Post WWII Launch Complexes on Cape Canaveral

Ghosts from the future?


Here is the fifth in a series of photographs centered on the early history of space flight on Cape Canaveral mostly taken during a tour organized by the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation. “Google” the foundation for details of future tours. Here we explore the sites of the first launches on the Cape, Launch Complexes 1, 2, 3, 4. (LC 1 – 4).

From Vengeance To Space

Our bus proceeded east on Lighthouse Road past Launch Complexes 21 and 22 (see Cruise Missiles”), in less than half a mile we were within the first sites of the United States Space age, sites with the lowest numbers, LC 1 – 4.

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If, instead of distance, the bus traveled back in time 68 years to July, 1950 we would be witness to the first United States space launch of the two-stage “Bumper 8”, a former “V2” missile topped by a WAC Corporal that reached 248 miles above the earth, about where the International Space Station circles now.

July 1950 Bumper 8 Launch
By NASA/U.S. Army – NIX 66P-0631, GPN-2000-000613;, Public Domain,

Almost certainly, the man who designed and directed the production of the Nazi V2, Werner vonBraun, was perched on the lighthouse a half-mile distant.

Cape Canaveral Lighthouse from Launch Complex 3

The Nazi “vengeance weapon 2”, the V2, a device so horrifying British authorities claimed the first V2 attacks to be “gas explosions” rather than admit a Nazi weapon descended without warning. Beginning September, 1944, over 3,000 V2’s landed on London, Antwerp and Liège resulting in an estimated 9,000 deaths, mostly civilians. 12,000 forced labor and concentration camp slaves died in the construction of the production facilities captured by the Soviet Union during the collapse of the Nazis. These victims, arms linked, will form a circle 15.9 miles in circumference around the Bumper 2 launch.

The 21,000 V2 victims, linked arm in arm, make a circle 15.9 miles in circumference.

von Braun and key V2 personnel surrendered to the Americans and, along with enough parts to construct 80 V2s, were taken to the United States. His direction of US missile development lead eventually to the enormous Saturn rocket that lifted three men to the moon, so good came from our bet on vonBraun and the V2.

Observation Bunker

In January, 2018, firmly in the present, our bus approached these now “deactivated” sites driving down Lighthouse Road. Confined to the bus, I used my Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III and the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens to capture these scenes.

Looking across Launch Complexes 1 and 2 to Lighthouse Road and the tower. An observation bunker
Observation Bunker from Launch Complex 3, looking across Launch Complex 1.

I can almost see someone behind the glass, enjoying a blast of air-conditioned air, dry and cool.

Litter on and around Launch Complex 4

Missile Housing without Engine
Radar Parabola Fragment
Cement Blacked by Rocket Launch Blasts


From 1950 into the 1960’s LC 1-4 saw launches of cruise missiles, some of which were able to maneuver and land on the “skid strip” you can pick out on the “21,000 V2 Victims” image, above. A positive discovery from my research on wikipedia the weapon systems tested here were not fired in anger. Continued development in other places lead to production of generations of cruise missiles launched by Presidents Clinton and Bush against Afghanistan, Iraq and (??) other targets. What victim ghosts, arms linked in ever growing circles, are lurking in our future?

A building on LC 4 has the designation “Aerostat”, one of the last projects supported. I saw an aerostat in action in the early 2000’s over Fort Huachuca, Arizona near the border with Mexico. An aerostat is a flying craft that does not rely on moving air to achieve lift, balloons for example.

The Goodyear blimp is a memory from my childhood on Long Island, the Fort Huachuca aerostat was a smaller version, outfitted with advanced technology for monitoring the surrounding environment. “Google” aerostat mexican border to learn more about the current deployment.

Another view of the abandoned aerostat building on LC 4

With the development of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) the facilities of LC 1 – 4 became obsolete. ICBMs are a theme of the next installment of this series.

Sources of information for this post: I used information from the Wikipedia site for the key words V-2, Launch Complex 1, Launch Complex 2, Launch Complex 3, Launch Complex 4. The Bumper 8 launch photograph caption includes a source citation.

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Cruise Missiles

Decoys and Cruise Control

Here is the fourth in a series of photographs centered on the early history of space flight on Cape Canaveral mostly taken during a tour organized by the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation. Google the foundation for details of future tours. Here we explore the sites closests to the Lighthouse: Launch Complex 21 and 22.

“Vengance Weapons” re-purposed

Vergeltungswaffe 1 (Vengance Weapon 1 AKA V-1), produced at Peenemünde on the Baltic Sea was first used against Great Britan by Germany one week after the D-day landings. 8,025 of these flying bombs, the first cruise missles, caused the death of 22,892 people, mostly civilians. The first cruise missles for the USA were developed less than 1,000 feet away from the lighthouse. After touring the lighthouse we boarded the bus to visit these sites, Launch Complex 21 and 22.

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Launch Complex 21 and 22 are marked with a labled “pin” on this image from Google Earth.

Nature abounds in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This ibis hunted near the lighthouse on our way to Launch Complexes 21,22.

We passed close to the blockhouse first viewed in my post, “Lighthouse and Rockets,” and I captured this detail of the long abandoned structure. The last test launch of a Mace missle was June, 1960.

This wreckage photograph was part of my,“Lighthouse and Rockets” post. It was taken from a lighthouse portal. It is a type of cruise missle, although I cannot identify the exact type, comparing the engine, on the right, with available photographs of the “Bull Goose” and “Mace” missles developed here.

Bull Goose and Mace

Rail launched, as was the German V-1, the missles developed here were called “Bull Goose” and “Mace.” Bull Goose was a delta winged craft intended as a decoy, to appear on radar as a strategic bomber during a nuclear attack. At that time, the rails were in the open. The building here was a revampment of the site for development of the Mace. The other side of this structure is open, the launch rail pointed up from the rear. There are two launch rails, numbered 1 and 2. The building placard is “05961,” the numeral “1” designates site 1. The use of numbers of designate a site is unusual. Letters are used elsewhere on Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center.

The powerful rocket exhause was directed though these pipes. Site 1 is on the right.

Guidance or “Cruise Control”

Navigation is a crucial requirement for cruise missles. The Bull Goose used a gyroscope with no reference to surroundings. The guidance system held the launch bearings, a successful flight was completed within 115 nautical miles of the target.

If deployed, the plan was for thousands of these missles to launch 1 hour before the attack craft set out and 1 hour after. The missles were not armed, but would descend in the thousands around the targets. Similar to what the Germans did to civilians in England.

After three years and 136.5 million dollars the Bull Goose was cancelled because it could not simulate either the B-47 Stratojet or B-52 Stratofortress nuclear bomb delivery aircraft. Not a single decoy was fired in anger.

The building sign “05912” identifies this exhaust tube as being launch site 2.

The Mace, for which this building was created, used a guidance ATRAN (Automatic Terrain Recognition And Navigation, a radar map-matching system). The map was produced on a 35 mm film strip carried on the missle, the live radar returns were “matched” against the film with course correction made for differences. The Mace was of limited usefulness due to the lack of radar maps for target areas within the Soviet Union. The Mace was deployed to Germany and South Korea until phase out in 1969.

Sources of information for this post: I used information from the Wikipedia site for the key words V-1, Launch Complex 21, Launch Complex 22, Mace, Bull Goose.

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Lighthouse and Rockets

from Roman Numerals to Rockets

Here is the third in a series of photographs centered on the early history of space flight on Cape Canaveral mostly taken during a tour organized by the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation. Google the foundation for details of future tours. Here we start with Roman Numerals and end with Rocket Research.

Inscribed Roman Numerals

We were lucky to be on this tour, for a period of time the Air Force closed off the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse Foundation obtained permission to start this tour in 2016 (this was January 2018) and I happened to discover it while poking around in preparation for the SpaceX “Falcon Heavy” launch in early February 2018.

As Pam and I climbed, each floor docent (volunteer guide) was so helpful with information and hospitality. At the last floor, the stairway to the upper floors was roped off. Top levels were closed, Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is operational. Here is a photograph of the closed off staircase. There is a roman numeral “6” (VI) inscribed in the staircase column. This is the numbering system described in the first post, “Cape Canaveral Lighthouse,” by which the entire 151 foot lighthouse can be disassembled/reassembled as was done in the 19th century.

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Stairway to Upper Floors

The fine finish of the handrail termination for the stairs to upper floors is an example of 19th century attention to detail.

Macro of numeral inscrption on a lower floor stairway column.

Roman Numeral 43 on staircase column of lower floor

View of Space History from the Portals

The lower staircase support column was much wider with space for illustrations and displays. Here is a reproduction of a watercolor of the lighthouse from the earliest days of rocketry on the cape. The lighthouse keeper, assistant and their families lived alongside the tower. The housing was later razed. The Lighthouse Foundation is raising money to build reproductions of the housing.

I put my copyright on the photograph to control copying. The copyright does NOT refer to the artwork.

The painting is an accurate representation of the tower. The dark spots are the windows, or portals, captured in my last post, “Lighthouse Details.” Every portal offered a view of historical or current rocketry. In the following photograph, beyond the outbuilding, is a blockhouse, protection for the early rocket scientists, now abandoned. The structure services launch complex 21 and 22. More in a later post.

Wreckage with Recollections of Werner von Braun

Depending on your viewpoint, the landscape around the tower is either littered with or graced by relics such as the wreckage in the following photograph.

As we stood on the exterior staircase, looking toward the building in the following photograph, the docent told a story of Werner von Braun, how he loved to smoke cigaretts and watch rocket tests from the top of the lighthouse. After some spectactular failures, for reasons of personal saftey he was excluded from the tower. His office during the development of the Minute Man and Persing missles was in this building.

Building next to the lighthouse where Werner VonBraun had an office during the early days of USA rocket research.

This view overlooks the former sites of Minute Man and Persing rocket development. Beyond the launch towers is Port Cape Canaveral, visible to the right are large cruise ships.

Viewed from the Cape Canaveral lighthouse, the port i is in the distance with cruise ships.

Looking from portals facing northeast is this view across ICBM road and its many launch sites. We will visit these in a future post.

Viewed from the Cape Canaveral lighthouse, these are active launch sites.
Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Lighthouse Details

Dual shell construction

Here is the second in a series of photographs centered on the early history of space flight on Cape Canaveral mostly taken during a tour organized by the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation. Google the foundation for details of future tours. Here we revisit the daymark and explore interesting particulars of the lighthouse structure.


A favorite walk of ours is to make for the prominant church steeple closed to South 8th Avenue. The following photograph captures an aspect of the lighthouse, daymark, from 11.5 miles away. The previous post provided a view from 10.1 miles. The alternating black and white stripes ending in a black top is the daymark identifying the tower as Cape Canaveral.

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Lighthouse Daymark from 11.5 miles taken January 2019

Until the 1930’s the lighthouse was commissioned with a lighthouse keeper responsible, with the assistance of others. Then, it was turned over to the Federal Government, the Coast Guard who owned it until the year 2000 transfer to the 45th “Space Wing,” Patrick Air Force Base.

In And Around the Tower

Five floors of the tower are a museum, opened for the tours. In operation, the first floor of the tower is sealed against floods. A set of steps lead to a door on the second floor. For the tour we entered through a door to the first floor. For each floor a docent explained the exhibits and answered questions. Each was a volunteer and very knowledgable. Some retired from the Coast Guard/Air Force an knew intimate details from experience. We proceeded floor to floor on the interior iron staircase. We exited through the second floor to the exterior stairs.

Take note of the brick wall behind the volunteer docent (guide). It is the inner shell of the lighthouse.

View of the 151 foot tower from the first floor entrance. Visible are the iron panel welds. Each of the six interior floors has a porthole type window.

Looking up from the first floor entrance

Exterior Stairs and Windows

The welded iron exterior is very strong, built to withstand storms. A weak point is the foundation, built on Florida sands. When the lighthouse was moved to this location in the 19th century, the bricks from the interior shell were used as foundation for the reconstruction. From this location the lighthouse was silent wittness to the early experiments to fly ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missle) and manned space flight.

Styled rope rims around each porthole sytle window were formed in the panel mold, are a piece of the shell, not welded on.

View from the port hold window, the graveled entrance path, our parked tour bus.

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Cape Canaveral Lighthouse

Introduction of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse

Here is the first in a series of photographs centered on the early history of space flight on Cape Canaveral. All were taking during a tour organized by the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation. Google the foundation for details of future tours. Here we enjoy several views of the lighthouse with historical and maritime background.


The lighthouse is in the background (to the left of diving osprey) of this photograph from a previous posting, “Dive!!.” The structure exists to warn ships of dangerous, shallow shoals that begin 13.5 miles from the cape. The visible pattern of the tower, called daymark, identifies it as the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse. From here it is a little more than 10 miles distant, so its daymark is visible to alert observers from beyond the most distant shoals on a clear day.

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Lighthouse Daymark from 10.1 miles

The daymark for this lighthouse is black and white stripes of a specific width, it is unique and visible long distances depending on the weather. The black lantern room (top of tower) is also a daymark element. At night, the light is identified by the frequency of flashes.

Photograph by Pam Wills from her Samsung Galaxy

Brief History

The historical sign is a good beginning. I love to photograph these details.
There is a story behind this monument, the top plaque duplicates much of the sign text given above. Here is the text from the side plaque: “Composed of bricks from the Original Cape Lighthouse. Built by Eagle Scout Kenneth Wyse, Troop 705 (in the year) 2002.”

Lighthouse Portrait

The angle of the first lighthouse photograph is very appealing, though this one is superior for documentary purposes. The structure is two shells. The exterior shell is cast-iron panels, each numbered for disassembly/reassembly in the event the structure must be moved. Inside is a shell of fired clay bricks with an air space between shells. As is captioned in the preceeding photograph, the monument is constructed of bricks from the first installation. The lighthouse was moved in the 19th century due to changing shoreline.

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Balloon over Home

Waiting for the Whooooosh

Whoosh….whoosh. Taking out the garbage last Monday evening, July 15th, I heard the unmistakable sound of a liquid propane burner. As the propane is gasified and ignited, the flame and exhaust is directed into the balloon, all under control of the human operator. What a sound!!

This year, hot air balloons started launching from West Hill and, when the breeze (balloons never launch in winds, as far as I know) is right the balloon and gondola full of passengers drift in the direction of our home. One time, directly overhead, I estimate 200 feet away. We could clearly see and converse with the passengers. What fun.

Each previous viewing I regretted not filming the balloon as the vision floated away. Last Monday, I dropped everything (not literally, I did leave the garbage in the bin), mounted the Canon lens EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM on a EOS 1Ds Mark III body, returning to the north side of our property as the balloon emerged from the trees, only the envelope visible.

We have enjoyed this balloon before, the envelope pattern evokes a classic Navajo Rug, the colors really pop against the blue sky.

Why the Whooooosh?

Tourists and local residents pay $230 per person for the experience of floating silently over Finger Lakes landscape with a launch from Trumansburg, ending up over Ithaca, in its valley surrounded by hills. Cayuga Lake is visible the entire flight, to the east, then northeast as the path reaches Ithaca. As they approached the balloon elevation was not so high relative to our home. You can see this clearly in the first photograph. With the zoom on 300 mm I was almost able to look into the basket, each of the four riders (the operation, looking at a cell phone, and three passengers) was recognizable.

There are three propane burners, two in front and the edge of a third just visible between the front pair.

Ethereal silence and reveres are broken when the burner lights up. Here it appears only one burner is running, sending the craft high above us.

Seven of the forty images are shared here. The duration was three minutes. With a goal of capturing the action, I had the camera on burst mode, with the shutter pressed the exposures run serially, in close succession.

I perfected these seven photographs to represent the perfection of this colorful event as it passed from the northwest, disappearing in the tree line to the southeast.

I am listening for the next event, camera and lens ready.

Post script….it was my usual early morning blogging time when I heard the familiar Whooooosshh, whoooosssshhh, grabbed my IPhone for a video and captured the following. You will hear the gondola occupants chatting. The burner was turned on at 1:03 when the balloon was fairly distant. The Whoooosssshhhh is low, but audible.

Today, they were headed North/Northwest in the opposite direction from Monday and are backlit. Enjoy!!

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved


A summertime visit to Sapsucker Woods

Wednesday last, grandson Sam, who’s three, and I wandered the landscape, catching the sights of summer. Eventually, we visited Sapsucker Woods, a Cornell University nature preserve. There, a boardwalk over the swamp is a proven venue for frog spotting and, this day, we had some success.

We found this cooperative golden-eyed beauty calmly squatting and croaking.

In this 30 second clip, reflected light off the water surface captures proto-croaks that did not quite escape from the source. There is a successful and full croak finale.

Off the boardwalk, we took a short detour to view an elaborate cairn built of local rock by a famous artist. The dappled sunlight across the surface is especially enjoyable.

The Sapsucker Cairn, Andrew Goldsworthy

At the furthest extent of the preserve is this pond where the residents were notably raucous in this 30 second clip.

About this time the mosquitoes descended for a determined attack on Sam’s legs. “Itchy,” he said. Myself, protected by deet, they left alone. Sam’s Mom prepared him for the trip with natural mosquito repellent that was not up to the task. Next time we visit, Sam will wear long pants and sleeves fortified with deet.

Just before picking Sam up for a quick retreat, I caught this turtle encrusted in duckweed sunning on a narrow branch. The head is retracted for the moment, can you imagine someone wading through that muck to place a rock? It is possible, but I witnessed the head, so am absolutely sure.

Special thanks to blogger shoreacres for the identification of duckweed. In my original posting I called it algae.

Click me for another Sapsucker Woods posting.

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.