Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Artillery - Canada, M50 762-mm Honest John Rocket

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235075)

1st Surface-to-Surface Missile Battery, with an M50 762-mm Honest John rocket mounted on a Canadian 2 ½ ton truck.  1st Surface-to-Surface Missile Battery.

The Honest John consisted of a truckmounted, unguided and solid-fueled rocket, transported in three separate parts.  Prior to launch, they were combined in the field, mounted on an M-289 launcher, aimed, and fired in approximately five minutes.  The rocket was originally outfitted with a W-7 variable yield nuclear warhead with yields of up to 20 kt. of TNT equivalent; this was followed by a W31 warhead with three variants that was deployed with yields of 2 kt, 10 kt, or 30 kt. In the 1960s, Sarin nerve gas cluster munitions were also available for Honest John launches. 

In 1962, the Diefenbaker government approved the purchase of Honest John missiles for NATO service in Germany.  The Honest John was one of several nuclear capable systems authorized by the conservative government at that time, the others being the BOMARC surfaceto-air missile (SAM), the Genie air-toair missile (AAM) used by the McDonnell CF-101 Voodoo, and the earliest of the four types of nuclear bombs carried by the Canadair CF-104 Starfighters in Europe.  The actual provision of nuclear warheads for these systems was a dominant theme of the 1963 general election.  The Royal Canadian Air Force assumed responsibility for the BOMARC missile system while the Honest John was the army’s sole nuclear capable delivery system responsibility.  The creation, in September 1960 of the army’s two SSM Batteries – one for deployment and one for training – occurred simultaneously with disbandment of the army’s antiaircraft artillery school and the 1st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment.  The two SSM Batteries not only took over the space that these organizations occupied at Camp Picton, Ontario, in the fall of 1960, but also a great many of the personnel. Training on the Honest John system took place in April and May of 1961 in Fort Sill, home of American artillery. On October 27, an Honest John missile was fired at Camp Petawawa, the first by the 1st SSM Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery. In December, 1961 over 225 men of the 1st SSM Battery were deployed to Hemer, Germany, to become part of the British Army of the Rhine under command of the brigadier commanding 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade (4 CIBG) The 1st SSM Battery had four launchers.

The role of the missiles was counter battery and harassment. Canadians in Europe used the warhead with a 2kt yield, though there were compatible warheads with higher yields. It was intended that the two forward deployed launchers would fire and then leapfrog backwards through the two other launchers in what was a “shoot and scoot” concept. The 1st SSM had 115 “operational” missiles and a reported 16 of 69 available warheads from the US Army Missile Warhead Support Detachment of the US Army Special Ammunition Storage Command, which also provided nuclear warheads to a British Army Artillery regiment of six launchers. Unlike the aircraft of the Royal Canadian Air Force, both British and Canadian SSM units had to obtain the nuclear warheads from this American custodian detachment that was co-located with the British Corps, which included 4 CIBG. Authorization for release of nuclear warheads would come directly to the American storage unit in event of a “first strike” situation.

The authority for nuclear warhead release, in most circumstances, was expected to be the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) who would also pass authority to use the nuclear warheads to the Canadian SSM Battery through the Commander 4 CIBG. There was also a process for the Canadian prime minister to authorize the use by the Canadian missile unit. The 1st Canadian SSM Battery, although an artillery element, did not come under the purview of 4 CIBG’s senior artillery officer, the commanding officer of 4 Royal Canadian Horse Artillery Regiment (4 RCHA). The officer commanding the Battery received instructions directly from Canada’s brigade commander.  The 2nd SSM Battery equipped with two launchers, had been created to provide trained personnel for Europe.  In August 1962, 2nd SSM Battery was moved from Picton to CFB Shilo where it remained until disbandment in September 1968. That same year, 1st SSM Battery was reduced to two launchers and moved from Hemer to Isherlohn. In 1970, this Battery was also disbanded.  (Capt (N) Mike Braham)

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235073)

1st Surface-to-Surface Missile Battery, with an M50 762-mm Honest John rocket mounted on an M33 trailer towed by a Canadian 2 ½ ton truck.  1st Surface-to-Surface Missile Battery.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235077)

1st Surface-to-Surface Missile Battery, with an M50 762-mm Honest John rocket mounted on an M33 trailer towed by a Canadian 2 ½ ton truck.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235080)

1st Surface-to-Surface Missile Battery operations crew.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235076)

1st Surface-to-Surface Missile Battery, with an M50 762-mm Honest John rocket being mounted on a Canadian 2 ½ ton truck.  1st Surface-to-Surface Missile Battery.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235078)

1st Surface-to-Surface Missile Battery, with an M50 762-mm Honest John rocket being mounted on a Canadian 2 ½ ton truck.  1st Surface-to-Surface Missile Battery.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235079)

1st Surface-to-Surface Missile Battery, with an M50 762-mm Honest John rocket being mounted on a Canadian 2 ½ ton truck.  

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235079)

1st Surface-to-Surface Missile Battery on parade.