HOMING ALL THE WAY KILLER
By: T.D. Barnes (former E-5)
In May 1959 I graduated from the 56-week Nike Hercules Fire Control Maintenance AAA&GM class at Fort Bliss, Texas. I was selected to attend the 6-month USARADSCH Air Defense Missile maintenance class on the United States’ latest air defense missile, the HAWK. I graduated in July 1960. I successfully passed the test on the Army’s new proficiency pay program, which I credit for my being selected for a clandestine operation evaluating the ECM and ECCM electronics of the HAWK system against a USSR radar installation in Cuba. Shortly afterwards I received notice that I would be deploying with Battery B, 6th Missile Battalion, 52d Artillery, the first HAWK missile battalion ever deployed by the U.S. Army.
First a bit about the HAWK missile system:
The HAWK surface to air missile system provided medium-range, low to medium altitude air defense against a variety of targets, including jet and rotary wing aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and cruise missiles. This mobile, all-weather day and night system is highly lethal, reliable, and effective against electronic countermeasures. The Hawk was originally named for the predatory bird but later the name was turned into an acronym for “Homing All the Way Killer.” The HAWK system, initially fielded in 1960, provided US forces with low to medium altitude air defense for forty years. A HAWK battery consisted of HAWK missiles teamed with acquisition radar, a command post, a tracking radar, an Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system, and three to four launchers with three missiles each. The system was divided into three sections: acquisition, fire control, and firing sections. Target detection was provided to the fire control section from pulse and continuous wave radars for engagement evaluation. Target data could also be received from remote sensors via data link. The fire control section locked onto the target with high-powered tracking radar. A missile or missiles could be launched manually or in an automatic mode from the firing section by the fire control section. Radars and missile had extensive electronic counter counter measures (ECCM) capabilities.
The HAWK Fire Unit was the basic element of the HAWK system.. The actual firing battery had two identical fire units, each consisting of a command post that housed the operator console, a continuous wave acquisition radar (CWAR) for target surveillance, a high power illuminator for target tracking, MK XII IFF interrogator set, and three launchers with three missiles each. Normally the HAWK was deployed in a battalion configuration, communicating with the controlling unit (usually a TSQ-73 Missile Minder) over an Army Tactical Data Link (ATDL-1) connection as well as on voice.
The 6th Missile Battalion, 52d Artillery was activated 17 November 1960 at Fort Bliss, Texas with officers, NCOs, and soldiers brought in throughout the Army to undergo basic unit and advanced unit training at Ft. Bliss.
The battalion left the United States from New Jersey in June 1961 aboard the USNS Buckner and we arrived somewhere around mid-month June. The battalion commander at the time was LTC John Tichner; the battalion Sergeant Major (the designation CSM was not used then) was SGM Victor Hayward: two fine men and outstanding leaders. Most of the NCOs then were WWII and Korean War vets.
Upon arrival in Germany HHB & Btry A went to Emery Barracks (also referred to as “Emery Kaserne” in Wurtzburg), Btry B went to Bamberg, Btry C to Giebelstadt, and Btry D to Wertheim. The Battalion TOC was out East of Wurzburg about 10km. The Battalion was the first fully operational HAWK Battalion in the Army. At the time we were under the 69th Arty Gp, its HQs use to be on the 2d floor above the Battalion HQs.
First fully operational HAWK Battalion in the Army.
The 6-52d was the first operational HAWK Battalion in the Army. The other two at the time were still in training phase. There were no HAWK Battalions in the United States. Due to the Cold War and the Soviet threat, the first priorities were Europe and other overseas locations.
Battery B was billeted in a large, 3 or 4 story building. The orderly room was on the top floor along with a few private rooms billeting the NCOs. The remainder of the troops were billeted in small rooms crammed with cots. If I recall correctly, the missiles were deployed in an open field northeast of the historic town of Bamberg. A paved highway passed near the missile launchers. One of the favorite past times was to use the remote control of the launchers to make the missiles appear to be locked on passing automobiles.
The Berlin Crisis
Our deployment to German happened concurrent to the USSR building of the Berlin Wall. As quickly as we could, be went operational with the battery under a full scale alert, with fingers on the trigger. As I recall, we stayed at full-alert for around 3 weeks while awaiting the other batteries to become operational to relieve us. For three weeks the generator ran continuously to power the acquisition radar. The generators were refueled while running. By the end of the three weeks, the bearings in the acquisition radar were screaming for lubrication.
When the battalion deployed, it brought with it an inventory of missiles from the McGregor Missile Range. Ninety days after operational, my section commenced bringing the missiles from the launchers one by one for evaluation in the test area where we connected them to a test unit that provided electric power and hydraulics to test the electronic and hydraulic systems of the missile. These missiles upon which we had depended on for the last 90 days to protect the free world from the ugly bear, were far from being capable of hitting anything. To our surprise, we found when we opened the platters of electronic components that sage brush and other plants indigenous to the El Paso area, were sprouting and growing amidst the electronic components. Obviously, Raytheon had not waterproofed the seams of the access covers, which was not a major problem in the dry climate of White Sands. In Germany, however, the missiles were exposed to a wet climate which resulted in the vegetation we discovered. Thereafter we reassembled the missiles after testing with a waterproofing procedure that called for DC4 compound being smeared into all electronic plugs and jacks, plus along every seam. Duct tape was then applied over the seams and the interior purged and then pressurized with 2 PSI air pressure.
Another procedure that comes to mind was our method of obtaining desperately needed parts for the missiles and launchers. Routine parts we maintained in our supply, but for those we didn’t maintain we ordered through a procedure we called “Blue Streak.” This meant that we needed this part yesterday and that it had better be here tomorrow at the latest. Blue Streak items were obtained wherever the source and flown to us by the first available flight.
When we left Ft. Bliss, everyone departed on ordinary leave with orders to report to New Jersey by whatever date it was, to board ship. I was one of the few enlisted personnel who managed to get approval of concurrent travel for my dependents. At the time we were notified of pending deployment, our destination was secret. Scuttlebutt had the battalion going to Leghorn, Italy. In order to take your dependents with you, you had to either have a relative in the area of deployment with whom the dependents could live, or you had to have guaranteed quarters off base. Naturally, everyone tried to meet these requirements in Italy. Acting on a tip from one of my “no-name” associates in the ECM/ECCM games we were playing with the USSR, I contacted a master sergeant living in Germany from whom we had purchased our home in El Paso. To make a long story short, his wife agreed to be my wife’s cousin for the purpose of our applying for concurrent dependent travel.
After a 30-day leave, I showed up in New Jersey with my family. We turned our vehicle in for shipping and reported aboard the USNS Buckner where we were given a first class compartment. Out of our battery, only one other family was authorized to accompany a member of our unit, SFC Sanders whose wife was from England. I recall us attending 1 movie during the 8 days it took us to sail to Bremerhaven. It was “Porky & Bess.” The meals were as good as on any cruise ship. During one meal we were honored to join the ship’s captain for dinner. Our normal seating was two tables away and the captain honored us with his invitation, based, according to him, the lady-like manners of our two young daughters. Baby sitting our children was no problem either. Seems everyone in the troops section were willing to do anything that gave them opportunity to visit the uppers decks housing officers and the few dependents aboard. Our youngest daughter became ill on the way over, running a high temperature. She received excellent medical attendance from the battalion doctor. From Bremerhaven, we traveled to Bamberg by train, which was another enjoyable adventure for us.
From a military standpoint, tensions were very high between the U.S. and the USSR. We could count on having to arm the missiles about once a week because of an unidentified plane heading across the Czech border into West Germany. Our Air Force always scrambled to meet the plane and we would get an all clear as the plane crossed into West Germany. I assume this was U-2 flight though we supposedly weren’t flying over the USSR after the Gary Powers incident. I recall one time our going on alert and moving into a deployment area where a 280mm atomic cannon was setting up. My wife and both our children were issued dog tags and every six months had to participate in a mandatory dependents’ evacuation run to Paris while we soldiers loaded all our TO&E property and rushed to set up operations out in the boondocks.
Class Six Privileges
One of the perks of having dependents with you was that your liquor quota far exceeded that of single GIs. My wife and I provided the booze for many a party, usually at our small apartment and attended by all ranks, from first lieutenants to PFCs. The mess sergeant would furnish the grub from out of the mess hall.
We also had a curfew to contend with. At 2400 hours daily all military personnel had to be off the street. If married, had to be in your quarters. If living in the billets, had to be in your bed. Between 2400-0100 Every Day bed check was conducted by CQs & Bn staff duty officer/NCO. Not in your bed–Art 15, no questions asked!! To the dismay of our single guys, the Air Force had no curfew and could be depended on to be standing by to entertain the local girl that some Army guys had been boozing all evening.