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56th Field Artillery Command
56th Field Artillery Command SSI.png
56th Field Artillery Command shoulder sleeve insignia
1971–1991
Active 1942–1945
1951–1964
1970–1991
2021-
Country United States
Branch United States Army
Motto(s) Quick, Reliable, Accurate
Equipment Pershing missile From 1963
Decorations Army Superior Unit Award ribbon.svg
Superior Unit Award

The 56th Field Artillery Command was a brigade size element of the United States Army. The unit was constituted in 1942 with the last period of active service being 1970 through 1991. It was the only unit to field the nuclear Pershing missile system. This unique mission required an almost "Super Brigade" status which the Army accommodated in several regards. Their inactivation in June 1991 was in some measure a consequence of their own success. The culmination of their duties was to act, as directed, in accordance with the INF Treaty, as the United States eliminated her intermediate range nuclear forces. The Command also provided some personnel to participate in supervising the Soviets as they upheld their agreements as well. Fifteen systems were exempted by the INF Treaty, made inoperable, and authorized for historical reference, such as a museum display. The National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution exhibits such a display, for example.[1] In August 2021, the US Army announced the 56th Artillery Command will be re-activated in October 2021 and will be based at Mainz-Kastel, Germany near the U.S. Army's Europe and Africa Command, a four-star headquarters in Wiesbaden. [2]

Basic organization[]

The 56th Field Artillery Command was organized to always report directly to the highest commander in Europe at the time. Therefore during peacetime, they reported to the United States Army, Europe, whereas, during heightened tension or war, command passed to NATO, with Allied Air Forces Central Europe as the next higher headquarters.[3]

Additionally, command levels for the field artillery batteries were increased by one grade over similar units. Platoons were commanded by a captain, and batteries by a major. Battalions continued to follow a lieutenant colonel while the command itself was led by a brigadier general and later a major general.

These actions were meant to mitigate the increased responsibilities inherent with the mission they bore.

Heraldry[]

Shoulder sleeve insignia[]

The shoulder sleeve insignia was authorized for wear by all subordinate units. It is shown atop the info box and described below. The version shown is in color and for wear with the formal uniform. The utility version, for normal wear, is olive drab green and black with the same descriptive dimensions.

Description: On a disc 3 inches (76 mm) in diameter, with a 18 inch (3 mm) white border a scarlet disc centered on a blue background and surmounted at center by a vertical black missile silhouette outlined in white and issuing to base a white-edged scarlet flame and white smoke cloud, the missile flanked by two diagonal yellow lightning flashes issuing from either side of the nose cone. Attached immediately above the disc, an arc tab 2 38 inches (60 mm) in length and 1116 inch (17 mm) in height consisting of a dark green background inscribed "Pershing" in scarlet letters 516 inch (8 mm) in height, with a 18 inch (3 mm) scarlet border.

1963–1970 and 1970–1971

Symbolism: Scarlet and gold (yellow) are the colors used for field artillery; blue denotes the assigned infantry support. The destructive power and target capability of the Pershing missile are suggested by the red disc at center and the upright missile signifies the readiness of the unit. The lightning flashes refer to the ability of the missile team to act and strike quickly in event of need.

Background: The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved for the 56th Artillery Brigade on 9 June 1971 The Pershing tab was authorized for wear effective 18 September 1970. It was redesignated for the 56th Field Artillery Brigade on 7 April 1972. The insignia was redesignated effective 17 January 1986 for the 56th Field Artillery Command.[4]

Previous insignia: From 1963 to 1970, the authorized shoulder sleeve insignia was the triangular emblem of the 7th Army. From 1970 to 1971, the Pershing tab was worn with the 7th Army insignia; the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry, however, notes the tab was only authorized for wear with the shoulder sleeve insignia of the 56th.

Distinctive unit insignia[]

1972—1991

Prior to 1972

The distinctive unit insignia was authorized only for headquarters elements.

Description: A gold color metal and enamel device 1 316 inches (30 mm) in height overall consisting of a scarlet background with a trilobated cloud at the top bearing two black crossed cannons behind a white domed tower with black archway, (as depicted on the coat of arms of the city of Antwerp, Belgium) on a green base, surmounted overall by a vertical gold Pershing missile; all above a semi-circular gold scroll inscribed "Quick Reliable Accurate" in black letters.

Symbolism: Scarlet and yellow (gold) are the colors used for Field Artillery. The trilobated cloud symbolizes the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 56th Field Artillery Brigade's Northern France, Central Europe and Rhineland Campaigns during World War II. The crossed cannons with the Antwerp Tower allude to the Headquarters Battery's two Belgian Army Order of the Day Citations, the Belgian Fourragere[5] for action at Antwerp and the Defense of Antwerp Harbor. Red and green are the colors of the Belgian Fourragere. The Pershing missile alludes to the unique mission of the unit as a participant in the Army's first nuclear strike force with missiles on constant alert (QRA).

Background: The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for the 56th Field Artillery Brigade on 11 April 1972. It was redesignated effective 17 January 1986 for the 56th Field Artillery Command.[6]

Note: The older DUI was worn from 1967 to 1972.

History[]

1942–1945[]

The 56th Coast Artillery Brigade was constituted on the Inactive list, 14 September 1942. It was activated at Camp Stewart, Georgia on 10 April 1943 and was redesignated the 56th Antiaircraft Artillery Brigade on 28 May 1943.[7] During World War II, Headquarters Battery (HHB) saw action in Belgium and received two Belgian Fourrageres for action at Antwerp and was cited for the defense of Antwerp Harbor. HHB is entitled to permanently display the Belgian Fourragere from the spearhead of its guidon.[8] In 1945, the unit was inactivated at Camp Shanks, NY.

1951–1964[]

In 1951, the 56th Antiaircraft Artillery Brigade was reactivated at Camp Edwards, Mass and assigned to the First Army of the US Army.[9][10] On 5 November 1951 The 56th AAA Brigade transferred from Camp Edwards to Fort Devens, Mass and was assigned to the Eastern Army Antiaircraft Command.[11][12] They were then transferred to Fort Totten, NY on 24 January 1953.[13] The unit transferred back to Fort Devens on 15 July 1956.[14] They were redesignated as the 56th Artillery Brigade on 20 March 1958[15] The 56th Artillery Brigade was inactivated on 24 December 1964.[16]

Pershing[]

Pershing is the parenthetical identification which describes the mission of this command.[17] The Pershing mission has roots to World War II and the successful firing of the V-2 rocket by the Nazis. Operation Paperclip was implemented to recruit German scientist involved with the V-2, and procure all possible material and parts to this rocket system. The operation coupled at least 130 German scientists with some 500 US personnel at Fort Bliss, Texas. The recovered V-2 parts and the integrated efforts of the people produced at least 80 V-2 rockets which were complete and capable to fire. The requirements to further test these 80, as well as develop the concept of rocketry in general, prompted the project and personnel to relocate to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville Alabama.

From Huntsville, the project was to develop America's missile program, and their answer was the Redstone missile. This namesake missile was deployed to the US Army in June 1958. The need to develop, and prepar to replace the Redstone, as it aged toward obsolescence, was also considered. The Pershing was to be this replacement and its development began conceptually in 1957, even before the Redstone was delivered.

Shelter at former Mutlangen base near Schwäbisch Gmünd, 2013

The first Pershing missile, affectionately known as "Land Train", was delivered in March 1963 to 2nd Bn, 44th Field Artillery, activated at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. This battalion was later redesignated the 1st Bn, 41st FA, and then 4th Bn, 41st FA. In April 1963, the 56th Artillery Group was reactivated at Hardt Kaserne, Schwäbisch Gmünd, West Germany. The 4th Bn, 41st FA was assigned to the 7th Army in Germany and moved its headquarters to Hardt Kaserne. They were the first of three tactical nuclear battalions to fall under the 56th Field Artillery Group in command structure. The 56th FA Group was also headquartered in Schwäbisch Gmünd at Bismarck Kaserne. The next tactical battalion grouped was the 1st Bn, 81st FA, the garrison for which was moved in October, 1963 from Mainz to Neu Ulm, both in West Germany. The third tactical battalion was deployed in May 1965 as the 3rd Bn, 84th FA to a headquarters in Neckarsulm, West Germany.

In 1965 the 56th Artillery Group assumed the critical role of a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) force and was required to maintain a portion of each unit at the highest level of combat readiness. These portions were to react within seconds of verified orders, and the entire command was to be fully operational within 2 hours of any alert activation. The increased requirements of the QRA mission, necessitated some modifications to upgrade the Pershing missile system and at the same time caused the Army to increase the number of launchers at each battalion from four to 36.

In 1968 the brigade created the Pershing Professionals Badge to recognize proficiency on the Pershing missile system. It was awarded through 1979.

In September 1970, the 56th Artillery Group was reformed as the 56th Field Artillery Brigade. The newly designated brigade was to command 1st Bn, 41st FA, 1st Bn, 81st FA, and 3rd Bn, 84th FA as Pershing firing battalions. Also subordinate to the Brigade was the 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, tasked to provide defensive support to the firing units according to their security needs. A host of additional units provided support from medical to logistical, ensuring the brigade's ability to operate.

In 1974 a new terminal guidance system was in development for the Pershing missile. This system would be developed and test fired 5 times by 1977. This was to become the Pershing II missile system.

The Soviet Union had developed the SS-20 nuclear missile by this time. The SS-20 was an ambitious program which would required enormous capital investment by the Soviets. Their efforts to regain dominance within the region seemed attainable as they knew their SS-20 would counter the Pershing threat. The Pershing II was a military secret, well kept, and this allowed the Soviets to squander vast resources in their hurried efforts to field a system which was in effect, already obsolete.

In 1978 the NATO Commander requested the United States to take action and deploy assets necessary to counter the threat posed by the SS-20. This request was not immediately addressed, as the American government wanted the Soviets to expend the maximum amount possible on the SS-20.

In 1982, the 55th Maintenance Battalion was activated as part of the 56th Field Artillery Brigade. The 579th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion, 59th Ordnance Brigade was inactivated and reformed as Headquarters Company and as the D Company general support unit. The three service batteries in the field artillery battalions were inactivated and reformed as forward service companies under the 55th Maintenance Battalion.[18]

Pershing II of 2nd Battalion, 9th Regiment, 56th FA

In November 1983, with the Soviets fully invested in the SS-20, and on the verge of bankruptcy, the Americans began fielding the Pershing II. By 1985 all three firing battalions were completely operational with Pershing II and the Soviet Union faced a threat they were financially unwilling to counter.[19]

memorial stone to the victims of the missile accident on January 11th 1985

On 11 January 1985 three soldiers, SSG John Leach, SGT Todd A. Zephier, and PFC Darryl L. Shirley of Battery C, 3rd Battalion, 84th Field Artillery were killed in an explosion at Camp Redleg, Heilbronn. The explosion occurred while removing a missile stage from the storage container during an assembly operation. An investigation revealed that the Kevlar rocket bottle had accumulated a triboelectric charge in the cold dry weather; as the engine was removed from the container the electrical charge began to flow and created a hot spot that ignited the propellant.[20][21] A moratorium on missile movement was enacted through late 1986 when new grounding and handling procedures were put into place.

In January 1986, there was a major reorganization of the tactical units in Germany. The 56th Field Artillery Brigade was redesignated as the 56th Field Artillery Command and was authorized a major general as commander. 1st Battalion, 81st Field Artillery was inactivated and reformed as 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery in Neu-Ulm, 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery was inactivated and reformed as 2nd Battalion, 9th Field Artillery in Schwäbisch Gmünd and 3rd Battalion, 84th Field Artillery was inactivated and reformed as 4th Battalion, 9th Field Artillery in Heilbronn.[22] With 3rd Battalion, 9th Field Artillery at Fort Sill, all of the firing units were then under the 9th Field Artillery Regiment. The 55th Maintenance Battalion was redesignated as 55th Support Battalion and E Company was reformed as the 193rd Aviation Company. The communications assets, which were listed in the Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E) at each battery, were removed and reconsolidated into the 38th Signal Battalion.

The Superior Unit Award was presented to the 56th Field Artillery Command and its subordinate units for service during the Pershing II fielding, 1 November 1983 through 31 December 1986.[23][24]

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty[25] was ratified on 27 May 1988.[26] The firing batteries began to draw down their equipment as the missile launchers were destroyed. The Pershing first and second stage motors, reentry vehicles, warhead and radar section airframes were returned to Pueblo Depot Activity[27] for elimination. On 30 June 1991, the 56th FA was inactivated,[28] and the final entry for this Commands history shows them as "DISCONTINUED" on 30 September 1991.[29] This entry on the units history card shows the essence of a well known metonymic adage, "The pen is mightier than the sword".

Subordinate units[]

April 1963
18 September 1970
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Battery (HHB)
  • 4th Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment
  • 1st Battalion, 81st Field Artillery Regiment
  • 3rd Battalion, 84th Field Artillery Regiment
  • 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment
29 September 1972
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Battery (HHB)
  • 266th Chemical Detachment
  • 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment
  • 1st Battalion, 81st Field Artillery Regiment
  • 3rd Battalion, 84th Field Artillery Regiment
  • 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment
1982
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Battery (HHB)
  • 266th Chemical Detachment
  • 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment
  • 1st Battalion, 81st Field Artillery Regiment
  • 3rd Battalion, 84th Field Artillery Regiment
  • 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment
  • 55th Maintenance Battalion
17 January 1986 through 31 May 1991
[30]
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Battery (HHB)
  • 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Regiment
  • 2nd Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Regiment
  • 4th Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Regiment
  • 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment
  • 55th Support Battalion
  • 193rd Aviation Company
  • 38th Signal Battalion

References[]

  1. "National Air and Space Museum SS-20 item summary". http://www.nasm.si.edu/collections/artifact.cfm?id=A19900275000. 
  2. VANDIVER, JOHN. "Blast from the past: Cold War artillery command in Germany resurrected and restructured". Stars And Stripes. https://www.stripes.com/branches/army/2021-08-12/two-star-general-commander-new-artillery-unit-germany-2530791.html. 
  3. "Pershing Keeps Soviet Bear at Bay". 1986. http://pershingmissile.org/PershingDocuments/manuals/Pershing%20Cable%2025-1.pdf. Retrieved 27 November 2007. 
  4. "56th Field Artillery Command". United States Army Institute of Heraldry. http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/Heraldry/ArmyDUISSICOA/ArmyHeraldryUnit.aspx?u=3448. Retrieved 26 November 2007. 
  5. "The Belgian Fourragere 1940". http://users.skynet.be/jeeper/fourragere.html. 
  6. "SSI and DUI for 56th FA Command". http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/Heraldry/ArmyDUISSICOA/ArmyHeraldryUnit.aspx?u=3448. 
  7. DA Form 016, History card for the 56th FACOM and lineage, citing - GO 51, Hqs AAC, Richmond, Va., dated 31 May 1943
  8. DA Form 016, History card for the 56th FACOM and lineage, citing - GO 43, Department of the Army, 19 December 1950
  9. DA Form 016, History card for the 56th FACOM and lineage, citing - AGAO-I 322 Gen Res(21 JAN 51)G1-M, 5 February 1951.
  10. DA Form 016, History card for the 56th FACOM and lineage, citing - GO 73, Hq, First Army, 31 May 1951,
  11. DA Form 016, History card for the 56th FACOM and lineage, citing - MO #95, Hq, First Army, AHFKC(S) 370.5, 27 September 1951
  12. DA Form 016, History card for the 56th FACOM and lineage, citing - GO 27, Hq, Eastern Army Antiaircraft Command, 5 November 1951
  13. DA Form 016, History card for the 56th FACOM and lineage, citing - GO 95, First Army, 22 July 1953.
  14. DA Form 016, History card for the 56th FACOM and lineage, citing - GO 52, First Army, 19 July 1956
  15. DA Form 016, History card for the 56th FACOM and lineage, citing - GO 36 First US Army, 28 March 1958.
  16. DA Form 016, History card for the 56th FACOM and lineage, citing - GO 229, US Army Air Defense Command, 23 December 1964
  17. "Army regulation 220-5". http://www.army.mil/USAPA/epubs/pdf/r220_5.pdf. 
  18. "55th Maintenance Battalion". Donau. U.S. Army in Germany. 16. Archived from the original on 9 January 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080109203910/http://www.usarmygermany.com/units/FieldArtillery/USAREUR_56th%20FA%20Bde.htm. Retrieved 27 November 2007. 
  19. "The Cold War Museum". http://www.coldwar.org/articles/50s/pershing_missiles.asp. 
  20. Knaur, James A. (August 1986). "Technical Investigation of January 11, 1985: Pershing II Motor Fire". US Army Missile Command. Defense Technical Information Center. http://handle.dtic.mil/100.2/ADP005343. Retrieved 27 November 2007. 
  21. Davenas, Alain and Rat, Roger (July–August 2002). "Sensitivity of Solid Rocket Motors to Electrostatic Discharge: History and Futures". Archived from the original on 2 December 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20071202121822/http://www.stelmarski.com/pershingdocuments//manuals/Journal%20of%20Propulsion.pdf. Retrieved 27 November 2007. 
  22. "General Orders Number 34". Department of the Army. 15 January 1986. http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/go8534.pdf. 
  23. "General Orders Number 9". Department of the Army. 1 April 1987. http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/go8709.pdf. 
  24. "General Orders Number 30". Department of the Army. 1 July 1987. http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/go8730.pdf. 
  25. "The INF Treaty (full text)". United States Department of State. http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/treaties/inf1.html. 
  26. "The Pershing Weapon System and Its Elimination". United States Army. Archived from the original on 23 June 2006. http://web.archive.org/web/20060623043050/http://www.redstone.army.mil/history/systems/pershing/welcome.html. Retrieved 1 June 2006. 
  27. "Pueblo Depot Activity". http://oai.dtic.mil/oai/oai?verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=ADA312914. 
  28. DA Form 016, History card for the 56th FACOM and lineage, citing - PO 132-8, USAREUR and Seventh Army, 21 September 1990
  29. DA Form 016, History card for the 56th FACOM and lineage, citing - PO 147-6, USAREUR and Seventh Army, 17 October 1990
  30. "Plotting Pershing on the Map". Pershing Cable. p. 2. http://pershingmissile.org/PershingDocuments/manuals/Pershing%20Cable%2025-1.pdf. 

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