History of the 1st Guided Missile Brigade

The Beginnings: History of Rocketry

Mark the year 1232 A.D. – the birth of the tactical rocket: “Arrows of Flying Fire” were used in China to defend the city of Kai-Keng (Kaifeng). Over 700 years later, in 1947, the U.S. Army guided missile was born when the 1st AAA Guided Missile Battalion was formed and launched the first missile fired in the United States by an all-soldier crew.

The missile, rocket-powered and fueled with aniline and liquid oxygen, was the WAC Corporal B; the battalion, the Army’s first guided missile unit, was the forerunner of the 1st Guided Missile Group.

In the seven hundred years between these events, the bow, the arquebus, and the cannon have come and gone; but the rocket persisted. It appeared in Central Europe in the 14th Century and was dormant again. Then, World War II: In quick succession came the German Panzerfaust, the American Bazooka, and the beginnings of long-range artillery missiles. The Third Reich, frustrated by 20 miles of English Channel and 20,000 Allied aircraft, birthed the V-1 and V-2, midwifed and christened “Vengeance Bombs” by Hitler. Over 1,500 of these missiles struck England and the destruction was shocking.

Left: Soldiers pull a V-1 cruise missile to its firing platform. Photograph by Bruno Lysiak. From the Deutsches Bundesarchiv.
Right: A German V-2 lies on its transport trailer prior to firing. From the WSMR Archives.

Meanwhile, the United States had faced British rockets in the War of Independence; tried conventional artillery, experimented with piloted aircraft – rejected both – and come full-circle back to the rocket. Only, this rocket thought for itself; human error, meteorological changes and evasive action were all corrected for by the missile in flight. This is “internal guidance,” distinguishing the guided missile from its rocket predecessors.

With World War II over, newspapers had to be sensational to capture a reading public blasé and jaded by headlines of V-E and V-J Days, Yalta, and the Atomic Bomb, and they turned to guided missiles:

German Scientists to come to supervise experiments on Captured German Missile!

The millennium was upon us; moon travel – why, even space travel was coming. This was 1946, and while flamboyant speculation captured headlines, the First Antiaircraft Guided Missile Battalion quietly evaluated its first four months of operation.

This Dayton Daily News article from 04 December 1946 bears the title “Wright Field Reveals ‘Operation Paperclip.'” Retrieved from newspapers.com.

Robert Goddard, the Father of America Rocketry, was already dead; but from his lifetime of experimentation in private and government research, the United States Army moved to capture missile supremacy. In October of 1944, the report: “Initiation of Army Ground Forces Guided Missile Program,” led to the activation of the first [Anti-Aircraft Artillery] AAA Guided Missile Battalion on 11 October 1945.

8 thoughts on “History of the 1st Guided Missile Brigade

  1. Wonderful article and I enjoyed learning about this unit. I have the same pin that belonged to one of my mothers brothers but it isn’t yellow it is red or burgundy colored. Would this be from another battalion? Any information would be appreciated.

  2. This is a wonderful one and ai enjoyed reading about this battalion. I have the same pin but it is t yellow. It is red or almost burgundy colored. It belonged to one of my mothers 3 brothers but I don’t know where they served or anything about their military careers. Any information or assistance about the pin would be appreciated.

  3. My father served in the 1st AAA Guided Missile Bn. Started out as a machinist and ended up as personnel sgt major before being discharged in ‘46. I’ve been wondering about the graphic with the red and yellow v-2 that appears on the title page of each chapter. Is it an official insignia of the unit?

    1. Good Morning, thank you for your comment! The logo depicted is not an official insignia recognized by the US Army Institute of Heraldry. However, it was used as the unit’s unofficial logo and appeared on several unit history documents from the late-1940s into the 1950s that we have in the museum archives.

      1. Thanks so much! I plan to be at the range for a NASA sounding rocket launch in August. I’d like to learn whatever I can about the early history when my father was there.

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