As we sat on the pavement in our "at rest" formation in front of the E&A hangar, waiting for somebody to make a decision, a big Air Force blue 6-bye, with the all too familiar canvas covering the troop seats, lumbered up. The big, noisy truck was followed by several crew cab pickup trucks with metal "conestoga" style covered beds. "Pile in!" was the command, so we did, with as much enthusiasm as we could muster for another grubby detail.
We were Guidance, Flight Controls, Test and Missile Equipment
Maintenance Troops again pulled out of our tasks of assembling and testing
the support equipment for the new Mace "B" missile. The TM-61C Matador was
still the operational missile in the Group, so we were used for every detail
the powers that were could dream up or pass on. Obviously we weren't doing
any "real" work, so we must have been waiting for a work detail. So again,
were off on yet another one. Back in February, 1962, during our first
month in the group, we had even shovelled snow out of ditches alongside
the MSA hangars, cleaned out the ditches, then put the snow back!
This time they issued us bayonets! The first and only
time I ever had a real bayonet as part of my equipment. Maybe I could use
it to pry out stuck mag amps, or cut the cannon plugs off of the vertical
gyro. No, these bayonets were special. We were on our way up to Steinborn, one of the Matador sites that was coming down as the Matadors were folded and put away, to remove the sod.
Sod was very important. It was used to hide dirt. It was
used in very special places, like around the base of missile monuments.
We had one missile monument on base, but that was woefully insufficient,
so we had to have another one. This one was an actual Matador airframe
to be mounted on a concrete stand. The E&A troops dug up and moved
the concrete security fence posts and the fence in the munitions area using MC-1 cranes.
The corner of Mace Blvd and, whatever the name of the main street that
ran down from the mess hall, was cut in a diagonal. (The signs are gone,
I wanted to take photos in 1995, but I was too late.) The sod was cut,
loaded, hauled, unloaded and laid with the utmost in military precision.
We always dun gud work.
The missile dedication was a nice military ceremony, the press was even there. Colonel Fred W. Vetter, Commander, 585th Tactical Missile Group, the designer of the original Missile Badge, didn't bring his beautiful Facel Vega this time, arriving in a staff car with the other dignitaries instead. The dedication of the missile coincided with the deactivation of the last operational Matador Missile in Europe.
When the photos came out in the paper, it was obvious
The Overseas Weekly didn't see the occasion as Col Vetter saw it. Indeed,
they had a photo of the 38th Tactical Missile Wing Commander at the microphone, with Col. Vetter
standing by, with the Matador poised at the sky behind his shoulder. However,
they had plastered a huge cartoon balloon over his head saying "This is
your last chance! Come out with your hands up and you won't be hurt!"
It was said Col. Vetter was not happy! The Overseas Weekly even got the
We were unhappy, too. They didn't say anything about our sod.
Beyond the Web Page... The only book devoted exclusively to the Matador and Mace Tactical Missiles. The book reveals the story from the initial idea that became the first U.S. pilotless bomber, through the politically troubled development of the ever evolving deployment methods of the Matador and Mace Tactical Missiles. It covers the Units, Groups, Squadrons and Wing that fielded the missiles. From the United States test sites, Europe, Asia and North Africa nothing is omitted. All phases of the application of these two missiles by the U.S. Air Force (and West German Luftwaffe) are included, from the first tentative launches of the XSSM-A-1 Matador in January 1949, to the tense alert duty of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the final launch of a MQM13A in May of 1977. The maintenance, logistics and launch, the men, equipment and tactics are all there.
"Bob, George, I finished your book 2 days after I received it. Couldn't put it down. It was incredible reading and incredibly detailed information."
Kent Washburn (KWASH55@aol.com) Mace B, Kadena, Okinawa
"George and Bob. I want you both to know how much I enjoyed reading and how much I admire and appreciate what you have accomplished in developing and publishing "The Pioneers". It is truly an outstanding piece of work, reflecting the time and effort required to produce it, but is also a formidable contribution to our military history. I mentioned in some earlier correspondence that I was a little disappointed in the relatively small amount of information regarding the Operating Location/Guidance Sites but you largely made up for it with this magnificent book."
Dale Lake (email@example.com) 601st Tactical Control Squadron, 38th TMW, Hamm, Germany
"I just finished your book, The Pioneers, et al. Please accept my "job well done!" Not only is it informative, but it's very readable. I'd also like to complement you on how well you footnoted it. You have shown that a scholarly work can be both instructive and enjoyable."
Michael Roof (firstname.lastname@example.org) SGM USA (Ret.)
"Very good work with great detail."
Col. Charlie Simpson, USAF, Retired
Association of Air Force Missileers
"George, the book arrived on Tuesday while I was off to France. Of course, I quickly read the chapter about ´Germany's quiet step into the realm of nuclear armament.´ You know, this is still a widely ignored fact over here...
...For me it is fascinating to see what the picture really was in the 1950s and 1960s as opposed to what the official communication of the time wanted people to believe. A fascinating book shedding some light on the early days of tactical nuclear missiles as well as the political background that even today is still largely hidden behind the propaganda of the time. Can´t wait to read the rest of it."
"I have your excellent book on USAF tactical missiles. I actually witnessed the decommissioning of the Maces at Wüscheim back in 1966."
Talitha, Tye Common Road
Essex CM12 9PX
"I just wanted to drop you a line and tell you how much I enjoyed the book that you and Bob wrote. The history was of particluar interest to me and my brother who was a history Professor at the University of Wisconsin. He also thought the book was well written, and he now knows what his little brother, (me), did while in Germany for three years."
George Joseph Snyder (email@example.com)
71st TMS, Steinborn, Germany
"...by the way, I read your book, it was great, thanks for writing it."
Dieses Buch ist ein Muss für alle, die im Rahmen ihres Dienstes bei der U.S. Air Force mit den frühen Marschflugkörpern zu tun hatten, aber auch für deutsche Militärarchäologen, die in der Eifel, im Hunsrück oder im Pfälzer Wald schon über rätselhafte Hinterlassenschaften gestolpert sind. Nach mehr als 40 Jahren wird endlich eine Fülle von Fakten, Informationen und Geschichten zu den zwischen 1954 und 1969 in Deutschland stationierten, mit Automwaffen ausgerüsteten amerikanischen Matador und Mace auf den Tisch gelegt. Ausführlich und lebendig erzählen George Mindling und Bob Bolton von den jungen Missilemen, die im März 1954 erstmals in Bitburg ankamen - noch ganz grün im Gesicht, weil auf dem Atlantik schwerer Sturm geherrscht hatte. Von den T-33-Flugzeugen, die aus Übungsgründen so taten, als wären sie Matador-Flugkörper, über die Startstellungen hinweg in Richtung deutsch-deutsche Grenze donnerten und sich von der Gegenseite nur nicht erwischen lassen durften. Oder von der Kuba-Krise, als die US Air Force Europe auf DEFCON 3 ging und an die Mechaniker in Bitburg Munition für ihre Karabiner ausgegeben wurde.
Augenzeugen sagen dazu: "Wir hätten die Vögel auf jeden Fall innerhalb von 15 Minuten in der Luft haben müssen!" Es ist lebendige Militärgeschichte, die nun nicht der Vergessenheit anheimfällt, sondern jedermann zugänglich wird - auch für die ortsansässige Bevölkerung, die heute endlich erfährt, was sich damals in ihrer Nachbarschaft zugetragen hat. Den beiden Autoren gebührt der Dank.
Klaus Stark (firstname.lastname@example.org)