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Cape Canaveral

The history of Cape Canaveral, Air Conditioning, heating, repair, service and maintenance

Origin Of Cape Canaveral Remains Largely A Mystery

Although the recorded history of Cape Canaveral dates back a remarkable 500 years, next to nothing is known about when and how Cape Canaveral formed, or what exactly happened there prior to the advent of Spanish colonial exploration.

It is generally believed that geographic Cape Canaveral, as it is known today, was likely underwater for untold thousands of years. There is ample geological evidence of ancient dune lines, where ocean waves once broke upon the shoreline.

Actually, these dune lines run north and south along the Florida mainland about 10 to 15 miles inland from present day Cape Canaveral. Huge numbers of indigenous sea shells are commonly found at any inland construction site where deep digging is conducted.

What is nearly certain is that at some point in time, the ocean waves receded, and a combination of tidal action and local topography allowed a small point of land to jut out from the coastline into the great sea.

Imagination must of necessity rule when trying to imagine what the area was like before human intervention. Cape Canaveral likely played host to a huge variety of flora and fauna, including just about any creature that could fly, walk or crawl to its shores.

Even the great wooly mammoths once roamed the Florida mainland, and perhaps even these animals ambled across the coastal shallows to graze on this ancient landscape.

While little is known about the origin and ancient history of this now famous stretch of sand and scrub, some light has been shed on the original human inhabitants of the region.

Ancient Residents Of Cape Canaveral Area Are Unearthed

Historians believe that the first residents of Florida were Native Americans who migrated to the region about 10,000 years ago. As far as the area surrounding Cape Canaveral is concerned, a most remarkable discovery was made in the mid-1980`s.

A heavy machine operator excavating a peat bog near Interstate-95 in Titusville, located on the Florida mainland a few miles west of Cape Canaveral, unearthed a human skull. Believing this to be the victim of some horrendous crime, the worker promptly called authorities.

But the skull would prove to be one of the greatest anthropological finds in the history of Florida. The skull turned out to be very old, and was turned over to researchers with Florida State University.

The entire area was sealed off, and researchers decided to completely drain a nearby pond. Excavation of the peat material in the banks and bottom of the pond revealed a treasure trove of bones belonging to some of the area`s oldest inhabitants.

A rare environmental mix in the peat bog area served to preserve in near pristine condition human bones and plants from a bygone era. Several of the human skulls even contained preserved brain tissue.

Although the remains will be studied for years to come, a great deal has been learned about the people who were most likely the Cape Canaveral area`s first inhabitants.

Scientists believe the Titusville remains belong to Native Americans inhabiting the area about 7,000 years ago. Due to the condition of tooth remains, it is believed these Indians ate mainly coarse vegetation and grains. This led to speculation that the tribe was migratory in nature.

Although believed to be migratory, the discovery of so many bones in one location would point to a more permanent presence in the area, or at least a significance of the area to these people.

Since so many bones were found in and around the pond, it is believed it was used as a burial pond, in which the remains of deceased individuals would be placed. All else about these early Floridians, including their relationship to later identifiable inhabitants, is a mystery.

Modern Clues About Native American Inhabitants Of Cape Canaveral Abound

But much more is known about the Native Americans who populated the Cape Canaveral area in colonial times. Archaeological discoveries in recent years have indicated that a wide range of Native American groups left their marks in the area.

Cultures are known to have varied, with some being hunters, fishermen, migratory crop gatherers and agriculturists. Some used bones for tools and jewelry and animal skins for clothing. Clues about these people are found through the excavation of "middens", also called "Indian mounds".

Literally hundreds of middens are located on Cape Canaveral and the surrounding areas. Although middens on the Cape are currently protected, a large number were destroyed when full-scale construction of missile range facilities was begun.

Each midden is typically several feet thick and contains the remains of coquina, whelk and clam shells. In addition, many middens have been found to contain artifacts. Many of these historical treasures literally went home with the original Cape construction workers. But, much of the material has been well preserved for study and display.

Two Native American Groups Populate Cape Canaveral Region

It is generally believed that two main groups of Native Americans populated the Cape Canaveral area leading up to colonial times. These are the Ais and Timucuans, both of whom frequented the Cape Canaveral area due its local abundance of seafood and edible vegetation.

The Ais are believed to have populated the coastal area along the Indian River, originally called "Rio de Ais" (River of the Ais) from the Cape Canaveral area south to the St. Lucie River and extending perhaps as many as 30 miles inland. The Timucuans are believed to have populated a large area extending from Cape Canaveral north to Georgia.

The Ais were fiercely warlike and nonagricultural, and survived chiefly on seafood and indigenous vegetation. They were known to be cannibals, and were greatly feared by other Native American tribes and European explorers. The Ais hated the Spanish, and were the chief reason the Cape Canaveral area was not colonized by Spanish settlers.

A large number of Spanish shipwrecks were plundered by the Ais, who very rarely took prisoners. In time, the Ais added the Spanish knife and hatchet to their arsenal of primitive bow and arrow. They also salvaged tons of Spanish silver and gold, which is periodically discovered hidden in middens.

The Timucuans were docile in comparison to the Ais, although they also are known to have been cannibals. Still, the Timucuans were primarily hunters and fishermen, and also raised crops. Their agricultural activities often resulted in a surplus, which was stored in granaries.

Neither the Timucuans nor the Ais initially welcomed European explorers with open arms. They had good reason to fear the Spanish in particular. When Spanish forces were strong enough to subdue the Native Americans, many were forced to perform slave labor. This typically involved forced diving and labor at the site of Spanish shipwreck salvage sites.

By the time the Cape Canaveral area was colonized, neither the Ais nor Timucuan tribes survived. It is not known whether they were the victims of European-introduced diseases or inter-tribal warfare. Both were common in colonial times.

The Ais and Timucuan tribes should not be confused with the Seminoles, who did not migrate into Florida until the 1700`s. Seminoles were not common in the area around Cape Canaveral, but are known to have traded with American settlers in the Merritt Island area as late as the 1860`s.

Spaniard Ponce De Leon Explores Cape Canaveral

Although maps containing the rough geographic boundaries of Cape Canaveral, albeit without a name, are dated as early as 1502, Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon has been credited with first exploring the region in 1513. His second landing in Florida was just south of Cape Canaveral, probably near the present day town of Melbourne Beach.

Ponce de Leon was forced to retreat hastily from the area after being attacked by fierce inhabitants, probably the Ais. He did, however, have time to secure water and food, if no information on the famed "Fountain of Youth" treasure being sought.

Unfortunately, the exact circumstances surrounding the naming of Cape Canaveral remain a mystery, although the oldest known map containing the name Cape Canaveral was made in 1564, well after the initial landing by Ponce de Leon. It is known, however, that the name Cape Canaveral is of Spanish origin.

Some of the oldest surviving Spanish maps of Cape Canaveral refer to the area as the "Cape of Currents", because sailors wanted to avoid this coastline due to dangerous waters and a better than average chance for shipwreck. This name was ultimately abandoned in favor of "Cape Canaveral", a name which has long endured.

The name "Cape Canaveral" is made up of two fairly simple Spanish words. The name "Cape" was simply the designation for a point of land jutting out into the sea. "Canaveral", literally translated "canebrake", might have had a number of different meanings depending upon who actually selected the name.

The Smithsonian Institution included an account of the naming of Cape Canaveral in their 1992 traveling exhibition celebrating the 500th anniversary of the voyage of Christopher Columbus. According to the exhibit, Cape Canaveral, translated as "Place of the Cane Bearers", was named by Spanish Cape explorer Francisco Gordillo after he was shot by an Ais arrow made of cane.

Cape Canaveral has also been roughly translated as "Point of Reeds" or "Point of Canes". While there is no actual sugar cane indigenous to the Cape Canaveral area, there are several forms of plants that resemble sugar cane. These include a type of bamboo reed dubbed "nomal cane" by early U.S. residents of the Cape. This plant very much resembles sugar cane when seen from offshore.

It is more likely that the traditional account of the naming of Cape Canaveral is correct, that Spanish sailors named the area Cape Canaveral because they believed they saw sugar cane growing along the coastline. There is no clearly defined historical account of where the name actually came from.

Cape Canaveral Remains Uncolonized But Is A Vital Landmark

Several decades after the visit of Ponce de Leon, Florida remained relatively untouched by the Spanish, primarily due to a lack of indigenous treasure and an abundance of hostile inhabitants. However, Cape Canaveral itself quickly became a vital landmark.

Even the oldest known maps of Florida contain two important landmarks. These are the Florida Keys and Cape Canaveral. At the time, dead reckoning was the means of plotting the course of a ship. Therefore, ships typically remained within visual range of the coastline and used it as a reference point.

The Florida Keys were instrumental in locating the eastern coast of Florida, which was sailed along during trips back to Spain. Cape Canaveral was a vital landmark for sailors, who typically turned toward the northeast after it was sighted.

After following the Gulf Stream and prevailing winds to Bermuda and the Azores, these ships continued on across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. However, shallow waters along the coast of Florida as well as unpredictable hurricanes plagued sailors for generations.

Since so many ships sailed the area near Cape Canaveral, it remains one of the most common colonial shipwreck sites in the world, and a popular starting point in the search for treasure, which litters the Atlantic waters from Cape Canaveral southward.

The French Settle And Rename Cape Canaveral

It is little known that one of the first attempted European settlements on North America was near Cape Canaveral. In the early 1560`s, Frenchman Jean Ribault was commissioned to establish permanent settlements in Florida. French settlement would be extremely dangerous, since the Spanish dominated the seas and reacted swiftly and violently to French piracy, whether actual or perceived.

During the Ribault campaign to establish settlements, a ship named "Trinity" was wrecked north of Cape Canaveral, on what is now called the Cape Canaveral National Seashore. The shipwrecked party was able to establish a settlement nearby, and promptly renamed Cape Canaveral "French Cape".

The French party was able to do something the Spanish had not been able to. They established and maintained peaceful relations with the local Native American inhabitants. Establishment of this settlement and similar efforts by Ribault brought swift reprisal from the Spanish.

The Spanish Quickly Uproot The French Settlers

Sensing a threat to their own interests, the Spanish commissioned Pedro Menendez de Aviles to establish settlements and drive the French from Florida. The greatest concentration of French settlers had established a village on the northern Atlantic coast of Florida.

Pedro Menendez de Aviles quickly uprooted these settlers, murdering many, including Jean Ribault, under a flag of truce. Some of the French settlers evaded the Spanish, and fled south to the settlement at "French Cape". Their intention was to build an escape vessel out of the remains of the ship "Trinity" and head back to France.

In 1565, a permanent Spanish settlement was established and named St. Augustine, an area previously occupied by the French. St. Augustine remains the oldest permanent European settlement in North America. The Spanish quickly headed south to establish a settlement at strategic Cape Canaveral.

The Spanish succeeded in uprooting the French settlement at the Cape. Most of the French settlers were taken prisoner, but about 20 are believed to have sought refuge at an Ais Indian village on the Indian River.

Immediately after removing the French settlers, the Spanish attempted to build a permanent fort at Cape Canaveral, primarily for the purpose of protecting shipwrecked sailors from attack. In 1565, the same year St. Augustine was established, a Spanish blockhouse was built at the northern tip of the Indian River.

This was followed by a gradual movement of Spanish forces to the south. Several small fortifications were erected on Cape Canaveral, traces of which have been found and preserved. However, relentless attacks from the Ais resulted in a complete Spanish abandonment of Cape Canaveral within a few months.

Although Cape Canaveral remained a vital landmark for sailors in the years that followed, the area was untouched by settlers for nearly three centuries.

British Flag Briefly Flies Over Florida

Florida became a British possession as a result of the Treaty of Paris in 1763. British settlers were moderately successful at establishing colonies in Florida, although Cape Canaveral itself was not affected. The nearest British settlement in relation to Cape Canaveral was New Smyrna to the north, settled by Dr. Andrew Turnbull in 1767.

Cape Canaveral Becomes U.S. Possession By War

Cape Canaveral, along with the rest of Florida, became a possession of the United States as a result of the Revolutionary War. In fact, the last naval battle of the Revolutionary War was fought about 72 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral.

On March 10, 1783 the British ship HMS Sybil challenged the French-built ship Duc de Lausun and the American ship Alliance. The British ship, as well as three others which gave chase later, were successfully outgunned and driven off by the Alliance.

Upon the conclusion of the War of 1812, Cape Canaveral would remain under the flag of the United States.

Cape Canaveral Remains Unsettled Until U.S. Expands Southward

As the borders of the United States continued to expand, the first American settlers slowly trickled into Florida. At the age of 23, Douglas D. Dummitt established the first permanent settlement in the Cape Canaveral area. By 1828, Dummitt was able to ship commercial quantities of oranges northward along the Indian River.

Dummitt Grove was located on Merritt Island, directly west of Cape Canaveral with the Indian River to the west and the Banana River to the east. Much of the original Dummitt Grove is today located on Kennedy Space Center property. Dummitt operated an orange grove on this land until his death in 1872.

Cape Canaveral itself, however, did not receive its first American inhabitants until a few decades later. As the Dummitt groves were growing and thriving to the west Cape Canaveral remained very isolated, accessible only by boat.

In the 1840`s the first group of settlers established permanent residence on geographic Cape Canaveral. These were hearty souls from Georgia and the Carolinas, mostly of English and Scott-Irish heritage. Today there are still people who can trace their lineage back to these settlers.

The first Cape Canaveral settlers occupied just a few households, but were able to maintain a self-reliant existence at what at the time was a hostile environment marked by brutal heat, plagues of mosquitoes, a challenging sand and scrub environment in which to grow crops and most of all isolation from other people.

Cape Canaveral Gets An Enduring Lighthouse

In 1843, the U.S. government selected Cape Canaveral as the site for a permanent lighthouse. The eastern tip of the Cape made a natural choice for this vital aid to navigation. Construction of the original Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, made of brick, was completed in 1847. For more information on the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, click here.

The Florida Mainland Population West Of Cape Canaveral Expands Rapidly

Originally called St. Lucie, the Florida mainland territory west of Cape Canaveral along the western bank of the Indian River was renamed Brevard County in 1855. The name has not changed, and today Brevard County, Florida includes the all of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.

Regardless of this designation as a county, there were still no roads or railroads in the area, and travel to and from Brevard County was possible only by boat. Initially, this made travel irregular and difficult.

However, by the 1880`s, a regular line of steamer traffic was established from the St. John`s River in north Florida south to the Indian River in Brevard County. While this did not expand the population of isolated Cape Canaveral, it did expand the population of the mainland area to the west.

Mainland areas to the west of Cape Canaveral experienced a steady growth through the 1890`s, when a railroad line was extended into Brevard County. By June, 1893 the Flagler Railway reached the city of Titusville, formerly called Sand Point, at the northern end of Brevard County.

Titusville had been a popular port as early as the 1880`s, and featured a mule-driven railroad that carried goods to western settlers in what is now the Orlando area. The Flagler Railway was quickly extended southward along the western bank of the Indian River through the cities of Cocoa, Rockledge and Eau Gallie.

Cocoa, formerly called Indian River City and located about ten miles south of Titusville, was settled in 1881. Rockledge, just south of Cocoa and formerly called Rock Ledge after coquina rock which extended into the Indian River, was settled in 1873 as the first winter resort community on the east coast of Florida.

Eau Gallie, just north of the city of Melbourne and located about 20 miles south of Rockledge, was also settled in the 1870`s. Eau Gallie was eventually absorbed into the city of Melbourne, which itself was established in the early 1880`s.

Once the Flagler Railway reached Eau Gallie, the entire mainland area west of Cape Canaveral was served by a railroad. The Titusville, Cocoa and Melbourne areas soon emerged as major centers of local population.

Still, Cape Canaveral remained isolated, accessible only by boat. Although population was gradually increasing on the mainland, just a few more families settled on Cape Canaveral, which was separated from the mainland by the Banana River, Merritt Island and the Indian River, traveling from east to west.

Merritt Island, originally settled by Dummitt, did not itself experience an influx of settlers until 1868, when agriculturists established citrus, pineapple and sugar cane plantations. Cattle was also raised on Merritt Island, which to date has never been incorporated as a city.

The barrier island area south of Cape Canaveral was not settled until 1923, when the first bridge was extended from Merritt Island eastward to the Atlantic coast. The eastern terminus of this bridge was incorporated as the city of Cocoa Beach in 1925.

Cape Canaveral Is Settled Under The Homestead Act

With population now creeping closer and closer, Cape Canaveral was opened to settlement under the Homestead Act. As the relative prosperity of the 1920`s dawned, families and small businesses trickled onto Cape Canaveral. The area still remained isolated and accessible by boat only.

There were no permanent roads, and trips to and from the surrounding mainland areas took the better part of a day to complete. Nevertheless, several small villages emerged on Cape Canaveral under the wary eyes of those hearty families who had settled the Cape nearly a century earlier.

The primary villages on Cape Canaveral, traces of which are still evident today, included Artesia, located on the extreme south end of the Cape. Artesia was completely abandoned and destroyed when Port Canaveral was constructed.

A settlement nicknamed Stinkmore was located on the Cape Canaveral southeast shoreline, near present day Launch Complex 17 and just a stone`s throw from Launch Pad 5 where America`s first astronaut was launched. The most striking feature of Stinkmore was an elaborate fishing pier and dock that stretched about 300 feet into the Atlantic waters.

The most developed and populated area of Cape Canaveral was known as DeSoto Beach, and was located in the vicinity of present day Launch Complex 36. DeSoto Beach featured perhaps 15 permanent homes, a small hotel, a store and even a brothel.

A collection of other homes and structures dotted the Cape Canaveral coastline, and were included in a more or less generic and unofficial designation as Cape Canaveral or Canaveral Beaches.

Farther to the north of Cape Canaveral on what is called False Cape, technically the eastern edge of Merritt Island, towns named Nathan and Titusville Beach were settled. Remains of these towns are located near the present day Space Shuttle launch pads.

Although the permanent Cape Canaveral population numbered about 100 at the dawn of World War II, the area catered to numerous visitors, including many fishermen who sought to take advantage of the excellent fishing the Cape waters provided.

The Threat Of War Begins To Shape The Future Of Cape Canaveral

Events that shaped the future of Cape Canaveral began just prior to World War II. Under the Naval Expansion Act of 1938, two naval installations to reinforce the Atlantic Coast Defense System were authorized for construction on the east coast of Florida.

The first was to be located in Jacksonville, and the second was proposed for Brevard County. In June, 1939 Commander W.M. Angus, Public Works Officer for the Seventh Naval District, met with civic leaders of Melbourne, Eau Gallie and Cocoa to settle on a site.

A narrow strip of the barrier island located roughly between the Melbourne and Cocoa areas was selected as the site for a naval air station. Construction was begun in December, 1939 and the resulting Banana River Naval Air Station was commissioned on October 1, 1940. It covered 1,791 acres and was roughly 4.1 miles long by 1.25 miles wide.

In addition to supporting coastal seaplane patrol operations during World War II, Banana River Naval Air Station operated a PBM seaplane pilot training program and advanced navigation school. Although the facility continued to support the Navy after World War II, it was officially deactivated on August 1, 1947.

Although Banana River Naval Air Station property could have been quickly abandoned and turned over to the local communities, the area was maintained on caretaker status until an important decision could be made.
Written and Edited by Cliff Lethbridge

Snark Missile at Cape Canaveral Pad 1

The U.S. Selects Cape Canaveral To Host A Missile Test Range

As post-war development of missile weapons progressed, a site became necessary to develop tactics and techniques for guided missile operations, train personnel, test equipment used to operate the missiles and conduct functional and tactical tests of new guided missiles to determine their effectiveness.

A suitable facility would need to be relatively isolated from centers of population, provide a large expanse of unpopulated area over which missiles could fly and accommodate the installation of several downrange tracking stations. A base for military operational headquarters would also be required.

Although a missile range had been in operation at White Sands, New Mexico since the close of World War II, this range was only 135 miles long and was perilously close to populated areas. It proved to be too short for newer, more powerful missiles and too risky to support more advanced research and development tests.

The dangers of a missile range so close to populated areas would become painfully clear in May, 1947 when a V-2 rocket strayed to the south instead of heading north over the White Sands range. The missile flew directly over El Paso, Texas and eventually crashed into the Tepeyac Cemetery in Juarez, Mexico.

The missile impact created a hole 50 feet wide by 30 feet deep. Although no one was injured, the U.S. government caused a minor international incident and had to settle damage claims, many of which were obviously embellished by the local residents. Thankfully, the quest for a new missile range had begun almost a year before this incident.

In October, 1946 the Joint Research and Development Board under the Joint Chiefs of Staff established the Committee on the Long Range Proving Ground to analyze possible locations for a new missile range to be shared by the various branches of the military.

Three potential sites emerged. One was based on the coast of northern Washington, with a range along the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. A second was based at El Centro, California, with a range along the coast of Baja, Mexico. A third was based at the Banana River Naval Air Station, with launches from Cape Canaveral and a range over the Atlantic Ocean.

Responsibility for acquiring, building and equipping the selected missile range was assigned to the War Department by the Joint Research and Development Board on July 8, 1947. On August 14, 1947 the War Department delegated limited responsibility for developing the selected missile range to the Army Air Forces.

In September, 1947 the Committee on the Long Range Proving Ground announced its decision to recommend the establishment of a missile proving ground at the California site, with Cape Canaveral offered as the second choice. The Washington site had been quickly rejected due to its isolation and poor weather.

On September 5, 1947 the Army Air Forces activated the National Guided Missiles Group to pursue development of the missile range. The Air Force was established on September 18, 1947 and inherited the National Guided Missiles Group.

The Air Force was notified by the recently established Department of Defense on December 30, 1947 that since a long range missile proving ground was intended to benefit the Army, Navy and Air Force, management of the project would be reassigned.

The project was officially designated the Joint Long Range Proving Ground, with development responsibility granted to the Joint Long Range Proving Ground Group. Although plans continued initially for the establishment of a missile range based in California, political problems arose in 1948.

Although it would have been a suitable site very close to existing missile manufacturers, the California site had to be rejected when Mexican President Aleman refused to agree to allow missiles to fly over the Baja region. This was largely a result of bad timing, since a wayward V-2 rocket launched from White Sands, New Mexico had recently crashed near Juarez, Mexico.

The British, however, were quick to express their willingness to allow missiles to fly over the Bahamas. They also were willing to lease island land to the U.S. military for the establishment of tracking stations. That, coupled with inherent strengths of Cape Canaveral, sealed its selection as the first U.S. long range missile proving ground.

The Missile Test Range At Cape Canaveral Is Approved

The very traits that kept large numbers of settlers away from Cape Canaveral now made it a perfect site for the establishment of a missile range. Covering 15,000 acres, the Cape was relatively isolated from heavily populated areas, but it was accessible by road, rail and shipping. The weather was also favorable most of the year.

The unique location of Cape Canaveral provided a huge over-water flight area removed from populated land masses and shipping lanes, as well as accessible West Indies and South Atlantic island sites for the installation of optical and radar tracking stations.

Cape Canaveral also was located near the Equator, which would prove to be an asset in ballistic missile testing and eventually space launches. Rockets launched from the Cape could take advantage of the rotational speed of the Earth, which is greatest at the Equator. The relative position of Cape Canaveral required less rocket engine thrust than would have been necessary elsewhere.

The additional fact that the Banana River Naval Air Station was available for occupation as headquarters just 15 miles south of Cape Canaveral caused military leaders to push ahead with the development of a missile range in Florida.

On May 11, 1949 President Harry S. Truman signed legislation entitled Public Law 60 establishing the Joint Long Range Proving Ground at Cape Canaveral. The Banana River Naval Air Station, which had been transferred from the Navy to the Air Force on September 1, 1948 was renamed the Joint Long Range Proving Ground Base on June 10, 1949

The Military Moves Onto Cape Canaveral

The U.S. government already owned several square miles of land on Cape Canaveral, including the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse vicinity and nearby property used to host Coast Guard patrol stations that monitored the coastline during World War II.

But more land was needed, and the U.S. government began condemning and purchasing private property on Cape Canaveral. Some of the local residents complied quickly, but some stayed in their homes even after the military assumed residence, preferring to wait until the courts exhausted their appeals to remain on their property.

About two dozen residents remained in the area around DeSoto Beach after the military assumed residence on the Cape. These individuals were temporarily removed from Cape Canaveral by bus and housed at the Brevard Hotel in the city of Cocoa during hazardous launch operations near their homes, which were very close to the first launch pads on the Cape.

Eventually, all of the remaining families were removed by action of the courts and the military assumed sole occupancy of Cape Canaveral. Many of the existing homes and buildings were converted into storage areas and offices. The hotel at DeSoto Beach housed the first headquarters building on Cape Canaveral.

Although all of the original buildings located on Cape Canaveral at the time the military assumed residency have long since vanished, surviving remnants of the first Cape residents include numerous preserved grave sites, scattered orange groves, gardens and of course the historic Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.

The Missile Range At Cape Canaveral Takes Shape

On October 1, 1949 the Joint Long Range Proving Ground Base was activated under the management of the Advance Headquarters, Joint Long Range Proving Ground and the Air Force Division, Joint Long Range Proving Ground.

On May 9, 1950 work began under a contract between the Army Corps of Engineers and Duval Engineering Company of Jacksonville, Florida to construct the first permanent access road and launch sites on Cape Canaveral. The first area developed for launch operations became known as Launch Pads 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Construction of instrumentation sites and missile handling areas on the Cape was also begun. Initially, military offices were established in existing buildings on Cape Canaveral itself, including abandoned homes. Prior to the completion of a runway and missile handling areas on the Cape, missile hardware was received and handled at the Joint Long Range Proving Ground Base, then trucked to Cape Canaveral for launch.

Although the entire facility was initiated under the cooperative management of the Army, Navy and Air Force, the Air Force soon assumed control of operations at Cape Canaveral and the island tracking stations by directive of the Department of Defense.

The Air Force Division, Joint Long Range Proving Ground was redesignated the Long Range Proving Ground Division on May 16, 1950 and assumed sole jurisdiction over the Cape Canaveral missile range. The range was renamed the Long Range Proving Ground, and the Joint Long Range Proving Ground Base was renamed the Long Range Proving Ground Base.

Under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers, the construction of Port Canaveral at the southern end of Cape Canaveral was begun in July, 1950. The deep water port was originally intended to allow the berthing of range instrumentation and cargo ships, but was later expanded to service ballistic missile submarines and commercial vessels.

On July 21, 1950 the Bahamian Agreement was signed with the British government to allow construction of the first island tracking stations. The range of tracking stations eventually stretched across the Atlantic Ocean, South Africa and into the Indian Ocean.

Launch Pad 3 Supports The First Rocket Launch From Cape Canaveral

Although Launch Pads 1, 2, 3 and 4 and their associated support buildings were not all fully completed, the Army scheduled launches of two modified German V-2 rockets for July, 1950. The rockets were called Bumper, and each employed a V-2 rocket as first stage and a Without Any Control (WAC)-Corporal rocket as second stage. The first rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, that of Bumper #8, occurred on July 24, 1950. For more information on the first rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, click here.

Patrick Air Force Base Is Born And Cape Canaveral Gets Its First Military Name

A few days after the historic Bumper launches from the Cape, the Long Range Proving Ground Base received the name it holds today. It was renamed Patrick Air Force Base in honor of Major General Mason M. Patrick on August 1, 1950.

On June 30, 1951 the Long Range Proving Ground Division was redesignated the Air Force Missile Test Center and the range was renamed the Florida Missile Test Range.

The Cape itself did not receive a special military name at the introduction of launch activity. It was referred to by the informal designations "Cape Canaveral launch area" or "Cape Canaveral launching area", or simply as an extension of the Long Range Proving Ground.

On October 5, 1951 the military-occupied portion of the Cape was designated the Cape Canaveral Auxiliary Air Force Base (CCAAFB). This was in recognition of the official establishment of Cape Canaveral as Station #1 of the Florida Missile Test Range.

Patrick Air Force Base was declared a permanent military installation on December 24, 1952.

Cape Operations Expand Rapidly And The Air Force Yields To Contractors

With a basic infrastructure firmly established, Cape Canaveral began to grow rapidly. Although initially expected to only encompass Launch Pads 1, 2, 3 and 4 for the testing of Air Force winged missiles, the introduction of ballistic missiles caused operations at the Cape to expand rapidly.

As new ballistic missiles were introduced and tested, new facilities at Cape Canaveral were constructed of necessity. From a relatively humble beginning, launch facilities at Cape Canaveral eventually covered a sprawling area literally extending from the top to the bottom of geographic Cape Canaveral.

Initially, Air Force personnel manned all of the range support positions. However, an analysis determined that Cape Canaveral operations would be more cost-effective if broad functions were turned over to commercial contractors.

On December 31, 1953 the Guided Missiles Range Division of Pan American World Airways was granted the first range operation and maintenance contract. This included overall responsibility for range engineering, operation and maintenance, as well as instrumentation systems on the fleet of ocean range ships.

On February 28, 1954 Pan American World Airways signed its own sub-contract with RCA for the technical functions of operating and maintaining the range instrumentation systems. This included missile flight data processing, tracking instrumentation and communication links between the launch sites and downrange tracking stations.

Cape Canaveral Skid Strip Supports Its First Skid

On June 3, 1954 Cape Canaveral supported the first attempted recovery of a winged missile that flew a programmed pattern and then returned to the Cape for refurbishing and reuse. A Snark missile was successfully guided for landing on the Cape Canaveral Skid Strip, but the missile`s skids failed and the vehicle crashed and exploded upon contact.

The Cape Canaveral Skid Strip still bears its name. It originated as a long strip intended to support landings of Snark missiles, which employed metal skid plates but no traditional landing gear. Hence, the Cape landing strip was nicknamed the Cape Canaveral Skid Strip, because Snark missiles skidded to a stop after landing. A large number were successfully recovered this way.

The Cape Canaveral Skid Strip was eventually modified for other purposes. On February 3, 1956 a Navaho X-10 missile was successfully launched from and recovered on the skid strip. The Navaho X-10 was a test version of the Navaho XSM-64 and employed landing gear similar to that used on aircraft. It was launched, flew and landed much like a traditional aircraft.

Traditional aircraft ultimately came to use the Cape Canaveral Skid Strip as well. On February 11, 1963 the Cape Canaveral Skid Strip was designated an auxiliary landing strip for Patrick Air Force Base, although rated for daytime use only.

From that time onward, the Cape Canaveral Skid Strip has fulfilled a vital role in the shipping and receiving of rocket parts and supplies for Cape operations, as well as the transport of personnel. Training of military paratroopers is also routinely conducted there.

More Name Changes For Cape Canaveral And The Range

On December 16, 1955 Cape Canaveral Auxiliary Air Force Base was redesignated the Cape Canaveral Missile Test Annex (CCMTA). The Cape would hold this name until a controversial name change was in store.

In May, 1958 the Florida Missile Test Range was renamed the Atlantic Missile Range.

First Missile Worker Dies On Cape Canaveral

On July 9, 1958 the Cape experienced its first operational fatality. On that day, Fred D. Adams fell from an Atlas missile service tower and died as a result of injuries sustained.

Although this was a great loss for all involved, fatalities on the Cape have been few and far between. Specific records on fatalities are not available for review, but it is estimated that less than 20 people have died as a result of operational activities at the Cape.

This number does not include those who may have died in automobile accidents on government property, but anyone would agree that given the volatile nature of rocket and missile launches, the number of operational fatalities has been remarkably low.
Written and Edited by Cliff Lethbridge

VAB under construction

Space Program Has A Space Problem And A New Spaceport Is Born

By the late 1950`s, it was clear that geographic Cape Canaveral was running out of room, with launch sites lining the coastline from tip to tail. In April, 1960 the Department of Defense issued a report stating that, "(Cape Canaveral is) substantially saturated with missile launching facilities and test instrumentation."

This revelation proved problematic for the space program, especially an ambitious effort by NASA to build a vigorous manned spaceflight program. In support of the NASA manned spaceflight activities, it was clear that more land for launch areas was necessary.

Even before NASA embarked on a manned lunar landing program, the space agency planned to dramatically expand its use of large, heavy lift rockets. The first of these was the Saturn I, which was designed in a number of configurations to meet manned and unmanned NASA applications.

Initial NASA forecasts called for as many as 100 launches of Saturn-type rockets per year. Cape Canaveral could host just two Saturn I launch complexes, Launch Complex 34 and Launch Complex 37. The former could accommodate a maximum of four Saturn I launches per year, while Launch Complex 37 could accommodate a maximum of eight Saturn I launches per year.

It was clear that if NASA required 100 Saturn-type launches per year, or even 20 Saturn-type launches per year as mentioned in more conservative forecasts, more land than was available on Cape Canaveral would be needed. NASA also envisioned larger and larger rockets for introduction in the future. These rockets could not be serviced in the relative confines of geographic Cape Canaveral.

By early 1961, NASA developed and refined a mobile launch concept, whereby a central processing area would service multiple launch pads. This would make launch processing more efficient, decrease the time a rocket spent at the launch pad and decrease the amount of land required for each individual launch area.

Initial mobile launch concepts called for a vertical transfer of the rocket from a central assembly area to the launch pad by barge or train. In April, 1961 the NASA Future Launch Systems Office issued a report recommending that the assembly area and transfer method be designed specifically for the rocket being used.

A design for the specific technical criteria for the next Saturn-type launch complex, designated Launch Complex 39, was scheduled to be decided upon not later than January, 1964. A decision was made to design the launch complex to be technically compatible with whatever program NASA would be supporting, even if this proved to be substantially more expensive than existing launch complexes.

At the time, NASA had not decided upon a method of sending men to the Moon and returning them safely to Earth. Hence, the design of a new launch complex would have to wait until a specific program was adopted. There were three basic methods proposed, each of which would require different launch concepts.

The first would employ one huge rocket called Nova, which would send the astronauts on a direct ascent to the Moon. The second called for the launch of multiple Saturn-type rockets followed by an Earth-orbit rendezvous, then a trip to the Moon. The third called for the launch of multiple Saturn-type rockets followed by lunar-orbit rendezvous.

An announcement by President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961 that the U.S. would send men to the Moon and return then safely to Earth by the close of the 1960`s forced NASA to settle on one launch method and construct its new launch facilities as soon as possible.

The Nova super booster plan was rejected early, because it could not have been accomplished until after 1970 at the earliest. Either of the two multiple Saturn-type rocket launching methods would be better, but would still require the construction of a large, new launch site.

On June 16, 1961 an ad hoc committee of the NASA Office of Space Flight Programs, headed by William Fleming, recommended that the construction of a new NASA launch site be given a high national priority. The NASA Launch Operations Directorate (LOD) based at Cape Canaveral and the Air Force Missile Test Center (AFMTC) were given the responsibility of agreeing on a launch site.

By July, 1961 the basic technical requirements of the launch site were decided. These requirements included:

Vertical assembly and checkout of the rocket on a mobile launcher umbilical tower housed in an environmentally controlled building,

Transfer of the assembled rocket and mobile launcher to the launch pad for final checkout, fueling and launch,

Control of launch operations from a remote launch control center with two firing rooms, one for checkout and one for launch,

Automated checkout and launch of the rocket.

A railroad type transfer system of the rocket to the launch pad was initially considered most feasible, but transfer by barge or even roadway were also retained as viable options.

As larger variants of the Saturn rocket emerged from the drawing boards, NASA refined the criteria to include more buildings for spacecraft processing and launch control, a launcher/transporter with a pedestal for the rocket and an arming tower to be located midway between the assembly area and the launch pad where solid propellant devices and ordnance would be installed.

Although Merritt Island, located to the north of Cape Canaveral, remained the prime site selection for NASA, a conflict with the Air Force developed. The Air Force wanted to reserve that land to allow expansion of Air Force rocket programs. This forced NASA to review the following possible launch sites:

Merritt Island

Man-Made Facilities Offshore Cape Canaveral

Mayaguana Island, Bahamas

Cumberland Island, Georgia

Mainland Site Near Brownsville, Texas

White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico

Christmas Island, South Pacific

South Point, Island Of Hawaii

White Sands was rejected because the site was landlocked. Excessive cost of development ruled out Mayaguana, Christmas Island and Hawaii. Brownsville, Texas was eliminated because rockets would need to fly over populated areas. Cumberland Island was rejected due to unacceptable interference with the Intracoastal Waterway and a lack of infrastructure.

In point of fact, constructing a man-made launch site offshore Cape Canaveral was found to cost only 10% more than constructing a launch site on Merritt Island, but maintenance costs were projected to be astronomical. These prevailing factors left Merritt Island as the only logical choice.

Merritt Island produced just two negative factors, which were the high cost of land acquisition and higher than average cost of utilities. Merritt Island remained a natural choice due to a strong, rocket-based economy, talented work force and existing range infrastructure at Cape Canaveral that would not need to be duplicated.

As a result, NASA requested appropriation for initial land purchases on Merritt Island on September 1, 1961. The first request was for a 200 square mile area immediately north and west of existing launch sites on Cape Canaveral.

On September 21, 1961 the Army Corps of Engineers was requested to begin acquiring the land by purchase or condemnation. Most of the land was purchased with the cooperation of the owners, but as was the case with Cape Canaveral, some land owners exhausted court action prior to leaving or selling.

This gave NASA access to land, but no firm plans for a launch site. In November, 1961 the Saturn C-5 (later renamed Saturn V) was proposed as a launch vehicle considered to be more efficient to support the lunar landing missions. It was not large enough to support a direct ascent to the Moon, but it was large enough to fly all elements on a single rocket for the other lunar landing options.

Development of the Saturn V was approved on December 4, 1961. In January, 1962 the Saturn V was officially selected as the rocket which would be used to support manned flights to the Moon. With the decision in hand, NASA began refining its design of Launch Complex 39 on Merritt Island.

Conflicts with the Air Force continued over use of the range, because NASA sought their own jurisdiction over their own launch activities. The Air Force sought to continue control of the range at Cape Canaveral, with NASA as a tenant. The Air Force viewed Merritt Island as an extension of the range at Cape Canaveral, but NASA wanted their own property rights.

With the issue of the placement of expanded Air Force facilities on Merritt Island also in question, a joint NASA-Air Force team began meeting on February 19, 1962 to iron out the logistical problems. It would take about a year to settle these issues.

Meanwhile, design of Launch Complex 39 took shape quickly. The main technical challenge was the method of transporting the huge Saturn V from the assembly area to the launch pad. Transport by barge was considered unsafe due to wind resistance, and a railway was considered to be too expensive.

NASA settled on a crawler/transporter, based upon the Bucyrus-Erie 2700 metric ton crawler shovel. A crawler roadway bed could be constructed for half the cost of a railway, so Bucyrus-Erie submitted design modifications of their crawler shovel for the purpose of transporting a Saturn V to NASA in March, 1962. The crawler/transporter concept was approved by NASA on June 13, 1962.

Designs for the rocket assembly area, launch control center, launch pads and a sprawling industrial support area also took shape in 1962. The total cost of Launch Complex 39 was estimated at $500 million, with construction time estimated at three years.

Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama was selected to manage construction of the Saturn V rocket, the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas was selected to manage construction of the spacecraft and the Launch Operations Directorate (LOD) at Cape Canaveral was selected to manage overall integration, testing and launch.

On March 7, 1962 NASA announced that Launch Complex 39 would be established as an independent NASA installation. As a result, the Launch Operations Directorate (LOD) was redesignated the Launch Operations Center (LOC). Dr. Kurt Debus was named LOC Director, after having served previously as LOD Director and Director of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency Missile Firing Laboratory on the Cape.

The conflict between the Air Force and NASA over the management of launch facilities on Merritt Island was settled on January 16, 1963 when an agreement was signed by NASA Administrator James Webb and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

The agreement stressed the high national priority of the NASA manned lunar landing effort, and stated, "The Merritt Island Launch Area (MILA) is considered a NASA installation separate and distinct from the Atlantic Missile Range." NASA was given title and management of its property on Merritt Island.

The Air Force continued to manage the range, with NASA designated a user. NASA agreed to expand its land purchases by 40 square miles to provide enough land for future Air Force expansion. The Air Force decided to construct a huge launch facility for its Titan III rockets on land dredged from the Banana River north of Cape Canaveral. Only a tiny sliver of south Merritt Island was ever required.

In 1963, NASA negotiated land use agreements for submerged lands, and the National Wildlife Service was authorized to administer lands not needed for development. This resulted in the creation of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

The National Wildlife Refuge was authorized to administer leases on citrus groves, fishing camps and operate Playalinda Beach, a long, pristine beach running north from Launch Complex 39. NASA maintained all other aspects of MILA management.

NASA land acquisition totaling about 88,000 acres was completed by February 1, 1964. As was the case on Cape Canaveral, existing buildings, including an abandoned Standard Oil gasoline station, were adapted for other use by NASA.

Dates differ as to exactly when Launch Complex 39 was activated, but there are three key dates to consider, one for each of the three main areas of the launch site.

A topping out ceremony was held atop the Vehicle Assembly Building on April 14, 1965 marking a milestone in the assembly area. Kennedy Space Center Headquarters was formally opened on May 26, 1965 marking a milestone in the industrial area.

And on May 25, 1966 just five years after the famous mandate from President Kennedy, a dummy Saturn V designated Saturn V 500-F was rolled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A, marking a milestone in the launch pad area.

A flurry of activity followed, involving two launch pads, Launch Pad 39A to the south and Launch Pad 39B to the north. This activity culminated in the launch of Apollo 11 from Launch Pad 39A on July 16, 1969. Indeed, a new spaceport had sent the first men to the Moon and back. Today, Launch Complex 39 remains largely intact, now in support of the NASA Space Shuttle program.

Cape Canaveral Receives A Controversial Name Change

On November 28, 1963 President Lyndon B. Johnson announced in a televised address that Cape Canaveral would be renamed Cape Kennedy in memory of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated six days earlier. President Johnson said the name change had been sanctioned by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names.

Executive Order Number 11129, issued by President Johnson on November 29, 1963 decreed that the NASA Launch Operations Center (LOC), including facilities on Merritt Island and Cape Canaveral, would be renamed the John F. Kennedy Space Center, NASA. That name change officially took effect on December 20, 1963.

The Air Force subsequently changed the name of the Cape Canaveral Missile Test Annex to Cape Kennedy Air Force Station (CKAFS). That name change took somewhat longer, but became official on January 22, 1964.

The City of Cape Canaveral, incorporated in 1962 and sandwiched between Port Canaveral to the north and Cocoa Beach to the south, decided by city council vote not to change its name, although debate was bitter. The name of Port Canaveral also remained unchanged.

The U.S. Board of Geographic Names confirmed the name change of geographic Cape Canaveral to Cape Kennedy in their Decision List Number 6303, September through December, 1963 published in the spring of 1964.

The Range Receives Another Name

On May 15, 1964 the Air Force Missile Test Center was redesignated the Air Force Eastern Test Range. This decision was made by the National Range Division, established by the Air Force on January 2, 1964 to develop a global network of integrated national missile ranges.

Also on May 15, 1964 the Atlantic Missile Range was redesignated the Eastern Test Range, the name it holds today. This name change, however, caused no controversy at all while a battle was raging over the name Cape Kennedy versus the name Cape Canaveral.

Cape Kennedy Renamed Cape Canaveral Via The Back Door

After a ten-year campaign by Florida residents failed to convince the U.S Congress to change the name Cape Kennedy back to Cape Canaveral, the name it had held for 400 years, the Florida Legislature took action. On May 18, 1973 Florida Governor Rueben Askew signed a Florida Statute requiring that Cape Kennedy be renamed Cape Canaveral on all State of Florida official documents and maps.

The U.S. Board of Geographic Names responded on October 9, 1973 by agreeing to officially recognize the name change from Cape Kennedy to Cape Canaveral at the national level. The name John F. Kennedy Space Center, NASA remained the same.

Cape Kennedy Air Force Station was subsequently renamed Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), a name it would carry for the next two decades.

Air Force Management Changes Hands At Cape Canaveral

The Air Force Eastern Test Range was deactivated on February 1, 1977. Resources at Patrick Air Force Base were assigned to the 6550th Air Base Group while range activities were assigned to Detachment 1 of the Space and Missile Test Center, based at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

This reorganization was viewed as a temporary cost saving measure only. The immediate result was to place the Eastern Test Range, which retained its name, and the Western Test Range at Vandenberg Air Force Base under the same leadership.

The Eastern Space and Missile Center was activated at Patrick Air Force Base on October 1, 1979 to assume responsibility over all activities at the Eastern Test Range.

On October 1, 1990 the Eastern Space and Missile Center was transferred from Air Force Systems Command to Air Force Space Command, with the goal of establishing a new operational wing to oversee Eastern Test Range operations. The new operational wing was established as the 45th Space Wing on November 12, 1991.

In 1992, Air Force Space Command issued a special order which struck the name "Force" from all Air Force Stations under its command. This was done in an effort to standardize installation names within the Air Force Space Command. As a result, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) was redesignated Cape Canaveral Air Station (CCAS).

On February 4, 2000 Air Force Space Command reversed its 1992 decision with Special Order GB-005, this special order reinstated the word "Force" to all Air Station names under its command.

The decision was made to counter criticism within the Air Force community that "Air Stations" by name did not distinguish Air Force Air Stations from Air Stations in other branches of service, such as Naval Air Stations. The decision was also intended to give named credit to Air Force personnel involved in the day to day operations of each Air Station.

As a result, Cape Canaveral Air Station (CCAS) was redesignated Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), the name it was originally given in 1973.

More Information: Original article