The scientific tourist #323 — Honest John

On display here (seen at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in Albuquerque, New Mexico) is an Honest John missile — a.k.a. an M31 (or sometimes, MGR-1):

Honest John (M31)

From the placard:

The Honest John was the first nuclear tipped rocket to be deployed by the U.S. Army. It was a simple, free-flight rocket that was highly mobile and designed to fire like conventional artillery in battlefield areas. This solid fuel rocket was by far the easiest to operate of all U.S. nuclear weapons in the fifties. It took a six man crew only five minutes to mount the rocket onto its launcher. After that, all that remained was to set the proper azimuth, and fire the rocket.

The first Honest John battalions were deployed to Europe in the spring of 1954.  Honest John was replaced by the Improved Honest John (M50) in 1961 — reducing the system’s weight, shortening its length, and increasing its range. By 1973 they had been demoted to National Guard use, and in 1982, all Honest John rockets and their support systems were declared obsolete.

Honest John holds the distinction of being the U.S.’ first nuclear-capable ground-to-ground missile.  This original variant of the Honest John was 27’3″ (8.3 meters) long, weighed 5,820 pounds (2640 kg), and had a range of 15.4 miles (24.8 km).  Even though the Honest John was unguided, and a relatively early ballistic missile (for the U.S.), it wound up being in service longer than any other U.S. ballistic missiles aside from Minuteman.

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