In 1956, George Bunker, the president of the Martin Company, paid a courtesy call on Gen. John Medaris of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. Medaris noted that it would be advantageous to the Army if there was a missile plant in the vicinity of Cape Canaveral. Martin began construction of their Sand Lake facility in Orlando, Florida, and this was opened in late 1957. Edward Uhl, the co-inventor of the bazooka, was the vice-president and general manager of the new factory.
The U.S. Army began studies in 1956 for a ballistic missile with a range of about 500–750 nautical miles (930–1,390 km; 580–860 mi). Later that year, Secretary of Defense Charles Erwin Wilson issued the Wilson Memorandum that removed from the U.S. Army all missiles with a range of 200 miles (320 km) or more. When this memorandum was rescinded by the D.O.D. in 1958, the ABMA began development of the class of ballistic missile. Initially called the "Redstone-S", where the S meant solid propellant, the name was changed to the Pershing missile.
Seven companies were selected to develop engineering proposals: Chrysler, the Lockheed Corporation, the Douglas Aircraft Company, the Convair Division of General Dynamics, the Firestone Corp., the Sperry-Rand Company, and the Martin Company.
The Secretary of the Army, Wilber Brucker, the former governor of Michigan — was apparently under pressure from his home state to award the contract to a company in Michigan. Chrysler was the only contractor from Michigan, but Medaris persuaded Brucker to leave the decision entirely in the hands of the ABMA. After a selection process by General Medaris and Dr. Arthur Rudolph, the Martin Company (later Martin Marietta after a merger in 1961) was awarded a CPFF (cost-plus-fixed-fee) contract for research, development, and initial production of the Pershing system under the technical supervision and concept control of the government. Martin's quality control manager for the Pershing, Phil Crosby developed the concept of Zero Defects that enhanced the production and reliability of the system.
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