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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Differences in the Handling of Impacts in 1947

Quotes are from White Sands Range History:
Partial quote of military history article written by Michael Shinabery. Mr. Shinabery is an education specialist at the New Mexico Museum of Space History.

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 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."

[Bob note: this type of atmospheric rocket research is known as Aeronomy.]

The May 29 disaster was never listed in "the official White Sands firing summary," Mattson said in the New Mexico Space Journal. 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." There is no record the News ever directly reported on the second incident, but the paper did reference it in the June 17 article. The story also said the Chamber of Commerce asked Hatch to "withdraw his recommendations to the War Department." Subsequently, V-2 launches
"resumed" in July 1947 "after safety procedures had been developed to prevent the rockets from endangering civilian populations again," Mattson wrote in the Space Journal.

I have been researching different rocket lauches that took place, in early 1947, from different ranges, and can see more evidence of omissions in the records, as is mentioned in these historical quotes. There is some reference to a WAC Corporal launch on an unspecified date during the time of the so-called "Roswell Crash", but as yet, I have not been able to pin point the exact date of firing, or exactly where it impacted. But, according to a United Kingdom Rocketry site, there is the only reference i was able to locate of a V-2 firing on July 4:

1947 12 Jun WAC-CORPORAL-B WSPG 60.3 km Round 26 and last flight in original form. Used a silk parachute.

1947 04 Jul 0500 ? US-V2 WSPG 72.5 km GE-Special with biological payload, landed at 142 km range near Roswell after partial parachute failure.

Since this is the proper date, and the mission seems to have involved a biological experiment, it seems to be very much in need of vetting. More needs to be done to find out the particulars of this mission. One thing that is readily apparent from reading these historical quotes is that normal folks, in that time period, were well aquainted with projects going on at areas like White Sands Proving Ground, and when an object from that area went astray, they were quick on the scene to collect debris. Not only that, but authorities allowed people to collect samples.

Even when the samples were of a classified type, such as the cameras, they (the military) didn't threaten them, they just asked for them back....and got them. it is just one reason why so many people have doubted the word of those who claimed to have been threatened by Army Air Force military police men, when dealing with what was recovered North Of Roswell, New Mexico, that summer.

According to witness that showed up at the Roswell incident, in much the same way as any of the V-2 impacts, to collect samples, they were turned away by military blockades. In the V-2 incident that I quoted from the White Sands Range History page, local citizens had blocked off the area, until the military could get there. Such was the patriotic feelings of Americans living in New Mexico at the time.

It is obvious that the head of the AAF Intelligence unit, the Sheriff, and even a rancher, would have understood the basic nature of the "find", even if it was made up of a large number of radar reflection devices. It would have landed in a train, in a fairly small area. Eyewitness accounts of shredded foil, strewn over a wide area, would have resulted from either an explosion, or high-speed impact. If it was an impact of a V-2 rocket, there would have been a large crater, and lots of easy-to-identify material...such as wires, and very terrestrial metal chuncks.

Pointing to the later reports that match the famous photographs doesn't solve the riddle either, because too many of the original witnesses to the debris field, and the debris, describe it as being mysterious, and "like nothing I'd ever seen before".

The mystery continues.

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