6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK)
The Ft. Bliss Years

Battalion activated first missile fired a direct hit.

Fort Bliss, Texas -1 January 1963 to 31 December 1963

The 6th Missile Battalion (HAWK), 56th Artillery was active by General Order 53, dated 19 April 1962, Headquarters, U.S. Army Air Defense Center, Fort Bliss, Texas. Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, and the 62nd Signal Detachment were officially organized on 3 January 1964, with Lt Col Bernard B. Sapp as Battalion Commander. The other principal staff members were Major Charles B. Lee, Executive Officer; Capt.  Theodore B. Hawranick, Adjutant; 1st Lt Fredrick Tinseth, S-2; Captain William R. Warren, S-3 and Caption William J. Galbrith, S-4. Captain Wendell C. Vincent was Headquarters Battery Commander and 2nd Lt David E. Powell, 62nd Guided Missile Group, 1st Missile Group, 1st Guided Missile Brigade, Fort Bliss, Texas, prior to organization.

On 21 January 1963, the four firing batteries were organized with the battery commanders as follows:


            Alpha Battery             Captain David E. John

            Bravo Battery             Captain Richard K. Dietach

            Charlie Battery            Captain Donald C. Selberg

            Data Battery               Captain James C. Payne

In February 1963, Advanced Individual Training was begun and received by majority of the battalion’s personnel. This training was conducted by the 2d Guided Missile Group. Basic Unit Training for the battalion was received in March and April.

Col Sapp formally received the battalion colors from Colonel Stacy, Commanding Officer, 2d Guided Missile Group at an impressive ceremony held 16 March at Training Area 2.

The battalion, in April 1963, was selected as the HAWK battalion to provide a battery for firing at White Sands Missile Range in a missile demonstration for President John F. Kennedy, on 5 June. Alpha battery was selected and began preparations immediately for its selected role; Delta battery was selected to furnish an Assault Fire Unit for static display at the demonstration.

At the firing for the President, Alpha battery launched a missile at its target and obtained a direct hit. As this was the first missile fired by the battalion, the success of the mission was commended by all concerned and demonstrated the quality and effectiveness of the training received by the personnel of Alpha battery.

The firing phase of the Army Training Test was held on 11 May at McGregor Range by all four batteries. This was done in conjunction with and orientation given to the visiting West Point Cadets, demonstrating the current air defense missiles of the Army.

Advanced Unit Training started in May 1963, with three field training exercises (FTX) conducted prior to the tactical phase of the Army Training Test administered to the battalion 23 – 27 June. The 120th Ordnance Detachment, commanded by 2d Lt Larry J. Byers, was attached to the battalion on 29 May. The detachment provides direct support for guided missile maintenance.

In July, the battalion was attached to the 6th Artillery Group (AD). Major Kenneth L Hamilton arrived to act as Battalion Commander in the absence of Col Sapp, who assumed command of the 6th Artillery Group.

Col Sapp returned in August, after commanding the 6th Artillery Group (AD) on exercise “Swift Strike III.” Col Sapp later received a commendation from General Paul D. Adams, Commander-in-chief, United States Strike Command for the outstanding performance of the 6th Artillery Group in the exercise.

Sp4 Jackie N. Smith, Alpha Battery, was selected in September as the 6th Arty Gp (AD) Outstanding Soldier of the Quarter, third quarter CY 1963 and runner-up at Center competition.

A three-day FTX was conducted in October and again in November which contributed to the overall readiness and training status of the battalion. Sp4 Smith was selected again in December as the Group Outstanding Soldier for the Quarter, Fourth Quarter CY 1963 and later chosen as the Center Outstanding Soldier for the Quarter.

The first edition of the “Night Hawk”, the battalion newspaper, was published on 18 January 1963 and throughout the year kept the personnel informed on all events, especially those within the battalion.

                    The 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery NIGHT HAWK newsletter Vietnam 1967

Joint Exercise Operation Desert Strike 6th Missile Battalion, 56th Artillery May 1964

Joint Exercise Desert Strike in May 1964 was a joint Army-Air Force exercise designed to familiarize troops with the concepts and doctrine associated with the large-scale employment of conventional and tactical nuclear weapons.
 Joint Exercise Desert Strike, the biggest U.S. desert-warfare maneuver since General George Patton trained his tank forces in the same area in 1942 to prepare for the invasion of North Africa. Although considered a war "game," Desert Strike ran up costs that smacked of the real thing.

The exercise involved more than 100,000 men (90,000 Army, 10,000 Air Force), 780 aircraft, 7,000 wheeled vehicles, 1,000 tanks. All were deployed over some 13 million acres of California, Nevada and Arizona landscape. Air Force units operated out of 25 airfields from Texas to Oregon.

The exercise caused or contributed to the deaths of 33 men, including six in aircraft crashes, five by drowning, five in truck accidents, and two sleeping soldiers who were run over by a tank.

In the 105° heat of the deserts of the southwest, smoke generators threw up acrid screens. Fighter-bombers singed the sand with the blast of their afterburners. Helicopters chattered, machine guns clattered and men swore. The men of  the 6th Missile Battalion, 56th Artillery displayed to the world the unit’s mobility and the awesome capability of the Battalion's Hawk air defense capability.

Because of the outstanding preformance of U.S. Army HAWK missile units like the 6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery during Operation Desert Strake, some Airmen concluded that aircraft could not operate in a surface-to-air missile (SAM)-protected areas. It should be noted that the HAWK missile system was a more capable SAM that the SA-2.

B/6/56th  Operation Desert Strike 1964   B/6/56th Field Training Ft Bliss, TX 1964  

                        Map Operation Desert Strike

Training for War

The courage of the soldier is heightened by the knowledge of his profession

 --Flavius Renatus Vegetius

The year was 1965 in the hot dry desert of Fort Bliss, Texas. The New Year for the 6th Missile Battalion, 56th Artillery started off with “shots”. All personnel received their shots to maintain their Preparation of Soldier for overseas movement (POR) qualifications.

During the period 8 – 22 January 1965 the batteries participated in static operations at Fort Bliss Maneuver Areas and completed Trainfire Course to improve their combat proficiency. The month was topped off by the Battalion participating in a three day Field Training Exercise.

February 1965 was spent in preparation for and participation in a Battalion Command Inspection. Battery C and the 62nd Signal Detachment satisfactory completed the Fourth Army Command Maintenance Management Inspection. And A Battery was awarded the Best Battery Trophy. The 120th Engineer Detachment was redesignated the 42nd Engineer Detachment on 18 February 1965.

March 1965, the Battalion again was preparing for and participated in an inspection. The Battalion received the Annual IG Inspection 9 – 12 March, and received an overall rating of Excellent. To maintain combat proficiency the battalion participated in a three day Field Training Exercise.

April 1965 was used to train personnel and develop the unit’s operational readiness status as a Strategic Army Corps (STRAC) unit. Batteries participated in loading exercises, both air and rail. The Battalion also participated in the US Army Air Defense Center Safety Inspection with excellent results. Battery C was awarded the Best Battery Trophy.

May 1965 was again a month of inspections with the 56th Battalion receiving the Fourth Army Intelligence and Crypto inspection and the US Army Air Defense Centers Commanding Generals Inspection. These inspections were accomplished with excellent results. The month ended with one battery practicing its rail loading plan and a one day field training exercise to insure its readiness a accomplish its mission as a STRAC unit.

On 14 June 1965 the Battalion was redesignated the 6th Battalion (HAWK), 56th Artillery and reorganized under it new TOE 44-235D from TOE 44-235T. This change increased the authorized Battalion strength by 225 personnel, and the Ordnance and Engineer Detachments were made a part of the Battalion. The Battalion received a 100% Technical Inspection by US Army Air Defense Center with excellent results. An air loading exercise was conducted at Biggs Air Force Base to maintain unit proficiency as a STRAC unit.

The 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery Attached to HHB 97th Artillery Group

On 9 August 1965 the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery was relieved from attachment to HHB 6th Artillery Group (Air Defense), Fort Bliss, Texas and attached to HHB 97th Artillery Group preparing the units for shipment to Vietnam under General Orders Number 99. As read below:


U.S. Army Air Defense Center

 Fort Bliss, Texas 79916

Dated: 6 August 1965

General Orders Number 99


Paragraph 1. TC 023. Following organizations/Units DETACHED. HEADQUARTERS & HEADQUARTERS BATTERY, 97th ARTILLERY GROUP



Relieved from attachment: to Headquarters & Headquarters Battery 6th Artillery Group (Air Defense)

Effective date: 9 August 1965.

Authority: AR 220-5.

Special Instruction: Commanding Officer, 6th Artillery Group (Air Defense), retains responsibility as host unit for preparation for movement and departure from this station, and for such administrative services as may be requested by Commanding Officer, 97 Artillery Group.

Paragraph 2. TC 015. Following unit attachment directed as indicated this station.



Attached to: Headquarters & Headquarters Battery, 97th Artillery Group.

Effective date: 9 August 1965.

Authority: AR 220-5.



Colonel, GS

Chief of Staff           
Alert Orders for Vietnam

 July 1965, a three day Battalion Field Training Exercise. 16 July 1965 the Battalion received it Alert Orders for overseas deployment to U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) South Vietnam. This event initiated a series of actions (1) technical inspections or equipment and (2) checks of personnel records to insure POR qualification of individuals. Batteries A and B participated in Annual Service Practice to qualify crews for deployment.  

Preparing Equipment for movement  

 August 1965, commenced with Batteries C and D firing Annual Service Practice. The Battalion has six successful missiles out of eight with Battery D receiving the highest score. The remainder of the month was spent in preparing equipment for shipment. All equipment was ready for shipment by 15 August 1965, the Equipment Readiness Date, and loading of flat cards commenced on 21 August 1965 and was completed on 25 August 1965.

Personnel Readiness Date September 1965, Personnel Readiness Date was established as 1 September 1965 and all personnel were POR qualified prior to this date. The Battalion’s personnel were alerted for movement from Fort Bliss, Texas to Oakland Army Terminal, Oakland, California.

Two types of moves were set up, a portion of the Battalion departed on 8 September 1965 by train with the remainder minus advance party flying to Oakland Army Terminal on the 9th and 10th of September 1965

6th Bn, 56th Arty(HAWK) Shipping Out to Vietnam Aboard the USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey
The main body of the 6th Battalion (HAWK), 56th Artillery and 7th Battalion (HAWK), 71st Artillery departed Oakland Army Terminal aboard the USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey on 11 September 1965 


Homing All the Way Killer (HAWK) If you fly you die..


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