The 6555th

Chapter One Footnotes

Aeronautical Board
The Aeronautical Board was jointly staffed by the Army Air Forces and the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics. The three officers at the March 7th meeting were Major General Hugh J. Knerr, and Major General H. W. McClellan and Brigadier General William L. Richardson. General Richardson eventually became the first Air Force commander of the Long Range Proving Ground Division (LRPGD) and its successor, the Air Force Missile Test Center (AFMTC).

Other missile programs also disappeared
In December 1946, the guided missile budget for fiscal year (FY) 1947 was reduced from $29 million to approximately $13 million. Eleven missile projects were eliminated, and five more were terminated in May 1947. By the summer of 1947, only the left-overs of the Air Force's Consolidated-Vultee long-range ballistic missile project and eight other missile programs remained. They included two identifiable ballistic missile efforts (e.g., the Navy's Viking project and the Army's Redstone), but, apart from rocket motor research, the Air Force's missile projects centered on airborne tactical missiles and air-breathing winged missiles like the MATADOR.

White Sands Proving Ground
White Sands was a 125-mile-long range set up in 1945 in a high valley north of El Paso, just across the Texas-New Mexico state line. Though the range was only 41 miles wide on the average, it was adequate for WAC-Corporal and V-2 launches. Following the arrival of V-2 components in the summer of 1945, the Army (with the indispensable support of German rocket scientists who had worked on the V-2 at Peenemunde) began launching V-2s from White Sands in early 1946.

This effort involved directing remote-controlled B-17 drone aircraft into radioactive areas to collect air samples shortly after an atomic test.

The FELIX was an air-to-surface guided bomb equipped with a heat-seeking guidance system. The RAZON and TARZON were 1,000-pound and 12,000-pound high-explosive bombs whose tail assemblies were modified to allow a bombardier to radio-control their trajectories (within certain limits) following the bombs' release from an aircraft.

1st Experimental Guided Missiles Group
550th Guided Missiles Wing
Colonel John R. Kilgore, who had been in command of the 1st Group since 13 August 1947, relinquished his command upon his unit's deactivation. Colonel Thomas J. Gent, Jr. assumed command of the 550th Guided Missiles Wing on the date the unit was activated.

The detachment at Point Mugu was formally redesignated the Headquarters, 550th Guided Missiles Wing Detachment on 21 July 1949, but the Holloman detachment was not formally redesignated until 15 November 1949. This was apparently a clerical oversight, since the Holloman detachment had been in place at Alamogordo, New Mexico before the 550th Guided Missiles Wing was activated.

Air Research and Development Command
On behalf of the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Dr. von Karman had asked Dr. Louis N. Ridenour in 1949 to chair a committee to study Air Force research and development activities. The Ridenour Committee submitted its report in September 1949, and this report recommended the creation of a research and development command in addition to a position on the Air Staff for a Deputy Chief of Staff for Research and Development. Major General Orval A. Anderson also directed an Air University study on the subject in 1949, and it echoed the Ridenour report, but in stronger terms: research and development ought to be removed from Air Materiel Command and vested in a single agency for research and development.

weapon systems
The term "weapon system" became part of Wright-Patterson's vocabulary at least several years before the creation of ARDC. Major General Harry J. Sands, Jr. recalled using the "systems approach" for missile development and procurement in the Pilotless Aircraft Branch in the late 1940s. A weapon system was formally described as "an instrument of combat...together with all related equipment both airborne and ground based, the skills necessary to operate the equipment, and the supporting facilities and services required to enable the instrument of combat to be a single unit of striking power in its operational environment." The systems approach considered all the elements of a weapon system when requirements were set down on paper.

Air Materiel Command's job
As Deputy Chief of Staff for Materiel, Lieutenant General Orval R. Cook was given responsibility (within the Air Staff) for overall supervision of Air Force R&D in September 1953. In an effort to improve weapon systems management in ARDC and Air Materiel Command, General Cook formed an advisory group to investigate the concept of "cradle to grave" procurement (i.e., detailed planning for research, development, testing, producing, maintaining, repairing and -- ultimately -- disposing of a weapon system). A key feature of this concept was the "fly before you buy" approach, which insured that an initial production run of aircraft or missiles would be thoroughly tested and declared operationally suitable before the Air Force committed itself to full-scale production and deployment of a weapon system.

3rd Guided Missiles Squadron, Interceptor
The 3rd Guided Missiles Squadron, Interceptor had been activated on 1 July 1950, apparently replacing the 550th's missile detachment at the Long Range Proving Ground. A deactivation order (dated 1 August 1950) indicates that the Detachment, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron of the 550th Guided Missiles Wing at the Long Range Proving Ground was not discontinued until 1 August, but histories of the 1st and 3rd Guided Missiles Squadrons and the 550th Guided Missiles Wing indicate that Major Joseph H. Hamilton (the detachment commander) assumed command of the 3rd Guided Missiles Squadron, Interceptor on either July 1st or July 6th. In any event, the detachment's people, records and equipment were transferred to the 3rd Guided Missiles Squadron. The Squadron's initial muster was 13 officers and 44 airmen and one other officer and 11 airmen were attached to the Squadron to set up a guided missiles school for Air Training Command.

Colonel George M. McNeese
Colonel McNeese frequently assumed command temporarily during Colonel Thomas J. Gent's trips to the 550th's units at Holloman and Patrick in the summer of 1950. McNeese finally assumed command in his own right on 23 October 1950.

inactivated the 550th
As the squadrons' numbers suggest, the old 2nd Guided Missiles Squadron stationed at Holloman became the 4802nd Guided Missile Squadron, and the 3rd Guided Missiles Squadron, Interceptor became the 4803rd Guided Missile Squadron. The 550th Maintenance Squadron was also inactivated on December 29th, but the 550th's movement order to Patrick listed only one officer and one enlisted man from the 550th Maintenance Squadron. It is safe to assume that the rest of the 550th Maintenance Squadron's personnel had been transferred to the 3200th Drone Squadron or some other unit at Eglin before the 550th Guided Missiles Wing departed for Patrick in December.

Lieutenant Colonel Henry B. Sayler
Sayler's detachment at Eglin was not mentioned in the Long Range Proving Ground Division's inactivation order, but it was "established" by the 4800th as Detachment "A" Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron, 4800th Guided Missiles Wing on 30 December 1950. The Wing amended the order on January 26th and made the detachment "Detachment 1".

The LARK was developed by the Fairchild Aircraft Company during World War II as a Navy anti-aircraft missile. With a range of 35 miles and a speed of 300 knots per hour, the 173-inch long LARK was adopted by the Air Force as a training vehicle for personnel who would later become involved with Project BOMARC at Cape Canaveral. The first LARKs fired at Point Mugu required a 450-foot-long ramp, but a zero-length launcher was used with the LARKs fired at Cape Canaveral. Range support requirements were very modest, even by early 1950s standards.

Toward the end of 1946, the Army Ordnance Corps became interested in the concept of a "step-rocket." It asked the General Electric Company to mount a WAC-Corporal missile atop of a German V-2 rocket and launch a series of those hybrid "Bumper" vehicles at the White Sands Proving Ground. Six BUMPER missiles were launched at White Sands in 1948 and 1949, and those flights verified the satisfactory operation of both missile stages and their separation system. Two more flights were planned with relatively low, flat trajectories (i.e., less than 150,000 feet in altitude), but White Sands was too short to accommodate them. The Long Range Proving Ground had the requisite length (250 miles), so BUMPERs 8 and 7 were launched from Cape Canaveral on 24 July and 29 July 1950 respectively. The General Electric Company was responsible for launching the vehicles, and the Army's Ballistic Research Laboratories (Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland) provided instrumentation support. Among the Army and Air Force units that supported the BUMPER flights from the Cape, the 550th Guided Missiles Wing provided several aircraft and crews to monitor the Range for clearance purposes. The Long Range Proving Ground Division provided overall coordination and range clearance.

training course
The course covered the LARK's propulsion and guidance systems. The first graduating class consisted of a dozen Air Training Command personnel who returned to their parent command to establish a school for guided missile technicians.

The MATADOR B-61A "pilotless bomber" was just emerging from its developmental stage in 1951. It was designed as a 650-mile-per-hour winged tactical missile built to carry a 3000-pound conventional or nuclear warhead a distance of approximately 500 miles. The MATADOR utilized a solid propellant rocket bottle as a Rocket Assisted Takeoff (RATO) system to lift itself into the air from a "roadable" zero-length launcher. After the rocket burned out and dropped off, the MATADOR was powered to its target by an Allison J-33 turbojet engine. Tests in the early 1950s included the development of two different guidance systems: the MATADOR Automatic Radar Command "MARC" system and the Short Range Navigation Vehicle "SHANICLE" microwave system. Both systems required ground stations to control the missile's airborne guidance hardware. While the early test version of the missile measured 34 feet, 7 inches long and had a wing span of 23 feet, 4 inches, the production models were 39.6 feet long and measured 28.7 feet from wing-tip to wing-tip.