Sunday, May 25, 2014

Atlas Missile Silos Historical Marker: Chaves County

During the height of the Cold War, the United States developed a series of intercontinental ballistic warheads called Atlas Missiles. The missiles were made in series, the primary series of deployment were D, E, and F. The Atlas D missiles were housed in various silos through 3 main locations.
Series E missiles were also housed in 3 main locations run by different bases of operations. Then came the final series, series F. The Series F of the Atlas Missiles were housed in silos out of 6 bases. First, there was Schilling AFB in Kansas. Next up, Lincoln AFB in Nebraska, Altus AFB in Oklahoma, Dyess AFB in Texas, Plattsburgh AFB in New York, and finally, Walker Air Force Base in Roswell, New Mexico. Each of these bases would have various silos spread throughout the surrounding country side.

Roswell and Walker Air Force Base was home to the 579th Strategic Missile Squadron (579th SMS for short). The 579th SMS consisted of 12 Atlas F complexes spread throughout the countryside of Chaves County surrounding Roswell.

These silos were 180 feet deep, and housed missiles capable of reaching over 9,000 miles and dropping nuclear payloads. These silos were a major player in the tensions of the Cold War, and the nuclear threat posed by the United States.

The Atlas Program was phased out in 1965. Walker Air Force Base in Roswell was closed due to funding cutbacks during the Vietnam War in 1967.

The interesting thing here is that these silos are still out there, either shuddered permanently by the government, or are owned privately. The silos that have been sealed are inaccessible due to their sealing by massive concrete doors (check out some very cool photos of a now closed silo outside of Roswell at The Military Standard photo gallery HERE).

The historical marker is located at a rest stop approximately 15 miles west of Roswell on US Highway 70 headed to Ruidoso. It's hard to imagine when driving through these rolling hills that such a sinister and interesting past exists in those hills, a past that held the power to forever change the face of the planet.

I recommend the following sources if you'd like to pursue more information on the Atlas Missile Program, the silos, or the history of the program overall. These are also the sources I consulted for this post:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Fort Stanton Historical Marker: Lincoln County

I'm going to start off by saying that Fort Stanton is one of my favorite historical sites in all of New Mexico. This place is accessible, remote (but not too remote), creepy at night, and has a rich, interesting, little known history.

Fort Stanton got its start in 1855, when it was founded as a fort and a base of operations against the raiding Mescalero Apaches of the area. The namesake for the fort was Captain Henry W. Stanton, who was killed near present day Mayhill (about 50 miles south east of Fort Stanton) fighting the Mescalero Apaches. 

In 1861, the fort was taken by the Confederate Army until the Confederacy moved their base of operations further west to Mesilla, when it was abandoned.
During the occupation, the Mescalero Apaches were finally pacified. An odd little bit of side history is that the fort was used as a reservation for those same Mescalero Apaches when they were being relocated to Bosque Redondo, and was part of the infamous "Long Walk of the Navajo" (you can read more on that at Native American Legends).

Fort Stanton continued to find use, through smaller campaigns like the Chiracahua Campaigns, various disturbances with the Mescalero, and is known for various reasons. New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace stayed at Fort Stanton while successfully negotiating for peace to end the Lincoln County War. Later on, General John J. Pershing was stationed at Fort Stanton, years before becoming America's first five star general following World War I.

By 1890, the need for Fort Stanton had been exhausted, and it was shut down. The story obviously does not end here...

From 1899 until 1953, Fort Stanton was run by the US Public Health Service, and served as a tuberculosis hospital for the Merchant Marine. Fresh air and sunshine were the only known cures for TB, and the climate of this part of New Mexico was perfect. Visitors to Fort Stanton today will pass the Merchant Marine cemetery 1/4 of a mile east of Fort Stanton on Highway 220. Over 1,500 are buried in this cemetery.

Fort Stanton had a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) work camp during the Great Depression, and, more famously, as an internment camp for German marines, prisoners of war, and even Japanese-American families threatened by American mobs during World War II. The German's being held in Fort Stanton, during their time there, seriously upgraded the grounds, installing a pool, gardens, and a recreation hall. Although the pool no longer exists there, remnants of it do, and you can see many of the facilities built by them still standing.

After World War II, the Fort was used primarily as a hospital for the developmentally handicapped until the early 1990s. Finally, in 2007, the site was made a monument, and a museum is now run on site (it's actually a very nice museum, full with a gift shop and educational video that I recommend sitting through if you go).

In being a little more candid, I can also say that Fort Stanton can be a very creepy place to visit, especially at night (I'm not openly recommending this because people live there and they probably don't like people snooping around at night, but I've done it).

I highly recommend this visit if you happen to be in Ruidoso, as it's near the airport, which is located about 20 miles north of Ruidoso. It's a beautiful drive with a stunning view of the Capitan Mountains (origin of Smokey the Bear as well). The road is well maintained, and you're never too far off the beaten path. The Fort itself is well maintained, and museum hours can vary by season (check them out HERE).

I consulted the following sites for information on this post, and give credit to much of the information to them:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

San Antonio on the Camino Real Historical Marker: Socorro County

San Antonio, New Mexico is a small village that lies 10 miles south of Socorro, right off of Interstate 25. San Antonio is so sparsely populated that its population isn't easy to get a fix on because of its status as an unincorporated community, although some estimates put its population at around 175 people.

What made San Antonio important for a time was the fact that it was the final outpost on the El Camino Real before reaching the Mesilla Valley, well over 100 miles to the south. This made it an important stop point for almost every traveler on the road. (for more on the El Camino Real, see my post on the Jornada del Muerto Historical Marker, it has some great links, and you can also check out my tag: Camino Real, which links to all my posts involving the Royal Road).

According to the marker, San Antonio was re-occupied by Hispano settlers from the north after the Pueblo Revolt. In my research, I found that original vestiges of the San Antonio de Senecú, including a pueblo along the banks of the Rio Grande, were likely re-settled after the Spanish were driven into Mexico following the Pueblo Revolt, and San Antonio is the remembered name of their original mission, with the farming village of San Antonio, bits and pieces of which can still be seen today, forming up around this original pueblo.

Of course all of this history pales in comparison to San Antonio's connection to pop culture heiress Paris Hilton (forgive me for mentioning her name in the pages of this blog, I promise it will be the only time). Conrad Hilton, patriarch of the Hilton family and founder of Hilton Hotels, was born and raised in San Antonio. His family opened up a small hotel out of their home to serve travelers along the Atchinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. Conrad worked his first jobs at the family hotel, eventually buying his first hotel in Cisco, Texas. The rest, as we say, is history. Conrad Hilton eventually operated one of the largest and most well known hotel chains in the world.

I referred to the following sites for information on this post: