Atlas Missile at Dyess AFB Texas
Originally Abilene Army Air Field, this World War II vintage fighter pilot training facility was turned over to the City of Abilene at the end of the war. After an 8 year absence, the military returned in 1953 when SAC assumed command of the newly dedicated Abilene AFB. Redesignated Dyess AFB in 1956, the facility hosted SAC bombers and supporting aircraft.
Initial responsibility for constructing the 12 Atlas F silos fell on the Corps of Engineers Fort Worth District. The Fort Worth District also received responsibility for the nationwide procurement of the Atlas F's propellant loading system. With the formation of the Corps of Engineers Ballistic Missile Construction Office (CEBMCO) in 1960, the Fort Worth District was relieved of silo construction oversight.
On May 26, 1960, six bids were opened at Abilene, Texas. The low bid of $20 million had been submitted by a joint venture composed of H.B. Zachry Company, and Brown and Root Inc. Construction commenced on June 7, 1960. The locations of the 12 lift-launchers were Abilene, Albany, Clyde, Denton County, Oplin, Lawn, Bradshaw, Winters, Shep, Nolan, Anson, and Corinth.
Construction at Dyess proved to be an exception in that the project was completed on time. There were no work stoppages due to labor unrest. There were 3 fatalities and 33 disabling injuries associated with this project.
As construction continued, the Air Force activated the 578th Strategic Missile Squadron on July 1, 1961. Becoming operational in 1962, the 578th and its 12 missiles were all placed on alert status during the Cuban missile crisis.
From May 28 through June 2, 1963, the 578th Strategic Missile Squadron underwent the first Operational Readiness Inspection (ORIj for an Atlas F missile unit.
On May 16, 1964, Defense Secretary McNamara directed the accelerated phaseout of Atlas and Titan I ICBMs. On December 1, 1964, the first Atlas F missile at Dyess was removed from alert status ahead of schedule to preclude costly maintenance expenditures. The squadron was deactivated on March 25, 1965.
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