Black Rock Desert Gunnery Range

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The Black Rock Desert Gunnery Range was in operation in the 1950's and possibly 1940's.

In 1942, several residents were named as defendants in a lawsuit brought by the Federal Government to establish the Black Rock Desert Gunnery Range. The amount of land is listed as 669,700 acres. Named in the suite are Samuel K. Johnstone, Walter A. Johnstone, M?nnie Johnstone, (Johnstone Spring?), Estate of George Sweeney, Edwin E. Van Riper (Van Riper Spring), Ben Cassidy (Cassidy Mine?), Fred Vogel (Vogel Weiss Ranch?), R. R. Whittier, John Doe De Voe, Albert Comes, A. D. Ramel (Red Butte Mining District), Walter L. Lowe, G. R. Simpson, Dorthy M. L. Simpson, and Ed Thompson.[1]

"An undated list of Gunnery Range and Target Area Releases Since World War II by the Twelfth Naval District (12ND) states that the North Range (Lovelock North) of the Lovelock Aerial Gunnery Range consists 676,758 acres of Public Lands and 41,241.34 acres of patented lands. The land was granted to the DoD from the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management(BLM) in a letter dated 13 January 1945. No records pertaining to the usage of this property from 1945 until 1949 were found. A letter Permit from the Department of the Interior dated 22 September 1949 granted 272,000 of the 718,000 acres to the DoD revoking the remaining 446,000 acres, stating that the 272,000 "is all that is available to the Navy." The DoD renamed the 272,000 acres to Black Rock Desert Gunnery Range." (FUDS Site Summary)

The Engle Act of 1958 (Public Law 85-337,H. R. 5538) is "An Act to provide that withdrawals, reservations, or re strictions of more than five -thousand acres of public lands of the United States for certain purposes shall not become effective until approved by Act of Congress, and for other purposes."

However, the act states "nothing in sections 1, 2, or 3 of this Act shall be deemed to be applicable" to "naval gunnery ranges in the State of Nevada designated as Basic Black Rock and Basic Sahwave Mountain."

The BLM has the following Public Land Order 1632 May 7, 1958 "Nevada; withdrawing public lands for use by Navy Department with Black Rock and the Sahwave Aerial Gunnery Ranges," Federal Record Citation: 23 FR 3148.[2]

The Elko Section Chart shows the restricted and caution areas on the front. The Black Rock Desert area (R-266) is north of the WPRR tracks. Sahwave (R-433) is south of the tracks. The entire area is in Fallon No. 1 (C-524) a caution area. The 1954 Pershing County Road Map shows R-266 and R-433.

Elko Sectional Chart Restrictions October 6, 1955
No. Name Activity Controlling Agency Altitude Time
R-266 Black Rock Desert Air-to-Air Gunnery, Rocket, Bombing and Photo Flash Bombs COMNABS 12 To 60,000 1 hr. before sunrise to 1 hr. after sunset, except Sundays
To 15,000 1 hr. after sunset to 0100, except Sunday
R-430 Sahwave Mountains Air-to-Air Gunnery COMNABS 12 Unltd. Unltd.
C-524 Fallon No. 1 Extensive Training NAAS Fallon, Nev. Unlimited 0800-2400

"Altitude given in feet. P - Prohibited R - Restricted C - Caution W - Warning"

"Unauthorized flight is not permitted within a Prohibited Area, or within a Restricted Area during the time of use and between the altitudes noted in the tabulation (Authorization may be granted by the controlling agency or by Executive Order of the President)."

"Flight within Caution Area is not restricted, but pilots are advised to exercise extreme caution."

"Time listed without letter suffix is local time." (COMNAB is an acronym for Commander, Naval Base, 12 is the Twelfth Naval District.)

This 1955 Elko Sectional Aeronautical Chart shows the approximate location of the Black Rock Desert Gunnery Range. The back side of the map has a table titled "U. S. Prohibited, Restricted, Caution and Warning Areas on Elko Sectional Chart". The table states that R-266 is the "Black Rock Desert," which is has the following activities: "Air-to-Air Gunnery, Rocket and Bombing and Photo Flash Bombs."The table states that R-430 is the "Sahwave Mountains," which has the following activities: "Air-to-Air Gunnery." Both areas are used by the COMNABS 12th Naval District and have unlimited altitude and time. The "R" signifies that the areas are Restricted. The table states: "Unauthorized flight is not permitted within a Prohibited Area, or within a Restricted Area during the time of use and between the altitudes notes in the tabulation. (Authorization may be granted by the controlling agency or by Executive Order of the President)."

A 1963 Federal Register entry[3] describes the layout of Sahwave.

See Also

External Resources

  • GNIS: United States Naval Gunnery Range (historical)
    • Citation: "U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, 1:250,000-scale topographic maps; various edition dates. Represents new or changed names from published editions. Map name and year of publication follow (if known): Lovelock/1962" The 1:250,000 Vya/1962 map also shows the US Naval Gunnery Range]
    • Coordinates (One point per USGS topographic map containing the feature, NAD83)
    • Sequence Latitude(DEC) Longitude(DEC) Latitude(DMS) Longitude(DMS) Map Name
    • 1 40.4916667 -119.0111111 402930N 1190040W Twin Buttes Well
    • 2 40.9166667 -119.1666667 405500N 1191000W Mormon Dan Peak
    • 3 40.9166667 -119.0002778 405500N 1190001W Black Rock Point West
    • 4 40.9166667 -118.9997222 405500N 1185959W Black Rock Point East
    • 5 40.9166667 -118.8333333 405500N 1185000W Rabbithole NE
    • 6 40.8747222 -118.9997222 405229N 1185959W Cholona
    • 7 40.8747222 -119.0002778 405229N 1190001W Trego Hot Springs
    • 8 40.8747222 -119.1666667 405229N 1191000W Trego
    • 9 40.6252778 -119.1666667 403731N 1191000W Dry Mountain NW
    • 10 40.6252778 -119.0002778 403731N 1190001W Dry Mountain
    • 11 40.6252778 -118.9997222 403731N 1185959W Sheep Spring
    • 12 40.6252778 -118.8747222 403731N 1185229W Dead Horse Canyon NE
    • 13 40.5002778 -118.8747222 403001N 1185229W Juniper Canyon
    • 14 40.5002778 -118.9997222 403001N 1185959W Dead Horse Canyon
    • 15 40.5002778 -119.0002778 403001N 1190001W Eagle Rock Spring
    • 16 40.5002778 -119.1252778 403001N 1190731W Tenmile
    • 17 40.4997222 -119.1252778 402959N 1190731W Betty Creek
    • 18 40.4997222 -118.9997222 402959N 1185959W Seven Troughs NW
    • 19 40.4997222 -118.8747222 402959N 1185229W Seven Troughs

Military Crashes

  • "Reno Evening Gazette," February 7, 1941. Four engine bomber crashes on the west slope of the Trinity Range. p. 16 says that it passed low over Alex Ranson's mine, 30 miles north of Fernley. It passed directly over the dry lake bed on the desert floor.
    • states that the pilot was R. S. Freeman, and that the plane was a B-17B, 38-216, 19 miles west of Lovelock.
    • Wikipedia states: "Boeing B-17B Flying Fortress, 38-216, c/n 2009,[63] crashes near Lovelock, Nevada while en route to Wright Field, Ohio, killing all eight on board. Pilot Capt. Richard S. Freeman had shared the 1939 MacKay Trophy for the Boeing B-15 flight from Langley Field, Virginia via Panama and Lima, Peru at the request of the American Red Cross, for delivering urgently needed vaccines and other medical supplies in areas of Chile devastated by an earthquake. General Order Number 10, dated 3 March 1943, announces that the advanced flying school being constructed near Seymour, Indiana is to be named Freeman Field in honor of the Hoosier native.Joe Baugher
    • Wreck Chasing Article
  • May 5, 1955: Near Jackson Ranch
    • Derrel S. Fulwider, "From Resource Management to People Management: Reflections of a Federal Land Manager," p 5-7, Winter-Spring 1986, The Humboldt Historian. Discussion of DeLong Ranch and the Gunnery Range, includes a map of the range and a photo of a helicopter recovering bodies from the May 5, 1945 crash that killed three Navy fliers 6 miles from the Jackson Ranch.
    • However, the 1945 is probably a typo as the photograph is of a Piasecki H-25, which was first introduced in 1949. In addition there is an article: "Plane Blast Fatal to 3,"p. May 6, 1955, Los Angeles Times. The article states that a twin engine navy target plane similar to a B-26 crashed after a Banshee hit the tow cable. One of the four parachuted and survived, three were killed. The Banshee landed with a gash in its wing at Fallon.
    • Reno Evening Gazette, "Plane Down in Humboldt," p. 1, May 5, 1955. Search aircraft spotted one survivor. Four Banshees reported that the tow plane was turning and went into a sharp spin. This article says that there were four enlisted men and one petty officer aboard. The article states that the plane went down about 55 miles north west of Winnemucca.
    • "Three Killed at Navy Base," May 6, 1955, Daily Herald, Provo, Utah. The plane was a Navy JD1, similar to an Air Force B26.
    • "Navy Identifies 3 Crash Victims," p. 25, May 9, 1955, Stars And Stripes.
      • Ralph Yanes, 32, chief air controlman, pilot of San Diego.
      • Ronald Sweringen, 22, aviation machinist mate airman, Corpus Christie, Texas.
      • Charles M. Morris, 24 of Lexington, VA.
      • The survivor was Stanley Dobeck Jr., 20 of Woonsocket, RI.
  • August 31, 1955: Imlay
    • Los Angeles Times, "Jet Crashes Into Desert, Burns; Pilot Parachutes," September 1, 1955, p.35
      • On August 31, a Navy FJ3 Fury crashed and burned "in the desert near the Black Rock gunnery Range" The pilot was Lt. (j.g.) Jack Jennette Jr. His mother resided at 4446 Cromwell Ave., Los Angeles
    • "Navy Jet Plane Crashes, Burns Near Imlay," Nevada State Journal, September 1, 1955, p1.
      • The pilot's name is reported as Jack Jeanette and that it was not known if the plane was on a mission to the Black Rock Gunnery Range. Jeanette bailed out after reporting a rough running engine.
    • North American Aircraft FJ-1 thru FJ-4 Fury Losses and Ejections states that "Jennett" ejected from two planes that summer.
    • lists a plane that was written off on the same day: FJ-3 Bureau Number 135929, 1955: VF-214.

  • June 10, 1957: "The plane crashed on the remote range several miles from where Briggs fell to his death"
    • "Navy Pilot Fall to Death," Reno Evening Gazette, June 10, 1957, p. 15. Lt. (jg) Robert R. Briggs of Silver Springs, MD was making his first gunnery practice run over Black Rock bombing range. The engine of his F9F Cougar flamed out and he ejected at 5000 feet. His parachute failed to open.
    • Unit: 141118, Based: VF-94
    • "Parachute Fails, Pilot Dies," June 11, 1957, p. 25, New York Times. Very short article.
  • October 3, 1957: On Jackson Mountain, 50 miles west of Winnemucca.
    • Reno Evening Gazette, "Navy Helicopter Down in Humboldt," p. 21, October 3, 1957. A helicopter went down near in the Jackson Creek area. (From History of Use for Roads in the Jackson Mountain Area, Nevada, p. 74.)
    • The aircraft was a "Navy, Sikorsky HO4S, Bureau Number 138513. The aircraft had flown from NAS Fallon to the De Long Ranch to investigate the death of cattle ostensibly from stray rounds from the gunnery range. While proceeding east from the ranch the HO4S suffered engine failure and made a semi-controlled landing. All four occupants escaped but, the hot exhaust caught brush on fire and the helicopter was consumed in the blaze." (Source: Craig59 on Wreckchasing)
  • October 25, 1967, a Lockheed SR-71A 61-7965 (Article 2016) crashed during night training near Lovelock. The pilot and RSO ejected safely. This is near the Sahwave area.
    • From the Lovelock Aerial Gunnery Range Wikipedia page " Crickmore, Paul F. (1997). Lockheed's Blackbirds: A-12, YF-12 and SR-71. Wings of Fame. Volume 8. Westport, Connecticut: AIRtime Publishing Inc. p. 92. ISBN 1-880588-23-4. "25 Oct 1967 SR-71A #965 crashed near Lovelock, NV after ANS failure, 2nd SR lost by 9 SRW, USAF Pilot/RSO: Roy St.Martin/ John Carnochan (crew E-18) ok (LSB; SME; LSW)" (quote from "A-12, YF-12A, & SR-71 Timeline of Events")
    • The X Hunters site states that the aircraft crashed "in the Trinity Range north of Lovelock, Nevada.

Historical Resources

  • Pershing County Road Map, 1954
  • Nevada tourist highway map (1955?) shows the Black Rock Desert as a "Danger Area." The Sahwave is not named, but labelled as "Travel Restricted" and "Danger Area". Highway 48 through Vernon travels through the area.
  • Official highway map of the state of Nevada (1955) shows the Black Rock Desert as a "Danger Area." The Sahwave is not named, but labelled as "Travel Restricted" with an arrow to Highway 48. The entire Sahwave is labeled as "Danger Area". Vernon is shown as being outside the "Danger Area", though Highway 48 passes through it.
  • United Press, "State Planning Board Asked to Investigate Navy's Plan To Take Over Bombing Range," October 16, 1955, Nevada State Journal.
  • "Shell Highway Map of Nevada," 1956, 6-DD-1956-1. Shows "Restricted Area" for the Black Rock Gunnery Range, but nothing is shown for the Sahwave.
  • Peggy Trego, "Highway 48 Remains Open For Travel, Long May it Waver: It takes you from Lovelock to Black Rock," Nevada State Journal, March 29, 1956. The 1956 Nevada Highways map showed highway 48 as restricted. Garrett Ranch was said to be a possible Navy HQ location.
  • Nell Murbarger, "Navy Land Grab in Nevada's Black Rock Country," Desert Magazine, October 1956.
  • "Navy Claims Water Right In Nevada," p. 9, The Washington Post and Times Herald, Feb 16, 1956. The Navy claims water rights at Hawthorne, Rep. Homer Budge to introduce legislation to forbid the creation of new military reservations. The Navy general counsel proposed negotiations with the Interior dept. about excluding water rights on the pending withdrawals for the "Black Rock and Sahwave firing ranges."
  • Serial Set Vol. No. 11901, Session Vol. No.5 84th Congress, 2nd Session H.Rpt. 2856. July 21, 1956 "Title: Providing that withdrawals or reservations of more than 5,000 acres of public lands of the United States for certain purposes shall not become effective until approved by act of Congress. July 21, 1956. -- Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union and ordered to be printed."
  • Harrison Humphries, "AF Accused of Waste In Use of Public Lands," p B7, The Washington Post and Times Herald, March 23, 1957. Mentions 2,800,000 acre proposal to use Black Rock- Sahwave Mountain area and suggests that it may be reduced.
  • Sanger, K.J. 1958 Letter from the Chief of Naval Operations, West Coast Weapons Training Requirements, dated 30 January 1958. Record Group 181, Box 9, Real Property Records, 1952-1960. National Archives, Pacific Sierra Region, San Bruno, California. Found on p. 81 of "Tonopah Bombing Range Archives Search Report Findings," August 31, 2001. Basic Black Rock had a capacity of 7300 sorties and the Navy was committed to giving it up if Extended Sahwave was available. However, there was the possibility of using Basic Black Rock for air-to-ground training.
  • Desert Magazine, "Here and There on the Desert," October, 1958. The Navy conducted firing practice for the first time since the end of WWII over the Basic Sahwave air-to-air gunnery range. Is this south of the Black Rock Desert Gunnery Range?. The source is given as the Lovelock Review Miner.
  • Elko Sectional Chart," 1959, UNLV. Information about restrictions for the ranges.
  • Humboldt County, 1960, Zone 2 shows a portion of the range.
  • Official highway map of Nevada (1963-1964) does not show the Black Rock Desert as restricted. However, the unnamed Sahwave is marked as "Danger Area" and "Travel Restricted" on 48.
  • Official highway map of Nevada (1965-1966) shows no restrictions in either the Black Rock Desert nor Sahwave.
  • "List of the U.S. Military Installations Affected By Secretary McNamara's Cutback Order," p. 28, New York Times, November 20, 1964. Sahwave closed by July 1966.
  • The Bulletin (Bend and Deschutes counties, Oregon), "Nevada Won't Back Withdrawl," June 20, 1986. The Oregon Air National Guard wanted to lower the military ceiling in a 900 square mile in northern Washoe County.