White Sands Missile Range Hall of Fame

Joseph Gold
Optics Pioneer/Program Manager
Served 1949 – 1979
Inducted 2006

Joseph Gold was born in Appalachia, VA, in 1924.

Joe first saw White Sands Proving Ground in 1946 when he was a student employee with the fledging PSL at New Mexico State University and a group from the lab went to watch the third V-2 firing at White Sands Proving Ground. He graduated from NMSU in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

After graduation, Joe went to work at White Sands as a camera operator. He immediately made his presence felt by designing an improved optical orientation target for fixed cameras.

Just a year later Joe was sent to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., to participate in the final design and assembly of five new telescopes that would record intercepts over the range. This was the first major telescope system developed for capturing attitude and event data on air defense tests. He returned to White Sands with the first four Intercept Ground Optical Recorders (IGORs). Photos taken by these cameras astounded the public and won range optics operators several awards.

In 1955, Joe transferred to missile program management where his first assignment was the Nike Ajax. For the next 24 years, he was involved with programs like Nike Hercules, Hawk, Redeye, Stinger and Chaparral. These air defense systems needed targets so Joe jumped in to aid in the development of targets as well.

He was involved in planning and testing an early drone formation control system using F-80 fighters. This allowed multiple aerial targets to be flown for tests.

Joe’s experience and expertise were recognized by many outside the White Sands community. He was selected as a member of a two-man team to evaluate testing of several foreign missile systems such as Roland to see if the United States would buy them.

Another high-level assignment came in 1963 when he was selected as a U.S. advisor to a NATO users’ conference in Paris and Athens concerning developing a training range on the Greek island of Crete. His experience at White Sands made him invaluable in the process of developing range instrumentation, targets and insuring safety at the new range Joe retired from White Sands in 1979 and lives in Las Cruces with his wife Fern.

Joe was also associated with the Civil Air Patrol for many years. His duty assignments were as a CAP pilot and check pilot, then as a mission pilot, a mission check pilot, and Cadet Orientation Pilot. His next assignment was as the New Mexico Wing Standardization Officer and Chief Check Pilot.

He was active in the CAP Senior Training Program and is a graduate of both the Region and National Staff Colleges and has served on the instructional staff of both. He was Director of the Southwest Region Staff College in 1990.

He served as New Mexico CAP Wing Commander from April 1993 to August 1995. Under his leadership the Wing purchased a glider and initiated a soaring program for Cadets, as well as, participated in a test program of CAP squadrons established at Middle Schools throughout the state. He established an advisory council of past Wing Commanders to instill an invaluable continuity of leadership and experience within the wing. He restructured the Wing’s financial system from an antiquated handwritten system to a fully automated accounting program, which allowed access to vital data needed to assess trends and support financial management decisions. For his service he was awarded the Civil Air Patrol Distinguished Service Medal.