Photo: Bill Shaw 1958


The Launcher Section crew was flown from their operational site by a C-47 (Gooney Bird) to El Paso where they boarded a bus for the 165-mile trip north to Red Canyon. They would arrive at RCRC on Sunday, attend a briefing about the hazards and regulations of the camp, draw bedding, DDT and other necessities from the Quartermaster and settle into their tents or Butler Building barracks. The Launcher Section crew arrived one week before the IFC crews, enjoying Red Canyon for two weeks.

Launcher crews were responsible for removing their three missiles from shipping canisters and the boosters from crates. They would mate the missiles and boosters on a launch rail, install three warheads in each missile, then transport them by trailer to the Fueling Section. There each missile’s fuel tank was loaded with JP-4 fuel and the oxidizer tank filled with Inhibited Red Fuming Nitric Acid (IRFNA). During the fueling process the men wore rubber safety suits called Moon Suits.

From the Fueling Section the missiles were transported to a holding area and stored until Monday of the second week. Then the Launcher crews would transport them to their firing site, transfer the three missiles to the launchers, and finish the preparatory and testing work. If all went as scheduled, two of the missiles would be launched Wednesday afternoon and the third would be launched that night. On Friday, the Battery would leave by bus for Ft. Bliss, tired but elated at killing three RCATS. It was a time for celebration.

Pictured is one of the bunkers you saw being built in the first down range photo. There are two Nike Ajax missiles visible on the launch rail.