Commander Oscar Smith’s letter to Lyndon Johnson

For many years, secrecy shrouded the development and combat operations of the first successful guided missile used by the United States in time of war. In January 1958, Commodore Oscar Smith submitted his recommendations to then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, Chairman Senate Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee.

This statement was submitted by the former – Officer in Charge of Project “OPTION”, which developed the missile – Commander Training Task Force, United States Navy, which completed the development and trained a force of three Air Groups (eight squadrons) to maintain and operate the weapon – and Commander Special Air Task Force, United States Fleet, which transported two trained squadrons overseas, established a base in the Solomon Islands, and on September 27, 1944 operating under the orders of Brigadier General Claude Larkin, U. S. Marine Corps., Commander Air Forces, Northern Solomons, made its first attack against a strong enemy objective with complete success. The following are excerpts from Commodore Smith’s statement:

On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed our fleet at Pearl Harbor, Germany led all nations in both rocketry and guided missiles.

On July 30, 1944, Special Air Task Force, United States Fleet carried out its successful pre-combat test under conditions approved by Admiral W. F. Halsey, U. S. Navy off Guadalcanal in the South Pacific. The United States led in guided missiles. Germany still held an undisputed lead in rocketry. Soviet Russia was not a competitor in either art.

On September 27, 1944 the United States pre-eminence in guided missile development was confirmed by their first completely successful employment in combat against an enemy.

On December 12, 1944 for reasons never disclosed to its Commander, Special Air Task Force was decommissioned. The only regular combat unit of our armed forces equipped with reliable, accurate guided missiles no longer existed. Its weapons were junked. Its highly trained and experienced personnel were separated among distant commands. The talent, the practical knowledge, and the enthusiasm of those who were devoted to the advancement of guided missiles was discarded. Those engaged in less advanced but none the less worthy guided missile projects became discouraged by the constant opposition of their seniors who should have supported them in their difficult and dangerous tasks.

The United States fell to the bottom as far as guided missiles were concerned and remainded there without stirring for about seven years.

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