In compliance with Section 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the WSMR Cultural Resource Program has completed a significant number of historic background studies and resource evaluations for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) that include the Green River Launch Complex in Utah, the WSMR Small Missile Range, and launch complexes, to include the National Historic Landmark, LC-33. These reports, amongst others, are shared here and contain the most comprehensive historic background documentation of WSMR’s Cold War history produced to date.
The following reports are considered compliance documents for the purposes of federal law requirements and are cleared for public release.
A National Register Inventory and Evaluation of the 300,000-Pound Static Test Stand at White Sands Missile Range, Doña Ana County, New Mexico
Nate Myers and Phillip S. Esser, July 2020
The 300k Static Test Stand was constructed in 1954 expressly for the testing of solid propellant boosters. By the 1950s, advances in solid propellant technology had allowed the development of large boosters that were more cost-effective than liquid propellant systems and did not require the laborious and dangerous fueling of liquid propellant systems. In the short period from the end of the war to the launch of the first US satellite in 1958, solid propellant motors progressed from simple JATO units to large motors suitable for the largest production missiles. As static testing wound down at WSMR during the mid-1960s, testing activity at the 300K Test Stand shifted to dynamic testing, including climatic conditioning, impact evaluation, and vibratory testing. Several of the old static test cells were modified to support the dynamic testing, and new facilities were added through time. Today, the 300K Test Stand continues to support the WSMR dynamic testing mission.
A Historic Context for the White Sands Missile Range AN/FPS-16 Radar Facilities, Doña Ana County, New Mexico
Nate Myers, Brad Beacham, and Phillip S. Esser, June 2016
The United States (US) missile and space programs are pivotal themes in our nation’s historic identity and White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) was a central staging area for this historic narrative. A key component in this narrative is the role of the AN/FPS-16 radar system and the significant part it played in the US missile and space programs. This document serves as a comprehensive historic context for the AN/FPS-16 radar system and associated facilities specific to WSMR. The document is intended to facilitate the evaluation of historic properties under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act specifically associated with the significant historic themes of the US missile and space programs.
History of Cinetheodolite and Other Optical Tracking Technology at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, 1945-1965
Kurt Korfmacher, April 2015
White Sands Missile Range, established as White Sands Proving Ground in 1945, manages an extensive inventory of buildings located at specific sites across the length of the Range. Over the years, these buildings have hosted a variety of instrumentation dedicated to tracking, recording, and analyzing rockets and missiles in flight and their behavior. While most of these sites have been catalogued in some fashion, the history behind the specific technology of the instrumentation has not been previously documented. This report covers specific building types used to shelter these instruments from the often adverse environmental conditions present in the Tularosa Basin. Through the development of a historic context covering the development of cinetheodolite technology from 1947-1963 and a discussion of building property types, this report intends to add to the general body of knowledge regarding these instruments to better understand their place in the history of the Range, and to assist in the evaluation of the various buildings for historic significance and eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Historic Context for Astrodome Instrumentation Shelters and Types, White Sands Missile Range, Doña Ana County, New Mexico
Phillip S. Esser, June 2017
This document is a historic context for evaluating buildings and structures under National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) for the multitude of fixed astrodomes at White Sands Missile Range. The National Historic Preservation Act, Section 106, requires federal agencies to review the effects of its undertakings upon historic structures. This review includes an overview study in anticipation of evaluations of the structures for their eligibility to the National Register. Documents such as this are also highly important in preserving the history of the range and its activities and will become part of the public record. Presently, this document will be included as a supporting document as the US Army initiates consultation with the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division regarding the proposed demolition of historic structures at WSMR.
National Register Eligibility Recommendations of C-Station, Doña Ana and Otero Counties, New Mexico
Robert Moyer, Kurt Korfmacher, and Deborah Dobson-Brown, July 2020
In 2015, cultural resource specialists contracted through the White Sands Missile Range, Directorate of Public Works, Environmental Division performed a pedestrian survey of C-Station and C-Station East, located at WSMR, NM. The investigations were conducted as WSMR Project Number 818 and were registered with the New Mexico Cultural Resource Information System as Activity Number 134997. Field work identified 13 existing individual buildings and structures associated with C-Station operations that could be matched with existing WSMR real property facility numbers. Several butane storage tanks were also identified. In addition, four other buildings that could not be matched to a WSMR building number or letter designation were assigned temporary field numbers and were recorded. C-Station, combined with C-Station East, is recommended as eligible to the National Register of Historic Places as an historic district at national level under Criterion A in the areas of Communications and Military.
Cultural Resource Assessment of the Green River Test Site, Utah
Rachel Felt, Julian A. Sitters, Heather Barrett, and Kurt Korfmacher, July 2014
At the request of WSMR, in May of 2013, AmaTerra Environmental, Inc. conducted a cultural resources assessment at the Green River Test Site. These facilities contained various buildings, structures, objects, and support infrastructure that comprised the launch facilities, instrumentation sites, buildings, meteorological stations, warehouses and storage sites, fabrication sites, and the Pershing bivouac area. The GRTS, also known veraciously as the Green River Launch Complex and as the Utah Launch Complex, was in operation by early 1963. During its ten-year period of use, there were 141 Athena missile firings to WSMR in New Mexico. Shortly before the Athena program closed in 1973, the Army built new facilities from which to test Pershing missiles. Testing of Pershing missiles at GRTS continued until about 1975, when launches were moved to other locations. Since then, the Green River Test Site has remained inactive, though most of the structures and facilities built for missile testing are still standing. It was officially decommissioned in 1983.
A National Register Inventory and Evaluation of Launch Complex 32 at White Sands Missile Range, Doña Ana County, New Mexico
Nate Myers, Brad Beacham, and Phillip S. Esser, February 2018
The United States missile and space programs are pivotal themes in our nation’s historic identity and White Sands Missile Range was a central staging area for this historic narrative. The Army’s Launch Complex 32 served as one of the major launch complexes at WSMR through the entire Cold War. It was built to support two major programs; the Hawk anti-aircraft missile and the Sergeant tactical missile. LC-32 also played an important role in the development of the Hawk missile system, which was arguably one of the most successful missile systems developed during the Cold War. The complex was active throughout the 1990s as well, supporting launches of the Hera Target Missile and the Patriot Missile. The new millennium saw the introduction of the Orion Launch Abort System test facilities at the complex, furthering the rich history of LC-32.
A National Register Inventory and Evaluation of Launch Complex 33 at White Sands Missile Range, Doña Ana and Otero Counties, New Mexico
Nate Myers and Phillip S. Esser, June 2020
LC-33 was the first launch complex at WSPG and the focal point of testing activity through the mid-1950s. LC-33 hosted the launch of the first American sounding rocket, the WAC Corporal, in 1945 and was also home to the first American V-2 launch in 1946. The first true two-stage launch vehicle, the Bumper, also took flight from LC-33. Additionally, the complex also hosted flight tests of the famed Nike air defense missile, as well as the Corporal and Honest John, the first Army tactical missiles. Other notable early programs hosted at the complex include the Viking and the MX-774. LC-33 was truly the heart of WSPG during the early years of the Range. LC-33 remained as an active test complex through the middle and late portions of the Cold War. In addition to flight testing, the western part of the complex was home to a very active vibratory testing complex from the mid-1960s to the 1990s, an important aspect of the material development process.
NRHP Inventory, Evaluation, and Determination of Effects for the Modifications to Launch Complex 35, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
Nate Myers and Phillip S. Esser, July 2017
The United States missile and space programs are pivotal themes in our nation’s historic identity and White Sands Missile Range was a central staging area for this historic narrative. The Navy’s Launch Complex 35 is central to testing of Navy air defense missiles and weapon management systems. LC-35 served as one of the major launch complexes at WSMR through the entire Cold War. It supported the V-2, Aerobee, Viking atmospheric sounding rocket programs, and air defense systems such as Talos, Typhon, and Standard. The complex continued to support both scientific sounding rocket launches and tactical missile programs throughout the remainder of the Cold War.
A National Register Inventory and Evaluation of Launch Complex 50 at White Sands Missile Range, Otero County, New Mexico
Nate Myers and Phillip S. Esser, July 2017
The United States missiles and space programs are pivotal themes in our nation’s historic identity and White Sands Missile Range was a central staging area for this historic narrative. LC-50 represents a historic military landscape that dates to an identified period of significance associated with the Sprint missile testing (1965-1970). LC-50 has accrued many recent additions and modifications that are unrelated to or post-date its Cold War era period of significance. Two important Cold War Historic Themes as defined by Mary K. Lavin are applicable to LC-50, which was the primary testing land-based test complex for the Sprint missile, the lower atmosphere, high-speed interceptor that was part of the Safeguard ABM system. The Safeguard system, including the Sprint missile, was the penultimate development of the Nike nationwide air defense network. The development and deployment of the Safeguard system was an important Cold War political and social debate that influenced arms limitation agreements with the Soviet Union.
Facility 26129: Multifunction Array Radar (MAR) Historical Cultural Properties Inventory
Kurt Korfmacher, August 2020
MAR-I was the first “hardened” phased-array radar ever built. Groundbreaking for the new installation began on March 15, 1963, with construction of the building completed by December. Testing commenced over the next several months, and on September 11 the radar successfully tracked its first target: a balloon. Later that month, MAR-I successfully tracked targets using Highball and Speedball rockets, and successfully tracked a Pershing missile in November. Following upgrades in 1965, MAR-I tracked a satellite for the first time on May 20, 1966. In October of that year, MAR-I successfully performed a completely autonomous multi-function satellite tracking operation. The following year featured several milestones and success stories for the MAR-I, including tracking an Athena missile in March, multiple target tracking in April and June, and survey of missile chaff clouds in September. The Mar-I test program was terminated on September 30, 1967. It operated at a reduced level over the following two years as part of the Sentinel program, but in May 1969 the facility was placed into caretaker status.
A National Register Inventory and Evaluation of the Meteor Trail Radar Site at White Sands Missile Range, Doña Ana County, New Mexico
Phillip S. Esser and Nate Myers, December 2019
Radar detection of meteor trails was a significant technological achievement that was an outgrowth of the development of radar during WWII. Radar detection of meteor trails in the upper atmosphere allowed accurate measurements of meteor trajectories, which allowed the resolution of a long-standing debate over the origins of meteors. Meteor trails were also used for long-range communications, and specific to the current project, were used as a means to measure winds and air densities of the upper atmosphere. During the late 1960s, a MTR installation was constructed at WSMR north of the cantonment. The WSMR MTR was based on previous MTR installations established by the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory, but was constructed and operated by the Atmospheric Sciences Laboratory. The WSMR MTR was intended to provide real-time monitoring of upper atmospheric winds and air densities in a range support role.
National Register Eligibility Recommendation of the Mule Peak Site, Lincoln National Forest in Otero County, New Mexico
Jim Jenks, Matthew Cuba, and Deborah Dobson-Brown, March 2015
The Mule Peak Site is located high in the mountains of Lincoln National Forest, overlooking the Tularosa Basin from an elevation of 8,074 feet, more than 40 miles northeast of the White Sands Missile Range Main Post. Mule Peak is owned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Lincoln National Forest. The infrastructure comprising the site is owned by the U.S. Department of Defense and is managed by the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range.
Set within the context of the Cold War, the Mule Peak site was invaluable in the advancement of optical tracking technology and its use in early rocket testing. Mule Peak tells a story critical to understanding early rocket testing programs within the United States. Its development and use at the beginning of the Cold War, a critical time in 20th century American history, is a historically unique component of White Sands Missile Range history.
A National Register Inventory and Evaluation of the Nike Joining Area at White Sands Missile Range, Doña Ana County, New Mexico
Phillip S. Esser and Nate Myers, November 2020
The historically significant Nike missile system was placed on an expedited “crash” development schedule during the early 1950s, and many facilities were constructed at White Sands Missile Range in support of the rapid Nike Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation effort. This document serves as a historic overview of the Nike Joining Area, initially constructed in 1952 to support joining of the first-stage boosters to the Nike missiles, a critical step in the Nike assembly process as the missile progressed towards the launch complexes. The Nike Joining Area consists of two main assembly buildings which formed the core of the small fenced facility, along with two other support facilities. Preliminary construction of the Nike Joining Area occurred in 1952 to 1953, with additional properties added to the site in support of Nike Hercules testing during the mid-1950s. The location was probably used in support of the Nike Ajax and Hercules programs well into the 1960s. This historic context is intended to facilitate the evaluation of historic properties under Sections 106 and 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
National Register Eligibility Evaluation of the RAM and RAMPART Sites, White Sands Missile Range, Otero County, New Mexico
Robert C. Moyer and Kurt Korfmacher, August 2020
In July of 2016, AmaTerra conducted a cultural resource survey of the Radar Acquisition Measurements (RAM) and Radar Advanced Measurements Program for Analysis of Reentry Techniques (RAMPART) sites at White Sands Missile Range in Otero County, New Mexico. The investigation was designed to inventory any historic properties situated at the two sites and to assess their eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places outlined under Sections 106 and 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended (16 ASC 470).
Set within the context of the Cold War, the RAM and RAMPART facilities were invaluable in the development of re-entry vehicle technology, a crucial component of the United States nuclear deterrent force. The development and use of these two facilities during the Cold War, a critical time in twentieth century American history, is a historically unique component of WSMR history.
Mitigation Documentation: Range Control Center Buildings 300 and 301
Thomas Eisenhour, Kurt Korfmacher, and Lara Newcomer, October 2013
The Range Control Center was used as the primary instrumentation and tracking center for White Sands Missile Range from 1966 to 2000, when the J.W. Cox Range Control Center replaced it. It consolidated the functions of three remote instrumentation and tracking centers (C-Station, Holloman Air Force Base, and Stallion Range Center) into a central location and greatly expanded the real-time data collection and reporting capabilities of WSMR in support of numerous government agencies and hundreds of test programs. Within the building was space for computer equipment, telemetry equipment, data processing, communications, and range control. A briefing room provided a central space to discuss upcoming tests, with security and electronic countermeasures to ensure confidentiality when required. The building allowed data collection and analysis, tracking, briefing, drone control, and communications under one roof instead of scattered over the length of the range.
A National Register Inventory and Evaluation of the Sacramento Peak Frequency Monitoring Facility, Otero County, New Mexico
Phillip S. Esser and Nate Myers, June 2021
Monitoring and managing the vast array of stray, competing, and encroaching electronic signals is the primary role of frequency monitoring. Frequency management was a vital mission at military training and test facilities during the Cold War due to the massive expansion in electronics use during the latter part of the 20th century. The SAC Peak facility was constructed in 1959 as a frequency monitoring site in the Sacramento Mountains to the east of WSMR. Frequency monitoring facilities were constructed throughout WSPG in the 1950s, as well as monitoring stations that were located off-range. Initially comprised of mobile units, fixed stations were ultimately set up in strategic areas to assure appropriate assignment of frequencies and to eliminate unwanted signals. WSMR had its own agency to control and manage electronic frequencies, the WSSCA, and equivalent agencies serve this role at the range today. The location of the SAC Peak site was strategically positioned to monitor signals both within and outside of WSMR.
A National Register Inventory and Evaluation of the Small Missile Range at White Sands Missile Range, Doña Ana County, New Mexico
Nate Myers, Brad Beacham, and Phillip S. Esser, March 2016
The Small Missile Range at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico was constructed in the early 1950s for the semi-autonomous testing of small rockets and missiles. This specially delineated area, chosen to streamline testing of smaller rocket and missile systems that were vying for launch space and support with other larger vehicles, is located north of the cantonment off of US Highway 70. This arrangement also allowed for the development of specialized instrumentation for shorter range launchings, particularly the purpose-built below-grade camera shelters placed along the firing line and above ground shelters flanking the range. Programs at the SMR focused primarily on anti-aircraft and anti-tank weaponry, with anti-tank weapons becoming the primary focus of the range after the early 1960s. Several significant sounding rockets were tested at the SMR, and the WSMR meteorology program played an important role at the SMR for decades. Through the early 2000s, the SMR was an important location for the development and testing of small missiles and guided munitions.
A National Register Inventory and Evaluation of Special Weapons Assembly Facility 4 at White Sands Missile Range, Doña Ana County, New Mexico
Nate Myers and Phillip S. Esser, October 2020
In support of the expanded scope of testing at WSMR, new facilities were constructed throughout WSPG, including new assembly facilities located outside the cantonment. Among these new facilities were dedicated warhead assembly facilities. The first of these facilities was Special Weapons Assembly Building 5, which was constructed in 1955. In 1960, a replacement warhead assembly facility, SWAF 4, was constructed approximately one mile north of SWAB 5. SWAF 4 is generally similar to its predecessor facility, SWAB 5, in design and construction, with a series of five assembly bays divided by concrete walls that are accessed by individual bay doors. The building was specifically designed for the handling and assembly of “classified component” warheads, and in planning documents there are multiple references to SWAF 4 being designed to handle nuclear materials, apparently nuclear warheads. However, aside from the Trinity Test in 1945, no nuclear warhead testing was conducted at WSMR.
A National Register Inventory and Evaluation of the Talos Defense Unit at White Sands Missile Range, Otero County, New Mexico
Nate Myers, Brad Beacham, and Phillip S. Esser, May 2017
The Talos Defense Unit at WSMR was constructed in the mid-1950s as a prototype land-based air defense system. It was based on the Navy Talos missile, which was created as a ship-borne anti-aircraft missile. The development of the land-based version of the missile at the TDU was funded by the Air Force and developed by the Navy using the Radio Corporation of America as the prime contractor. The only prototype of the land-based Talos air defense system ever built, the TDU is located east of the cantonment off of Nike Avenue, just west of Launch Complex 35. The TDU prototype was decommissioned in the late 1950s and since then the facilities have been reused for a variety of projects. The location was later expanded into what became known as Gregg Site during the 1970s. Beginning in the late 1970s, Gregg Site was used by ASL for atmospheric characterization studies. Gregg Site was the location of the ASL APRF beginning in the mid-1980s through 1996. The ASL research and the Atmospheric Profiling Research and Development Facility activities were in support of the High Energy Laser Instrumentation Development Laboratory that was housed in the former TDU Operations Building from 1973 to 2000.