PFC James K. Ryan

Firing Section

Battery A, 1st Missile Battalion, 333rd Artillery

Kuhberg Hill, outside Bad Kreuznach, Germany

November 2, 1960

I am unloading the Trainer Missile jet steering vanes, from their "home-made" plywood storage boxes. The Trainer Missile jet vanes were made of cast iron, and painted burnt orange-red color to look like the real carbon jet vanes used on the tactical missile. The tactical missile jet vanes were stored and carried in something a little more exotic to protect them from damage: 4 portable metal containers with hinged tops, and internally-cushioned to custom fit each vane in its box. The four Trainer steering rudders that were attached to the thrust unit fins are seen behind me.

The ablative carbon jet vanes, which burned away during powered ascent, were employed to steer the missile at launch by initially deflecting the rocket exhaust plume, until there was sufficient missile velocity, and therefore air flow, over the air rudders for the rudders to take effect. The 4 jet vanes were installed while the missile was undergoing horizontal assembly and checkout. Each vane was quite heavy, and it took 2 men working in tight quarters to install it. The attachment bolts on each jet vane had to be safety wired, and this task was then inspected by a senior Firing Section NCO and the GMMAO. Installing and safety wiring the vanes was a daunting task during night operations, when we were only permitted to use right angle cat eye flashlights to see what we were doing. It was imperative that the carbon jet vanes could not vibrate loose during rocket engine ignition and missile lift-off, otherwise there would be no initial steering.

The vehicle is our Fire Control and Test Truck (FC&TT). I was assigned as FC&TT driver at this period, having taken over that assignment from John Jardine, who left us for home in October. We stored and carried our tool boxes and other small equipment (voltmeters, special test equipment and tools, etc.) in the FC&TT. When not in use, the rear entrance to the van was padlocked with a combination lock, whose combination was entrusted to only a handful of people in the Battery: the CO, the XO, the GMMAO, Firing Section Chief SFC Palmer, and one or two other Firing Section NCO's, and - as the van driver - me. I guess our leadership considered me to be a trustworthy individual, as I held a Secret clearance at the time. (Or, perhaps they were making it easier on themselves, by allowing me to go in the van on a daily basis to do my clean-up and "housekeeping" chores without the need for a supervisor to be on hand.)

We are in one of the two fenced-in areas, across the road from each other, on Kuhberg Hill that we and 580th Engineer Company used. I believe that 580th sometimes utilized the open sheds, seen behind the FC&TT, for LOX tanker storage.