579th Strategic Missile Squadron

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579th Strategic Missile Squadron
Convair SM-65F Atlas 102 579 SMS Site 11f Arroyo Macho del NM 14 Oct 1962.jpg
Convair SM-65F Atlas No. 102, Site 11 Arroyo Macho del, NM 14 October 1962
Active1943–1949; 1961–1965
CountryUnited States
Branch United States Air Force
TypeSquadron
RoleIntercontinental ballistic missile
Garrison/HQWalker AFB, New Mexico
EngagementsEuropean-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Streamer.jpg
World War II (EAME Theater)
DecorationsStreamer PUC Army.PNG
Distinguished Unit Citation
Insignia
579th Strategic Missile Squadron emblem579th Strategic Missile Squadron - SAC - Emblem.png

The 579th Strategic Missile Squadron (579 SMS) is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to the 6th Strategic Aerospace Wing, stationed at Walker AFB, New Mexico

On 1 September 1961, the 579th Strategic Missile Squadron (ICBM-Atlas) went on alert as a Strategic Air Command (SAC) Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) squadron, being equipped with the SM-65F Atlas, with a mission of nuclear deterrence.

The squadron was inactivated as part of the phaseout of the Atlas ICBM on 25 March 1965.

History[edit]

World War II[edit]

"War Horse" Ford B-24H-1-FO Liberator s/n 42-7479 579th BS, 392nd BG, 8th AF This aircraft was lost on 4 January 1944 mission to Kiel,Germany. It is believed that she went down over the North Sea and the entire crew was KIA.

Established as a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber squadron; trained under Second Air Force. Deployed to European Theater of Operations (ETO), assigned to VIII Bomber Command in England, Flew combat missions over Nazi Germany and Occupied Europe until the German capitulation in May 1945. Most personnel demobilized in England immediately after the end of the war in Europe, Squadron returned to the United States with a small headquarters staff and was planned to be re-equipped and remanned as a B-29 Superfortress squadron. Japanese capitulation canceled plans and was inactivated as a paper unit in the United States during September 1945.

Effective 15 September 1947, the squadron was activated at Selman Field, Louisiana. Having been allotted to the organized reserves, with assignment to Twelfth Air Force, Tactical Air Command. It was equipped with A-26 Invader light bombers. It was reassigned to Continental Air Command on 1 December 1948. It remained on reserve service until being inactivated on 10 November 1949 due to budget restrictions.

Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Squadron[edit]

Reactivated in 1961 as a Strategic Air Command SM-65F Atlas ICBM launch squadron, stationed at Walker AFB, New Mexico and assigned to the 6th Bombardment (later Strategic Aerospace) Wing on 1 July 1961.

The squadron was assigned twelve missiles, based in a 1 x 12 configuration: twelve independent widely dispersed launch sites comprised the missile squadron. In August 1962, the first Atlas F was placed on alert status. In October, all 12 missiles were put on alert status as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Atlas F was the final and most advanced version of the Atlas ICBM and was stored in a vertical position inside underground concrete and steel silos. When stored, the Atlas F sat atop an elevator. If a missile was placed on alert, it was fueled with RP-1 (kerosene) liquid fuel, which could be stored inside the missile for extended periods. If a decision was made to launch the missile, the missile was raised to the surface and the liquid oxygen tank was filled. The launch would occur shortly after completion of this process.

The exposure on the surface that this procedure entailed was the great weakness of the Atlas F. It was exposed and vulnerable during this time. The Titan II and Minuteman missiles could be launched from within their silos, thereby eliminating this vulnerability. Also, since the Titan did not use a cryogenic fuel or oxidizer, and the Minuteman was a solid fuel rocket, they could be stored fully fueled and ready to launch within a very few minutes. The squadron's sites developed a notorious reputation due to three missile explosions. On 1 June 1963, launch complex 579-1 was destroyed during a propellant loading exercise. On 13 February 1964, an explosion occurred during another propellant loading exercise, destroying launch complex 579-5. Again, a month later, on 9 March 1964, silo 579-2 fell victim to another explosion that occurred during a propellant loading exercise. Fortunately, these missiles were not mated with their warheads at the time of the incidents. The only injury reported was that of a crewman running into barbed wire as he fled a site. (see below for site details).

Missiles were retired and removed in early 1965 in favor of the more advanced LGM-25C Titan II; squadron was inactivated on 25 March. Missile sites were later sold off to private ownership after demilitarization. Today the remains of the sites are still visible in aerial imagery, in various states of use or abandonment.

Lineage[edit]

  • Constituted 579th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 15 January 1943
Activated on 26 January 1943
Inactivated on 13 September 1945
  • Redesignated 579th Bombardment Squadron (Very Heavy) on 13 August 1947
Activated in the reserve on 9 September 1947
Redesignated 579th Bombardment Squadron (light) on 27 June 1949
Inactivated on 10 November 1949
  • Redesignated 579th Strategic Missile Squadron (ICBM-Atlas), and activated, on 25 January 1961
Organized on 1 September 1961
Inactivated on 25 March 1965

Assignments[edit]

Stations[edit]

Aircraft and missiles[edit]

SM-65F Atlas Missile Sites
Operated twelve missile sites:
579–1 (1962–1963)*, 0.8 mi NW of Acme, NM 33°35′52″N 104°20′27″W / 33.59778°N 104.34083°W / 33.59778; -104.34083
579–2 (1962–1964)*, 8.1 mi ENE of Acme, NM 33°38′27″N 104°12′10″W / 33.64083°N 104.20278°W / 33.64083; -104.20278
579–3, 16.1 mi ENE of Acme, NM 33°41′17″N 104°04′29″W / 33.68806°N 104.07472°W / 33.68806; -104.07472
579–4, 12.7 mi ENE of Rio Hondo, NM 33°25′31″N 104°11′17″W / 33.42528°N 104.18806°W / 33.42528; -104.18806
579–5 (1962–1964)*, 20.0 mi SE of Acme, NM 33°25′24″N 104°02′54″W / 33.42333°N 104.04833°W / 33.42333; -104.04833
579–6, 12.4 mi ESE of Hagerman, NM 33°04′24″N 104°07′12″W / 33.07333°N 104.12000°W / 33.07333; -104.12000
579–7, 4.2 mi E of Hagerman, NM 33°06′16″N 104°15′29″W / 33.10444°N 104.25806°W / 33.10444; -104.25806
579–8, 7.3 mi S of Hagerman, NM 33°00′15″N 104°20′22″W / 33.00417°N 104.33944°W / 33.00417; -104.33944
579–9, 2.5 mi ENE of Sunset, NM 33°21′17″N 105°02′07″W / 33.35472°N 105.03528°W / 33.35472; -105.03528
579–10, 11.2 mi E of Sunset, NM 33°22′21″N 104°52′59″W / 33.37250°N 104.88306°W / 33.37250; -104.88306
579–11, 6.2 mi W of Arroyo Macho del, NM 33°35′58″N 104°34′33″W / 33.59944°N 104.57583°W / 33.59944; -104.57583
579–12, 16.7 mi NW of Acme, NM 33°43′47″N 104°34′05″W / 33.72972°N 104.56806°W / 33.72972; -104.56806

.* Missile explosion destroyed site (see history text for details)

See also[edit]

Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

  • Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1983) [1961]. Air Force Combat Units of World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-02-1. LCCN 61060979.
  • Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1982) [1969]. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-405-12194-6. LCCN 70605402. OCLC 72556.
  • https://web.archive.org/web/20070914081528/http://www.vandenberg.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=4581