579th Strategic Missile Squadron
|579th Strategic Missile Squadron|
Convair SM-65F Atlas No. 102, Site 11 Arroyo Macho del, NM 14 October 1962
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Role||Intercontinental ballistic missile|
|Garrison/HQ||Walker AFB, New Mexico|
World War II (EAME Theater)
Distinguished Unit Citation
|579th Strategic Missile Squadron emblem|
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.
World War II
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
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.
- 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
- 392nd Bombardment Group, 26 January 1943 – 13 September 1945; 9 September 1947 – 10 November 1949
- Strategic Air Command, 25 January 1961
- 6th Bombardment (later Strategic Aerospace) Wing, 1 September 1961 – 25 March 1965
- Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona, 26 January 1943
- Biggs Field, Texas, 1 March 1943
- Alamogordo Army Air Field, New Mexico, 18 April-18 July 1943
- RAF Wendling (AAF-118), England, 1 August 1943-c. 7 June 1945
- Charleston Army Airfield, South Carolina, 23 June-13 September 1945
- Selman Field, Louisiana, 9 September 1947 – 10 November 1949
- Walker AFB, New Mexico, 1 September 1961 – 25 March 1965
Aircraft and missiles
- Operated twelve missile sites:
- 579–1 (1962–1963)*, 0.8 mi NW of Acme, NM
- 579–2 (1962–1964)*, 8.1 mi ENE of Acme, NM
- 579–3, 16.1 mi ENE of Acme, NM
- 579–4, 12.7 mi ENE of Rio Hondo, NM
- 579–5 (1962–1964)*, 20.0 mi SE of Acme, NM
- 579–6, 12.4 mi ESE of Hagerman, NM
- 579–7, 4.2 mi E of Hagerman, NM
- 579–8, 7.3 mi S of Hagerman, NM
- 579–9, 2.5 mi ENE of Sunset, NM
- 579–10, 11.2 mi E of Sunset, NM
- 579–11, 6.2 mi W of Arroyo Macho del, NM
- 579–12, 16.7 mi NW of Acme, NM
.* Missile explosion destroyed site (see history text for details)
- Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1983) . 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) . 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.