The Trinity Site Open House Oct 2nd, 2021, History of the site, the gadget and a history of the open house of the site…

The Trinity Site near Alamogordo, New Mexico at White Sands Missile Proving Ground New White Sands Missile Range is a spot of historical significance that changed the world, the outcome of World War 2 and impacts sociopolitical dialog around the globe to this day. Tours are limited to 1 day a year. This year October 2nd, 2021 from 8 am to 3:30 pm.

What is the history of the Trinity Site?

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped a nuclear weapon on Hiroshima, Japan – the first time such weapon of mass destruction that was ever used in conflict. Three days later the U.S. released another on Nagasaki, devastating the city and ushering in the nuclear age.

By 1945, the scientists of the Manhattan Project centered in Los Alamos, New Mexico with Oak Ridge Laboratories in Tennessee and the University of Chicago labs working to develop and build a nuclear weapon had made significant progress. 

Employees of the top-secret project via it’s 3 locations developed two types of atom bombs. One used uranium and a fairly simple design, leaving scientists confident it did not need testing. The other was a more complex implosion design using plutonium. Project leaders decided this second bomb needed to be tested before it was deemed ready for use. 

On July 16, 1945, the first atomic bomb successfully detonated at the Trinity test site.

Seeking an isolated test site for both safety and secrecy, planners chose a flat desert region at a U.S. Air Force base near Alamogordo, New Mexico called White Sands Proving Ground. This was a top secret military base where missile, aircraft and bomb testing took place and still does to this very day

While the test site was relatively barren, the nearest town of Carrizozo was just over twenty miles away. 

As the test date approached, concerns grew over the possible effects of radioactive fallout on nearby towns. 

After receiving warnings over potential legal liabilities, Manhattan Project Director General Leslie Groves tasked the Army with setting up an offsite monitoring system and preparing evacuation plans for those in a forty-mile radius.

The morning of July 16, the test weapon – referred to as “the gadget” – sat atop a 100-foot tower. Key observers were stationed in the control shelter constructed about 6 miles from the point of explosion. Others observed from shelters similarly situated around the test site, from base camp ten miles away, from “Hill Station” twenty miles away or from the air in B-29 bombers. Thunderstorms in the area delayed the test until early morning. At 5:30 am, the plutonium bomb detonated.

Video of Explosion and First Atomic Bomb Test in History

The term “Gadget” was a laboratory euphemism for a bomb, from which the laboratory’s weapon physics division, “G Division”, took its name in August 1944. At that time it did not refer specifically to the Trinity Test device as it had yet to be developed, but once it was, it became the laboratory code name. The Trinity Gadget was officially a Y-1561 device, as was the Fat Man used a few weeks later in the bombing of Nagasaki. The two were very similar, with only minor differences, the most obvious being the absence of fuzing and the external ballistic casing. The bombs were still under development, and small changes continued to be made to the Fat Man design.

To keep the design as simple as possible, a near solid spherical core was chosen rather than a hollow one, although calculations showed that a hollow core would be more efficient in its use of plutonium. The core was compressed to prompt super-criticality by the implosion generated by the high explosive lens. This design became known as a “Christy Core” or “Christy pit” after physicist Robert F. Christy, who made the solid pit design a reality after it was initially proposed by Edward Teller. Along with the pit, the whole physics package was also informally nicknamed “Christy[‘s] Gadget”.

Of the several allotropes of plutonium, the metallurgists preferred the malleable δ (deltaphase. This was stabilized at room temperature by alloying it with gallium. Two equal hemispheres of plutonium-gallium alloy were plated with silver, and designated by serial numbers HS-1 and HS-2.  The 6.19-kilogram (13.6 lb) radioactive core generated 15 W of heat, which warmed it up to about 100 to 110 °F (38 to 43 °C), and the silver plating developed blisters that had to be filed down and covered with gold foil; later cores were plated with nickel instead.  The Trinity core consisted of just these two hemispheres. Later cores also included a ring with a triangular cross-section to prevent jets forming in the gap between them.

Basic nuclear components of the Gadget. The uranium slug containing the plutonium sphere was inserted late in the assembly process.


A trial assembly of the Gadget without the active components or explosive lenses was carried out by the bomb assembly team headed by Norris Bradbury at Los Alamos on July 3. It was driven to Trinity and back. A set of explosive lenses arrived on July 7, followed by a second set on July 10. Each was examined by Bradbury and Kistiakowsky, and the best ones were selected for use. The remainder were handed over to Edward Creutz, who conducted a test detonation at Pajarito Canyon near Los Alamos without nuclear material.  This test brought bad news: magnetic measurements of the simultaneity of the implosion seemed to indicate that the Trinity test would fail. Bethe worked through the night to assess the results and reported that they were consistent with a perfect explosion.

Assembly of the nuclear capsule began on July 13 at the McDonald Ranch House, where the master bedroom had been turned into a clean room. The polonium-beryllium “Urchin” initiator was assembled, and Louis Slotin placed it inside the two hemispheres of the plutonium core. Cyril Smith then placed the core in the uranium tamper plug, or “slug”. Air gaps were filled with 0.5-mil (0.013 mm) gold foil, and the two halves of the plug were held together with uranium washers and screws which fit smoothly into the domed ends of the plug. The completed capsule was then driven to the base of the tower.

Louis Slotin and Herbert Lehr with the Gadget prior to insertion of the tamper plug (visible in front of Lehr’s left knee)

At the tower, a temporary eyebolt was screwed into the 105-pound (48 kg) capsule and a chain hoist was used to lower the capsule into the gadget. As the capsule entered the hole in the uranium tamper, it stuck. Robert Bacher realized that the heat from the plutonium core had caused the capsule to expand, while the explosives assembly with the tamper had cooled during the night in the desert. By leaving the capsule in contact with the tamper, the temperatures equalized and, in a few minutes, the capsule had slipped completely into the tamper.  The eyebolt was then removed from the capsule and replaced with a threaded uranium plug, a boron disk was placed on top of the capsule, an aluminum plug was screwed into the hole in the pusher, and the two remaining high explosive lenses were installed. Finally, the upper Dural polar cap was bolted into place. Assembly was completed at about 16:45 on July 13.

The Gadget was hoisted to the top of a 100-foot (30 m) steel tower. The height would give a better indication of how the weapon would behave when dropped from a bomber, as detonation in the air would maximize the amount of energy applied directly to the target (as the explosion expanded in a spherical shape) and would generate less nuclear fallout. The tower stood on four legs that went 20 feet (6.1 m) into the ground, with concrete footings. Atop it was an oak platform, and a shack made of corrugated iron that was open on the western side. The Gadget was hauled up with an electric winch. A truckload of mattresses was placed underneath in case the cable broke and the Gadget fell. The seven-man arming party, consisting of Bainbridge, Kistiakowsky, Joseph McKibben and four soldiers including Lieutenant Bush, drove out to the tower to perform the final arming shortly after 22:00 on July 15.

The scientists wanted good visibility, low humidity, light winds at low altitude, and westerly winds at high altitude for the test. The best weather was predicted between July 18 and 21, but the Potsdam Conference was due to start on July 16 and President Harry S. Truman wanted the test to be conducted before the conference began. It was therefore scheduled for July 16, the earliest date at which the bomb components would be available.

The Trinity explosion, 16 ms after detonation. The viewed hemisphere’s highest point in this image is about 200 metres (660 ft) high.

The detonation was initially planned for 04:00 MWT but was postponed because of rain and lightning from early that morning. It was feared that the danger from radiation and fallout would be increased by rain, and lightning had the scientists concerned about a premature detonation.[89] A crucial favorable weather report came in at 04:45,[60] and the final twenty-minute countdown began at 05:10, read by Samuel Allison.[90] By 05:30 the rain had gone.[60] There were some communication problems. The shortwave radio frequency for communicating with the B-29s was shared with the Voice of America, and the FM radios shared a frequency with a railroad freight yard in San Antonio, Texas.[86]

Two circling B-29s observed the test, with Shields again flying the lead plane. They carried members of Project Alberta, who would carry out airborne measurements during the atomic missions. These included Captain Deak Parsons, the Associate Director of the Los Alamos Laboratory and the head of Project Alberta; Luis AlvarezHarold AgnewBernard WaldmanWolfgang Panofsky, and William Penney. The overcast sky obscured their view of the test site.[91]

Trinitite

At 05:29:21 MWT (± 15 seconds), the device exploded with an energy equivalent to around 22 kilotons of TNT (92 TJ). The desert sand, largely made of silica, melted and became a mildly radioactive light green glass, which was named trinitite.  The explosion created a crater approximately 4.7 feet (1.4 m) deep and 88 yards (80 m) wide. The radius of the trinitite layer was approximately 330 yards (300 m). At the time of detonation, the surrounding mountains were illuminated “brighter than daytime” for one to two seconds, and the heat was reported as “being as hot as an oven” at the base camp. The observed colors of the illumination changed from purple to green and eventually to white. The roar of the shock wave took 40 seconds to reach the observers. It was felt over 100 miles (160 km) away, and the mushroom cloud reached 7.5 miles (12.1 km) in height.

Ralph Carlisle Smith, watching from Compania Hill, wrote:

I was staring straight ahead with my open left eye covered by a welder’s glass and my right eye remaining open and uncovered. Suddenly, my right eye was blinded by a light which appeared instantaneously all about without any build up of intensity. My left eye could see the ball of fire start up like a tremendous bubble or nob-like mushroom. I dropped the glass from my left eye almost immediately and watched the light climb upward. The light intensity fell rapidly, hence did not blind my left eye but it was still amazingly bright. It turned yellow, then red, and then beautiful purple. At first it had a translucent character, but shortly turned to a tinted or colored white smoke appearance. The ball of fire seemed to rise in something of toadstool effect. Later the column proceeded as a cylinder of white smoke; it seemed to move ponderously. A hole was punched through the clouds, but two fog rings appeared well above the white smoke column. There was a spontaneous cheer from the observers. Dr. von Neumann said, “that was at least 5,000 tons and probably a lot more.”

In his official report on the test, Farrell (who initially exclaimed, “The long-hairs have let it get away from them!”) wrote:

“The lighting effects beggared description. The whole country was lighted by a searing light with the intensity many times that of the midday sun. It was golden, purple, violet, gray, and blue. It lighted every peak, crevasse and ridge of the nearby mountain range with a clarity and beauty that cannot be described but must be seen to be imagined …”

William L. Laurence of The New York Times had been transferred temporarily to the Manhattan Project at Groves’s request in early 1945.  Groves had arranged for Laurence to view significant events, including Trinity and the atomic bombing of Japan. Laurence wrote press releases with the help of the Manhattan Project’s public relations staff.  He later recalled that

“A loud cry filled the air. The little groups that hitherto had stood rooted to the earth like desert plants broke into dance, the rhythm of primitive man dancing at one of his fire festivals at the coming of Spring.”

Original color-exposed photograph by Jack Aeby, July 16, 1945.

After the initial euphoria of witnessing the explosion had passed, Bainbridge told Oppenheimer, “Now we are all sons of bitches.”

Rabi noticed Oppenheimer’s reaction: “I’ll never forget his walk”; Rabi recalled, “I’ll never forget the way he stepped out of the car … his walk was like High Noon … this kind of strut. He had done it.”

Joan Hinton, a graduate student working on the Manhattan Project, described the explosion:

“It was like being at the bottom of an ocean of light. We were bathed in it from all directions. The light withdrew into the bomb as if the bomb sucked it up. Then it turned purple and blue and went up and up and up. We were still talking in whispers when the cloud reached the level where it was struck by the rising sunlight so it cleared out the natural clouds. We saw a cloud that was dark and red at the bottom and daylight at the top. Then suddenly the sound reached us. It was very sharp and rumbled and all the mountains were rumbling with it.”

The explosive force was equal to roughly 20,000 tons of TNT, far larger than the expected 7,500 tons. The flash of light was visible over 280 miles from the test site; the blast broke windows 120 miles away. Military police in nearby towns told those who saw the flash that an ammunition dump had exploded.

Radioactive green glass created from some of the dirt and debris caught in the fireball littered the test ground. Reports of public radiation exposure in the days following the test and evidence indicating high rates of infant mortality in counties downwind from the test site were largely ignored though officials did decide to forego further testing at the site in favor of a larger, more barren space. Residents of southern New Mexico are still pushing for the government to acknowledge and take responsibility for the lasting effects of the Trinity test, as detailed in a new report on the decades of health issues and deaths in the region.

Following the successful test, word was sent to U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson who relayed the news to President Truman. It was clear to everyone the most destructive weapon ever built by humankind was ready for war.

The exact origin of the code name “Trinity” for the test is unknown, but it is often attributed to Oppenheimer as a reference to the poetry of John Donne, which in turn references the Christian notion of the Trinity (i.e., the three persons constituting the nature of God). In 1962, Groves wrote to Oppenheimer about the origin of the name, asking if he had chosen it because it was a name common to rivers and peaks in the West and would not attract attention, and elicited this reply:

I did suggest it, but not on that ground … Why I chose the name is not clear, but I know what thoughts were in my mind. There is a poem of John Donne, written just before his death, which I know and love. From it a quotation:

As West and East
In all flatt Maps—and I am one—are one,
So death doth touch the Resurrection.

That still does not make a Trinity, but in another, better known devotional poem Donne opens,

Batter my heart, three person’d God.

Visits to the Trinity Site:

In September 1953, about 650 people attended the first Trinity Site open house. Visitors to a Trinity Site open house are allowed to see the ground zero and McDonald Ranch House areas.

More than seventy years after the test, residual radiation at the site was about ten times higher than normal background radiation in the area. The amount of radioactive exposure received during a one-hour visit to the site is about half of the total radiation exposure which a U.S. adult receives on an average day from natural and medical sources.

On December 21, 1965, the 51,500-acre (20,800 ha) Trinity Site was declared a National Historic Landmark district, and on October 15, 1966, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The landmark includes the base camp, where the scientists and support group lived; ground zero, where the bomb was placed for the explosion; and the McDonald ranch house, where the plutonium core to the bomb was assembled. One of the old instrumentation bunkers is visible beside the road just west of ground zero. An inner oblong fence was added in 1967, and the corridor barbed wire fence that connects the outer fence to the inner one was completed in 1972. Jumbo was moved to the parking lot in 1979; it is missing its ends from an attempt to destroy it in 1946 using eight 500-pound (230 kg) bombs. The Trinity monument, a rough-sided, lava-rock obelisk about 12 feet (3.7 m) high, marks the explosion’s hypocenter. It was erected in 1965 by Army personnel from the White Sands Missile Range using local rocks taken from the western boundary of the range.

A simple metal plaque reads:

Trinity Site
Where
the World’s First
Nuclear Device
Was Exploded on
July 16, 1945
Erected 1965
White Sands Missile Range
J. Frederick Thorlin
Major General U.S. Army
Commanding

A second memorial plaque on the obelisk was prepared by the Army and the National Park Service, and was unveiled on the 30th anniversary of the test in 1975.  It reads:

Trinity Site
Has Been Designated a
National
Historic Landmark
This Site possesses National Significance
in Commemorating the History of the
United States of America
1975
National Park Service
United States Department of the Interior

Visitors to the Trinity site in 1995 for 50th anniversary


A special tour of the site was conducted on July 16, 1995, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Trinity test. About 5,000 visitors arrived to commemorate the occasion, the largest crowd for any open house.

Since then, the open houses have usually averaged two to three thousand visitors. The site is still a popular destination for those interested in atomic tourism, though it is only open to the public twice a year during the Trinity Site Open House on the first Saturdays of April and October. Due to Covid-19 restriction the site has been closed the last year to visits.

 In 2014, the White Sands Missile Range announced that due to budgetary constraints, the site would only be open once a year, on the first Saturday in April. In 2015, this decision was reversed, and two events were scheduled, in April and October. The base commander, Brigadier General Timothy R. Coffin, explained that:

Trinity Site is a national historic testing landmark where the theories and engineering of some of the nation’s brightest minds were tested with the detonation of the first nuclear bomb, technologies which then helped end World War II. It is important for us to share Trinity with the public even though the site is located inside a very active military test range. We have travelers from as far away as Australia who travel to visit this historic landmark. Facilitating access twice per year allows more people the chance to visit this historic site

To visit the Trinity Location Opened October 2nd, 2021 from 8 am to 3:30 pm

Stallion Gate Entrance

Exit I-25 on mile marker 139 (San Antonio, N.M.) and head 12 miles east or exit U.S. Highway 54 onto U.S. Highway 380 and head west 53 miles of Carrizozo, N.M. Turn south on New Mexico State Highway 525 and head south five miles to the Stallion gate.

Alamogordo Caravan

Alamogordo Alternative – The Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce sponsors a caravan for visitors to Trinity Site. The Alamogordo caravan meeting site is at the Tularosa High School Athletic Field Parking lot. Turn west off Hwy. 54/70 in Tularosa at Higuero St. Proceed west to La Luz Ave. Turn right on La Luz Ave. (north) to athletic field.

Vehicle line up will begin at 7 a.m. Caravan departs at 8 a.m. NO STRAGGLERS WILL BE ALLOWED INTO THE CARAVAN ONCE THE LAST PERSON IN THE CARAVAN HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED.

Visitors entering this way will travel as an escorted group to and from Trinity Site. The drive is 145 miles roundtrip and there are no service station facilities on the missile range. Please make sure you have a full tank of gas.

The caravan is scheduled to leave Trinity Site at 12:30 for the return to Tularosa.

Cameras are allowed at Trinity Site but their use is strictly prohibited anywhere else on White Sands Missile Range.

Official Press Release:

Trinity Site Open House is set for Oct. 2

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. (July 9, 2021)  White Sands Missile Range will open Trinity Site to the public after a brief pause in activities due to COVID-19 on Oct. 2. Trinity Site is where the world’s first atomic bomb was tested at 5:29:45 a.m. Mountain War Time July 16, 1945.

The open house is free and no reservations are required. At the site visitors can take a quarter-mile walk to ground zero where a small obelisk marks the exact spot where the bomb was detonated. Historical photos are mounted on the fence surrounding the area.

While at the site, visitors can also ride a missile range shuttle bus two miles from ground zero to the Schmidt/McDonald Ranch House. The ranch house is where the scientists assembled the plutonium core of the bomb. Visitors will also be able to experience what life was like for a ranch family in the early 1940s.

The simplest way to get to Trinity Site is to enter White Sands Missile Range through its Stallion Range Center gate. Stallion gate is five miles south of U.S. Highway 380. The turnoff is 12 miles east of San Antonio, New Mexico, and 53 miles west of Carrizozo, New Mexico. The nearest city to make hotel reservations is Socorro, New Mexico. The Stallion Gate is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors arriving at the gate between those hours will be allowed to drive unescorted the 17 miles to Trinity Site. The road is paved and marked. The site closes promptly at 3:30 p.m.

Media who would like to visit the open house must register by calling the Public Affairs Office at 575-678-1134.

For more information on the open house please visit the Trinity Site website at: Trinity Site Information

White Sands Missile Range, DoD’s largest, fully-instrumented, open air range, provides America’s Armed Forces, allies, partners, and defense technology innovators with the world’s premiere research, development, test, evaluation, experimentation, and training facilities to ensure our nation’s defense readiness.

Author Chris Edwards Source research of article found in original published article at the AlamogordoTownNews.com

History of Alamogordo New Mexico, White Sands Proving Ground and the Missiles that blew up in Alamogordo and Juarez, Mexico

Alamogordo has a vast history and was a city of significant and strategic importance to the US Military establishment in the 1940’s through the 1970’s. During that time some would say that was the peak of Alamogordo. It was the center of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Following Hitler’s fall in 1945, the United States brought 177 German rocket scientists and technicians to White Sands Testing Range under Operation Paperclip. Some would say this “Operation Paperclip” is what put Alamogordo on the world map and brought about a period of peak prosperity. From the 1940’s to the 1970’s Alamogordo was a prosperous city with a lively nightlife full of nightclubs, cultural arts, live theater, and a robust retail environment. The school system at that time was ranked in the top 10 in the nation and it paid its teachers better than almost any school system in the country. Science, education and prosperity reigned on the city of Alamogordo and it loved its relationship with the scientist and the military. However, there was temporary fear in the air due to an incident in 1947. But a little history before we get there…

 Following Hitler’s fall in 1945, the United States brought 177 German rocket scientists and technicians to White Sands Testing Range under Operation Paperclip. White Sands Missile Range is the largest overland military test range in the United States, occupying some 3,200 square miles of southern New Mexico. With more than 80 years’ experience in rocket and weapons system test and development, it has earned the title “Birthplace of America’s Missile and Space Activity.”

First known as White Sands Proving Ground (renamed White Sands Missile Range in 1958), this installation was established on July 9, 1945, as the place to test rocket technology emerging from World War II.

The first atomic bomb (code named Trinity) was test detonated at Trinity Site near the northern boundary of the range on 16 July 1945, seven days after the White Sands Proving Ground was established.

After the conclusion of World War II, 100 long-range German V-2 rockets that were captured by U.S. military troops were brought to White Sand Proving Ground. Of these, 67 were test-fired between 1946 and 1951 from the White Sands V-2 Launching Site. (This was followed by the testing of American rockets, which continues to this day, along with testing other technologies.)

A launch complex, now known as Launch Complex 33, was built in the desert sand dunes six miles east of the post. It featured a concrete blockhouse with 10-foot-thick walls and a 27- foot-thick roof. A WAC Corporal launch tower was also erected. A year later, a gantry was added.

The first rockets crafted by Americans to blast off from the launch complex, the nation’s first large-scale launch facility, were WAC Corporals. Built by the fledging Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the 16-foot, 660- pound rockets were designed to carry a 25-pound weather package to an altitude of 20 miles. Since the WAC Corporal was under-powered, JPL engineers used a solid-fueled rocket booster dubbed “Tiny Tim” to get the rocket out of its launch tower and up to speed. The booster generated 50,000 pounds of thrust for a half second. By the time, the WAC Corporal was out of the 100-foot tower it was going almost 275 mph. During a series of tests in 1945 and 1946, the WAC Corporal was phenomenally successful, ultimately attaining an altitude of 43 miles. However, there were incidents. Documents in the New Mexico Museum of Space History archives detail the classified project, and how the military also sent 300 railroad boxcars crammed with V-2 parts into southern New Mexico and as the Germans began building the United States Army’s rocket program many early launches either blew up on the pad or crashed on base.

After multiple successful tests one with over 100 Newspaper reporters present and news around the world floating of US gaining in rocket research a series of crashes occurred. The first crashed May 15, 1947 in the city of Alamogordo. The crash occurred on the site of what is now New Mexico State University and the Space Hall of Fame.

After the May 15 disaster, the May 22 Alamogordo News reported “the people of Alamogordo got a thrill and incipiently a scare as some sort of body flew over the town in erratic flight and exploded at least once before dropping to earth.”

The book “We Develop Missiles, Not Air!” by Mattson and Martyn Tagg, (Air Combat Command, USAF/Cultural Resources Publication No. 2/June 1995) said the launch took place at 4:08 p.m. from Launch Complex 33. The liquid fuel was programmed to burn for 63.6 seconds and thrust the 9,827-pound rocket to 4,696 feet per second or 3,202 mph, attaining 76 miles in altitude. However, technicians noted “steering was a trouble from liftoff,” and “We Develop Missiles, Not Air!” said the V-2 “began tumbling end over end through the atmosphere. The pressure broke the missile apart.” Pieces fell near 13th Street and Cuba Avenue, and along the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks.

The Alamogordo News reported residents “got into cars and hastened to the vicinity” of the crash above Indian Wells Road, about 35 miles from LC 33. Citizens also “guarded a portion of the apparatus the rocket was carrying” that had plummeted down to First Street.

Bob Callaway, a high school freshman in 1947, said in a 1995 NMMSH oral history that he and a friend were tossing a ball at Michigan Avenue and 15th Street when the power lines “started shaking violently. About that time, we got the sound wave from the explosion of the V-2.” Callaway and four friends rushed to the scene in a truck and watched personnel load wreckage onto a trailer. He said security permitted them to take non-hazardous material, and they carted off a “bonanza” of wiring and steel tanks. They used the wires to build model airplanes, and the tanks to make “portable welding units,” he said.

Callaway knew of one person who found cameras. That night “OSI started knocking on doors, and believe it or not, by midnight had recovered all five cameras,” Callaway said.

An Army release stated the payload was benign: “scientific equipment” for the Naval Research Laboratory, “two spectrographs and four 16mm gunsight aiming point cameras a cosmic ray count recorder camera and two other aircraft cameras.” Also aboard was “a quantity of rye seed, which will be tested for effect on fertility of exposure to the upper atmosphere.”

An international incident nearly occurred when the V-2 plowed into a cemetery south of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

The El Paso Times reported the incident:

V-2 Rocket, Off Course, Falls Near Juarez May 30, 1947

El Paso and Juarez were rocked Thursday night when a runaway German V-2 rocket fired from the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico crashed and exploded on top of a rocky knoll three and a half miles south of the Juarez business district.

The giant missile burst in a desolate area of jagged hill, gullies and bondock.

No one was injured.

Lt. Col. Harold R. Turner, White Sands commanding officer, said failure of the rocket’s German-made gyroscope caused it to swerve from its set northerly course.

He said there was an error in judgment on the part of the safety control department in not shutting off the rocket motors as soon as it was determined the missile had swerved off course.

The violent blast, which shook virtually every building in both El Paso and Juarez, startled citizens of the two cities, who swamped newspaper offices, police headquarters and radio stations with anxious telephone inquiries.

The missile, of the type which terrorized wartime England, landed about a half-mile south of Tepeyac Cemetery.

CRATER 50 FEET

WIDE, 24 FEET DEEP

The terrific impact of the rocket, which contained only telemetering equipment, scooped out a perfectly rounded crater, about 50 feet in diameter and 24 feet deep. Only a few scraps of metal were around the crater when nearby residents reached the scene.

Army authorities form White Sands and Fort Bliss rushed to the spot as soon as they learned of the rocket’s fall and expressed to Mexican officials their regret at the rocket falling on Mexican soil.

Colonel Turner said the missile was fired at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. He said the rocket reached an altitude of 40 miles and was in flight five minutes.

He said the V-2 was being used to test certain component parts in American-made rockets.

Colonel Turner explained that the explosion actually was concussion caused by the force of the four and a half ton V-2 ramming the earth at 12 miles per minute.

The alcohol and liquid oxygen with which the rocket is fueled would only burn and would not explode, the colonel explained.

Mexican soldiers were ordered in the rater to mount guard. They were stationed on the rim, aiding American Military policemen to keep sight-seers and souvenir hunters from the area.

The site is half a mile from Buena Vista airport, where 13 planes were shaken by the blast, and a mile and a half from an oil plant. Many Juarez citizens at first believed the oil plant had exploded.

Wild rumors circulated in El Paso before cause of the blast was ascertained. One man said a “box car full of dynamite” had exploded in South El Paso, devastating the section, while another was certain “an underground gasoline storage dump” had blown up.

Many El Pasoans spotted the rocket’s vapor trail after the missile was fired at White Sands, about 500 airline miles north of El Paso, and a few minutes later heard a terrific explosion and smoke rising in the direction of Juarez.

Lt. Col. John Carroll, former R.O.T.C. commander of El Paso schools was just leaving Fort Bliss when he saw both the vapor trail and the blast.

SAW ROCKET FLIGHT,

WATCHED CRASH

Morris J. Boretz, who was en route to Southwestern General Hospital to visit his daughter, said he was at Brown street and Rim Road when he saw the rocket leaving White Sands and saw the crash south of the Rio Grand, looking like a miniature atomic bomb explosion.

Others who saw the spectacle were R.E. Nelson, 5801 Auburn street; Frank Moltans of the Times circulation staff; Wencis Tovar, 3703 Pera Street; Mrs. S.C. Cox, 3660 Douglas Street.

Lt. Col. George F. Pindar, commanding officer, First Guided Missile Battalion, White Sands, made the first official investigation into the rocket crash. He sped to the scene at about 8 p.m.under orders of Major Gen. John L. Homer, Fort Bliss commander.

Colonel Pindar was in El Paso at the time of the firing. He said he watched the rocket rise with a long tail of flame. Then the rocket appeared to hesitate and almost fade from view. Colonel Pindar looked away for a moment and when he next looked at the rocket it was moving overhead at a high rate of speed, traveling south toward El Paso. A moment later he heard the explosion that rocked the city.

Meanwhile Thursday night an emergency squad of eight Fort Bliss soldiers were searching the western slope of Mount Franklin for evidence of a second explosion reported seen by General Homer.

He told Colonel Pindar that he Saw a smaller explosion just prior to the Juarez blast several miles over the crest of Mount Franklin on the west side. Colonel Pindar said it was possible that a portion of the rocket had sheared off and dropped on Mont Franklin.

SHOCK FELT IN ANTHONY, FABENS

Detective W.D. White of El Paso Police Department, another eyewitness to the explosion, was at the corner of Mesa Avenue and Ninth Street looking in the direction of Juarez when the rocket landed.

“Flames shot into the air like a mushroom,” White said. “It looked just like a haystack on fire.”

Victor Robinson, 3907 Fort Boulevard said, “I saw the rocket go right over our house. It looked like it was going to land in the middle of town.”

Three windows were broken in Fire Chief Joe Boone’s office by the concussion. An electric clock in the Sheriff’s was stopped at exactly 7:32 p.m. by the shock.

Sheriff’s Deputy William Stoddard reported that the shock was felt as far west as Anthon, N.M. and south to Fabens.

The May 29 disaster was never listed in “the official White Sands firing summary,” What occurred with the second crash was it launched from LC 33, the rocket was supposed to fly north, but instead turned south. “The missile ultimately arced over El Paso and landed” (impacted) south of Juarez near a cemetery. “A few hours after the wayward missile landed (impacted), the U.S. Army showed up and found that enterprising Mexicans were selling any old piece of scrap metal they could find and claiming it was V-2 debris. The United States ultimately apologized to Mexico for the incident and paid for all damages incurred.

Subsequently, V-2 launches resumed in July 1947 after safety procedures had been developed to prevent the rockets from endangering civilian populations again.

Article Sources: Wikipedia, White Sands Military Archives, Department of Defense Records, University of New Mexico, US Space Hall of Fame, Alamogordo Town News, El Paso Times, Oral Accounts of Bob Calloway per the Space Hall of Fame and the Alamogordo Daily News.

Who was the fastest man on earth, was responsible for the Murphy’s Law “whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and championed the seatbelt you wear daily?

A resident of Alamogordo, who worked at Alamogordo New Mexico’s Holloman Air Force Base, made history in the U.S. space program and history for travel at a speed faster than a .45-caliber bullet in an experiment to test the limits of human endurance.

That same Alamogordo resident was known as the “fastest man on Earth” during the research phase of the US space program to the moon. He accelerated in five seconds from a standstill to 632 m.p.h. The New York Herald Tribune called this Alamogordo resident “a gentleman who can stop on a dime and give you 10 cents change.”

He won what will perhaps be even more lasting fame in a test five years earlier, when he suffered injuries owing to a mistake by a US Airforce Captain Murphy. The result was the phrase “Murphy’s Law, Whatever Can Go Wrong, Will Go Wrong .”

Who was this remarkable Alamogordo resident? Seven years before the US sent the other famous Alamogordo resident Ham, (the three-year-old chimpanzee) into space aboard the Mercury Capsule Number 5, this Alamogordo resident, was himself a live monkey, in many speed and endurance tests that tested the limits of man verses speed and gravity.

This individual of remarkable endurance was John Paul Stapp. Dr. Stapp was a flight surgeon in the U.S. Army Air Forces at the end of World War II, continued in the field of aviation medicine after the war, and transferred to the U.S. Air Force when it was established in 1947, to continue his work on the human response to flight.

His interests from the beginning were in the limits of the human body, when subjected to the increasing forces provided by faster and faster aircraft. In the early 1950s, no one knew what humans could withstand when it came for g-forces, rapid spins, oxygen deprivation, and exposure to cosmic rays.  Stapp began a program of human testing to determine those limits, becoming chief of the Aeromedical Field Laboratory at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico and living in Alamogordo.

Dr. Stapp made history aboard the Sonic Wind I rocket sled on December 10, 1954, when he set a land speed record of 632 mph in five seconds, subjecting him to 20 Gs of force during acceleration.

Although he had many individuals, available from a group of volunteers for this dangerous test ride, Dr. Stobb chose himself for the mission. He claimed he did not want to place another person into such a potentially hazardous position.

When the sled stopped in just 1.4 seconds, Dr. Stapp was hit with a force equivalent to 46.2 Gs, more than anyone had yet endured voluntarily on the planet to that point. He set a speed record and was a man of much scientific study. Upon ending the ride, he managed half a smile, as he was pulled from the sled. Dr. Stapp was in significant pain, and his eyes flooded with blood from the bursting of almost all of capillaries in his eyes. As Dr.  Stapp was rushed to the hospital, his aids, doctors, scientist and he all worried that one or both of his retinas had detached, leaving him blind. Thanks to a studious medical team ready with treatment on the standby, by the next day, he had regained enough of his normal vision to be released by his doctors. His eyesight would never fully recover back to the status prior to the tests but he felt the test was well worth the risk and was happy that he did it verses sending one of the volunteers due to the risk. A less strong man might not have survived the test intact.

Acclaimed by the world press as “The Fastest Man on Earth,” Dr. Stapp became an international sensation, appearing on magazine covers, television, and as the subject of an episode of “This is Your Life!” He appeared on the cover of Time Magazine…

Dr. Stapp was a modest man, in person and was approachable. He lived in Alamogordo after leaving the Air Forece and till the end of his life. He used his public acclaim not for personal gain but to pursue his dream of improving automobile safety. As a proponent for public safety, he felt that the safety measures he and his teams were developing for military aircraft should also be used for civilian automobiles.

Dr. Stapp understood the power of celebrity. As such he used his celebrity status to push for the installation of seat belts in American cars. He understood how to politic, navigate the government bureaucracy and use his public persona to push the Department of Transportation to review and eventually implement many now standard safety features. The success of his campaign efforts for public safety is measured in thousands of lives saved and injuries lessened every year by the safety precautions he championed during his lifetime not only in the US but around the world as his measures were adopted as standard world-wide.

In those early years of the mid 1950’s Dr. Stapp had hoped to make more runs on the Sonic Wind, with a goal of surpassing 1000 mph, however in June 1956, the sled flew off its track during an unmanned run and was severely damaged beyond appropriate repair.

Dr. Stapp would later ride an air-powered sled known as the “Daisy Track” at Holloman, but never again would he be subjected to the rigors of rocket-powered travel.

Dr. Stapp as an Airforce Colonel next planned and directed the Man-High Project, three manned high-altitude balloon flights to test human endurance at the edge of space. Conducted in June and August 1957, the project’s highlight was the second mission, during which Lieutenant David G. Simons reached an altitude of almost 102,000 feet. Project Man-High was a tremendous scientific success and helped prepare for America’s initial manned space which of course did not happen until after Alamogordo’s other famous resident “Ham” the three-year-old chimpanzee had successfully been launched and returned safely.

Dr. Stapp retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1970. He went on to become a professor at the University of California’s Safety and Systems Management Center, then a consultant to the Surgeon General and NASA.

He next served as the president of the New Mexico Research Institute in Alamogordo, New Mexico, as well as chairman of the annual “Dr. Stapp International Car Crash Conference.”

 In 1991, Stapp received the National Medal of Technology, “for his research on the effects of mechanical force on living tissues leading to safety developments in crash protection technology.” He was also honorary chairman of the Stapp Foundation, underwritten by General Motors to provide scholarships for automotive engineering students.

Dr. Stapp was a well-regarded Alamogordo resident and spoke often at the public high school, in lectures at NMSU Alamogordo and as a guest lecturer at the Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo.  He was always open to talking with young impressionable individuals encouraging the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Colonel Dr. John Stapp died in Alamogordo on November 13, 1999, at the age of eighty-nine. His many honors and awards included enrollment in the National Aviation Hall of Fame, the Air Force Cheney Award for Valor and the Lovelace Award from NASA for aerospace medical research.

Alamogordo, New Mexico has been called the cradle of America’s space program and offers a museum that applauds our exploration of the heavens with a mix of high-tech entertainment and dramatic exhibits. The United Space Hall of Fame and Space Museum in Alamogordo, New Mexico continues to honor Dr. John P. Stapp naming the Air & Space Park after him. Named after International Space Hall of Fame Inductee and aeromedical pioneer Dr. John P. Stapp, the Air and Space Park consists of large space-related artifacts documenting mankind’s exploration of space. Examples of exhibits include the Sonic Wind I rocket sled ridden by Dr. Stapp and the Little Joe II rocket which tested the Apollo Launch Escape System. At 86 feet tall, Little Joe II is the largest rocket ever launched from New Mexico. Many major breakthroughs in technology occurred in the Alamogordo area, and the museum offers a variety of exhibitions to showcase those milestones. Other features showcased are a tribute to the Delta Clipper Experimental; and the Clyde W. Tombaugh Theater and Planetarium, featuring a giant dome-screen and state-of-the-art surround sound to fully immerse the audience. If in the Alamogordo area or in Southern New Mexico this is a do not miss stop for anyone with an interest in space or the history of space exploration.

New Mexico Museum of Space History

LOCATION: Next to the New Mexico State University, Alamogordo at the Top of NM 2001, Alamogordo, NM

PHONE:(575) 437-2840

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, closed on Monday and Tuesday

ADMISSION: Adults are $8, Senior/Military/NM Resident $7, Children (4-12) $6, Tots (3 & Under) Free. New Mexico foster families are admitted free. Additional fees for theater and planetarium.

On the Web: www.NMSpaceMuseum.org

Article Author Chris Edwards, Alamogordo Town News, 2nd Life Media.

Excerpts and Source of Information: New Mexico Museum of Space History, The History Channel, Time Magazine September 12, 1955, The Discovery Channel, “Space Men: They were the first to brave the unknown (Transcript)”. American Experience. PBS. March 1, 2016. Retrieved January 2, 2019. “Building 29: Aero Medical Laboratory”. Historic Buildings & Sites at Wright-Patterson AFB. United States Air Force. August 12, 2002. Archived from the original on June 22, 2008. Retrieved November 15, 2008. Spark, Nick T. “The Story of John Paul Stapp”. The Ejection Site. Stapp JP (August 1948). “Problems of human engineering in regard to sudden declarative forces on man”. Mil Surg. 103 (2): 99–102. PMID 18876408.  Aviation Week for 3 January 1955 says he accelerated to 632 mph in five seconds and 2800 feet, then coasted for half a second, then slowed to a stop in 1.4 seconds. It says the track was 3500 feet long. Spark, Nick T. (2006). “

A resident of Alamogordo, who worked at Alamogordo New Mexico’s Holloman Air Force Base, made history in the U.S. space program and history for travel at a speed faster than a .45-caliber bullet in an experiment to test the limits of human endurance.

That same Alamogordo resident was known as the “fastest man on Earth” during the research phase of the US space program to the moon. He accelerated in five seconds from a standstill to 632 m.p.h. The New York Herald Tribune called this Alamogordo resident “a gentleman who can stop on a dime and give you 10 cents change.”

He won what will perhaps be even more lasting fame in a test five years earlier, when he suffered injuries owing to a mistake by a US Airforce Captain Murphy. The result was the phrase “Murphy’s Law.”

Who was this remarkable Alamogordo resident? Seven years before the US sent the other famous Alamogordo resident Ham, (the three-year-old chimpanzee) into space aboard the Mercury Capsule Number 5, this Alamogordo resident, was himself a live monkey, in many speed and endurance tests that tested the limits of man verses speed and gravity.

Text

Description automatically generated

This individual of remarkable endurance was John Paul Stapp. Dr. Stapp was a flight surgeon in the U.S. Army Air Forces at the end of World War II, continued in the field of aviation medicine after the war, and transferred to the U.S. Air Force when it was established in 1947, to continue his work on the human response to flight.

A picture containing outdoor, transport, aircraft, old

Description automatically generated

His interests from the beginning were in the limits of the human body, when subjected to the increasing forces provided by faster and faster aircraft. In the early 1950s, no one knew what humans could withstand when it came for g-forces, rapid spins, oxygen deprivation, and exposure to cosmic rays.  Stapp began a program of human testing to determine those limits, becoming chief of the Aeromedical Field Laboratory at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico and living in Alamogordo.

Dr. Stapp made history aboard the Sonic Wind I rocket sled on December 10, 1954, when he set a land speed record of 632 mph in five seconds, subjecting him to 20 Gs of force during acceleration.

Although he had many individuals, available from a group of volunteers for this dangerous test ride, Dr. Stobb chose himself for the mission. He claimed he did not want to place another person into such a potentially hazardous position.

When the sled stopped in just 1.4 seconds, Dr. Stapp was hit with a force equivalent to 46.2 Gs, more than anyone had yet endured voluntarily on the planet to that point. He set a speed record and was a man of much scientific study. Upon ending the ride, he managed half a smile, as he was pulled from the sled. Dr. Stapp was in significant pain, and his eyes flooded with blood from the bursting of almost all of capillaries in his eyes. As Dr.  Stapp was rushed to the hospital, his aids, doctors, scientist and he all worried that one or both of his retinas had detached, leaving him blind. Thanks to a studious medical team ready with treatment on the standby, by the next day, he had regained enough of his normal vision to be released by his doctors. His eyesight would never fully recover back to the status prior to the tests but he felt the test was well worth the risk and was happy that he did it verses sending one of the volunteers due to the risk. A less strong man might not have survived the test intact.

Acclaimed by the world press as “The Fastest Man on Earth,” Dr. Stapp became an international sensation, appearing on magazine covers, television, and as the subject of an episode of “This is Your Life!” He appeared on the cover of Time Magazine…

A magazine with a person's face on it

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Dr. Stapp was a modest man, in person and was approachable. He lived in Alamogordo after leaving the Air Forece and till the end of his life. He used his public acclaim not for personal gain but to pursue his dream of improving automobile safety. As a proponent for public safety, he felt that the safety measures he and his teams were developing for military aircraft should also be used for civilian automobiles.

Dr. Stapp understood the power of celebrity. As such he used his celebrity status to push for the installation of seat belts in American cars. He understood how to politic, navigate the government bureaucracy and use his public persona to push the Department of Transportation to review and eventually implement many now standard safety features. The success of his campaign efforts for public safety is measured in thousands of lives saved and injuries lessened every year by the safety precautions he championed during his lifetime not only in the US but around the world as his measures were adopted as standard world-wide.

In those early years of the mid 1950’s Dr. Stapp had hoped to make more runs on the Sonic Wind, with a goal of surpassing 1000 mph, however in June 1956, the sled flew off its track during an unmanned run and was severely damaged beyond appropriate repair.

Dr. Stapp would later ride an air-powered sled known as the “Daisy Track” at Holloman, but never again would he be subjected to the rigors of rocket-powered travel.

Dr. Stapp as an Airforce Colonel next planned and directed the Man-High Project, three manned high-altitude balloon flights to test human endurance at the edge of space. Conducted in June and August 1957, the project’s highlight was the second mission, during which Lieutenant David G. Simons reached an altitude of almost 102,000 feet. Project Man-High was a tremendous scientific success and helped prepare for America’s initial manned space which of course did not happen until after Alamogordo’s other famous resident “Ham” the three-year-old chimpanzee had successfully been launched and returned safely.

Dr. Stapp retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1970. He went on to become a professor at the University of California’s Safety and Systems Management Center, then a consultant to the Surgeon General and NASA.

He next served as the president of the New Mexico Research Institute in Alamogordo, New Mexico, as well as chairman of the annual “Dr. Stapp International Car Crash Conference.”

 In 1991, Stapp received the National Medal of Technology, “for his research on the effects of mechanical force on living tissues leading to safety developments in crash protection technology.” He was also honorary chairman of the Stapp Foundation, underwritten by General Motors to provide scholarships for automotive engineering students.

Dr. Stapp was a well-regarded Alamogordo resident and spoke often at the public high school, in lectures at NMSU Alamogordo and as a guest lecturer at the Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo.  He was always open to talking with young impressionable individuals encouraging the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Colonel Dr. John Stapp died in Alamogordo on November 13, 1999, at the age of eighty-nine. His many honors and awards included enrollment in the National Aviation Hall of Fame, the Air Force Cheney Award for Valor and the Lovelace Award from NASA for aerospace medical research.

Alamogordo, New Mexico has been called the cradle of America’s space program and offers a museum that applauds our exploration of the heavens with a mix of high-tech entertainment and dramatic exhibits. The United Space Hall of Fame and Space Museum in Alamogordo, New Mexico continues to honor Dr. John P. Stapp naming the Air & Space Park after him. Named after International Space Hall of Fame Inductee and aeromedical pioneer Dr. John P. Stapp, the Air and Space Park consists of large space-related artifacts documenting mankind’s exploration of space. Examples of exhibits include the Sonic Wind I rocket sled ridden by Dr. Stapp and the Little Joe II rocket which tested the Apollo Launch Escape System. At 86 feet tall, Little Joe II is the largest rocket ever launched from New Mexico. Many major breakthroughs in technology occurred in the Alamogordo area, and the museum offers a variety of exhibitions to showcase those milestones. Other features showcased are a tribute to the Delta Clipper Experimental; and the Clyde W. Tombaugh Theater and Planetarium, featuring a giant dome-screen and state-of-the-art surround sound to fully immerse the audience. If in the Alamogordo area or in Southern New Mexico this is a do not miss stop for anyone with an interest in space or the history of space exploration.

New Mexico Museum of Space History

LOCATION: Next to the New Mexico State University, Alamogordo at the Top of NM 2001, Alamogordo, NM

PHONE:(575) 437-2840

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, closed on Monday and Tuesday

ADMISSION: Adults are $8, Senior/Military/NM Resident $7, Children (4-12) $6, Tots (3 & Under) Free. New Mexico foster families are admitted free. Additional fees for theater and planetarium.

On the Web: www.NMSpaceMuseum.org

Article Author Chris Edwards, Alamogordo Town News, 2nd Life Media.

Excerpts and Source of Information: New Mexico Museum of Space History, The History Channel, Time Magazine September 12, 1955, The Discovery Channel, “Space Men: They were the first to brave the unknown (Transcript)”. American Experience. PBS. March 1, 2016. Retrieved January 2, 2019. “Building 29: Aero Medical Laboratory”. Historic Buildings & Sites at Wright-Patterson AFB. United States Air Force. August 12, 2002. Archived from the original on June 22, 2008. Retrieved November 15, 2008. Spark, Nick T. “The Story of John Paul Stapp”. The Ejection Site. Stapp JP (August 1948). “Problems of human engineering in regard to sudden declarative forces on man”. Mil Surg. 103 (2): 99–102. PMID 18876408.  Aviation Week for 3 January 1955 says he accelerated to 632 mph in five seconds and 2800 feet, then coasted for half a second, then slowed to a stop in 1.4 seconds. It says the track was 3500 feet long. Spark, Nick T. (2006). “Whatever Can Go Wrong, Will Go Wrong”: A History of Murphy’s Law. Periscope Film. ISBN 9780978638894. OCLC 80015522″: A History of Murphy’s Law. Periscope Film. ISBN 9780978638894. OCLC 80015522