History of the 1st Guided Missile Brigade

1st Guided Missile Group

The 1st AAA Guided Missile Battalion was formed from conventional antiaircraft battalions and a detachment of men on temporary duty at Fort Miles, Delaware, where they had been working in AAA missile test firing. The mission was varied, as must be the case for such a prototype unit. Included, with coordination with technical agencies of the government in connection with test firing, was the mission to develop doctrine for the tactical employment of ground-launched guided missiles and to submit recommendations for the organization and equipment tables to be adopted in its own growth.

The 1st AAA Guided Missile Battalion was redesignated the 1st Guided Missile Battalion on 4 June 1947; the 1st Guided Missile Regiment on 21 April 1948; and finally, the 1st Guided Missile Group on 26 August 1950. Meanwhile, work had continued on the new American missiles as well as on the old German ones. Detachments of the Group had temporary duty in such varied locales as Fort Miles, Delaware; Inyokern, California; Holly Ridge, North Carolina; White Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico; Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; China Lake, California; and Magu, California. The mission was little changed in this period, but to aid in surface-to-air missile training, it was decided to add a detachment of Radio-Controlled Aerial Targets (RCAT) to the Group. The first surface-to-air missile that the Group fired was the Lark on 25 July 1951; and from the German V-1 came the Army Loon a surface-to-surface missile, first fired by the Group the same year.

Still another reorganization of the Group in 15 May 1953 gave it three battalions- the 1st, 2nd, and 495th Guided Missile Battalions- an RCAT detachment, and Red Canyon Range Camp. By then, the Group and its antecedent units had fired a bewildering array of missiles: Aerobee, Corporal, Hermes, Nike, V-1, V-2, Deacon, Viking, MX771 [Matador], MX775 [Snark], MX776 [Navaho], Honest John, Loki, T-52 JATO [Jet-Assisted Take-Off], LaCrosse, Loon, Talos, Lark, Pre-Terrier and Terrier, WAC Corporal, and WAC Corporal ‘Bumper Project” rounds.

An MGM-18 Lacrosse tactical missile on its launcher sits on the range at White Sands. WSMR photo.

Starting in September of 1953, 1st Group initiated the Army’s first guided missile package training. This training, one of the Group’s present missions, consists of the training of the nucleus of guided missile units-to-be. Trainees are given an eight-week course as guided missile system operators. These trainees, now called Troop Trained Specialists (TTS) augmented by a core of officers and school trained maintenance specialists, train together for an additional eight weeks under 1st Group here at Fort Bliss to complete the sixteen-week package training cycle. All training is done on new equipment which goes with the package when it leaves to go “on site.” Scores of these packages have been trained and many package rounds have been fired under the supervision of 1st Group personnel at Red Canyon and McGregor Range Camps. Training of overseas packages is now under way.

In 1954, 1st Group added the mission of the support of Annual Service Practice (ASP) for surface-to-air units of ARAFCOM. By March of 1957, when that mission was transferred with Red Canyon Range Camp to 2nd Guided Missile Group, the 1st Group had supported the firing of hundreds of these ASP rounds.

With the awakening if greater interest and emphasis on nation-wide AAA defense in the early 1950’s, a definite need was felt for 1st Group to have a firing range close to the Group headquarters at Fort Bliss. Studies were made in the old McGregor Ranch area, some thirty miles north and east of Fort Bliss. In the summer of 1955, a Project Officer was appointed to finalize the projected range requirements. After approval by Congress, work began on McGregor Range Camp. All construction at the range has been designed specially to meet the needs of this unusual post. McGregor Range Camp began operation on 1 Mar 1957, at the same time that Red Canyon left 1st Group, and now handles all of the firings conducted by the group.

In addition to the primary mission of providing TTS and package training in the Nike Ajax surface-to-air missile, 1st Group has separate missions under conditions of international or domestic emergencies.

Since April of 1953, when the present 1st Group was formed, the following officers have been in command: Col. O.T. Forman, Col. D. A. O’Conner, Col. A. G. Kiel, Col. F.M. McGoldrick, and the present commander, Col. R.A. Tate.

Presently, then, organized under a Table of Distribution, the 1st Guided Missile Group consists of [Headquarters and Headquarters Battery]; 1st Guided Missile Battalion; 2nd Guided Missile Battalion; McGregor Range Camp; and an RCAT Battery, organized from the old RCAT detachment.

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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