White Sands Missile Range Hall of Fame

Benjamin E. Billups
Chief of the Plans Office
Served 1951 – 1973
Inducted 1980

Mr. Benjamin E. Billups was born in Alamogordo, New Mexico and received his BS degree in Civil Engineering from New Mexico State University in 1947. He entered government service in 1933 with the US Coast and Geodetic Survey. During the next eight years he worked for the Forest Service, US Bureau of Reclamation, and the International Boundary Commission.

In 1940 he entered the Army Corps of Engineers, and was among the first troops to go overseas in World War II. During the war years he built roads and bridges in combat areas or Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, and Germany and advanced in rank from second lieutenant to major. For his service he was cited in Ernie Pyle’s “Brave Men.” Upon release from active duty in 1946, Mr. Billups re-enrolled at New Mexico A&M College, now NMSU, to complete work for a BS degree in Civil Engineering. After his release from active duty, he also entered the Reserve Program and retired in 1965 as a Colonel, CE.

Mr. Billups began his outstanding career as a scientist-engineer in missile range instrumentation and data processing during the early testing stages of the captured V-2 rockets. His initial assignment was Chief of the Engineering Branch, Ballistic Research Laboratories, which developed the original survey net for WSMR. Later, he assisted in adapting optical instruments for specific Range uses.

When computers were first installed on the Range in 1952, Mr. Billups accepted the responsibility for organizing and developing a data reduction branch. With only a small group of people and new computer technology to implement, Mr. Billups instituted training and recruiting programs which enabled White Sands Proving Ground to accomplish testing and analysis on the V-2 Rockets, the Hermes, the early Nike Systems, and the Loki Dart. Later in 1952 he became Associate Director for Planning, Flight Determination Laboratory, with responsibility for planning instrumentation and data processing systems at White Sands Proving Ground. In 1955 he returned to the Data Reduction Branch as Chief, later advancing to Chief of the Operations Office, Data Reduction Division. When the Branch achieved division status, he was responsible for technical direction of the activities of 100 civil service and 150 contractor scientists and technicians. He served in that capacity until 1960 when he was named Deputy Chief of the Data Reduction Division. During his tenure he was instrumental in the advancement of installed computer systems from the 1955 card programmed Remington Rand 1103, to the Remington Rand 1103A, to the IBM 7094 real-time systems in 1962. His implementation of a microwave data link between Holloman and WSMR, enabling the release of one of the IBM 7094 computer systems, saved $520,000 in annual rental costs.

The Cooperative Student-Trainee Program (COOP) was developed by Mr. Billups and has served as a model for similar programs being instituted throughout the Nation.