The MGR-1 "Honest John" rocket was the first nuclear-capable surface-to-surface rocket in the US
In May of 1950, the Chief of Ordnance (OCO) assigned Redstone Arsenal responsibility for a preliminary
design study of a special purpose, large caliber field artillery rocket which would later be known as the
In August of 1950, Army Chief of Staff directed the Chief of Ordnance to proceed with a limited firing
program to investigate the performance characteristics of a large caliber, free flight rocket capable of
delivering an atomic warhead.
In the fall, preliminary design work on the large caliber field rocket began. An important policy decision
provided for the maximum use of available "on-the-shelf" hardware as a means of reducing costs and
In September, Chief of Ordnance established the Large Caliber Field Rocket project with a DA Priority lA.
By October, initial design studies were completed and work on the fabrication of five feasibility
demonstration models of the Large Caliber Field Rocket were under way.
Designated Artillery Rocket XM31, the first such missile was tested in 1951, and deployed in January
1953. The designator was changed to M31 in September, 1953 and were deployed in Europe several
months later. It is important to note that alternatively, the missile was designed to be capable of carrying
ordinary high-explosive warheads, even though that was not the primary purpose for which it was
The M31 consisted of a truck-mounted, unguided, solid-fueled rocket that was transported in three
separate parts that were combined in the field, mounted on an M289 launcher, and aimed and fired in
about 5 minutes. The rockets were originally outfitted with a W7 dial-a-yield nuclear warhead with a yield
of up to 20 kilotons, and later a W31 warhead with a yield of up to 40 kt. They had a range between 5.5
km (3.4 miles) and 24.8 km (15.4 miles).
The 8th U.S. Army Field Artillery Detachment was activated at Fort Sill, OK in December, 1961 as the 8th
U.S. Army Missile Detachment. After successfully completing training, the 8th USAFAD arrived in
Germany in June 1962. The unit was assigned to the 552nd U.S. Army Artillery Group and temporarily
located with the 26th U.S. Army Detachment.
The 8th was permanently located in Darp/Havelte, NL, and was one of only two detachments located in
the Netherlands. The other, the 23rd, was in t' Harde.
The 552nd U.S. Army Artillery Group was activated in August 1943 at Fort Bragg, N.C. as the 552nd
Field Artillery Battalion.
The battalion deployed to Europe and participated in five campaigns during World War II.
Following the cessation of hostilities, the battalion returned to the United States and was inactivated at
Camp Myles Standish, MA in November 1945.
The 552nd was re-designated as the 471st Field Artillery Battalion in June 1947 and allotted to the
organized reserves. The 471st was active in Chicago, IL from June 1947 through November 1950.
In March 1952, the battalion was re-designated as the 552nd Field Artillery Battalion. In December it was
withdrawn from the Army Reserve and allotted to the regular Army.
Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 552nd Field Artillery Battalion, was re-designated as
Headquarters and Headquarters Detachments, 552nd U.S. Army Artillery Group in September 1959. The
batteries of the former battalion were concurrently disbanded.
The 552nd U.S. Army Artillery Group was activated at Fort Sill, OK in October 1959.
Five months later, in March 1960, the 552nd arrived in Germany and moved into its new headquarters in
SASCOM, Special Ammunition Support Command, was born on April 15, 1960, and became a
significant part of the United States commitment to NATO.
The 552nd was assigned to the 514th U.S. Army Artillery Group when the 514th was established as a
SASCOM intermediate subordinate headquarters in December 1961.
In August 1963, the 552nd Artillery Group Headquarters moved to Soegel, Germany and 8th was
detached to Darp/Havelte, where it was to remain for 29 years.
The 552nd U.S. Army Artillery Group was the only 59th Ordnance Brigade artillery group with
detachments located outside of Germany.
Between 1960 and 1965, a total of 7,089 "Improved Honest John" rockets, less warheads, were
produced and delivered.
On 9 July, 1982, MICOM Commander approved a type classification of obsolete for all Honest John
rocket motors, launchers, and related ground equipment items.
SASCOM and AWSCOM were merged and reorganized in 1972 and all of the groups and detachments
became part of the 5th Artillery Group.
The 552nd USAAG, and of course the 8th Missile Detachment, were actually deactivated in June 1992
when the "cold war" was over.
The boys in the Signal Corps detached to the 8th were part of STRATCOM assigned to Co. C Signal
Battalion 360, headquartered in Bremerhaven, Germany. They were not actually part of the 8th Missile
Detachment and, as such, had no responsibilities that dealt directly with the warheads, rockets, or the
rocket site. Though they were trained as Microwave radio repairman 26V20 or 26L20, their microwave
link (the signal tower) to their headquarters was pretty much trouble free. Therefore, their duty consisted
of running the field system which was comprised of 3 Collins transceivers with 1000 AMP amplifiers. As
with the artillery, this type of information was highly classified back then, but was declassified as more
modern technology took its place. Though the boys of the Signal Corps were actually part of a different
unit, we were all brothers at the 8th.
The SASCOM patch was worn from 12 April 1968 - 31 October 1978. The colors white and blue, the
colors of the NATO flag, allude to the command's NATO-support assignment. The four gold points in the
center, arranged like four spearheads in a defensive position, represent the four nations in which units of
Special Ammunition Support Command served, and further symbolize the cooperative-defense concept
of the NATO union. The colors, red and yellow, refer to the branch colors of both artillery (conventional
and missiles), and ordnance units that comprise the command. The white ring, simulating a cloud, with
the jagged red hole through it, alludes to the accuracy of high-trajectory ordnance (artillery and missiles).
|Dutch newspaper articles about the Site closing
|The following interesting information was provided by Andrew Gallagher:
I was one of the original 8th Missile Detachment group. We arrived in Holland in June of
1962 and since our living quarters weren't yet finished in Havelteburg, we had to stay in a
temporary building put up on the site of the 23rd in 't Harde until December when our
barracks were ready. That's where I knew Cecil. Their company clerk had gotten ill so I
had to fill in for him for a few weeks until he returned from a hospital in Germany.
The following are the names of the fellows in the 8th's original group:
Pfc Marvin Schiff, Brooklyn NY
Pfc Robert Frasco, Chicago, IL
Pfc Ira Liebowitz, Brooklyn, NY
Pfc David Bissell, Louisiana
Pfc John Garrett, Wisconsin
Pfc David Duenas, Believe he was from Guam
Pfc Frank Saporito, Paulsboro, NJ
Pfc Gilbert Carino, NJ
Pfc Thomas Erwin, ?
Pfc Edward Jones ?
Pfc Wilfred Johnson, New Hampshire
Pfc Paul Marshall ?
Pfc David Myamoto ?
Pfc Larry Schoenfelder ?
Pfc Jerry Willis (I believe Louisiana)
Pfc Freeman Soule (I believe Texas)
Pfc John Hall ?
Pfc Gary Lobaugh ?
Pfc Robert Specht, Massachusetts
Pfc Eugene Felts ?
Pfc Ronald Lange, Wisconsin
Pfc Charles Mooney ?
Pfc Andrew Gallagher, Originally from Roxborough PA, now living in Bel Air, MD.
Captain Robinson (Commanding Officer)
1st Lieut Alfredson
1st Lieut Rose