Red Canyon Range Camp

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The following is an e-mail from J. P. Moore to explain a bit about Red Canyon Range Camp

Hello Russell,

Thanks for inquiring about Red Canyon Range Camp (RCRC). RCRC was the Nike Ajax firing range from 1953-1959, with more than 3,000 firings to its credit. It was only a "temporary site" as indicated by the word "Camp" in its title. That meant little or no funds were to be used in building the facility....translation: "Volunteers" from Ft. Bliss were sent to RCRC to construct the camp. I was "volunteered" in Nov 54, and spent 22 months of my 36 month enlistment there. I, like most others, loved it.

RCRC was sited in the northeast corner of what was then White Sands Proving Ground, about 18 miles west of Carrizozo, NM on US Hwy. 380. A huge lava flow, The Carrizozo Malpais, was between the camp and town. The camp was 165 miles from Ft Bliss. In the early days, newly formed Nike Batteries, fresh from school at Ft Bliss, went to RCRC to fire three Nikes at drones called RCATS (Radio Controlled Aerial Targets). The RCATS were launched and controlled using M-33 radars at Oscura Range Camp, about 18 miles south of RCRC. After the Battery succeeded in killing its 3 drones, it was shipped to a Tactical Site near large US Cities and/or SAC Bases, a point defense system in the Cold War. Later, a plan was developed for Tactical Nike Units to return to RCRC annually for another 3 round shootout with the RCATS.

RCRC was also a public relations arena where high ranking civic leaders and other VIPs were brought to see the effectiveness of having a Nike Battery guarding their constituents. The VIPs would be given a tour of the (extremely) rustic facilities and then observe a missile launch. The program was officially dubbed Operation Understanding, OU, and was successful in winning approval to plant Nike Ajax missile systems in many cities, who were at first very reluctant to host soldiers and missiles. Thousands of VIPs toured the camp. It was a very busy place.

In 1959, McGregor Range took over all Nike launches, both Ajax and Hercules. RCRC was abandoned.

ADA Magazine will feature two stories about RCRC in the upcoming edition due out in early July. [1999] ADA Magazine online is at: ADA MGA HOME PAGE or

More RCRC info/photos is available at: Edward Thelen's New Nike Missile Web Page and DOYLE PILAND'S SITE

You can obtain a copy of my book about RCRC at the ADA Museum Gift Shop, Ft Bliss or the WSMR Museum and Gift Shop, WSMR. The book is titled The Malpais Missiles by JP Moore.

By now you probably know more than you ever wanted to know about RCRC.....but it was such an interesting place. This past May we held the first-ever reunion of soldiers from the camp. Very exciting times.

Thanks again for your interest in RCRC. We alumni of the camps hope to make the name more widely recognized in the very near future via museum displays and possibly another book.

Best regards,

JP Moore

The Red Canyon and Oscura Range Camps Alumni Association

If you have comments or suggestions, Send e-mail to Ed Thelen

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