White Sands Missile Range Hall of Fame

Dale Green
Chief of the Engineers Uprange Division
Served 1951 – 1983
Inducted 2009

Dale Green was born in McAlester, OK. He graduated from McAlester High School in 1946 and attended both Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and Eastern Oklahoma A&M. In 1951 Green went to work at White Sands as an electrician with the Post Engineers. In 1958 he was reassigned as a production planner in the Uprange Division. It meant moving his family to Socorro. In 1964 he was promoted to Construction and Maintenance General Foreman and Chief of the engineers Uprange Division, a position he held until he retired. In addition, in 1972 he was appointed the commanding general’s Uprange coordinator. In his almost two decades at the helm of the Uprange engineering function, Green built and led a workforce of team players who took on priority job after priority job and made the seemingly impossible look easy. According to Col. Frank Geisel (ret), former director of WSMR’s Facilities Engineers, Green pretty much always finished his projects early and under budget.

A little perspective is necessary because the Uprange engineering function in Green’s time was enormous compared to today. In the 1960s and 70s, Green was responsible for roads, facilities and programs over two-thirds of White Sands, about 2,000 square miles. He had a shop at Rhodes Canyon and worked activities as far south as Northrup Strip (now White Sands Space Harbor), RATSCAT and the Sled Track at Holloman AFB. His crews were even sent TDY to do work at McGregor Range on Ft. Bliss.

At that time, with that much territory, the projects seemed endless. It wasn’t unusual for a crew to work Monday thru Friday in one area and then reposition their equipment to another area to work a different project on the weekend.

To do this work Green had about 45 permanent employees and nearly 45 temporary employees.

During the 1960s and 1970s the missile range’s extension areas were very busy with dozens of Pershing and Athena launches coming from Fort Wingate, N.M. and Green River, Utah. Col. Dan Duggan (ret), former WSMR director of National Range and deputy commander, says they depended on that voluntary cooperation of the ranchers to accomplish those launches.

There were often problems with jets buzzing livestock, sonic booms that broke windows and cracked walls and, occasionally, the roads were impassible in the extension areas. Duggan says Green made most of those problems invisible to him, advising him afterwards and letting him know if command involvement was necessary.

As Duggan says, most of the time Green took it upon himself to simply get things done. That is typical Dale Green. He did the job without drawing any attention to himself. The Green family still remembers the Christmas Eve when Green received a call from Stallion about a problem with the propane at the mess hall.

This was when soldiers were stationed at Stallion and they lived in barracks. If the propane problem wasn’t fixed, the troops weren’t going to get a hot meal on Christmas. So instead of passing it onto one of his people, Green drove to Stallion from Socorro to deal with the problem himself.

Green’s reputation as someone who knew what he was doing and someone who could get things done quickly was established early on. In 1970 a wayward Athena out of Green River crashed 400 miles into Mexico. To further complicate matters, the missile was carrying a radioactive source. To say the least this was a major international incident.

Green was personally picked to lead the engineering section that went by train to recover the debris and contaminated soil. Fighting rain and mud, they made quick work of the recovery. In addition, they did humanitarian work in the tiny village nearby, blading roads, reinforcing a check dam and working on the primitive water system.

In the 1970s the Defense Nuclear Agency (DNA) was looking for a way to simulate nuclear blast effects using simple high explosives. They came to WSMR to conduct a series of explosions using TNT and ANFO (ammonium nitrate and fuel oil) to blast equipment.

Green’s team had to prepare a blast site and areas to place military equipment, build shelters to very strict specifications and give the data collectors appropriate pads. It was a huge undertaking that ran through several small DICE THROW tests and culminated in the 600-ton main test (one kiloton equivalent) in Oct. 1976.

The tests were so successful, DNA quickly followed with more tests like Mill Race and Direct Course. In part, because of the fantastic support provided by Green, DNA decided to establish a permanent facility (PHETS) on White Sands to continue the testing. By the time Green retired in 1983, his people had put in more than 60,000 man-hours supporting DNA.

On March 30, 1982 the space shuttle Columbia landed at White Sands. It was supposed to land on the 29th but tremendous, record-setting windstorms postponed the landing by one day. The storms on the 29th were so strong they damaged the gypsum-based runways at Northrup Strip.

Green’s crews, who had already prepared the public viewing area and done much of the initial work on the runways, were called upon to fix the problem before the next morning. They worked all night filling holes, watering and re-blading the two runways.

Again, Green successfully led his teams doing the preparation work that would be overshadowed by a high-visibility event.

Green retired in 1983 and lives in Socorro with his wife Alma.