Air Force Bases

1950-1954 The Beginning of Rearmament

Upon learning that the Soviets had developed an atomic bomb, President Truman acted with characteristic dispatch. He immediately ordered the Atomic Energy Commission to launch the full-scale development of the hydrogen bomb. Soon after, he created an interdepartmental task force led by the State Department's Paul Nitze to conduct a general review of U.S. national security policy.

The study, called NSC-68, was completed in the spring of 1950. It warned that if the United States was to deter Soviet aggression, it needed to spend considerably more on national defense. Indicative of the dangers ahead, the study estimated that by 1954 the Soviets would have enough long-range bombers and atomic weapons to launch a devastating attack on the United States. To meet the Soviet threat, defense planners estimated that by fiscal year 1952 defense spending would need to rise to $40 billion; almost a 300 percent increase over the Pentagon's 1950 budget.

As if to confirm the dire warnings in NSC-68, in June 1950 North Korea launched a surprise attack on South Korea and the United States suddenly found itself embroiled in a conflict in Asia. As the military recalled reservists and mobilized to meet the challenge in Korea, a massive U.S. rearmament campaign began.

In 1950 the Army and Air Force missile programs were at different stages. The Army was making substantial progress on its Nike surface-to-air missile system and also beginning work on a 500-mile tactical-range ballistic missile." While the Army was diversifying its missile program the Air Force used Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson's March 21, 1950 directive on guided missiles to claim sole responsibility for developing all long-range missi1es. During the early 1950s the Air Force directed most of its attention to coaxing along its slow-moving Snark and Navaho air-breathing missile programs. At the same time the Air Force's other long-range missile program, the ballistic MX-774, was in limbo. Officially canceled since 1947, the MX-774 led a curious unofficial existence, financed mainly by Convair and quietly supported by missile advocates within the Air Force.

The 1949 revelation that the Soviets had tested an atomic bomb stoked new interest in air defense, particularly the Army's Nike program, which had made great strides since its inception in 1945. The Air Force air-defense missile programs had not fared as well. The Air Force lost its first surface-to-air missile program, the ground-to-air pilotless aircraft (GAPA) project, in 1949. However, the Air Force was unwilling to allow the Army to exercise complete control over ground-based air defense, and that same year the Air Materiel Command (AMC) contracted with Boeing Aircraft and the University of Michigan's Aeronautical Research Center to develop a long-range air defense missile, which came to be known as the BOMARC (IM-99).

In October 1950 K.T. Keller, the Secretary of Defense's newly appointed Director of Guided Missiles, recommended that the Army's Nike program be accelerated. At the same time Keller also pushed to expedite the development of the Air Force's BOMARC. In November 1951 a Nike successfully intercepted a target drone in the skies over White Sands, and in 1952 Douglas Aircraft opened its first Nike production facility in Santa Monica, California. In a related development, in April 1950 the Army began to consolidate its missile development programs at the new Ordnance Guided Missile Center at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. One of the organizations transferred there was the Ordnance Research and Development Division Suboffice (Rocket) formerly based at Fort Bliss, Texas, and home to Wernher von Braun and the "Operation PAPERCLIP" team. Since 1946 the Suboffice had administered Project Hermes, and in September 1950 the Ordnance Department ordered the Guided Missile Center to make a preliminary study of a 500-mile tactical-range ballistic missile. Under the direction of von Braun, that study ultimately led to the Army's successful Redstone and Jupiter missiles.

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The Beginning of Rearmament
Early ICBM Development
ICBM Technology
ICBM Advocates
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