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White Sands Missile Range > Featured News > Toftoy Room Honors Space Pioneer

​Archaeologist Bill Godby and Brig. Gen. Eric Sanchez unveil a mural marking the new Toftoy Room at White Sands Missile Range. (U.S. Army Photo/Adriana Salas de Santiago)

Toftoy Room Honors Space Pioneer
Wesley Gray
August 03, 2018

​"As we move forward, people come and go. Sometimes the past gets left behind, and we are here today to ensure Maj. Gen. Holger Nelson Toftoy is remembered for his passion in rocketry."

Following this introduction, Garrison Archaeologist Bill Godby and White Sands Missile Range Commander Brig. Gen. Eric Sanchez helped unveil a 3 by 6-foot reproduction of a mural mounted at the entrance of the newly renamed Toftoy Room, formerly the Aztec Room, at the WSMR Frontier Club. 

The renaming was suggested by Sanchez to both honor Toftoy and artist Robert Glaisek. The original 6 by 17-foot mural, located in the Materiel Test Directorate building, was painted in 1957 by a then Private 1st Class named Robert Glaisek.  Glaisek was an artist with the Illustration Section at the time.

Toftoy began his military career in 1926 when he was commissioned from West Point.  In 1944, Toftoy became Chief of the Army Ordnance Technical Intelligence team to seek out and evaluate enemy ordnance in Europe.  

Toward the end of World War II, Toftoy was tasked to recover German V-2 rockets and parts and ship them back to the United State.  He also recognized the value and need to utilize German engineers and scientists to teach us how to assemble and launch the rockets.  Operation Paperclip was created to bring the scientists to the U.S. for that purpose and stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas. Maj. James Hamill served as the boots on the ground to execute Toftoy's plan.

For 10 days, Hamill and his crew loaded V-2 rockets and parts into freight trains and transported them from Germany to Belgium, and then to New Orleans before arriving in Las Cruces aboard 300 railroad freight cars.

The reassembly of the V-2 rockets at White Sands Proving Ground was a tremendous effort, including translating manuals into English, building infrastructure such as test stands and blockhouses and assembly and testing of the motors.  

Reconstruction of the rockets was led by Wernher von Braun and his team of German "paperclippers", as they were called, who traveled daily from Fort Bliss to the Proving Grounds to assist the American scientists and engineers.  

In April of 1946, the first V-2 rocket was launched Army Launch Area 1, now known as Launch Complex 33.  Sixty seven V-2 rocket launches followed, exploring the upper atmosphere and paving the way for the development of the space program, our first lunar landing and future military development of ballistic missiles.

To help commemorate Toftoy's achievement, Hamill reached out to a painter Glaisek in 1957 and asked him to produce a mural honoring his former boss Toftoy. Taking several months, Glaisek created the magnificent painting of the Organ Mountains that towered above White Sands Proving Ground. Off to the left-hand side of the mural is a Spanish Conquistador symbolizing the early exploration and settlement of the southwest.

On the opposite end of the painting is Toftoy, who represents the scientists and engineers working at White Sands. Cupped in his hands is an atom, as Glaisek said he believed it possible that nuclear energy might be used to power spaceships in the future.

Both figures in the mural are seen gazing up at the moon.  In a recent interview Glaisek stated  "space was a hot topic as both the United States and Soviet Union announced they would launch manmade satellites for the International Geophysical Year" with the desire to go to the moon.  The space race had begun.

In his comments during the renaming ceremony, Sanchez joked that during his first briefing at the Materiel Test Director's Office, where the mural resides, he could not keep his eyes off it, stating "I was attracted more to the mural than what was being briefed to me."

This page was last updated on 10/26/2018 2:15 PM