By Robert Nyakundi February 6th 2012
At the end of WWII, the United State Army went on a search for the German scientists behind Nazi Germany’s ambitious rocket program. American planners recognized the potential of weapons like the V-2, which had been launched from continental Europe against Allied targets. “Operation Paperclip” netted some 130 former German scientists and engineers, along with enough V-2 parts to construct some 80 complete V-2 rockets.
These specialists along with 500 US personnel were emplaced at Ft. Bliss, Texas and later moved to Huntsville Alabama, in an effort to shape America’s first missile program. The missile to be developed was to carry a nuclear warhead, in light of the Soviet Union’s newly-developed nuclear capabilities.
The original Pershing missile was conceived in 1957 by the Advanced Ballistic Missile Agency. That agency’s intent was to replace the aging Redstone missile. The Redstone was a major technological advancement for its era, but was large, cumbersome and not especially mobile. It also needed special fuel handling techniques for its liquid propelled rocket motors. The ABMA wanted a design which was smaller than the Redstone but with greater range and increased reliability.
The Pershing “land train” became the integral part of the first Pershing battalion activated in March 1963, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The first Pershing battalion was the 2nd Bn,44th Field Artillery, commanded by Lt. Col. Patrick W. Powers. Later, the battalion was redesignated the 1st Bn 41st FA, and later redesignated 4th Bn 41st FA . This battalion was then assigned to 7th Army in Germany, and headquartered in Schwaebisch Gmuend, Germany. The 4th Bn 41st FA was followed in the summer of 1964 by the 1st Battalion 81st Field Artillery, originally garrisoned in the little town of Wackernheim, a few clicks outside of Mainz, and then moved to Neu Ulm in 1968.
The third battalion to deploy to Europe with the Pershing system was the 3rd Bn 84th FA. in May of 1965 to Neckarsulm, Germany. All three battalions were assigned to the 56th Field Artillery Group in the command structure.
In 1965 Pershing units assumed an additional role in support of the nuclear deterrence mission of NATO. The three units were given the mission of Quick Reaction Alert which required a portion of each unit to maintain the highest level of combat readiness and be prepared to fulfill its wartime mission in a short time. Because of the increased requirements of this mission, the Army began an upgrade of Pershing I. At the same time, the Army authorized an increase in the number of launchers in each battalion from four to 36.
In September of 1970, the 56th Field Artillery Group became the 56th Field Artillery Brigade. The new brigade commanded the 1st Bn 41st FA, 1st Bn 81st FA, and 3rd Bn 84th FA Pershing firing battalions. The 2nd Bn 4th Infantry became part of the 56th FA Bde. The 2nd Bn, 4th Inf provided the infantry defensive support the units required. The 56th FA Brigade was supported by many other units that provided everything from Medical to Logisitcal support.
1974 saw the beginning development of a new terminal guidance system for the Pershing missile in what was to become designated Pershing II. In 1977 five Pershing II missiles were successfully fired at White Sands Missile Range.
NATO asked the United States to deploy intermediate range missiles to Europe in 1978 to counter the deployment of Soviet intermediate range, mobile SS 20 nuclear missiles, and the first Pershing II missiles arrived in the Brigade area in November 1983. By 1985 all three battalions of the 56th Brigade had achieved operational status.
In January of 1986, the 56th FA Brigade became the 56th Field Artillery Command (Pershing). The revised command structure authorized a signal battalion, the 38th Signal Battalion, to meet the communication requirements of the new command. The old 55th Maintenance Battalion became the 55th Support Battalion to reflect the additional logistic responsibilities provided by the unit. The aviation detachment became the 193rd Aviation Company, under the new command structure.
On the date of the redesignation from 56th FA Brigade to 56th FACOM, the 1st Bn 41st was redesignated 2nd Bn 9th FA, the 1st Bn 81 FA was redesignated 1st Bn 9th FA, and the 3rd Bn 84th FA was redesignated 4th Bn 9th FA. The 3rd Bn 9th FA already existed at Ft. Sill Oklahoma, so now all 4 Pershing battalions were constituted with a single artillery regiment.