- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2007

Chester Joswick, a retired Army chief warrant officer and one of the last surviving eyewitnesses to a major mishap in Cold War military history, died Feb. 7 at Laurel Regional Hospital, five months after suffering a massive brain hemorrhage. He was 79.

Mr. Joswick was born in Butler, Pa., and grew up in Chicago.

In 1948, he embarked on a 23-year career in the Army. For much of his career, he oversaw the maintenance and readiness of the Nike Ajax and Hercules missile systems in the U.S. and Germany.

On April 14, 1955, when Mr. Joswick was serving as the assistant launcher platoon leader for Battery C of the 36th Antiaircraft Battalion at Fort Meade, Md., a Nike missile site, a rain-induced electrical short circuit resulted in the inadvertent firing of an Ajax missile during a training drill.

The Washington Post and the New York Times published front-page reports the next day saying that the malfunctioning missile had exploded at an unknown altitude over the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

The runaway weapon “showered down on the parkway and wooded areas adjoining it in three- or four-foot-long fragments,” The Post reported

In January 2001, Mr. Joswick told the Anne Arundel County History News about the incident and said the contemporary news accounts had misrepresented the facts.

Because the launch had been unintended, he said, a restraining pin resulted in severe damage to the missile, thus rendering the warheads incapable of exploding.

The missile’s nose section and booster were found essentially intact in separate locations less than a mile from the launcher, he said.

Among his awards was a Meritorius Service Medal.

After retiring from the military in 1971, Mr. Joswick became an instructor in the legal aspects of corrections for the Maryland Correctional Training Academy in Woodstock and held this position until becoming disabled in 1985.

Mr. Joswick’s later years were plagued by a series of illnesses.

After suffering a brain hemorrhage in 1984, he struggled for more than a year to resume his teaching career at the Correctional Training Academy before retiring. He spent the last of his years undergoing treatment for various health problems.

Mr. Joswick was a member of St. Mary of the Mills Catholic Church in Laurel. He enjoyed gardening and vacationing in Germany.

Mr. Joswick is survived by his wife, Katharina Ascherl Joswick, whom he married while stationed in Weiden in der Oberpfalz, Germany; a son, John J. Joswick of Laurel; and a sister, Christine Joswick of Lemon, Ill.

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