||704th Strategic Missile
Motto "Leadership, Knowledge,
Based at: Vandenberg
Missiles: Atlas, Jupiter, Thor, Titan
Status: Inactivated July 1, 1959.
Squadrons: 576 MS, 644 MS, 672 MS, 854 MS, 865 MS, 866 MS
| On July 1, 1957, the
704th Strategic Missile Wing was activated to oversee activities of
specific missile training squadrons scheduled to be activated in the
coming months. One of these squadrons, the 392nd Missile Training Squadron
assumed the duties of training prospective missilemen on the Great
Britain-bound Thor IRBM. The first launch facilities completed included
seven launch pads and three blockhouses for the conduct of Thor IRBM
testing. These complexes would later become known as SLC-1, SLC-2, and
SLC-10. On December 16, 1958, a crew from the First Missile Division
successfully launched a Thor IRBM, inaugurating the intermediate-range
ballistic missile portion of the Pacific Missile Range. The following
April, a Royal Air Force crew duplicated the feat.
In January 1958, ARDC transferred the base to the Strategic
Air Command (SAC). With facilities under construction for America’s first
ICBM, on April 1, 1958, Headquarters SAC activated the 576th Strategic
Missile Squadron. On October 4, 1958, Cooke AFB was renamed Vandenberg AFB
in honor of the late General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, the Air Force's second
Chief of Staff.
The first Atlas launcher to be completed (576A-1) was
accepted from the contractor by the 1st Missile Division on October 16,
1958. The first Atlas D missile arrived the following February. Initially,
the squadron’s Atlas D missiles were deployed at complexes 576A and 576B.
Complex 576A consisted of three above-ground gantries; 576B had three
above-ground coffin launchers of a type that would be constructed at other
sites. Each complex had one launch control center.
The 576th SMS launched its first Atlas D on September
9, 1959. Immediately following the launch, SAC’s Commander in Chief,
General Thomas S. Power declared Vandenberg’s Atlas missile operational. A
month later, the squadron’s Atlas missiles were placed on an alert status.
The activation had more psychological value than military value as the
reliability of the Atlas D missile was highly questionable. Improved
versions were already undergoing production along with launch facilities
to support them. As the above-ground sites became operational,
construction continued on a buried coffin launcher to hold an Atlas E
missile (designated launch site 576C) and work began on two Atlas F silo
lift launchers (576D and 5763). By 1962, 11 prototype Atlas
complexes had been constructed at Vandenberg AFB.
The 704th Strategic Missile Wing was
established on May 20, 1957. Activated on July 1, 1957 at
Vandenberg AFB. Redesignated the 704th Strategic Missile Wing
(ICBM) on April 1, 1959
The 704th trained crews to operate both
intermediate range and intercontinental ballistic missiles: The Atlas
(1958-1959), Jupiter (1958), Thor (1958-1959), and Titan
Inactivated July 1, 1959.
576 MS: Assigned Apr 1, 1958 - July
1, 1959 (Detached Apr 6, 1959 - July 1, 1959)
644 MS: Assigned Jan 15, 1959 - July 1, 1959
(Detached Apr 6, 1959 - July 1, 1959)
672 MS: Assigned Jan 1, 1958 - May 20, 1958
854 MS: Assigned Feb 23, 1958 - July 1, 1959
(Detached Nov 1, 1958 - July 1, 1959)
865 MS: Assigned July 1, 1958 - July
1 , 1959 (Detached Nov 1, 1958 - July 1, 1959)
866 MS: Assigned Sep 1 ,1958 - July
1, 1959 ) Detached Nov 1, 1958 - July 1, 1959)