LASL’s Sleeping Beauty was an experiment on the design of an alpha-n initiator – the first in a series of such tests. Equipment was located in an underground bunker at Trinity Site in the New Mexico desert, some 250 miles south of Los Alamos – and only 1,600 feet from ground zero of a spectacular success, the world’s first nuclear explosion. But Sleeping Beauty did not involve the use of fissionable material – and she was an embarrassing failure.
Germany’s use of its V-1 jet-powered flying bombs and V-2 rockets during the latter stages of World War II ushered in the era of guided missiles. After the war, as tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union increased, both countries sought to develop their own arsenal of guided missiles.
“We’re the battling bastards of Bataan;
No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam;
No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces;
No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces.
And nobody gives a damn.
Nobody gives a damn.”
“The Voice of Freedom (radio broadcast) kept telling us, ‘Hold out for two more days, help is on the way.’ We could have taken the truth. But they lied to us.”
In World War II, Allied Intelligence warned us that our enemy had developed a new kind of weapon, a missile unique in that it was guided electronically and powered by a rocket motor. This weapon was called the V-2. Later on, during the war, our Army captured the first of a number of these weapons. Our Army gave much thought to such a new weapon and in order to assist in research and testing of this and other missiles, organized the 1st Guided Missile Battalion in October 1945.
On 11 July 1970, Athena missile number 122 was launched from Green River, Utah, in the middle of the night. Like the previous firings, which the Air Force began in 1964, this Athena was programmed to impact on White Sands Missile Range. Instead, project and range personnel watched helplessly as it rocketed south heading deep into Mexico.
Explore the remnants and learn the story of a United States military missile testing laboratory from the height of the Cold War (1962-1974) hidden in the canyon lands outside of Green River, Emery County, Utah.
Named after the goddess of victory of Greek mythology, Nike is the end product of eight years of guided missile research, development, and engineering. Nike is the Army’s first supersonic anti-aircraft guided missile designed to follow and destroy the enemy target regardless of evasive action. It is the first guided missile system to defend American cities against aerial attack.
If White Sands was established on July 9, how likely was it that there would already be buildings in place that very day, a staff already on site, a flag pole surrounded by a circle of rocks, ambulances for the ceremony and spectators? It dawned on me that we are talking about magic for that to be true – the kind of thing you see in cartoons. The Army was certainly good at construction by the end of WWII but there is no way they could accomplish all of this in a few days.
For a 15 March 1946 German V-2 rocket demonstration, Lt. Col. Harold Turner, first commander of White Sands Proving Ground, invited 500 military personnel and 100 Las Cruces community leaders to watch. Although it was a static firing, meaning the rocket was bolted down, it was the first time a V-2 rocket motor was ignited on American soil. After hearing so much about the German vengeance weapon during WWII, visitors expected to see and feel a show of power. They got more than they expected.
Some of the weapons tested at WSMR had a great impact not only for their military uses, but in a larger geopolitical context. One of these is the Pershing II missile and the role it played in the 1983 “War Scare.” Because of President Ronald Reagan’s heated anti-Soviet rhetoric, fears the Soviet Leadership and KGB had of an American first strike, and events of 1983, the US and USSR came closer to nuclear war than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.