Saturday, January 25, 2014

Retro Saturday: Army Ballistic Missile Agency


Click the arrow to watch “The Big Picture” on YouTube.

The Big Picture was a series of half-hour documentary films produced between 1951 and 1964 by the United States Army Signal Corps Army Pictorial Service. It aired on the ABC television network and in syndication.

Retro Saturday returns you to the late 1950s the next two weeks, as we approach the 56th anniversary of Explorer 1, the first U.S. satellite, launched on January 31, 1958 from Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 26.

LC-26 and neighboring LC-5/6 were built in the early 1950s to support development of the Redstone and Jupiter missiles. They were operated by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA), commanded by Army General John B. Medaris. His star employee was Wernher von Braun, the German expatriate who designed the Nazi vengeance weapon A-4, commonly known as the V-2. Redstone, Jupiter, and later the NASA Saturn rockets are direct descendants of the V-2.

A modified Redstone called the Jupiter-C, named Juno for the mission to suggest it was a civilian and not military rocket, was the launch vehicle for Explorer 1.

Von Braun's Nazi background, involuntary though it may have been, is not mentioned during the documentary. He's referred to as “the noted space expert.”

This 1956 documentary is about the ABMA, which had just been created by the Army's Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.

Next week, we'll watch a 1958 semi-sequel called Army Satellites that is about Explorer 1. It recycles some footage from the 1956 original.


Wernher von Braun's ABMA employee badge. Image source: Wikipedia.

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