White Sands Missile Range > Public Affairs > White Sands History > Chronology: Cowboys to V-2s to the Space Shuttle to lasers


"Cowboys to V-2 Rockets to the Space Shuttle"

This chronology includes events relating to White Sands Missile Range, the technology used or tested here or the local area itself. There is no particular criteria for any event to be included except the author´s opinion.

10,000,000 BC Tularosa Basin formed

10,000 BC Lake Otero open for water skiing

3,000 BC Malapais or lava flow forms in Tularosa Basin

1,000 AD Indians raise various crops in the area

1232 Chinese power arrows with small gunpowder rockets

1536 Cabeza de Vaca walks through the area on way to Calif.

1598 Onate leads colonists over Camino Real to northern N.M.

1812 The British use Congreve rockets to attack Ft. McHenry

1838 Albert Fountain born in N.Y.

1850 Pat Garrett born in Ala.

1859 Butterfield Trail passes through Ft. Filmore, Mesilla and Picacho

1861 July - Confederates led by Col. Baylor capture Ft. Fillmore forces

1869 Jan 19 - Eugene Manlove Rhodes born in Tecumseh, Nebr.

1880 Billy the Kid captured by Pat Garrett

April 6 & 7 - Apache Chief Victorio battles Buffalo Soldiers in Hembrillo Basin

1881 Rhodes family moves to N.M.

April 15 - Billy the Kid ordered to hang for killing Sheriff Brady

April 28 - Billy escapes killing deputies Bell and Olinger

July 14 - Pat Garrett kills Billy at Fort Sumner

1882 Robert Goddard born in Mass.

1886 July 1 - Ozanne & Company start mail and passenger service from Socorro to White Oaks. They use the Mountain Station Ranch in Oscura Mtns. as a break spot and stopover for passengers.

1893 WW Cox acquires the San Augustin ranch

1894 June 30 - Urbain Ozanne´s mail service ends after two four-year contracts. The Mountain Station eventually becomes part of the Bursum ranch in the 20th century.

Dec. 26 - Francois Jean Rochas (Frenchie) is murdered at mouth of Dog Canyon

1895 Wilhelm Roentgen discovers X-rays

1896 Feb. 1 - Albert Fountain and son, Henry, disappear at Chalk Hill

April - Pat Garrett becomes sheriff of Dona Ana County

1897 J.J. Thomson discovered electrons

1899 March - Gene Rhodes shelters Lee & Gilliland at his ranch in San Andres Mtns.

Lee and Gilliland stand trial in Hillsboro for murder of Fountains

1901 Post Office established at Estey City, N.M. -- copper mining town on NE WSMR

Dec. 20 - Pat Garrett appointed El Paso Customs Collector by President Roosevelt

1904 N.M. Territory produces $2.1 million in metals (gold, silver, copper, lead, etc.)

1906 Eugene Rhodes moved to N.Y. to live and write

1908 Feb. 29 - Pat Garrett shot and killed outside Las Cruces by Wayne Brazil

March 5 - Garrett is buried in the Las Cruces Odd Fellows Cemetery

1909 April 19 - Wayne Brazil tried for murder of Pat Garrett - jury takes 15 minutes to declare self defense

1910 Post Office at Estey City closes and town becomes a ghost town

1912 Wernher von Braun born in Germany

Goddard develops and patents idea of multistage rockets

1914 General John J. Pershing takes command of Ft. Bliss in El Paso

1919 Goddard publishes "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes"

1926 Robert Goddard flies first liquid-fueled rocket on March 16

Feb. 2 - 27 Gene Rhodes´ "Paso Por Aqui" published serially in Saturday Evening Post

1929 Hermann Oberth publishes "The Road to Space Travel"

1931 Ellis Wright discovers giant pedestal footprints (mammoth & camel) on lake bed

1932 Sir James Chadwick discovers the neutron

1933 White Sands National Monument established

1934 June 27 - Eugene Rhodes dies in Calif. but is buried in San Andres Mtns.

Enrico Fermi splits atoms (including uranium) using neutrons

1937 Nov. - Doc Noss enters Victorio Peak & supposedly finds room filled with gold

1938 Enrico Fermi is awarded the Nobel Prize & flees to the U.S.

1939 Doc Noss accidently seals entrance to the peak using too much dynamite

Jan. - Enrico Fermi and Neils Bohr meet to discuss possibilities of nuclear chain reaction

Aug. 2 - Einstein signs letter to President Roosevelt warning about atomic bombs

Sep. - Hitler invades Poland

1940 Sep. 7 - Saturday Evening Post publishes William Laurence´s article about atomic bombs

1941 San Andres Wildlife Refuge established in San Andres Mtns.

Dec. 6 - President Roosevelt approves program to develop atomic bomb

1942 William Laurence´s article is classified and the Post is asked to remove magazine

Alamogordo Bombing Range established

Ranchers leave their homes for first time

92 square miles of Tenn. acquired at cost of $2.6M to build Oak Ridge nuclear facility

Sept. 18 - Leslie Groves placed in charge of Manhattan Project

Oct. - First successful V-2 flight in Germany

Nov. 25 - Approval granted to acquire Los Alamos Boys Ranch at cost of $415,000

Dec. 2 - Nuclear reaction sustained in Enrico Fermi´s atomic reactor at U of Chicago

1943 Jan. 1 - University of California is notified it will run Los Alamos

Feb. 28 - Commandos destroy 3,000 pounds of heavy water at Norway´s Norsk Hydro Hydrogen Electrolysis plant

June 7 - Construction begins on the Hanford nuclear facility

1944 More than 850 buses needed at Oak Ridge to move personnel to and from work & around facilities

Jan. 27 - First operations at Oak Ridge to seperate U235 from its more common form of U238

Aug. - Babcock and Wilcox tasked to build Jumbo for Trinity test

Sept. - Plutonium producing reactor at Hanford put into operation

Sep. 7 - A 18x24 mile area at the Alamogordo Bombing Range is Selected for Trinity Site

1945 Feb. 17 - Carl Rudder arrives at Trinity Site

April 1-13 - JPL´s Private "F" rockets (17 rounds) fired at Ft. Bliss Hueco Range just south of WSPG. All were unsatisfactory.

May 7 - 100 tons of TNT exploded at Trinity for rehearsal & calibration

July 9 - White Sands Proving Ground is established

July 16 - First atomic bomb exploded at Trinity Site at 5:30 a.m.

Aug. 9 - Fat Man atomic bomb Dropped on Nagasaki

Sept. - Blockhouse completed at Launch Complex 33 at cost of $95,000

Sept. 11 - News media reps visit Trinity Site, ground zero

Sept. 26 - Tiny Tim booster fired from tower at LC33

Oct. 11 - Full up WAC Corporal with Tiny Tim goes to 43 miles altitude

1946 "Dawn Over Zero" by NY Times reporter William Laurence is published (only reporter allowed inside the Manhattan Project during WWII)

Jan. - Army Signal Corps bounces radio signal off the moon

Mar. 15 - Static firing of V-2 at 100K Static Test Stand

Apr. 16 - First V-2 fired from LC33 -- only reaches 3.4 miles in altitude

May 10 - V-2, with VIPs watching, successfully reaches 70 miles altitude

June 14 - Navy establishes a presence at White Sands

July 9 & 19 - V-2 carries corn seeds and fruit flies aloft to expose to cosmic rays

July 30 - Explosives used to separate nose cone from V-2

Oct. 24 - Motion pictures taken from V-2 showing 40,000 square miles of earth

1947 Jan. 23 - First auto pilot system used on a rocket

March 7 - Naval Research Lab team led by John Mengel puts camera onboard V-2 that achieved 100-mile altitude and brings back first "space" photos of earth

March 16 - GAPA (toothpick maker) missile launched at Holloman

May 22 - First Corporal "E" flight from LC33

May 29 - Missile 0 of Hermes series crashes outside Juarez

June 4 - First balloon launch from Holloman AFB

July 2 - Secret Air Force balloon crashes near Roswell, N.M. -- mistaken for UFO

Nov. 24 - First of Navy´s Aerobee rockets launched -- reaches 34.7 miles altitude

1948 Gene Rhodes´ "Paso Por Aqui" appears on film as "Four Faces West" starring Joel McCrea as Ross McEwen and Charles Bickford as Pat Garrett

Jan. 13 - Alamogordo Army Air Field changed to Holloman Air Force Base

May 13 - First Bumper firing -- 1st stage was V-2, 2nd was WAC Corporal

May 21 - Launch of JB-2 Loon (American V-1) at Holloman AFB

June 11 - First Blossom flight with Albert, a rhesus monkey, aboard

July 26 - Negatives pieced to make one photo covering 800,000 miles

Nov. 15 - Letter from New Mexico allowing military roadblocks on U.S. 70

1949 Feb. 24 - Bumper reaches 250 miles altitude and 5,000 miles per hour

March 5 - Doc Noss shot and killed by Charlie Ryan

May 3 - Navy´s first Viking missile fired

May 26 - Charlie Ryan found innocent of murder based on self defense

Sep. - Soviets test their first atomic bomb

1950 Range fields football team which plays freshman college teams and other installations.

Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) formed in Huntsville, Al

March 2 - Weather research balloon launched at Holloman. Lands March 4 in Myrdal, Norway.

May - First of five Hermes A-1 firings

June 23 - Test of first launch sled on Holloman test track

Aug. 31 - Fifth and final Blossom flight photographed mouse in flight

Sept. 28 - First successful animal balloon from Holloman. Reaches 97,000 ft. with 8 mice aboard.

Oct. - National Geographic Magazine features photos from their cameras aboard a V-2

Dec. 3 - Range football team (Red Devils) plays Nellis AFB Mustangs in "Silver Bowl" - lose 53-6

1951 Hermes C-1 missile with range of 500 miles becomes the Redstone

Aug. 22 - V-2 reaches altitude of 132 miles over the range (highest in series)

Sept. 20 - One monkey & 11 mice survive Air Force Aerobee flight to 45 miles

Nov. 6 - New post theater is dedicated and opened

Nov. - Nike destroys B-17 for first intercept of plane by a guided missile

Dec. 25 - Jack Benny & Ann Blyth entertain post at new theater at 4 p.m.

1952 "Integrated Range" put under control of the Army

April 5 - Collier´s Magazine highlights Whiz Kids and wonder weapons at WSMR

June 6 - Navy Viking rocket sets world´s altitude record for a static test when rocket breaks free during motor test and reaches an estimated 4 miles.

1953 May 1 - First anthropomorphic dummy jump from balloon at 85,000 ft.

Oct. - Red Canyon Range Camp opens for Nike Ajax training shots

Contractor scrapes up Trinitite and top one inch of soil at Ground Zero and deposits in mounds around GZ.

1954 Mar. 19 - LTC John Stapp rides rocket sled at track for first time

Oct. 5 - Viking rocket from WSPG takes pictures of a hurricane for the first time from altitudes beyond 100 miles. The photos showed an area greater than 1000 miles in diameter

Dec. 10 - Stapp experiences 43 gs on rocket sled and is "fastest man in the world."

1955 Ova Noss evicted from Victorio Peak because it becomes part of WSMR

Boston Celtic great Sam Jones plays basketball with WSMR team during 55/56 season.

Dec. - First successful firing of a U.S. developed ballistic missile (Redstone) with inertial guidance

1956 Nov. - Nike renamed the Nike Ajax to distinguish it from other Nikes

May - DoD refuses Army´s offer to put a satellite in orbit by 1957

1957 Aug. - Manned MANHIGH balloon attains record 102,000 ft. & 32 hours

Oct. 4 - Soviets launch world´s first manmade satellite, Sputnik I

Oct. - Range personnel track & photograph Sputnik for Naval Research Lab

Nov. 3 - Soviets really shock the world with Sputnik II launch - 1,100 lb. satellite carries dog

1958 Leonard Fiege and 3 men supposedly find gold bars in side tunnel of Victorio Peak

Jan. 31 - U.S. Explorer I put into orbit - led to discovery of Van Allen radiation belts

April 6 - Chapel at Red Canyon Range Camp open for Easter services

May 1 - White Sands Proving Ground is changed to White Sands Missile Range

July 1 - 75 generals, 100 reporters & hundreds of industry leaders visit WSMR for PROJECT AMMO and see 6 missile launches (Talos, Hercules, Hawk, Dart, Little John, Lacrosse)

Oct. 1 - National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) formed

Oct. 8 - Lt. Clifton McClure reaches 99,900 feet aboard Manhigh balloon over WSMR

Dec. 6 - Army´s Juno II (Sergeant motor atop Jupiter first stage) launches Pioneer 3 for NASA

1959 Aug. - Red Canyon Range Camp closed as functions move to McGregor Range

Construction completed making Highway 70 a 4-lane highway from WSMR to Cruces

1960 NASA´s 7 Mercury astronauts train over WSMR for a week in C-131

"Tularosa, Last of the Frontier West" by C.L. Sonnichsen is published

Jan. 29 - HAWK intercepts Honest John missile for first supersonic missile kill ever

Feb. 3 - First "firing in extension" FIX -- both Nike Zeus and Nike Hercules

June 27 - Socorro County Chamber of Commerce requests the donation of Jumbo for a Trinity Site monument in a tourist park at the intersection of U.S. Highways 85 and 60.

July - California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Lab closes WSMR office - 19 people head of CA of FL.

Aug. 12 - A Nike Hercules shoots down another Nike Hercules at 11 mile altitude

Aug. 16 - Capt. Joe Kittinger jumps from balloon at 102,800 ft. altitude. New record

Sep. 23 & 24 - WWII hero and movie star Audie Murphy visits WSMR to film documentary

Oct. 30 - About 600 people visit Trinity Site

1961 Jan. 23 - HAWK shoots down Corporal ballistic missile

Jan. 31 - HAM, chimp trained at Holloman, does 155-mile-high flight for Project Mercury

March 1 - Commissary annex opens at Stallion to serve 60 families

March 26 - First services in new post chapel

April 12 - Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes first man in space as he orbits earth once

May 5 - Astronaut Alan Shepard flies short 15-minute flight into space

June 1 - Construction begins on 9-hole gold course at White Sands -- cost is $150,000

Aug. 5 - Fiege and crew start work at Victorio Peak to recover gold

Nov. 3 - MG Shinkle orders Fiege off the range and bars all gold searches

Dec. 14 - Nike Zeus successfully intercepts a Nike Hercules missile high over WSMR

1962 NASA White Sands Test Facility established on July 6

"Fire on the Mountain" by Edward Abbey is published. Fictional account of John Prather´s battle with Ft. Bliss over his ranch. Abbey places it at White Sands Missile Range.

1963 June - President Kennedy visits to view launches

July 19 - Gaddis Mining starts 60-day dig at Victorio Peak

August - First overland flight of Pershing missile, Bliss to WSMR

Sept. - Pershing launch from Black Mesa (near Blanding), Utah to WSMR

Oct. - Pershing launch from Fort Wingate to WSMR

Nov. 12 - Radio commentator Paul Harvey visits WSMR

1964 Feb. - Wadsworth Blvd. is renamed Headquarters Blvd. on WSMR. Wadsworth was first Chief of Ordnance, 1812-1821.

July 8 - First Air Force successful flight of Athena from Green River, Utah

Sept. - First engine tests at NASA´s WSTF

Oct. 23 - WSMR newspaper "Wind and Sand" runs photo of LPGA member Mickey Wright teeing off from V-2 rocket lying on its side in Missile Park. Wright was in Las Cruces to play in Las Cruces Open. In the 1960s Wright was leading money winner on LPGA and won 13 titles in 1963.

Nov. 19 - Pershing missile overshoots target and ends up near Creede, Colorado.

Dec. 2 - Sonic boom tests are demonstrated for news media at Oscura Range Camp. F-104 accidently generates estimated 40 lbs. psi shock wave and shatters many windows.

1965 Sprint missile first flight at White Sands

Range spruces up Trinity Site by erecting lava obelisk and destroying manned bunkers

Sep. - Some Pershing debris found 12 miles north of Creede, Co. by Maurice Chaffee. Missile was lost after Nov. 1964 launch from Hueco Range, Ft. Bliss launch. In 1982 hunters found the second stage, guidance package and reentry vehicle.

Nov-Dec - Two, two-day deer hunts on WSMR yield 700 deer to 1,645 hunters.

1966 NASA completes Little Joe II test program for Apollo

Feb. - First launch of Navy´s Tartar missile

March 9 - First launch of Navy´s Terrier missile

March 30 - MG John Cone, WSMR Commander, dies when helping motorist

May 10 - First launch of Navy´s Standard missile

1967 March - First dual launch of Pershing from off range (Blanding, Utah)

Sept. 11 - Pershing missile launched from Blanding, Utah crashes just over Mexican border.

Three underground bunkers at Trinity Site are made safe by Los Alamos to include "Sleeping Beauty." Los Alamos conducts radiological survey of Trinity. WSMR constructs inner fence at Ground Zero. Los Alamos removed 10 garbage cans filled with Trinitite from buried bunker south of GZ and "trucked to the contaminated dump at Los Alamos."

1968 Sept 11 - A 28.7 million-cubic-foot Air Force research balloon reaches 158,200 feet

1969 Oryx introduced on White Sands by N.M. Dept. of Game and Fish

Sept - Nike Javelin used to release barium creating multi-color cloud visible in Miss.

1970 July 11 - Athena crashes in Mexico after launch from Green River, Utah

1972 July - First test of Viking Mars lander after being boosted to 150,000 feet

1973 June 2 - Jack Anderson mentions F. Lee Bailey and Victorio Peak in column

July 28 - First in series of propane railcar cook-off tests. Unprotected tank exploded in 23.5 seconds

1974 March - Solar Furnace opens at WSMR -- capable of 5,000 degrees F.

Congress appropriates money for purchase of ranch lands on WSMR

1976 Oct. - 600 tons of ammonium nitrate & fuel oil exploded (= to 1 kiloton) in Dice Throw test

1977 March - Operation Goldfinder starts at Victorio Peak

Jim Eckles and Debbie Bingham begin work in WSMR Public Affairs

Dec. - First test round of Multiple Launch Rocket System successfully fired

1978 Aug. 19 - Ten inches of rain fall in two hours, five killed in flash floods

Oct. - Shuttle astronaut training begins at Northrup Strip

Dec. - Press demonstration of 5 precision guided munitions (Copperhead, TOW, GBU-15, Walleye, laser-guided bombs)

1979 Northrup Strip identified as possible shuttle landing strip

Ben Burt, soundman for George Lucas films, visits to collect sounds

1980 NASA tests on shuttle maneuvering engine and landing system

"The Roswell Incident" by Berlitz & Moore is published

Congress appropriates more money for purchase of ranch lands

July 4 - First induction into newly formed WSMR Hall of Fame - 6 inductees were Tombaugh, von Braun, Turner, Brillante, Hemingway and Billups

1981 Feb. 18 - General of the Army Omar Bradley speaks at WSMR Patriotism Luncheon

1982 March 30 - Shuttle Columbia lands at Northrup Strip -- 8-day mission

April 6 - Columbia leaves Northrup Strip on back of 747

July - Air Force´s Ground Based Electro-optical Deep Space Surveillence System opens at Stallion

Oct. - Dave McDonald enters missile range to protest rancher payments

Nov 19 - First successful Pershing II launch from McGregor Range to WSMR

1983 Jan. 18 - Ribbon cutting for the new High Energy Laser System Test Facility

June - Tracking Data Satellite Relay System put into operation

Oct. 26 - Direct Course explosion using 600 tons of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil

1985 Ten year mountain lion study begins on missile range

1989 Ova Noss Family Partnership proposes new search at Victorio Peak

March - First commercial rocket launch at WSMR

1992 Digging actually starts at Victorio Peak by ONFP

1993 Aug. 18 - First flight of Delta Clipper at White Sands

1995 July 16 - Trinity Site open house on 50th anniversary --biggest crowd ever (5,400)

Missile range rounds up 1,530 horses and adopts them out

USFWS proposes White Sands for possible release of Mexican wolves

1996 March 23 - First annual Tumbleweed 25 mountain bike ride hosted by WSMR

July 31 - Delta Clipper tips over on landing and burns

October 17 - Army TACMS missile successfully fired from Ft. Wingate to White Sands

1997 March 24 - Media Day prior to 4 rockets launches to look at Comet Hale-Bopp

March 24 - April 7 - Public invited to watch the 4 launches from the parade field

April 24 - International Astonomers Union happens to visit Trinity Site on day UFOs are predicted to land

Nov. 17 - First Hera launch from Ft. Wingate, N.M. 2nd stage did not ignite.

Nov. 20 - Konrad Dannenberg, German V-2 scientist, visits WSMR

1998 April 4 - largest crowd ever for regular Trinity Site tour (4,200)

April 19 - 1,700 run/walk in the annual Bataan Memorial Death March at WSMR

1999 New cruise missile (JASSM) - joint Air Force & Navy program - is tested

March 15 - Patriot Advanced Capabilities (PAC-3) intercepts Hera ballistic target

April - Very windy spring. Average wind speed for month was 10.5 mph (that´s 24/7). Peak wind on Salinas Peak was 122 mph.

April 24 - Hembrillo Battlefield ceremony honors those who fought in the 1880 battle

June 10 & Aug. 2 - First intercepts of ballastic targets by THAAD (shooting bullets w/bullets)

2000 May 31 - New Cox Range Control Center Bldg. is dedicated

June 6 & Aug. 28 - Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) shoots down Katyusha rockets

2001 Oct. 6 - Trinity Site open house cancelled for first time in decades because of 9/11 attacks

2002 June - Tests confirm first NM case of chronic wasting disease found in a WSMR deer

Nov. 5 - Army´s Mobile Tactical High-Energy Laser destroys artillery projectile in flight

Nov. 21-23 - Desert bighorn sheep roundup in AZ & NM with release of 51 animals at San Andres National Wildlife Refuge on WSMR

2003 Jan. - More cases of chronic wasting disease are confirmed in deer from WSMR

Feb. 1 - Space Shuttle Columbia breaks apart and is destroyed on re-entry

Feb. 7 - First ever SCUD missile fired at WSMR - successful

March 30 - Bataan Memorial Death March cancelled because of lack of medical support. Military personnel were deployed overseas.

2004 - Oct. 1 - IMA (Installion Management Agency) funding begins

November - Dedication of the V-2 Annex at the Museum to house refurbished V-2

2005 July 13-16 - The range celebrates its 60th anniversary with uprange tours, a Hall of Fame induction (Joy Arthur and Paul Arthur - first husband and wife to be inducted), history seminars and a special Trinity Site open house.

Nov. 30 - BG Bob Reese retires and Mr. Tom Berard takes over as first "Director" of White Sands Missile Range.

2006 May / June - DreamWorks movie company films several scenes for a feature motion picture based on the Transformer cartoons and toys. They built a desert village in the dunes along Range Road 10 and used the Tank Farm. Michael Bay is the director.

May 25 - Photographer Roland Miller shoots LC-33 and the 500K Static Test Stand.

June 14 - Navy celebrates 60th anniversary at WSMR. They donate 5" inch gun and missile launcher to the museum´s missile park.

This page was last updated on 10/26/2018 2:22 PM