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President Kennedy's visit to White Sands Missile Range remembered

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"On June 5, 1963, President John F. Kennedy visited White Sands Missile Range to watch a series of missile firings. The event was called Project MEWS, which stood for "Missile Exercise White Sands."

One of the speakers that day was a young Army captain named Dan Duggan. He eventually came back to White Sands as the deputy commander and retired to Las Cruces.

Duggan donated his copy of the operations order for MEWS to the missile range back in 1996. The order includes a schedule that was as tight as a cheap T-shirt on Arnold Schwarzenegger.


For Kennedy's visit the range launched seven missiles against a variety of targets including another missile, a hillside and several remotely controlled jet aircraft.


After the demonstrations, representative soldiers from the various missile crews presented the president with a model of the Sergeant missile and the vice president with a Pershing plaque.

The last thing on the agenda was a 20-minute briefing for just the presidential party on the Nike Zeus system.

Dan Duggan gave the briefing on the Nike Zeus firing and then participated in the longer classified briefing about the system.

About the experience, Duggan said, "As a young project officer, I can tell you I was impressed." He added, "Having never had the opportunity before to speak directly to a president in person, not to mention a detailed technical conversation, I was very impressed how disarming President Kennedy was. He put you at ease and after only a few words, you felt that you had known him for years and talked with him every day."

Kennedy is still the only president to visit White Sands while in office.


(The pentagon sure tried to sell him on armaments for fun and profit, but he wasn't buying.)

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