Ballistic Missile Defense Pioneer
Served 1956 -1988
Mr. Leon F. Goode Jr. was born in Rocky Mount, NC on Dec. 19, 1927. He attended high school in Knoxville, Tenn. and earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1952.
Goode came to White Sands in 1956 after four years at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. His initial job was as an engineer in the field of environmental testing in what is now the Army Material Test and Evaluation Directorate. Within six months he was promoted to section chief and in 1957, at the age of 29, he was named range project manager for the new Nike Zeus testing program.
The Nike Zeus was not easy to test. It was a three-stage vehicle about 48 feet long with a booster that developed more than 450,000 pounds of thrust. It was designed to carry a nuclear warhead. Guidance was provided by a complex ground system of radars and computers. Keeping it on the missile range was a challenge.
Included in Goode’s efforts for Nike Zeus was large-scale construction of facilities and development of a northern extension area for the missile range. Goode proved to be a major player in establishing the extension, an accomplishment that still pays dividends for White Sands.
Not only did he plan and integrate the Zeus test program at White Sands, he advised on test operations at the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean test sites. In addition, he was responsible for the engineering testing of the system. This required him to develop a task force organization that would evaluate the system and its performance.
Eventually, Nike Zeus developed into the Nike X, the Sentinel, and finally, the Safeguard. At this point the White Sands organization was transferred to the Special Program organization created at the Department of Army level and became the Sentinel System Evaluation Agency. Located at WSMR, the organization grew to almost 600 and became primarily a system evaluator and watchdog for the System Manager.
The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty of 1972 in effect killed the whole program and left the agency without a mission. While range officials prepared plans to run a reduction in force of some 400 employees Goode began to search for other Army users for his organization’s expertise.
Goode’s efforts paid off at the eleventh hour when the newly formed US Army Training and Doctrine Command, looking for a source of talent to staff its newly assigned analytical mission, “bought” the entire remaining organization and renamed it the TRADOC Systems Analysis Activity. Because of Goode’s work several hundred jobs were saved on the missile range and local communities felt very little adverse economic impact.
Goode served as Deputy Director for Technical operations at the new organization from 1974 to 1983. He served as director from 1983 until his retirement in 1988.
Mr. Goode died in August 1993.