RED CANYON RANGE CAMP
2-4 MAY 1999
Air Defense Artillery
Red Canyon Range Camp was established by the Air Defense Center at Fort Bliss, Texas in the Northeast portion of the then White Sands Proving Ground (WSPG), now White Sands Missile Range (WSMR). This range camp was established in 1953 and was utilized for two different purposes. First, after soldiers completed their individual training in their respective Nike Ajax Air Defense specialties, they were assigned to units that were forming to be deployed to a Nike Ajax site at various locations throughout the United States. Once these units had all the required personnel assigned, the underwent Unit Training to prepare them to function as an efficient Air Defense team. At the end of this Unit Training, the graduation exercise was to proceed to Red Canyon Range Camp (RCRC) to demonstrate their unit proficiency by preparing Missiles and Fire Control System, and firing these missiles at Radio Controlled Arial Targets (RCATs). The second purpose was Annual Service Practice (ASP). Units that were deployed throughout the U.S. returned to RCRC annually to demonstrate their proficiency - or lack thereof. The ASP was essentially the same as the Unit Training graduation firings.
This process continued through approximately the middle of 1959 when all of these functions were transferred to McGregor Range, New Mexico much closer to Fort Bliss and was owned/controlled by Fort Bliss.
After some 40 plus years, J. P. Moore, a former soldier assigned to RCRC and the author of Malpais Missiles, a story of life at RCRC, and others organized a reunion of those who were assigned to RCRC and those who passed through there after Unit Training or for ASPs. This reunion was headquartered at the Las Cruces Hilton in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The WSMR Public Affairs Office (PAO) hosted the RCRC veterans to two days of tours which included viewing of an Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missile firing before departing the main post area for visits to Trinity Site, the site of the world's first Atomic blast, and the MacDonald Ranch House where parts of the first atomic bomb were assembled. The highlight of the trip for these veterans and relatives was a visit to the remnants of the RCRC encampment area. From RCRC, the group proceeded to Oscura Range Camp, several miles to the South where the RCATs were based. A couple of those who were assigned to the RCAT group were present at the reunion. They visited the Rotary Launcher RCAT launch track and the area where those not shot down by the Nike Ajax were recovered by parachute.
The second day of tours took the veteran group through the High Tech world of WSMR Range Control. Quite a difference from what was at RCRC 40 some years ago. From there the group briefly toured WSMR's Launch Complex 37 (LC-37) where both Nike Ajax and Nike Hercules Research and Development (R&D) testing was performed for many years. They then stopped briefly at LC-33, formerly know as Army Test Area One, which is where the captured German V2 missiles were fired as well and may other early missiles. This includes many of the early Nike Ajax and Hercules. LC-33 is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for it role in the birth of America's Missile and Space programs. The tour was capped off by a visit to the WSMR Museum and Missile Park. That evening, there was a banquet for all at the Las Cruces Hilton before everyone headed their own way the next day.
Some of those veterans have provided their thoughts and comments about RCRC, the tours
provided by WSMR PAO, and the reunion. Their entries are linked below: