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Old 10-11-2018, 09:19 AM
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Arrow Why Did The US Begin Testing Missiles In The Desert?

Why Did The US Begin Testing Missiles In The Desert?
By: Forbes 10-11-18

Why is there such a secretive culture around the U.S.'s military use of desert wilderness? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Karen Piper, Author of A Girl's Guide to Missiles, on Quora:

There are two main reasons for the secretive culture around the US's military use of desert wilderness:

1. You don’t want the enemy to know what kind of weapons you’ve got.

2. You don’t want to accidentally blow up people in big cities.

That is why the Cold War, which continues today, takes place in America’s deserts.

In California, it all started when rocket scientists in Pasadena caused a couple accidental explosions. The neighbors complained. After that, missile scientists started driving into the desert to test their weapons.

When the U.S. got involved in World War II, the Department of Defense figured they needed something more permanent than missiles thrown onto mattresses in the backs of trucks to drive into the desert. And so the search for a perfect spot began. The missile scientist Charles Lauritsen from the California Institute of Technology flew over the desert until he found a big, empty spot. There, he declared, “I want it; this is it!” His boss, Commander Sherman Burroughs, had said he needed a place “where nobody knew what the hell was going on.” He said he wanted a place that would be like Hitler’s Peenemunde.

That’s how China Lake was born. This was back in 1943.

To strangers, deserts can look “barren” or “empty.” A good place to blow something up. It takes time to realize how alive they are. In an immigrant culture like America, we’re all—except for the indigenous people, of course--“strangers” in way. Lauritsen and Burroughs didn’t understand the desert well enough to know that there was “something there.” Something worth not blowing up.

Today, the U.S. Navy understands the desert a lot better at China Lake. But this puts it in a kind of Catch-22. It is always trying to balance the contradiction of being a “steward” of desert wilderness and an active bombing range!

The other problem with having these giant secret tracks of land in the desert is that it affects American culture overall, in the sense that some people become paranoid about what’s going on out there. I was always amazed by how many conspiracy theories surrounded China Lake! There’s a whole group of people that think people are raised in electrified baby cages out there… It’s called MKUltra. You can Google it.

Area 51, which is not that far from China Lake, has even more conspiracies surrounding it. I don’t know much about that desert testing site, but I would bet you anything it’s just a boring-ass place like China Lake, a place where people go to work at 7:30 am and come home at 4:30 pm. Yet people really believe there are aliens out there.

My dad always said, “It’s just experimental aircraft. Black projects.” Luckily, I believed him, even as a child and with friends who thought aliens were about to land. That saved me from worrying about being snatched and placed in an electrified baby cage.

I had enough to worry about.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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