A 17-year-old Soldier in Germany

A 17-year-old Soldier in Germany

I turned 17 in my second eight weeks of basic training at Fort Hood, Texas and was too young to appreciate a tour of duty in Germany. I did visit some of the sites, but most of my free time was wasted. I should have taken more leave while there and toured more.

After the troop ship landed in Bremerhaven, Germany, we loaded into a train and headed south to a small town near Frankfort, Germany. Hanau would be my home for the next two years. The cold war was building up and we were warned about riding the trains to close to the border. You could get on the wrong train headed for East Germany and it would not stop until the first station inside East Germany. And then it would be too late and it might take months for the military to get you back.

Following small arms target practice one day about an hour drive from Hanau, two of us decided to skip the target duty and hitch hike back to the barracks. Large targets would be raised for the solder on the firing line to shoot at, then you would lower the target and mark the bullet holes. If they missed the target all together, they would get a “Maggie Drawers,” a red flag would be waved from the pit for everyone to see. Sometimes if you didn’t care for the person on the line, we would give him “Maggie Drawers.” We walked out to the main road with our rifles over our shoulders and put out our thumbs. In no time we were back at the Barracks and no one said anything, I guess that we were not missed.

The Barracks at Hanau were built by the Germans before WWII and the base was well laid out in a half circle with the motor pool and equipment on one side and the barracks on the other side. It was a short walk to the motor pool but it seemed longer when you were caring all your gear and a 30-Cal Machine Gun or the barrel of a 50-Cal. We had Red Alerts about once a month and we would jump out of bed, rush down to the arms room in the basement, grab the equipment and run to the motor pool to await further orders. Our Barracks was on the corner with a good view of the athletic fields and lower buildings. The room was also on the top corner floor. It was great except for a low support beam that ran at an angle from the floor to the ceiling. We soon learned to duck under or avoid it.

We were trained for an Atomic War if hostilities broke out. One or more of the Atomic war heads for the Honest John Missile where stored in the basement of our barracks. We always new when they were moving them, because they would warn us about taking pictures out of the windows. I did take a few pictures of the crane that lifted the war heads but not of the warheads. Shells for the Atomic Cannon where moved around all over our area and could have very well been stored in the basement as well. One end of the basement was restricted and we had our classroom and arms room in the other end. There were rumors that we also had Atomic rounds for the 8 inch and 155 mm guns, but I never knew for sure.

B Battery, 3rd Armored Division 2nd Howitzer Battalion, 73rd Artillery, consisted of six 155mm M109 self-propelled howitzers and an armored personnel carrier for Fire Direction Control. Except for direct fire practice, the artillery would be shooting blind under the control of the Fire Direction Control Center. The Fire Direction Control Center would receive information by radio from the forward observer who would be watching the rounds hit the impact area. The pack of charges for firing the 155mm shells came in a pack of seven. They would then be told what charge to use, for example a charge five would mean that two charges would be removed and thrown into the fire pit. As a safety measure, one of the gun crew would count the discarded charges and repeat out loud to avoid mistakes.

A recorder on the phone between the fire direction group and the guns, would record all the information sent to the guns, in case there was a mistake or someone misunderstood, then verification could be made. This was my job, Battery Recorder. I would ride out ahead of the battery with the First Sargent and we would align the aiming circle, a device which had a compass and a scope for sighting in different angles. We would use this to obtain the correct direction for the guns and place stakes for them to line up on when they pulled into position. Great care had to be taken to insure that all six guns were pointed in the same direction parallel to each other. You aligned the device to magnet north by looking through a hole at the end of the compass needle. The danger here was that you had to be sure that you knew which end of the needle you were 먹튀검증 looking at. If you had the wrong end, then the guns would be laid out 180 degrees and you would be shooting backwards. One of the Honest John rockets was laid out backward in Grafenwohr during practice. The rocket with just enough explosive to blow the head apart, hit a building in a nearby town. No one was hurt.

The Fire Direction Control Center consisted of two drafting tables set up in the armored personnel carrier with field telephone contact with the guns. Each table was identical except that one used a plain paper chart and the other used a topographic map. The first order of business when we set up in a new position was to zero in on a known target. We would fire one round toward the target and the observer would then give us corrections over the radio. We would bracket the target with usually only three rounds. From this information we could then aim at any other target within our field of fire. The drafting equipment consisted of a metal scale for the elevation and protractor for the azimuth. There were other calculations that determined the proper charge and weather reports that gave us the air density. This information was sent to the guns in a string of information as Charge, Elevation and azimuth. The recorder wrote down this information as it was being given to the guns.

After setting up the alignment stakes for the guns and while waiting for them to arrive, I would dig a fox hole and set up the command station for our Lt. who over saw the operation. In practice I could get away with digging a shallow hole and erect a tent or camouflage over it, depending on the weather. Two pictures of Lt. Weske and myself on the field telephone are in the 1959-1960 Spearhead year book for the 73rd Artillery, 3d Armored Division

My cousin, Anna Lell, started writing to a pen pal in Germany when she was in high school and asked if I would look her up while I was in Germany. We wrote several letters back and forth and I was invited up to Hanover when I got some leave. Hanover was in the British sector and they were not used to seeing American solders. Annamarie’s father was a solder in WWII and I am not sure how he felt about his daughter seeing me. A friend of theirs owned a Hotel and they provided me with a nice room. We went to the movies, took long walks and toured Hanover. Nothing more became of the relationship and we lost touch. I am not sure if Anna Lell is still writing to her.

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