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From the Stars and Stripes archives

Redstone rocketeers

By WILLIAM DUREN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 21, 1962

THE REDSTONE MISSILE stood erect on its launching pad, its nose cone peeking above the tree line of Germany's hilly Swabian woods.

Frost coated the sides of the big Redstone's midsection and vapors from liquid oxygen in its fuel tanks swirled around the small clearing.

A thick cable trailed from the sweating missile to a bunker about 300 yards away where helmeted missilemen watched over a small black box, waiting for a little light to signal that all of the Redstone's systems were "go."

The light flashed, but the switch that would have sent the Redstone thundering into space was never flipped. The missilemen's work, at least for the moment, was finished.

The wink of the light marked the end of another in the series of training missions undertaken by 7th Army's missilemen to keep their big birds ready and airworthy.

So far, the Redstone has never been shot in anger. However, the missile's keepers have one thing in common — confidence in the Redstone's ability to pack 7th Army's Sunday punch if ever called upon.

Since it was first fired in 1953 the Redstone has supported this confidence. Besides its successes in military practice firings, the Redstone has had notable success in America's civilian space program. Modified Redstones were used in the Jupiter C vehicles that put the first U.S. satellites into orbit and the Project Mercury manned suborbital flights.

To the men of the artillery groups entrusted with 7th Army's arsenal of Redstones, the big missile is "old reliable."

Firing batteries of the groups are airlifted annually to White Sands, N.M., where they fire a Redstone. The results of the practice shoots are never released, but the missilemen vouch for their success. "You can say we can put it in a pickle barrel," said one of the group's officers.

Rugged and mobile, the 70-foot missile is noted for its accuracy and dependability.

Once sent aloft, the Redstone is invulnerable to any known countermeasures. Data computing its flight path is taped into the 30-ton missile's electronic guidance system which zeroes in and directs the missile to its predetermined target up to 200 miles away.

The introduction of the Redstone to USAREUR in 1958 more than doubled the long-range firepower available to a ground commander, giving him a weapon of both tactical and strategic capabilities. Providing these capabilities is a round-the-clock job for the 7th Army's Redstone missile men.

Like any complex missile system, the Redstone demands attention and skill. Aided by representatives of Chrysler Corp., the prime contractor for the Redstone, a new breed of soldier-technician keeps watch over the "big birds."

The backbone of the technical staff of the Redstone units is a cadre of highly trained warrant officers.

Firing batteries of the Redstone groups are also supported by ordnancemen and engineers who provide on-site liquid oxygen (LOX) to fuel the Redstones and give the batteries complete launching support facilities on wheels.

Although the Redstone has introduced a new era in long-range firepower, the missilemen still regard themselves as artillerymen.

"It has been a long time since we sat on a hill and saw what we were shooting at," said Lt Col William H. Loren, CO of one of 7th Army's Redstone units. "One hundred miles today is like what we thought 4,000 to 5,000 yards was in the 105mm days, but we still think of ourselves as in an aggressive support role."

The huge warhead section of the Redstone is a far cry from the 105mm round and the missilemen have a standing joke of anyone awed by the size of their "tubeless artillery" round.

"You may think that's a pretty big missile," they tell visitors, "but you should see the gun that shoots it."
 

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