My Mom, the Missile Computress - Issue 63: Horizons

My Mom, the Missile Computress - Issue 63: Horizons

At first, it was hard to attract women to China Lake. Maybe it was the slot machines at the officers’ club; or the taxi to the brothels at the nearby mining town of Red Mountain; or the bikini-clad “pinup” girl in every issue of the Rocketeer, with captions like “Eyes are upon shapely Philippine actress Sonja.” The nearby defunct mining town of Red Mountain advertised itself as a “living ghost town”—complete with women dressed like Old West barmaids and rooms above the bar where you could take them for a little living history. According to the base’s first commander, the men who came to work at China Lake were “war-weary veterans, with nervous disorders and physical problems,” just back from the battlefields of World War II. It was not a place that attracted missile wives.

The navy claimed the Indian Wells Valley in 1943. At the time, it was home to the Desert Kawaiisu and Panamint Shoshone, though Sherman Burroughs, who discovered the land, told the navy there was “no one there.” The valley was full of mining tunnels but not many miners, the Gold Rush having ended decades before. The few miners who remained had turned into what we…
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