GROUND OBSERVER CORPS ORGANIZATION:  United States. 1949-1958.  The Ground Observer Corps was a joint United States Air Force-state civil defense agency sponsored organization.  When activated for 24 hour operations on 14 July 1952 in Operation Skywatch, the organizational structure provided for military command and operational control and for civilian government assistance and supervision.  Figure 111-1 depicts the initial organizational structure.  Air Defense Command, the United States Air Force component of the North American Air Defense Command, was responsible for the air defense of the continental United States.  For operational and administrative efficiency, Air Defense Command divided its resources geographically into three Air Defense Forces: Eastern Air Defense Force, Central Air Defense Force, and Western Air Defense Force.  The Air Defense Forces were in turn subdivided into Air Divisions, each responsible for operation of the system of control centers, fighter interceptor squadrons, early warning radar stations, and ground control intercept radar stations.  From the standpoint of the Ground Observer Corps, the Air Divisions provided military command of the Ground Observer Corps Filter Centers through a small Air Force Detachment with an Officer-in-Charge and assigned Non-Commissioned Officers.  This detachment established operating instructions, supervised reporting procedures, provided technical guidance, and conducted training for the Filter Center and its associated Observation Posts.

Filter Centers, however, remained largely a responsibility of state and local government, and the Observation Posts almost totally a state and local responsibility.  At the state level the Director of Civil Defense appointed a Director for Ground Observer Corps activities, with responsibility for coordinating with the individual jurisdictions in the state, promoting the program, and appointing a Coordination Officer for each county or district.  These Coordination Officers in turn appointed Area Supervisors, responsible for determining the location of Observation Posts, activating the Posts, and appointing a Post Supervisor.  Each Filter Center was managed by a civilian Administrative Supervisor, appointed by the county or district Coordination Officer or by the Area Supervisor, depending on the procedures established in the individual states.  This civilian chain of supervision was responsible for recruiting volunteers, maintaining records, scheduling of staff for duty shifts, and the other administrative work of running the organization. 

This organizational structure remained essentially the same during the lifetime of the Ground Observer Corps.  However, an updated organizational structure was published in 1955, as shown in Figure 111-2.  In the Air Force organizational structure Ground Observer Squadrons were created to supervise the various Detachments, and the officer assigned to a Detachment had been formally designated a Detachment Commander.  Operationally, the  Aircraft Control and Warning Squadrons, which provided ground control intercept control for fighter interceptors, became the reporting conduit for Filter Centers.  And at the state level, Air Divisions assigned an officer as the State Ground Observer Corps Coordinator to work in the state Civil Defense office to coordinate Air Force tactical requirements with state administrative efforts.  

Sources: United States, Department of the Air Force, Aircraft Recognition for the Ground Observer, AF Manual 355-10, St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America, Von Hoffmann Press, 1955.  United States, Department of the Air Force, Ground Observers' Guide, AF Manual 50-12, St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America, Universal Printing Company, 1951. Federation of American Scientists, "NORAD Selected Chronology," location, accessed 15 September 2003.

Entry 03111 - posted 8 October 2003