A Look at Instrumentation at White Sands Missile Range
Operation: Paperclip

Prior to the introduction of German scientists and their advanced technology through Operation Paperclip, US military testers did not have much call for advanced tracking equipment. Rocketry and missile technology were still in their infancy in the US during the mid-1940s.

By 1946, however, researchers had to develop a wide range of optical and electrical instruments in order to track, view, and record the behavior of rockets and missiles in flight. These included systems of telescopes, cameras, and radio transmissions to preserve flight details for further study. Both the rockets and the environment created tremendous challenges, which required some of the greatest problem solvers of the time. As the Cold War unfolded, these solutions helped turn WSMR into the most instrumented test range in the western world.

Although missile testing began almost immediately after the establishment of White Sands Proving Ground in 1945, it was the arrival of captured German V-2 rockets and scientists under Operation Paperclip (pictured here) at the start of 1946 that kicked research at White Sands Proving Ground into high gear. All of the expertise independently developed by Germans such as Drs. Wernher von Braun and Ernst Steinhoff was immediately added to that of the Americans, resulting in significant advancements virtually overnight that paid dividends throughout the Cold War. Their research laid the foundation for the development of WSMR as a world class rocket and missile research facility to this day.