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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


702nd Strategic Missile Wing

On March 21, 1957, the Air Force selected Presque Isle to be the first Snark missile base. On January 1, 1959, Headquarters, Strategic Air Command activated the 702nd Strategic Missile Wing, placing it under the operational control of the Eighth Air Force. The Corps of Engineers New England Division managed the construction of 6 missile assembly and maintenance buildings as well as 12 launch pads on which the mobile launchers could be placed.

The 556th Strategic Missile Squadron was activated under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Richard W. Beck at Patrick AFB on 15 December 1957. The 556th was assigned to SAC, but it started its on-the-job training under the direction of the 6555th Guided Missiles Squadron in January 1958. Some of the 556th's men participated in an "over-the-shoulder" training exercise with the Northrop Field Test Crew in March, and the Squadron's first simulated launch training was conducted on April 4th. The Air Force Missile Test Center picked up responsibility for SNARK operational evaluation testing on 14 May 1958 (i.e., two weeks before the Northrop Field Test Crew's last launch), and the 6555th supervised the 556th's first launch on 27 June 1958. The 556th also launched two N-69Ds in November and December 1958.

The 556th's crew training program was shortened dramatically after the Air Force decided to limit the SNARK's deployment to just one operational squadron. SAC assigned the 556th to the 702nd in April 1959. Eighty SAC personnel were sent to AFMTC in the spring of 1959 for crew training, and the 556th participated in three production model (SM-62) SNARK launches before it departed for Maine on 7 July 1959. Though the 556th was inactivated on 15 July 1959 and absorbed by the 702nd, 188 additional SNARK missilemen were trained under the 6555th Guided Missiles Squadron's supervision by the end of December 1959.

On May 27, 1959, the first Snark missile arrived at Presque Isle and on March 18, 1960, the 702nd SMW placed a Snark missile on alert status. Three more missiles were added to the Wing's alert force within a few months. On February 28, 1961, SAC declared the 702nd SMW to be fully operational. However, a month later, President Kennedy ordered the Snark missile to be phased out as it "was obsolete and of marginal military value." On June 25, 1961, the Snark missile and the 702nd SMW were deactivated.




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