Specific: The Honest John rocket-launcher was
received as part of the MDAP program in the late 1950´s. The
launcher system was used as Division- and Corps-artillery
from 1959 to approx. 1973.
Historical: Development of the Honest John
Rocket system, which was a simple, free-flight rocket
capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, took place from
May 1950 and the system was deployed as an interim system
in spring 1954. The use of off-the shelf hardware reduced
time of development to slightly more that 2 years.
Honest John was the first US tactical nuclear weapon. The
system was highly mobile and designed to fire like
conventional artillery in battlefield areas. It remained
in production jointly by Douglas Aircraft Corporation and
Emerson Electric Manufacturing for 12 years during which
time more than 14.500 of the M31 and the improved M50
rocket were produced.
In May 1961 the improved Honest John first reached the
field as a complete tactical unit. By the end of 1962,
Army Artillery battalions in the United States and
overseas were equipped with the improved Honest John and
were fully operational.
The conversion of the Honest John system from active to
reserve status began with the M33 CHOPPER JOHN
(helicopter transportable launcher) units in 1964. When
the LANCE system became operational, all available Honest
John equipment would be converted to National Guard
On the 9th of July 1982 MICOM Commander approved a type
classification of obsolete for all Honest John rocket
motors, launchers, and related ground equipment items.
The M289 and M386 tactical launchers and the below
mentioned trucks are all member of the G-744 (or M39), 6
x 6, 5-tons truck series. The series was developed
shortly after WW II to replace trucks in the 4-, 5-, 6-,
and 7½-ton class. First production models were completed
by Diamond T and International Harvester with later
production being undertaken by Kaiser Jeep (now AM
General) and Mack.
Later models were powered by a diesel-engine and later on
a turbo-charged version of the LD 465 were used. The
latter was no success as it overheated.
The LD was then replaced by a commercial engine by AM
General and the series then became known as the M809
Length (M289): 12.9 m (508 inches).
Length (M386): 9.88 m (389 inches).
Width (M289): 3.05 m (120
Width (M386): 2.89 m (114
Height (M289): 3.87 m (152 inches).
Height (M386): 4.16 m (164 inches).
Weight (M289): 21.585 kg (47.595
Weight (M386): 18.218 kg (40.170
Engine: 6-cylinder (Continental R6602), 9.866 cm3
(602 cubic inches) displacement, liquid cooled.
Horsepower: 196 at 2.800 rpm.
Transmission: 5-speed gearbox.
Transfer case: 2 speed.
Electrical system: 12 volt.
Tyres: 14.00 - 20.
without preparation: 1.98 m (78 inches).
with deep water fording kit: N/A.
Fuel type: Petrol.
Fuel capacity: 500 liter (110 gallons).
Armament: The fin-stabilised rocket was
762 mm, used against ground targets, and could be armed
with a conventional (HE), atomic or chemical warhead.
Max. range approx. 34 km.
Additional: Two different models were
delivered; the M289 based on the 5 ton M139C chassis
(shown), and the M386 (121
kb) based on the 5 ton M139F chassis, both produced
by International. The main difference between the M289
and the M386 was the the length of the ramp which had
been reduced by 2 meters and made collapsible. The latter
was standardised in September 1957.
The launcher was equipped with a 115V generator-set,
generating power for heating of the rocket. Approx.
weight of the launcher was 19 ton without rocket and 21.5
ton with the rocket mounted.
The system was also used by Britain, Belgium, Canada,
France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and West
The French systems were organised in 3 artillery groups,
all based in the southern parts of West Germany.
Other members of the
- Cargo truck, 5 ton, 6 x 6, M55 (212 kb) and
- Medium wrecker M62 (87 kb).