Legendary New Mexico: Military Factoids

65-mile Death March

In World War II, approximately 1,800 men from the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery Regiment from New Mexico were part of the 75,000 were forced to become prisoners of war.  The POWs were soon forced to make the 65-mile trek – with no food or water – to confinement camps throughout the Philippines, which became known as the Bataan Death March. 987 New Mexicans survived the march.

Top-Secret Honoree

Hiroshi Miyamura was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in April 1951, during the Korean War.  He was the first Medal of Honor to be classified top-secret. Miyamura was captured by the North Koreans but not before killing more than 50 enemy personnel and thus saving the lives of his squad. The United States classified his honor to save his life while he was a POW.

Code Name: “Trinity”

In July 1945, the White Sands Proving Ground was established for testing German and American long-range rockets. On July 16 at 5:29 am, the first atomic bomb test, code named “Trinity” was exploded at the Trinity site, near the north boundary of the range. Today White Sands Missile Range is the largest installation in the United States.

Coded Messages

Navajo Code Talkers used their knowledge of Native American languages as a basis to transmit coded messages during World War II. Code talkers transmitted these messages over military telephone or radio communications using formal or informally developed codes built upon their native languages. If not for the Navajos, the marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.

2008, Afghanistan

New Mexico Medal of Honor recipient Leroy Petry was born and raised in Santa Fe. He wanted to join the military since he was seven years old.  Petry lost his right hand in Afghanistan in 2008 after picking up a live grenade and tossing it away to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. He received the honor in 2011 from President Barack Obama.

Kirtland

Construction of the Albuquerque Army Air Base began in January 1941. The army air base provided advanced flying training and became Kirtland Air Force Base in February 1942. The based was named for Colonel Roy C. Kirtland who was among the first American military aviators. The base is the third largest installation in Air Force Global Strike Command and sixth largest in the Air Force.

“Gettysburg of the West”

In northern New Mexico, just southwest of Santa Fe, the Battle of Glorieta Pass took place on March 26th, 27th and 28th in 1862. It was dubbed the “Gettysburg of the West”, a crucial battle to the New Mexico campaign during the American Civil War. The battle forced the confederates to withdraw entirely from New Mexico, back into confederate Arizona, and then Texas.

Holloman

Alamogordo Army Airfield was the second Air Force installation equipped with aprons, runways, taxiways and hangars. From 1942–1945 the Alamogordo Army Airfield had more than 20 different groups for overseas training, initially with Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses then consolidated B-24 Liberators.  In 1948 it turned into Holloman Air Force Base, after Col. George Holloman, a native of Rich Square, North Carolina, who was a pioneer in early rocket and pilot-less aircraft research.