Bombs, Bulls-eyes and a New National Monument

What does a WWII pilot riding in a Beechcraft Bonanza, massive bullseye targets in the desert, and a presidential order have in common? They’re all part of the newly established Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico.

Long before President Obama declared those 500,000 acres near Las Cruces protected, LightHawk and New Mexico Wilderness Alliance took WWII veteran Bill Greenberg over the terrain he knew so well.

LightHawk volunteer pilot flies WWII veteran Bill Greenberg. Nathan Small/NMWA/LightHawkw
LightHawk volunteer pilot flies WWII veteran Bill Greenberg. Nathan Small/NMWA/LightHawk

Bombardier cadets stationed at the Deming Air Base in the early 1940s honed their skills on large bulls-eyes graded into the desert floor. “Cadets had to sign an oath not to reveal the object of their training, the secret Norden bomb sight,” says LightHawk volunteer pilot Richard Hoover who flew Greenberg. “The Norden sight was a major factor in the U.S. bombing success rate in both Europe and the Pacific theater.”

Many of these aerial targets can still be seen within the newly protected Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. Flights over these targets with the veteran pilot and several media representatives helped spread the word about the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

Bullseye bombing target in the now protected Organ Mountains-Desert Peak National Monument. Nathan Small/NMWA/LightHawk
Bullseye bombing target in the now protected Organ Mountains-Desert Peak National Monument. Nathan Small/NMWA/LightHawk

“From a campaign and education standpoint, the flights were a home run for us,” said Jeff Steinborn of NMWA. “Not only were we able to help educate our community regarding the presence of the targets, but also make a more effective case for preservation of them with our congressional leaders.  The addition of flying a WW II vet over the targets who had trained on them seventy years ago, proved to also be an invaluable resource for gaining incredible coverage of the trip as well as a new messenger for preservation.”

“I flew with no preconceived ideas of what I might see,” said reporter Steve Ramirez of the Las Cruces News, “So, the flight was very beneficial to me. It let me see things I’d never seen before. Lighthawk, and the New Mexico Wildnerness Alliance, made this pristine and remote area available to public view in a scope and scale that had never been seen before. Without [them], this wouldn’t have been possible.”

Read what New Mexico Wilderness Alliance has to say about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

After spending a year and four days in the extreme cold and white of Antarctica, I came back to the world a changed person. My passion is to share stories of people doing extraordinary things and I've done that since 2008 as the chief storyteller for LightHawk. LightHawk is a unique non-profit that grants flights to conservation groups through a network of volunteer pilots. Nearly everyday LightHawk donates educational, scientific and photography flights covering the U.S., Mexico, Central America and parts of Canada. LightHawk volunteer pilots, aircraft and resources help to tip the balance toward sustainability for every major environmental issue within our targeted areas of focus. My favorite part of flying at 1,000 feet in a small aircraft is seeing how that perspective changes how people see their communities and empowers them to take positive action on behalf of conservation. Taking off is pretty cool too.

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