Launch Complex 33 at the White Sands Missile Range has two important structures: the old Army Blockhouse and the launching crane, also known as the Gantry Crane.
The Army Blockhouse was completed in late September 1945 and was primarily used as an observation point and laboratory in the pioneer development of the V-2 rocket in the United States. Walls of the building are 10 feet thick and its pyramidal roof is of solid reinforced concrete 27 feet thick. The blockhouse is rectangular in shape 60 feet by 40 feet with concrete additions on the south and west sides. One observation window is on the east side and two observation windows are on the west side. The observation windows are covered with a high quality ground glass to allow scientists to view missile firings safely and at close range. The entrance door is on the south addition. A radar unit has been attached to the top of the structure. The blockhouse is currently utilized for the repair and maintenance of instrumentation and gauging devices.
The Gantry Crane was constructed in November 1946 to launch the V-2 and Viking rockets. The crane is a steel tower 75 feet tall and 25 feet wide. It is equipped with four platform levels for the placement of various types of rockets. The platforms swing toward the center of the crane from the two framed metal stands forming the vertical supports. Block-and-tackle pulleys descend from the top horizontal platform to assist in the placement of rockets. The crane is moved on tracks prior to a rocket launch. Underneath the concrete launch pad is a flame bucket for the rocket exhaust and a water spillway. The launch pad is concrete and is 365 feet by 372 feet. After the completion of the V-2 program the Gantry Crane was modified to support testing of the Army' s Redstone Missile. 
The Gantry Crane has been restored by the Army to its original V-2 configuration. At the present time a Hermes A1 rocket is displayed for launching in the Gantry Crane.
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
Launch Complex 33 is significant because of its close association with the V-2 and the origins of the American Rocket Program. Launch Complex 33 was developed specifically to accommodate V-2 rocket tests at White Sands. The V-2 Gantry Crane and Army Blockhouse represent the first generation of rocket testing facilities that eventually would lead to the American exploration of Space and the first manned landing on the moon. This site test fired 67 V-2 rockets between 1946 and 1951, the first major rocket firings conducted in the United States. The V-2 was the first vehicle to carry scientific instruments into the upper atmosphere and the first large rocket with a liquid propellant motor. The V-2 provided the technological base upon which the United States would build to develop the Saturn family of rockets that eventually carried Americans to the moon and beyond. 
The German V-2 Rocket (Vergeltungswaffen-2, or "weapon of retaliation") was the most advanced rocket of its type in 1944-45. The V-2 was 46 feet long, 5.5 feet wide, and developed a thrust of 56,000 pounds. The V-2 was developed to support the German war effort and by 1945 hundreds of these rockets were launched against Allied targets in England and on the continent of Europe.
At the end of the war the American government in Operation Paperclip captured more than 100 V-2 rockets and numerous German scientists and engineers associated with the V-2 development program including Dr. Werner Von Braun. The Army brought Dr. Von Braun and the captured V-2s to the newly opened White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. By March 1946 the first captured V-2 was static test fired at White Sands and in April 1946 the first V-2 was launched.
In the years from 1946 to 1951 while the Air Force concentrated on cruise missiles, the Army generated an increasing expertise in rocket technology based upon the experience and work of Dr. Von Braun at the White Sands Missile Test Range. During these years the Army launched 67 V-2s from White Sands establishing high altitude and velocity records that reached to the very edge of space. From these experiments, under the leadership of Dr. Von Braun, emerged the first generation of American built rockets such as the Corporal, Redstone, Nike, Aerobee and Atlas.
At the conclusion of the testing program for the V-2, the Army transferred its rocket team under Dr. Von Braun to the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, to continue work on basic research and prototype development of new rockets. From this work would emerge the new generations of American rockets that would take Americans into space in the late 1950s and 1960s.
While the White Sands Missile Test Range would continue to test rockets and other areas such as Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base would test later generations of rockets only Launch Complex 33 at the White Sands Missile Test Range can lay claim to have tested and launched the very first generation of technologically sophisticated rockets that enabled Americans to probe to the very edge of space.
Buchanan, David G., and Johnson, John P. Army Blockhouse Launch Complex 33, HABS/HAER Inventory Card, (Silver Spring: Maryland, Building Technology Inc., 1983).
Buchanan, David G., and Johnson, John P. V-2 Gantry Crane Launch Complex 33, HABS/HAER Inventory Card, (Silver Spring: Maryland, Building Technology Inc., 1983).
2. Draft Historic Properties Report, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico and Subinstallation Utah Launch Complex, Green River, Utah, (Draft), (Silver Spring, Maryland: Building Technology Inc., 1983), pp. 105-106.
Bilstein, Roger B. Stages to Saturn: A Technological History of the Apollo/Saturn Launch Vehicles. Washington, D. C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1980.
Buchanan, David G. and Johnson, John P. Army Blockhouse Launch Complex 33. HABS/ HAER Inventory Card, Silver Spring, Maryland: Building Technology Inc., 1983.
Buchanan, David G. and Johnson, John P. V-2 Gantry Crane Launch Complex 33. HABS/ HAER Inventory Card, Silver Spring, Maryland: Building Technology Inc., 1983.
Emme, Eugene M. The History of Rocket Technology. Detroit: Wayne State University, 1964.
Fact Sheet. V-2 Story. Information Office, White Sands Missile Range, 1974.
Draft Historic Properties Report White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico and Sub-installation Utah Launch Complex, Green River, Utah. Silver Spring, Maryland: Building Technology Inc., 1983.
Ordway, Frederick I. and Mitchell R. Sharpe. The Rocket Team. New York: Crowell, 1979.
(click on the above photographs for a more detailed view)