259th Field Artillery Missile Battalion
The 259th Field Artillery Missile Battalion is an outgrowth of the old 259th Field Artillery Battalion. The original 259th, a regular unit in World War II, activated at Camp Swift, Texas on 25 January 1943. The four Campaign streamers which are now an integral part of the battalion colors were awarded for participation in the campaign of Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Rhineland and Central Europe. The unit returned to the United States and was inactivated at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on 10 March 1946. The unit then remained dormant until 15 March, 1952, when, due to the conflict in Korea, it was activated at Fort Bliss, Texas. This time, it was a new and powerful addition to the Field Artillery: A Guided Missile Battalion. In this new role its first commander was Major Lawrence E. Lindstrom, who later became S-3 when Lieutenant Colonel Edwin H. Druley assumed command.
The new unit remained active on paper only until the summer of 1953, when men and equipment began to pour into Fort Bliss to fill the ranks. Now the unit was more than just a unit on paper; it was a full-fledged battalion ready for training and equipped for any task that might come its way.
These tasks were not long in coming, and after extensive training around the “boon-docks” at Nations East Well, Texas, the 259th was ready to fire missiles. In June of 1954 the battalion moved to Red Canyon, New Mexico, the site selected to fire their first missile. On June 22, 1954 this new type of weapon was launched by the 259th with great success. Then, to prove it could be done again, it successfully fired three more on 29 June, 2 July and 13 July. The battalion later fired six more near White Sands Proving Ground.
In August of 1954, the 259th was alerted for duty with the Seventh U.S. Army in Europe. This was another first for the Field Artillery, a surface-to-surface missile in support of ground forces of the field army, a new concept in warfare. The unit arrived at the Kaserne in Mainz, Germany, in early February 1955. This was the home station for over a year. While in Europe, the 259th participated in several large field exercises, command post exercises, and demonstrations. This was something new in the Army, and as a result, visiting dignitaries and VIPs were frequently seen around the Kaserne, observing training, equipment, and other points of interest. Demonstrations became common procedure for the 259th since it was the first of its kind in Europe; it was something to be “shown off.” The battalion was the first missile battalion to cross the Rhine River on combat type bridging.
In April 1956, the 259th was ordered back to Fort Bliss, Texas to be converted into a single fire unit, Type II, missile battalion. The Battalion departed Germany 24 April 1956 and arrived back in the United States in 2 May 1956, having made a pleasant trip on the USNS Darby.
In June 1956 the battalion started its first training program under its new Table of Organization and Equipment and commenced post cycle training in July under the command of Major John T. Elliott. From July to October, the battalion participated in the normal inspections, parades, and undertook some very intensive training. In November, the battalion fired three missiles at OroGrande, New Mexico and returned to Fort Bliss after having a successful mission.
After observing the Christmas holiday, the battalion again started intensive training in preparation for the Army Training Test. In February the test was administered and a rating of High Excellent was attained. During this test, the battalion was acutely short of men.
Upon completion of the test the unit began preparing the old buildings at OroGrande Range Camp for habitation. The buildings, formerly mess halls, were converted to barracks, a day room was furnished, a theater and TV room was set up, a post exchange, barber shop, dispensary arranged for, and everything scrubbed and painted in a period of about ten days. Then began the exacting task of playing host to missile battalions returning from stations in various parts of the globe as they came back to the Southwest to fire their annual allotment of training missiles.
The 259th, now under the able leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Frank Duda, set about this task with its usual willingness. There were many tasks in addition to the renovation of the range camp itself. A firing site had to be prepared for permanent occupation, with launcher and radar positions surveyed to save the visitors time and permit them to concentrate on the actual preparation and firing of missiles. For the same reason, it was necessary to construct a vast and complicated communication network in both the firing area and at the administrative network in both the firing area and at the administrative range camp.
This mission, like that in Europe, is a first. As a result, again the 259th plays host to many distinguished visitors. They come to us for many reasons, some to learn how to work with the missile, some to observe the procedures necessary to shoot, and others who, for the first time, have the opportunity to see this potent and accurate weapon fired into the sky, rise on its tail of flame, tip toward the target and disappear into the stratosphere, headed for the target many miles away.
However, playing host to visiting individuals was but a small portion of the job. The main mission; to welcome the guest battalions, turn over to them workable equipment, and assist them in every way to accomplish their mission. This includes feeding at odd hours, that excellent food for which the mess hall had become noted.
Primarily, the 259th must be able to shoot. This ability was demonstrated, with superior results, on 14 June 1957, when, using new and previously untried procedures, and shooting a demonstration for the West Point Cadets, its missile nearly obliterated the target many miles down range.
The officers and men of the 259th are a proud group. They have overcome difficulties and hardships and have turned in a performance of none less than superior.
This was evidenced in the words of the Brigade Commander, Brigadier General John T. Snodgrass, at the last 1st Guided Missile Brigade Command Inspection, when he told the assembled battalion; “I have not, in or out of garrison, seen a finer formation. This battalion has shown in its morale, its willingness to undertake any task, no matter how difficult, that the motto on its unit crest is truly its byword, Strength for Liberty.”