In late August 1994, a buried historic dump was discovered during the construction of a new commissary building on White Sands Missile Range. Artifacts exposed in the back dirt piles and trench walls helped date the dump to the mid-1940s. The artifacts provided limited information about the people who lived and worked at White Sands Proving Ground, now known as White Sands Missile Range. The discovery of the dump prompted this study of the early years of White Sands Proving Ground. Written for the general audience, the history is based on historic photographs, newspaper accounts, administrative records, oral-history interviews, and the artifacts from the dump.
White Sands Proving Ground began as an isolated temporary test site near the end of World War II and has evolved into a permanent community. This development was influenced by a wide range of factors, from devastating 100-mile-per-hour winds to the international threats generated by Cold War politics. Today, White Sands Missile Range continues to serve as a test facility in the post-Cold War world. From Barren Desert to Thriving Community describes how this community of scientists, civilian personnel, and soldiers lived when not involved with scientific tests. Many White Sands Missile Range institutions and the community activities and functions associated with them began in the late 1940s and early 1950s and are still active today. A companion volume, Jewels of the Desert: Collections from the First Dump at White Sands Proving Ground, describes the artifacts recovered from the dump and provides insight into the daily lives of the soldiers and scientists working at the proving ground.Return to Publications