Oct 042011
A Mass and a Missile

Finally got around to buying a new desktop scanner, and while looking thru my film archives to run some tests on black and white negatives, I came across this image which always intrigued me. Taken in Warren, New Hampshire (Pop. 904), one comes across the usual landmarks – the town hall, schoolhouses, churches and a Redstone ballistic missile. Wait, did I just see a missile erected on the green?

Warren’s famous 70 foot Redstone Intermediate Ballistic Missile landmark can still be seen today, and it has become an unique attraction in an otherwise quaint town in the White Mountains. The story goes that one local  Henry “Ted” Asselin, while stationed in Alabama, noticed a field filled with surplus Army missiles, and thought that one would make a perfect display on his hometown. He thought that the children were far removed from the space program, and that a real rocket would spur interest. Besides, the first astronaut in space, Alan Shepherd was a New Hampshire native and his flight was powered by Redstone rockets.

After much persuasion and negotiation, the Army finally decided to release the decommissioned missile for display purposes, but the town had to pay for the 1300 mile transport. The town approved the terms and got a local trucker with a 77 foot trailer to drive down to Alabama with a cashier’s check to pick up the missile. Must have been a curious site in simpler times, seeing a missile loaded on a truck trekking north. After a few hefty fines for passing through some states without permits, getting lost, having the truck break down and towed to the state capitol, it finally arrived in Warren in April of 1971.

A welcome committee waiting in Warren got notice that the Redstone rocket was approaching and raced south to greet it, only to realize that it was actually a local septic tank truck. “Ted” Asselin knew at that moment that bringing the space program a bit closer to Warren was a good move.

 October 4, 2011  Archives, Editorial, Travel Tagged with: ,

  4 Responses to “A Mass and a Missile”

  1. Church and state? Fast way to get closer to God?

    • Hi Steve,
      Definitely, those weapons had the potential to create a “faster way to God”. Seeing it next to the church though, with obvious opposite symbolism was strange. Regardless of its adaptation of the rockets for the space program, it’s still a WMD.

  2. Great shot, Al.
    I think that they should have put it right next to the church, don’t spare the metaphors!

    I doubt if anyone could have made this happen today. We (they) would be suspecting terrorists at every intersection!
    It was a different time then.


    • Hi Peter,
      Yep, I can’t imagine a town doing the same thing today ( first, there would be no money in the budget :-). It stands as a reminder of the cold war, when things were indeed simpler except for that constant fear of total nuclear annihilation.