Installation History


1956 The 259th CORPORAL Battalion was replaced in Europe by units equipped with CORPORAL Type II systems.

corporal missile

1956 The M31A1C rocket, a retest rocket which qualified the Basic HONEST JOHN for firing at extended temperature limits, was designated as a standard military item and placed in production.

honest john rocket

January 56 The LITTLEJOHN project was reoriented into two phases: an interim and optimum system. Formal development of the interim system began.


January 56 Miss Main Honour, a mathematics major at Auburn University, was the first woman to be accepted into Redstone Arsenal's (RSA's) Cooperative Training Program for college students majoring in science and engineering. The other 96 students in the program at that time were men.

Photo of Miss Main Honour

January 56 A two-story farm house built over 100 years earlier, acquired by the Army in 1941 when it purchased the Huntsville Arsenal reservation, was moved across Redstone Arsenal to a site adjacent to the headquarters building. After renovations were completed during this month, the building was released for "beneficial occupancy" on 1 February. It served as the arsenal's guest house for top-ranking official visitors. On 1 May 56, it was officially named the "Goddard House" in honor of Robert H. Goddard, the man considered to be the "father" of American rocketry.

Read about the Goddard House.

Photo of Goddard house
100-year - old farm house before renovation
Photo of Goddard house
Goddard House

1 January 56 Redstone Arsenal acquired 65.2 acres consisting of the Redstone Park housing project at Farley, Alabama, for a total cost of $8,911.50.

Photo of Redstone Park

6 January 56 The Department of Defense (DOD) approved the construction of another 120 Capehart housing units at Redstone Arsenal.

19 January 56 The Chief of Ordnance issued an order assigning ABMA responsibility for the REDSTONE missile and Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) programs.

Photo of the Redstone

20 January 56 The Office of the Chief of Ordnance (OCO) requested that RSA review the military characteristics of a proposed lightweight antitank weapon (LAW) and a proposal of a similar type weapon conceived by two engineers with Hesse-Eastern Division of Flightex Fabrics, Inc.

Photo of soldier firing the M72 LAW

31 January 56 A ceremony was held in front of RSA Headquarters honoring MG John B. Medaris upon his official arrival to assume command of the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA). The new agency was scheduled to be activated the following day.

Photo of General Medaris and Toftoy

1 February 56 Effective this date, ABMA was officially activated as a Class II activity under the jurisdiction of the Chief of Ordnance. The core of this new agency came from the Ordnance Missile Laboratory's (OML's) Guided Missile Development Division, Redstone Arsenal. From this division, ABMA inherited 1,600 personnel; 1.1 million square feet of space in buildings containing over $21 million worth of equipment; and support facilities (utilities and grounds) valued at $2.5 million.

ABMA's existence began with a purely military mission: to field the Army's first IRBM. The Army satellite program for which ABMA was best known was executed under special orders and was not actually assigned as a mission of this agency. When ABMA was formed, the Secretary of the Army delegated through the Chief of Ordnance to the agency's commander specific powers and authorities without power of redelegation. These powers, covering nearly every authority in the development and procurement field which could be delegated legally, were to be used in critical instances to prevent program schedule delays.

ABMA activation ceremony

1 February 56 During this time of reorganization, the ABMA Development Operations Division (formerly the RSA Guided Missile Development Division) began instructing the first group of students in handling and maintaining the REDSTONE missile system.

From this class came the nucleus of the REDSTONE's first field artillery missile group (the 40th) and the cadre of the REDSTONE's first Ordnance Support detachment (the 78th), which supplied instructors to continue the training program at the Ordnance Guided Missile School (OGMS).

ABMA development operations division

4 February 56 DOD approved the construction of an additional 150 housing units at Redstone Arsenal under the Capehart Section of the Housing Act.

9 February 56 The 283d Ordnance Detachment (Technical Intelligence) was assigned to Redstone Arsenal. It was attached to OML for operational control.

15 February 56 The Redstone Arsenal Air Strip was turned over to ABMA for operation and physical security, as formally requested by the ABMA Commander.

17 February 56 Responsibility for physical security and control of all facilities within the fenced area on Ward Mountain (commonly referred to as "Squirrel Hill") was transferred to ABMA, at the ABMA Commander's request.

20 February 56 The Department of the Army (DA) released the first photographs showing the REDSTONE missile in flight and undergoing static tests.

22 February 56 Sperry Gyroscope Company was selected as the research and development (R&D) co-contractor for the SERGEANT project. It joined the program initiated by the Army's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in June 56. The company eventually became the project's prime industrial contractor.

March 56 Following ABMA's establishment, there was a steady influx into Huntsville of new personnel seeking family housing. Both the Redstone Billeting Office and the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce were swamped with requests for housing. During this month, both Redstone Arsenal and ABMA employees were assigned to work full-time at the Chamber of Commerce to assist that organization in locating rental units for arsenal personnel.

March 56 Redstone Arsenal sold 248 acres located between Highway 20 and the Southern Railroad to the Huntsville Industrial Expansion Committee for $52,576.01.

6 March 56 The Chief of Ordnance granted authority to the RSA Commander, at the latter's request, to transport dependent school children to and from Huntsville public schools. This action was prompted by the overcrowded and generally unsatisfactory conditions of the local commercial bus facilities, which had been declared inadequate to meet the arsenal's needs.

12 March 56 The Joint Army-Navy Ballistic Missile Committee approved the solid propellant IRBM program under the cognizance of the U.S. Navy.

12 March 56 The arsenal infirmary was upgraded to become the U.S. Army Hospital, Redstone Arsenal.

14 March 56 JUPITER A Missile 18, an adapted REDSTONE, was the first missile launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, following ABMA's activation.

14 March 56 The Secretary of the Army announced that the first REDSTONE missile battalion would be formed at RSA on 15 April 56.

17 March 56 The Chief of Ordnance approved plans to move loading facilities from Redstone Arsenal to the Lone Star Ordnance Plant, Texas.

19 March 56 BG Holger N. Toftoy, along with other arsenal and city officials, met with Governor James E. Folsom, Sr. to request that the state legislature remain in session 5 more days to consider the housing situation in Huntsville. The request was granted, and a bill to expand the city's limits was passed.

April 56 A special census revealed that by this date the population of Huntsville had jumped from 16, 437 in the 1950 census to over 50,000. This rapid increase caused serious housing problems for the city.

4 April 56 The Secretary of Defense authorized the Navy to proceed with system studies and component development, including propulsion flight testing needed to determine weapon system feasibility of a solid propellant version of the IRBM. Also during this month, the IRBM-2, as the latter system was known, was designated JUPITER. The IRBM-1, a U.S. Air Force (USAF) project, was named THOR.

12 April 56 Huntsville city officials reached an agreement with ABMA representatives to establish a control tower at the Redstone Army Airfield to handle both military and commercial air traffic pending the establishment of facilities at the Huntsville City Airport. Facilities at the Army airfield approved by the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) were needed to help clear the way for commercial aircraft to enter Huntsville on an established airway.

12 April 56 The Joint Army-Navy Ballistic Missile Committee assigned the Army as lead for the radio-controlled guidance program on the JUPITER missile.

15 April 56 The first REDSTONE missile battalion--the 217th Field Artillery Missile Battalion--was formally activated at RSA. The unit was assigned to the Third Army and attached to ABMA.

23 April 56 The Army informed the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) that a JUPITER missile could be fired in an effort to orbit a small satellite in January 57.

26 April 56 The CAA agreed to establish an airway from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, through Huntsville to Chattanooga, Tennessee. It also agreed to control traffic in the Huntsville area from Memphis through a proposed tower at Redstone Army Airfield pending the establishment of a permanent facility at the Huntsville City Airport.

26 April 56 The Secretary of Defense approved the building of 400 additional Capehart housing units for military personnel at Redstone Arsenal. As a result, the number of units to be constructed on post under this act totaled 670.

8 May 56 Members of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union picketed the main gates of Redstone Arsenal in an effort to force the Empire Gas Engineering Company, a construction contractor, to reinstate its working agreement with the union. This labor dispute forced an almost complete shutdown of arsenal construction work for a week, delaying several high priority projects.

11 May 56 An RSA Public Education Liaison Committee was established to deal with city, county, and state education agencies on matters pertaining to the public education of children of military and civilian personnel living on post.

15 May 56 The OSD's Special Assistant for Guided Missiles disapproved ABMA's request that the JUPITER C reentry test vehicle be used as an alternate to the VANGUARD vehicle.

19 May 56 The REDSTONE missile was displayed publicly for the first time in an Armed Forces Day exhibit at Selfridge Air Force Base (AFB) in Detroit, Michigan.

22 May 56 ABMA was informed of a decision by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense that no plans or preparations should be initiated for using JUPITER or REDSTONE missiles as launch vehicles for orbiting a satellite.

31 May 56 Congress passed the Sparkman -Jones Housing Bill providing FHA-guaranteed housing mortgages for certified government employees. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the act on 13 June 56. Under provisions of this legislation, the same mortgage terms as those provided by regular FHA mortgage insurance would be available, but the usual tests of "economic soundness" would be waived. This waiver allowed the FHA to grant a lot more commitments, the number being decided by DOD.

This compromise between FHA and DOD required the latter to investigate and certify to FHA the names of essential civilian personnel who were in need of housing. This action was taken as a result of the critical housing shortage caused by ABMA's establishment at RSA.

Photo of Senator Sparkman
Senator Sparkman (left), with MG Medaris

June 56 The first guided HAWK missile hit the nose of an F-80 drone flying at 11,000 feet and demolished it in a shower of flaming fragments.

Hawk intercepting a F80 jet

June 56 The first LACROSSE I production prototype missile was delivered.


14 June 56 The REDSTONE missile went on public display in the Huntsville area for the first time during the celebration of the Army's 181st anniversary. It was exhibited in the OGMS area of the arsenal, along with the Army's other large systems: CORPORAL, NIKE, and HONEST JOHN.

27 June 56 Bids were opened for the construction of 270 Capehart housing units to be located west of the Wherry Housing Project on Goss Road. Construction work on the initial phase of the Capehart program began in August 56.

30 June 56 RSA was relieved of its mission producing chemical ammunition, except for the completion of current work schedules assigned by the Ordnance Ammunition Command (OAC). That same day, the arsenal's oldest mission activity--the Ammunition Division--was abolished after 14 years of operation. Responsibility for performing the division's remaining functions was transferred to the Redstone Depot.

July to December 56 Environmental tests of the "Small Fry," the world's smallest rocket, were completed during this period.

Photo of man holding Small Fry

July to December 56 Casper J. Koeper, an arsenal employee, received a patent for a "Multiple Rocket Launcher." Developed jointly with Stanley W. Swipp, Arnold A. Kester, and Edwin O. Olson, the launcher was mounted on a 2-wheel carriage for towing at relatively high speeds and could be placed easily into firing position by two men. It was equipped with 24 tubes and could be fired singly or in ripples at half-second intervals by electrical contact.

Two men holding a model

2 July 56 MG John B. Medaris, the ABMA Commander, officially opened the renovated Redstone Army Airfield as a passenger in the first plane to land at the improved field. As it landed, the plane's propeller cut a ribbon stretched across the airstrip. The ribbon cutting for the airfield's control tower was accomplished with a conventional pair of scissors.

Read about the History of Redstone Army Airfield

Photo of airfield ribbon cutting

19 July 56 The first REDSTONE missile to be fabricated and assembled by Chrysler was flight tested.

22 July 56 Redstone Arsenal officially presented a HERMES missile to the citizens of Huntsville and Madison County. The missile and its historical marker were set up on the corner of Memorial Parkway and Airport Road.

photo of Hermes display

26 July 56 The ground breaking ceremony for the new Post Chapel was held.

photo of post chapel groundbreaking

26 July 56 Redstone Depot became responsible for operating a guided missile ammunition evaluation and procedures shop for ABMA missile systems. It also served as a stock management and accounting system for all Army ballistic missile materiel, providing availability and condition data on a worldwide basis. In addition, the depot furnished a single source of worldwide supply by receiving, storing, maintaining in storage, and issuing all Army ballistic missile materiel.

8 August 56 Construction of the largest static test stand in the United States for testing rocket motors was completed at RSA. It was slated for use in the JUPITER program.

test stand

8 August 56 JUPITER A Missile RS-20 was successfully launched. This was the first time that combustion chamber pressure was controlled.

14 August 56 Redstone Arsenal received a homemade rocket for testing, but subsequent inspections revealed that it was too dangerous to load or test. Teenager Jimmy Blackmon constructed the 6-foot rocket at his home in Charlotte, North Carolina. Army officials stepped in after the CAA ruled that testing the rocket on a farm near Charlotte might prove dangerous to air travel. Blackmon visited the arsenal on 20 August 1956.

vonbraun and blackman

25 August 56 Ground was broken for the building of 50 new military family housing units, the first of a three-phase construction program which ultimately would erect 720 new units on Redstone Arsenal. About 200 people watched as MG John B. Medaris, ABMA Commander, and BG Holger N. Toftoy, RSA Commander, helped trigger a buried charge of dynamite at the site.

housing groundbreaking

September 56 Army Ordnance chose a modification of Sylvania's proposed design for development of the PLATO guided antimissile missile.

September 56 The first industrial contract for the DART was negotiated.


20 September 56 JUPITER C RS-27 flew 3,355 miles; attained an altitude of 682 miles; and achieved a velocity of Mach 18, enough to have put its fourth stage into orbit if permission had been granted to do so.

jupiter c

20 September 56 BG Holger N. Toftoy was promoted to major general.

20 September 56 Construction was started on 270 Capehart housing units at RSA. This was the second of a three-phase construction program encompassing 720 military family housing units.

capehart housing

October 56 Raytheon Manufacturing Company became sole source production contractor for the HAWK system during this month.

6 October 56 The LITTLEJOHN rocket, designed and developed at RSA, was unveiled for its first public showing at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Maryland, during the thirty-eighth annual meeting of the American Ordnance Association.

31 October 56 The DA Chief of Research and Development instructed the Ordnance Corps to conduct a feasibility study of a ballistic missile with a required range of 500 nautical miles and a maximum range of 750 nautical miles. On 14 November 56, the Ordnance Corps forwarded the request for a medium range ballistic missile (MRBM) study to ABMA thereby gene-rating the basic requirement for the PERSHING I missile.

Pershing 1

1 November 56 DA authorized the Chief of Ordnance to begin phased development of the NIKE II system.

Nike family

7 November 56 A new firm known as Mortgage Service, Inc., was set up in Huntsville to handle housing loans for key civilian workers of DOD. Interest rates were the same as FHA (4.5 percent), but the terms were extended to 30 years and the down payment requirements were not as great.

post chapel cornerstone

15 November 56 The NIKE I was redesignated NIKE AJAX effective this date. In addition, the NIKE B was renamed NIKE HERCULES, while the NIKE II was renamed NIKE ZEUS.

18 November 56 The cornerstone for the new Post Chapel was laid during a brief ceremony.

26 November 56 The Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum to the Armed Forces Policy Council fixing the missile development roles of the three Armed Services. The Air Force was given operational jurisdiction over long-range missiles; the Army was made responsible for missiles up to 200 miles and for "point defense;" and the Navy was given control of ship-based missiles. These new roles were announced on 28 November.

8 December 56 The Secretary of Defense approved the Navy solid propellant ballistic missile program which authorized the Navy to cancel all participation in the liquid-propelled JUPITER IRBM program. The Navy substituted its POLARIS IRBM for the previously approved JUPITER solid propellant motor program.

18 December 56 The Joint Army-Navy Ballistic Missile Committee was formally disestablished.

Late 56 - Early 57 Because of the REDSTONE's proven reliability, DOD and the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project chose the missile to participate in Operation Hardtack, a study of the effects of nuclear detonation at high altitudes.

The ABMA/AOMC Era: Introduction, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962

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