving to Meck Island at Kwajalein Missile Range in the Pacific. Patriot, the "Scud Buster" of Desert Storm, still uses most of the structures built at LC-38 for the Zeus program.

BlueballMulti-function Array Radar I (MAR-I)  Located approximately 25 miles northeast of White Sands Missile Range Headquarters about a mile off US Highway 70, MAR-I was developed as a part of the Nike X Anti Intercontinental Ballistic Missile system, under development in the early 1960s.  The Nike X was a follow-on system to the Nike Zeus system which was in research and development beginning in the late 1950s.  This location is now the High Energy Laser System Test Facility (HELSTAF) and has been expanded significantly with the removal of the clutter fence and addition of several buildings.

Blueball500K Static Test Stand Located some 2.8 miles from the administrative area is the 500K static test stand jutting out from the base slope of Soledad Peak like some majestic, medieval, European castle. The 500,000 pound static test stand at one time was the largest such facility in the world and was capable of testing motors for any known or planned missile or rocket.

Blueball100K Static Test Stand was completed in 1946 and deactivated in 1960. It was used to static fire the V-2 and later the Corporal at any angle between vertical and horizontal. It could accommodate test packages measuring 8 feet in diameter and 50 feet in height.

BlueballMissile Dogs - Dogs proved better at locating fallen missile parts than man or instruments in the 1960s at White Sands Missile Range. Before firing, critical missile parts were sprayed with squalene, a shark liver oil almost odorless to humans but easily detected by dogs. After the missile's general landing area was located by radar, dogs and their handlers were driven out or dropped from helicopters at the site and the dogs began sniffing. Usually they located their quarry within an hour.

BlueballThe Hembrillo Battlefield - On April 6 and 7, 1880, the Hembrillo Basin, located in the mountains along the west side of what is now White Sands Missile Range, became the battle ground for the largest battle of the Apache-Cavalry Victorio War. Archaeologists from Human Systems Research, Inc., under contract to White Sands Missile Range, mapped the battlefield by locating the clusters of empty cartridges and stone breastworks used by the combatants. The story and maps of the battle sequence were developed through historical and archaeological research from 1988 to 1998.

BlueballTexas Canyon Mine Story & Photos - (*See Slide Show Below)  In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the mountain range running the length of White Sands Missile Range was the scene of many mining operations, both large and small.  Most of these operations had been abandoned prior to the establishment of what was then White Sands Proving Ground.  However, one of those operations was still functioning for a for a few years after the Proving Ground was established.  This operations was in Texas Canyon, located in the southwest corner of what is now White Sands Missile Range.  Mr. Jim Eckles of the White Sands Missile Range Public Affairs Office wrote an article for the base newspaper, the Missile Ranger, which gives some interesting history of the Texas Canyon mine.  The article was written after a recent visit to the mine area by Mr. Eckles.  Along with the article, several photos of the area are included, of the area and artifacts as seen today.  Click Here for Slide Show of Texas Canyon Photos All photos by Jim Eckles.