Duck and Cover!

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Duck and Cover!

A wayward rocket gave the people of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez a scare 75 years ago. It was launched from New Mexico and was supposed to head north. Instead, it veered south, then crashed a half mile from a cemetery and an airport outside Juarez.

The rocket was a V-2 — a German World War II “terror weapon.” After the war, the U.S. brought in German rocket experts and several train cars full of rocket parts. The army then set up a test site at White Sands Proving Grounds, in New Mexico.

Several V-2s had been launched before the test of May 29th, 1947 — some successful, some not. A flight just two weeks earlier went awry, with the rocket crashing on the outskirts of Alamogordo, New Mexico.

The May 29th flight had been delayed by engine troubles. It finally launched at 7:30 p.m. Something went wrong with its gyroscope, though, so it headed off course.

It streaked across El Paso, then plunged to Earth just south of the city, creating a blast that was heard and felt many miles away. The concussion rattled buildings across El Paso and Juarez, broke windows, and even stopped a clock in the El Paso sheriff’s office. It gouged a crater 50 feet wide and 24 feet deep. No one lived near the impact site, though, so no one was injured.

The Army quickly cleaned up the mess, apologized, and paid for the damages. And it set up new safety procedures to prevent a repeat — keeping the population safe from off-course rockets.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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