Human Systems Research Historical Monographs

Created in 1972, Human Systems Research Inc. (HSR) is a non-profit organization that has performed a tremendous amount of research in the Tularosa Basin. In the 1990s, WSMR funded a great deal of research through HSR that included producing a number of historic monographs. Included here, and courtesy of HSR, are downloadable versions of the monographs. Highly readable and informative, you’ll find a number documents on Trinity site, oral histories, pictures of life in the Tularosa Basin, a report on the first dump site at WSMR, and a wonderful document on the vibrant ranching and mining communities in the Tularosa Basin in the late 19th century.

A Number of Things: Historic Ranching and Mining on the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
Peter L. Eidenbach and Robert L. Hart, September 1997

This volume reports continuing studies into the late 19th century history of the northern Jornada del Muerto, Tularosa Basin, and Oscura Mountains within the vast U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range. This forbidding landscape was virtually uninhabited in the early 1890s when Bill Mitchell, alias Henry “Baldy” Russell, began to develop a series of hand-dug wells, establishing the first ranching homesteads. At about the same time, miners began to explore the area, mail and stagecoach service connected the Rio Grande with the isolated settlements of the Sacramento and Sierra Blanca Mountains, and the brief cattle boom of the 1880s had retreated to the grassy plains along the Rio Grande.

From Barren Desert to Thriving Community: A Social History of White Sands Missile Range, 1945-1954
William B. Boehm, June 1997

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on 7 December 1941, the United States government leased hundreds of square miles of southern New Mexico desert land for bombing crew training. During World War II, this area was named the Alamogordo Bombing Range, which served as the most important training facility in south-central New Mexico for pilot training. Other important bombing facilities were located in California, Texas, and Colorado. The public expected that the Alamogordo Bombing Range would close after the War ended, but the Army would decide that it needed to keep a range for testing the new rocket technology emerging during WWII.

Hembrillo: An Apache Battlefield of the Victorio War
Karl W. Laumbach, 2001

In 1988, archaeologists from Human Systems Research, Inc. under contract to White Sands Missile Range, began the process of recording the Hembrillo Battlefield. In April of 1880, the Hembrillo Basin, better known for the stories of lost gold at Victorio Peak, was the scene of a two day battle between Apaches led by Victorio and troops under the command of Col. Edward Hatch. Col. Hatch’s troops included companies of 9th Calvary “Buffalo Soldiers” as well as one company of 6th Cavalry and three companies of Apache Scouts borrowed from the Department of Arizona. The archaeological and historical documentation of this battlefield was a dream project, one that only comes once in a lifetime. To find the remains of a battle of this magnitude relatively intact is rare. But it was the immeasurable support from so many in so many ways that brought this projection to fruition.

Homes on the Range: Oral Recollections of Early Ranch Life on the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
Edited by Peter L. Eidenbach and Beth Morgan, 1994

This volume presents a small fraction of the recollections, stories, and photographs collected from local ranching families during the Legacy Resource Management Program’s Ranching Heritage Oral History Project on the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. These families homesteaded New Mexico’s last frontier – the barren deserts and rugged mountains of the Tularosa Basin and Jornada del Muerto.

White Sands Missile Range is rich in rural ranches dating from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries. WSMR’s testing and evaluation mission ensures an unparalleled degree of preservation and protection for these sites. More than 200 of these locations exist in backwater canyons and hidden valleys throughout the range. Today, these sites are protected by the unique combination of WSMR’s vast land area, its high security, and low-impact land use.

Jewels of the Desert: Collections from the First Dump at White Sands Proving Ground
Meliha S. Duran, J. K. “Pete” Finney, Toni Laumbauch, Martha Yduarte, Peter L. Eidenbach, William B. Boehm, September 1997

In September 1994, during construction activities for the new WSMR Commissary building at the Post Headquarters, a previously unknown dump was discovered. This dump holds the potential for documenting some of the earliest activities for the headquarters of White Sands Proving Ground.

The dump, designated Site LA 106,155, is one of the first early Cold War archaeological sites to be excavated in the state of New Mexico. Human Systems Research, Inc. provided artifact analysis for the materials removed from the dump, placed them in a historic context, documented the results of investigations, and prepared this report. This report addresses research questions identified in the research design, providing information on early life at White Sands Proving Ground and presents information on the excavation methods and results for the artifacts recovered.

Life at Trinity Base Camp
Thomas Merlan, March 2001

Numerous books and articles have been published about the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos, and the Trinity Test, the detonation of the first atomic bomb. Secrecy and security were essential to the project, indicated by the isolated location of the Los Alamos laboratory for the manufacture and assembly of the weapon. For the Trinity Test site, a very remote and isolated location in central New Mexico was selected.

The soldiers assigned to the Trinity Test site did not know their final destination when they received their travel orders to New Mexico. With a few rare exceptions, the soldiers and other personnel who set up the experiment did not know the purpose of their work until the actual explosion took place. To maintain this high level of secrecy, a base camp, the headquarters of the McDonald Brothers Ranch, was established a few miles southwest of Ground Zero. While the soldiers and scientists developed the necessary infrastructure for the test, Trinity Base Camp was their home.

Schmidt/McDonald Ranch House: Historical Background Family Histories
Human Systems Research, Inc.

Prior to World War II, the Trinity Site area with its two McDonald brothers ranch houses was obscure New Mexico ranch land noted mainly for being part of the Jornada Del Muerto. After the Manhattan Project, often called the world’s best kept secret, exploded the world’s first atomic here on July 16, 1945 Trinity Site became synonymous with the birth of the Atomic Age. In addition to Ground Zero, the area includes both the George and Dave McDonald ranch houses. The plutonium core to the bomb was assembled at George’s house and the Dave McDonald ranch served as base camp for the scientists, technicians and support personnel.

The home site encompasses about three acres and consists of the house and various outbuildings. The house originally consisted of just four rooms but every room had an outside door just in case of a fire. The 1,750-square-foot house is built of adobe which was stuccoed on the outside and plastered on the inside.

School Days: Education During the Ranching Era on the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
Edited by Peter L. Eidenbach and Linda Hart, June 1997

School Days presents the second set of the recollections, stories, and photographs from local ranching families during the Legacy Resource Management Ranching Oral History Project on the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), New Mexico. These families homesteaded New Mexico’s last frontier—the barren deserts and rugged mountains of the Tularosa Basin and Jornada del Muerto.

White Sands Missile Range is rich in rural ranches dating from the late nineteenth into the early twentieth century. WSMR’s testing and evaluation mission ensures an unparalleled degree of preservation and protection for these sites. More than 200 of these locations exist in backwater canyons and hidden valleys throughout the range. Today, these sites are protected by the unique combination of WSMR’s vast land area, high security, and low-impact land use.

Star Throwers of the Tularosa: The Early Cold War Legacy of White Sands Missile Range
Peter L. Eidenbach, Richard L. Wessel, Lisa M. Meyer, and Gail C. Wimberly, September 1996

Star Throwers of the Tularosa is a study initiated to identify properties associated with the Cold War on White Sands Missile Range as part of a Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program demonstration project. The properties investigated, constructed between 1942 and 1964, represent elements of an installation type essential to the Cold War historic theme at the national level of importance. They are diverse in structure and represent a range in function from launch and instrumentation facilities to barracks, laboratories, and missile assembly buildings to administration buildings, and Army and Navy to NASA facilities.

The Trinity Experiments
Thomas Merlan, 1997

On 16 July 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m. Mountain War Time, the world entered the Nuclear Age with the successful detonation of the first atomic bomb. Over the years, numerous books and articles have been written about the Manhattan Project and the Trinity site. Many of these discuss the national and international social and political conditions and issues relating to the development of the atomic bomb. Other publications take the historical approach, providing a chronology of events that led to the detonation of the bomb and its aftermath.

The Trinity Experiments is the first study of the actual experiments associated with evaluating the effects of the explosion. Using oral interviews of scientists and their post-blast technical reports, plus historic photographs, this study documents how the scientists adapted and modified their experiments from the original plans developed at Los Alamos and how they made do with the technology at hand, with no idea of the final magnitude of the explosion.

Trinity at 50: The Archaeology of Trinity Site National Historic Landmark, White Sands Missile Range, Socorro County, New Mexico
Morgan Rieder and Michael Lawson, 1995
Edited by Meliha S. Duran and Beth Morgan

Trinity at 50 tells of the archaeological resources at Trinity Site on White Sands Missile Range – what came before the blast and what was required to test the most awesome device of the twentieth century. The locus of the test is now designated Trinity Site National Historic Landmark (LA 100,000). The site possesses several types of cultural resources – the facilities for the Trinity Test, the remains of five historic ranches operating in the area when it was evacuated for military purposes in 1942, and almost 50 prehistoric sites consisting of artifact scatters and hearths dating to Paleoindian, Archaic, and Mogollon occupation of the vicinity. In addition to describing the prehistoric and historic sites, Trinity at 50 addresses the preservation of these resources, several of which are on or potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Lessons from the Past: Cold War Rocket Science at White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico
William B. Boehm

White Sands Missile Range assumed a position as the leading rocket and missile test facility in the United States during the early stages of the Cold War (1945-1965). The testing of projectiles such as the V-2 rocket allowed the United States, through scientific diligence, to (1) advance liquid-fuel-based rocket propulsion as a means of national defense through the use of missile systems, (2) design methods to test an entirely new type of weapon, and (3) develop a practical means of human space travel and landing astronauts on the moon, goals achieved by the end of the 1960s.

Lessons from the Past: School Days on the Ranch
Peter L. Eidenbach and Linda Hart

After the 1880s Cattle Boom in southern New Mexico, new settlers from Texas, the Midwest, the Old South, and Europe began homesteading in the southern New Mexico mountains. These rural families built wood-frame houses, dug water wells, and constructed corrals and earthen ponds or stock tanks to catch and hold the precious rainfall. As these families grew, the need for schools increased. A good education was prized by these new settlers, and books, while scarce, were a common entertainment.

In 1993, White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) began an oral-history program to record and preserve the history and recollections of these early ranching families whose homesteads became part of the range beginning in 1941 . One of the most interesting topics discussed in the interviews with family members is the school experience.

Lessons from the Past: From Sagebrush to Star Wars
Cheryl D. Young

The beginnings of what we now call White Sands Missile Range were closely entwined with the developing history of rocketry which occurred long before World War II. As a result of accelerated interest in the program associated with missiles, it became evident that a long range area was required on which we could test these missiles. We needed a place where we could recover the missiles after flight for further examination and collection of data. These studies would make available additional information to help in the development of the American missile program; therefore, the War Department looked for a site to put a long-range missile range… The location of the missile range provided an isolated and restricted test facility for many of the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force missile and rocket programs. White Sands Missile Range was first named White Sands Proving Ground, taking its name from the extensive dunes of gypsum sands within its boundaries.