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The first Pershing II was destroyed at Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant, Texas, in 1988.

Less than three years
later, on May 6, 1991, the destruction of the last of 108 Pershings (aibove} ended an era in Army history.

Goodbye Pershing II
Story by Donna Miles

A faded sign is all that's left.

MISSILEMEN from the 56th Fie ld Artillery Command used to hate the onemile stretch of road that leads to the gate
ofthe Mutlangen Missile Storage S ite.
Ever s ince the first Pers hing II
missiles rolled into Mutlangen in 1983,
protests had become a way of life along
the othe rwi se qui e t s treet in
Sch waeb isch-Gmue nd , Germa n y.
Sometimes just two or three demonstrators kept the vigil, hurling abusive gestures and flashing angry signs. Othe r
times, especia ll y when th e 56th FA
moved o ut to the field , huge crowds
gathered in a massive display of dissent.

Some of the more aggressive protestors
laid in the street to block military vehicles. Others hurled eggs and rotting fruit
o r spat at the soldiers.
The Sov iets, it turned out, were
equally disenchanted with the Pershing II.
Tue system was faster, more accurate and
more deadly than any the world had seen
- even more than the Soviet SS-20 it was
fi elded to face. One 56th FA so ldier
bragged that he "could sit at Fort Sill and
fire one at the pitcher' s mound at Fulton
County Stadium in Atlanta and hit the
That precision ultimately drove the
Soviets to agree to a plan to w ipe out an
entire class of nuclear weapons. The In45

Clockwise, from below: After being cut in half as required by t he I N F
treaty, an erector-launcher is ready tobe sold off as scrap. • Anti-missile
protests were common in Germany after t he Pershing II was fielded in
1983. The Soviets were equally unhappy with the missile's deployment.
• Intensive training continued even as t he t reaty was implemented.

le rmediate-R ange Nuclear Forces. or
INF, treaty called for the destruction of all
ground-la unched ball istic and cru ise
missiles with ranges betwee n 500 and
5,000 kilometers (3 10 to 3,4 10 miles).
T he Soviels stood to lose 1,802
surface-to-surface missiles, along with
equ ipme nt used to maintain and fi re
them. The treaty also called for the United
S tates to elimi nate 846 intermediaterange missiles, including all 108 Pershing
Ils. their erector-launchers and support
equipment. All mi ssiles were to be destroyed before May 3 1, 199 1.
The first Pershing II was shipped to
the United States for destruction in September 1988. lts erector-launcher was cut
in half and sold as scrap meta!. Less than
three years later, on May 6, an 18-member Soviel inspection team looked on as
the last Pershing II was destroyecl at
Longhorn Army Am muniti on Pl ant in
Texas. Within the week. the Soviel Union
destroyed its last SS-20 missile.
That clestruction brought an end to

an era . The cl ass of dead ly nuclear
weapons that hacl been most threaten ing
to Europe's people, its cities and its Strategie sites, was no more.
Members of the 56t h FA recognizecl their role in bring ing about that
peace. " We did the best that we could
ever have hoped for,'' said SFC Melvin
Johnson, an evaluator wi th the 56th FA.
" We brought the Russians to the negotiating table." "And we accomplished what
we were hoping to accomplish - peace
in thc wo rld ," ag reed CWO 3 Joh n
But in doi ng so, the 56th - the
Army ·s only Pe rshing II commancl had put itself out of a job. Whi le the
comma nd wo rked to comply wit h the
treaty guideli nes. its 6.000 soldiers tumed
in equipment, cleared bui ldi ngs and fin ished paperwork. Three weeks after the
last Pershing II was destroyed, the command fu rled its colors and inactivated.
Just six soldiers from each of the
command's three remaining banalions,

with their headquarters and service batteries, ancl the 2nd Bn. of the 4th lnfantry
Regiment, the 38th Signal Bn., and the
55th Suppo11 Bn., remainecl to auend the
May 31 ceremony at Mutlangen.
Most of the 2nd Bn. , 4 th l nf.
"Wan'iors" who once provided security
for the Pershing had moved to the Combat Ma ne uver T ra ining Cen ter at
Hohenfels. There they prepared for their
new role as CMTC's permanent-party
opposing force.
Abo ut 2,000 o f the com mand 's
soldiers wi th Pershing-unique skills were
at school reclassifying into new career
fields. Some 500ofthem moved into new
fie ld artillery jobs, many with the Mu ltiple Launch Rocket System. But most
Former Pershi ng soldiers were starting
fresh in totally different military special it ies. attendi ng advanced indiv idual
trai ning in classrooms fu ll of privates.
"W he n you take out a class of
weapon, you take out a whole class of
MOSs," said Sgt. Gregory Hili, a 56th FA
enl isted ma nagemen t NCO IC. He'd
pains takingly interviewed all enlisted
soldie rs in the com mand to determine
their choice of MOS and duty tation.

inety percent of the soldiers got their
tirst or second choice,'' he said. "We used
a lot of sensitivity in helping soldiers get
what they wanted.'.
Among them was Johnson. a 12year Pershing missileman-turned-petroleum specialist. Like many of his peers,
Johnson had assumed he'd stick with
Pershing for the rest of his career. He'd
been in Schwaebisch-Gmuend when the

first Pershing Ils were deployed in 1983
to replace the less-accurate and shorterrange Pershing I As. He' d endured the
daily protests, leaming the new system
and its capabilities as he advanced from
crewman to section chief to platoon sergeant to evaluato r.
As a "red hat," he'd gone through
countless quick reaction alerts and several
li ve fires at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and
White Sands Missile Range, N.M. His
experience convinced him that Pershing
II, and the soldiers who manned it, were
top-notch. "We were good," he said. "We
had the biggest, most powerful and most
accurate system over here. It's hard to
believe it's gone away."
Back in 1987, news that the INF
treaty had been ratified by Congress "sent
shock waves" th roug h the close-knit
Pershing community, Johnson said. Soldiers w ho wore the 56th FA sho ulder
patch, with its upright missile and lightning flashes, were so specialized that they
rotated only between ass ignments at Fort
S ill and three G e rm a n posts:
Schwaebisch-Gmuend, Heilbronn and
Neu Ulm. " Pershing was a small community and you pretty much knew everybody ," Johnson said. " If you didn ' t
know them, it was because yo u ju st
missed them. Even tuall y every body
caught up with each other."
With that familiarity came a lot of
mutual respect. "These are soldiers who
have stood in the window to go to war 24
ho urs a day, seven days a week," said
CSM Ian Tompkins. "They were good,
and they were ready, and they knew it."

As proud as the 56th FA soldiers
are of their role in bringing about the INF
treaty, many noted the passing of the
command with a tinge of sadness.
In the last weeks before the inactiva tion , s o ld iers w ho had o nce kept
around-the-clock alert busied themselves
wi th counting, inventoryi ng, packing,
repacki ng and shipping. "Everyone's
running around with a bri efcase, clearing," said Fozard. Brenda Barth, a shipping clerk, struggled to keep up with the
demand for outgoing household goods
shipments. No incoming shi pments were
aITiving at Schwaebisch-Gmuend.
Despite the hustle-bustle ofthe inactivation, the las t days at Bismarck
Kaserne were unusually qu iet. About 700
of its 1,000 soldiers were gone three
weeks before the ceremon y. Parking
spaces, once at a premium, begged for
takers. The snack bar, Baskin-Robbins
and post exchange cut their hours. More

than 200 students had withdrawn fro m
the elementary and middle school; one
class had just four second graders.
The emergency action center, once
the center of activity and message traffic .
at the 56th FA headquarters, echoed with
emptiness. Even the street that leads to the
now-vacant Mutlangen Missile Storage
Site was quiet - void of Pershing soldiers, their equipment and the protestors
who had taunted them for years.
"It's all evidence that we did o ur
job," said Johnson. "It 'sagood thing. But
in spite of everything, I can 't help but feel
sad watch ing an era that I've been so
much apart of come to an end." D