FT Carson, Colorado
I arrived at Ft Carson early Jan, 1963.
I went almost straight to Company C of the 705th Maintenance Battalion. The company was in the older wooden barracks there at Ft Carson. The barracks were not in pristine shape, livable, I suppose but not really very good. Their mess hall was about the same - acceptable probably but certainly not anything to brag about.
I settled in and got right to work. And here I was a little more fortunate than Alaska. I got a good section chief who knew his job and he and I were the only ones in the section, I believe.
The 705th was organized a little differently than 122nd or 24th Ordnance was and had smaller Instrument Sections in them. I wasn't familiar with A Co. organization but assumed they supported the heavier tracked vehicles - probably not as many as an Armored Division so one "dedicated" co. could probably do the job.
705TH MAINTENANCE BATTALION
Now, the 5th Inf, Mechanized, was quite an outfit. It had a flexible T.O.E base, could go heavy on armor or heavy on infantry or helicopters and in any of the three climatic zones. We even debarked on the rope nets over the mock-up of a ship's side.
As you can see in chart above, the battalion had 6 companies in it whereas the 3rd A.D. 122nd Ordnance had only 4 companies. I served in both C and D companies of 705th and I knew that B Company was a helicopter company but I was unfamiliar with A Company and as the rest of us did not seem to support armor that it must have been A Company's job.
We supported mostly infantry units I think. Now I'm not sure but the 5th Div may have been organized that way for training purposes, I don't know.
I worked there with the Section Leader shown above, a fellow from New England states named Belair. He ran the Instruments Section and did a good job. There for awhile he set up maintenance schedule where he would go out to the combat units and check their equipment, repairing what he could on the spot and sending the rest to the shop in the normal procedure.
I stayed in the shop. Now I don't know why he wanted it that way because, normally the chief would stay at base and the mechanics would go out. But that's the way he wanted it and that's the way we did it and it worked just fine.
I got a couple pictures of the barracks one day, kind of interesting play of light .......
Like I said, adequate but nothing fancy.
The mess hall was about the same. Nothing to holler about but I had ate in worse ones. The people in the company seemed friendly enough and I got along with them well. I had a little spat with one sgt but nothing serious and we both got over it right away.
I think Sp-5 Belair was kind of glad to get some help and we stayed caught up pretty good. There was plenty of work but nothing we had trouble keeping up with.
I always tried to take good care of my boots and they were generally looking pretty good. I found that keeping them clean was the secret. When I came into my barrack after evening meal, I'd always go to the mop sink and with a GI brush just quickly brush them off under running COLD water. Then set them aside by my bunk and just before lights out, when they were dry, I'd apply a touch-up of polish and brush'm real good with my shoe brush and put'm back under the bunk and when arose next morn, I'd put them on and just hit'm pretty quick with the cloth and I was ready for the day. Worked real well.
We fired our M14 Rifles on a transition range and there was a rattlesnake in my line of advance but when I got close, could see that it was dead. Had a bulge in him like he'd just had a meal and probably couldn't get away from a Ft Carson trainee and got done in.
I think that was about the only rifle training I got while at C Company.
I was able to get some pictures outside the barracks - not much there, just open country, almost desert.
As you can see they are the older style barracks. Looks like there is some snow on the ground.
Then I found out what Colorado is all about. The wind started blowing in the spring. It comes up from the south along the east side of the Rocky Mountains headed north, gets up around Denver and takes off for the Great Lakes area. It blows for a month or so, sometimes very hard. You'd see road signs along the road warning of high cross-winds.
It was pretty bad that spring and I had no idea the damage the thing could do until I actually lived there. That spring there was concern for the green plants just coming up and the sand that's driven across the ground would just shred the spring "shoots" plants, destroying them.
Also, the blowing sand was very hard on the automobiles as it would actually sand-blast the lower part of the cars - up about 6-8 inches from bottom of frame. The paint was stripped off that lower edge of some of the car bodies.
One day it blew very hard and the army actually shut down the post that day. The word we were given was that we were to remain in the barracks all day. We could only go out with special permission and then we had to wear goggles and helmets. There was debris traveling along on, near the ground so it would have to have been gale force, at least.
I tried to get a picture of it but never had much luck and gave up on it. You can see one of the fire alarms, an empty artillery shell, hanging on a pole and it was sticking straight out quite a bit of the time. You couldn't see very far. You could from the barracks window but if you were out in it I imagine it would've been harder. Sometimes you could just see the next barracks.
We had a pretty good Company Commander in C Co., too. His name was Hervert, I believe. He and I got along fine. He was a First Lieutenant schooling with University of Kentucky and was majoring in mathematics and was into missiles. He was fairly smart fellow. As far as I know he got along with everybody OK.
Heh, except he had a little trouble over at the Broadmore Resort there on the mountain by Colorado Springs. He told Belair and I about it, not defensively but just as a matter of course, chuckling about it. He liked to play chess and they were setting up a chess deal there, some "master player" would be there and they were selling seats at a table and he would play 8 or 12 guys at one time. I've forgotten how many.
Anyway, he bought a seat and got into the thing and on the appointed day went over there and he was seated right by this 7-8 year old "child prodigy" who they had stuck in there and they started playing and Hervert said in just a few moves he was out of it but he just sat there to watch and when the guy had moved on from him and the kid, he started helping the kid. Cheating? Yeah, but what the hay.
Anyway, the guy works around the table and when he gets to the kid he just kind of looks at him, makes his move and goes on. Hervert says he still helps the kid and when the guy comes around next time he's faced with pretty good attack and then he just raises Hell saying "that kid's not that good a player and he's getting help" and on and on, etc. being a real asshole so Hervert left and the kid of course was then beaten. Nothing like psyching your opponent out, I guess.
This is the only picture I have of Lt. Hervert. We'd just made a rest stop on the way to the Yakima, Washington maneuvers. That's him sitting in the jeep's passenger seat with his feet up in the unmilitary area of the jeep - he was a tall slender guy. That's his driver by the jeep and you can see the kid "Andy" in the background.
Along in here somewhere we moved into some modern barracks on what I'd call the main post area. It was the large barrack that you could get several companies into. I'm pretty sure that C and D company were both in this building but I'm having trouble remembering the exact timelines.
The building had a large mess hall capable of feeding probably 400-500 men and the Battalion Hdqrs was on the first floor right across the hallway from the door of the mess hall.
Now, the 5th Mech Inf Div was one of the army's newest outfits. They gave them helicopters for rapid movement and all the missiles they had at that time. They had ground to ground, ground to air, antitank, TOWs, etc. It seems to me they even had French SS10 and/or SS11 missiles.
That could have been because (I have read since) the Huey Helicopters would never have happened if the French had not developed and started using the turbine engine in the helicopters that they were using in North Africa's Algeria. Apparently they developed the power required for that type vehicle and the USA became interested. It seems to me that the occurrence of the French defeat in Vietnam, the Turbines and the French SS10 & 11 missiles all at the same time are just a bit odd. It seems the USA was just handed the Vietnam "problem" and given some help, the missiles and the turbines and possibly plans for the Huey itself, to do whatever it was they all had in mind.
But, the 5th Inf at that time was undeniably quite an outfit. They were ROAD, STRAC and I forget what all designations and had a flexible TOE base which was mission dominated. Supposedly they could go heavy on Infantry, or Air Cavalry or even tanks, whatever the mission required. They were supposed to be able to go anywhere in the world and have people fighting on the ground in 24 hrs with support coming in within 72 hrs. I was told we had equipment, gear, packed in conex containers for all three climatic zones of the world, just grab the ones we needed when we took off.
We had shots up the gazoot and were checked constantly to ensure they were all up to date. They were very careful about false teeth and eyeglasses and if anyone had them they had to have two pair. When we had an alert, there were boxes in the supply room which we drew out and put all of our personal items in the boxes and we may even have had labels already made, can't remember, that would send them to our home address'.
We went on alerts quite often. We all had the M14 rifles which replaced the M1 and it was a better rifle, in my opinion. And it just goes on and on. We were even taken to a mock-up of a ship's side out in the desert and had to dis-embark via the cargo nets over the side, just like they did in WWII. The breadth and scope of our activities was exhilarating.
Eventually, we had to maneuver and maneuver we did. Beat anything I ever saw. A maneuver was set up with the 4th Infantry division which was based in Ft Lewis Washington. It would be held in the area east of Yakima, Washington, between it and Hanford Nuclear area and it would be the first "live fire" maneuver the US ARMY had since WWII.
We were supposed to drive the whole way there in our wheeled vehicles. The tracked vehicles would go by train and I assume the Helicopters would also.
Man, how'd you like to ride 2400 miles in this thing? Not sure how many people or who it was, rode this truck but you can see the sides rolled up and gear in it so someone must've rode in it. I'm surprised that Ordnance would need this kind of transportation when the whole company is moving. Generally they have so many vehicles that they sometimes cannot put two men in each one which we always tried to do.
Well, I thought they were nuts driving about 1200 miles one way on 2 routes. But they said no, we are going to drive up there and drive back and they did. And did it smartly, too. As far as I'm concerned they did a Hell of a job. There is about 13,000-15,000 men in an outfit like that and they went approximately 1200 miles in 5-6 days (double that for going both ways) and only had one fatality, I think. It was a woman in a Cadillac that had collided with a jeep somehow. Why, how the jeep came out on top, we don't know. I think she was a passenger.
But, of course, I could have the facts of the case wrong but that is my recollection.
We were some of the last people to leave Colorado Springs. Definitely the last day's start. The trip would take 5 days and I think people were started each day for five days so if you were, like in a satellite, on that 5th day and looked down at the area between Denver and Yakima, you would've seen a line of Army vehicles on the 2 roads in "serials" about 30 minutes apart between the two points.
Everybody did their job. Ordnance came on the tail end and either helped get downed vehicles going or towed them in to the next "rest stop", just an area that was laid out in the desert for us to park. When we arrived at the rest stops, water, fuel, hot food, etc was there all ready for us. The last rest stop we had was at the fairgrounds in Walla Walla, Washington.
Some one must have scrounged up some beer, I didn't buy any. Probably one of those other two guys. That's Sutton with the Specialist rating - good Texas boy and the other fellow is named Ponder and was from Alabama. You can see the sleeping quarters. They just pointed to a part of the rest stop and said set them there. Our gear would be on the trucks.
The left picture is, of course, a latrine.
We left Colorado going north and went to Cheyenne, Wyoming picked up highway 30 and generally followed that road. Not all the time, but generally. We went through Laramie, Rock Springs, Pocatello and on to Walla Walla, Washington and into the "deserts" of east central Washington between Yakima and Hanford, the maneuver area.
It was the early part of May and when we got to Laramie it started raining and as we passed out of the town on the north side it turned to snow. Snowed pretty good there for awhile but never did accumulate on the road.
Got through that OK and started seeing some antelopes. First time I had seen one. Got to Rock Springs and I remembered that my father had gone there to mine coal in WWII for a short time. My bus stopped there on my way to Alaska in 1961 and had breakfast. Pancakes and I think, they were the best ones I ever ate.
We got to Pocatello OK but had a little trouble on west of there negotiating a town (small city, actually) there on, I think, the Snake River.
It was something of a humorous situation and broke up activities that were becoming monotonous.
It's early in the day and we arrived at the edge of the first city and stopped so as to pick up our police escort to help our passing through the town. None was there so we waited a few minutes, and still no escort so Lt gets on his radio and talks to army traffic and they said just wait, they'd surely be there. I'm driving the first truck in the convoy, right behind Lt Hervert and I can hear the radio on his jeep just fine.
We wait and still no escort so Lt is getting nervous because the next "serial" of vehicles is coming up right behind us and getting close and reducing the 30 minute break to maybe 10-15 minutes.
He gets on the radio again and they agree he may as well get rolling and go on towards town where he surely will meet the escort on the way to us. We start rolling and get into the outskirts of the city and no escort but we have to keep going. We get near center of town and the convoy is being fragmented in the morning traffic at every traffic light and we have trucks running around town trying to find their way out and it's getting to be utter confusion.
Now the first third or so of the convoy was able to hang together and get thru the town and across the bridge on the Snake River (?) and we have stopped on a multi-lane road and are sitting there on the west side of the river.
Lt had made radio contact with the City police (or they made contact with him!) and I can hear their conversation and it works out that the city had gone on fast time that morning and of course, the army is on standard time. The police had sent the appropriate escort an hour ahead of time and when the army didn't show they went on about their business.
Hervert never did get excited and remained calm throughout and trying to get a handle on the situation but the Police Chief was losing it and finally Lt Hervert said,"Well, what would you have me do?" and the Police Chief practically screamed, "I don't give a shit what you do, just get those s.o.b.s together and get them out of MY town." and Lt Hervert said calmly, "Well, that's what we're trying to do."
The police Chief didn't bother us after that and about that time we got our lost sheep back and drove away. But I'll bet the guys following us got their escorts!
We made one more stop after Walla Walla out in a desert somewhere and was in a bunch of blue sagebrush and the ground was really rough from the little mounds of sand built up around the stuff. You couldn't go very fast as it'd shake your rig apart. I somehow got on the tail end of the convoy and it's no fun being "tail-end-charlie" you're either going as hard as the truck can go or practically setting still. Seemed like there was no in between.
So, we left that area and started moving into our more permanent location and when we started the move about dark, it started raining - out in the desert! I was driving alone, no one with me in the truck, had the top, etc lowered so as to lower the silhouette out there in the desert and when it started raining, there was no protection. I had goggles but they fogged over and I couldn't see the road and had to take them off. Then we were on a highway by that time and are going down it at a pretty good clip.
We are driving with "cateyes" and I'm really having a problem trying to keep up with the convoy and at the same time trying not to run into somebody (the "cateyes" are small lights by your headlights than shine down right in front of the vehicle - the regular headlights are shut off as are the tail and "brake" lights and such). I got my gas mask out and put it on but couldn't keep the water off the eyeglass' and I really had a Hell of a time and finally lost contact with the guys in front of me and was just going down the road hoping I wouldn't miss a turn somewhere.
Sure enough, I came blasting up the road and suddenly there are guys in front of me waving flashlights and I managed to see a couple trucks and swerved left to avoid them and started stopping as best I could on the wet pavement and I finally got it stopped about 4-5 trucks down the line. They got me backed up and back at the end all without lights, of course.
I'm just thankful I didn't hit one of the other vehicles or run over somebody and I sure don't advise trying to drive a vehicle in a rainstorm without lights and only a poncho for cover.
Incidentally, the desert lapped up the rain we got and I don't remember any mud at all.
The rest of the trip up there was uneventful and we worked our way into the maneuver area and started setting up. I awoke the next day in early morning and see in the far distance west and south, this mountain. I took a picture of it but you have to look real hard to see it. It is small, snow covered and in center of the picture.
We got set up OK but I couldn't, just couldn't sleep on the ground there - scared to death of snakes which were plentiful there on government land and this caused me some minor problems with my NCO. It wasn't Belair, as a matter of fact, I don't remember Belair being there.
After we had been there awhile, an ice cream truck came through the area and since we had not had any for some time I bought a quart of ice cream and no place to keep it or any thing so I sat under the camouflage netting by my truck and proceed to eat the stuff. It's amazing how quick the damn flies can detect and zero in on things protein and here they come - never bothered me until I got the ice cream.
Well, I'm swatting at them trying to get more of the ice cream than they did and on a big swat, I accidentally hit the carton's flap and knocked it into the sand and when I picked it up it was full of sand and ruined. Then I got teed and not having a fly swatter but something even better, I escalated the battle with the flies. I grabbed my M14 rifle which was loaded with blanks and anyone who has been around the weapons knows what a ball of fire comes out of them when you pull the trigger, right?
Well, I calmly waited until the enemy had massed in force on the ice cream, got the muzzle a few inches from them, where it would have maximum effect and pulled the trigger and a big ball of fire came out and incinerated them - they just disappeared. So I waited in ambush for the next bunch and they formed up in 15-20 seconds so I let them have it, too. I may even have fired a 3rd shot and here came some NCOs with a half dozen men all armed and ready to defend ........ they thought we were being attacked by the bad guys!
I caught it for that, too. I know it was stupid, considering, but I just never even give it a thought just went ahead and did it. But there were a few less flies around there for awhile. And out of spite, I buried the rest of ice cream so the assholes couldn't get any more of it!
We were the aggressors in this maneuver and had paraphernalia and all to fix up uniforms so we looked like a foreign army.
This young guy was named Anderson and we called him "Andy" of course. Actually he was too young to like or dislike as far as I'm concerned but he was a good kid and he kind of gravitated towards us older guys and he kind of paired up with me and a buddy of mine named George Fair. As far as I know "Andy" always did his job and was no trouble at all. I've included this picture because it shows more of the "aggressor" uniform than any other I have.
One time we were sent to the river to wash our truck. They had set up a facility on the Columbia River just below a dam. We went over there and while washing the truck saw the dam and when we were done, decided to go look at it. Got to the dam and saw this big sign on it saying "No trespassing" and then "....... except for the people of such and such Indian tribe." I can't remember the exact wording but it was clear we couldn't go on it but they could. So we went back to our snakes, lizards and scorpions.
We were having our noon meal there one day and I ran out of coffee and went to the mess line to refill and just left my mess kit there on the sand and told the guys to watch that someone didn't step in it and when I got back and sat down, reached for the thing and was about ready to take a bite and the damn thing had 4-5 little white scorpions in it apparently lapping up the gravy and mashed potatoes. So, I didn't get to finish that meal, either.
One time right there in the same area, two guys were catching little small lizards and then they decided to see what would happen if they "give them a shot" and got into their gas mask carriers where there is a kit for treating gas effects and got the atropine needles and gave the lizards a shot. Kind of dumb, I thought. Not only what was done to the lizards but especially the fact they had ruined their kits. Maybe they stole some down the line somewhere from their buddies.
It got fairly warm while we were in that area and there was a concrete tank probably 25 x 25 ft and several ft deep used to store water on apparently what was an abandoned irrigation project of some kind and the thing made a pretty nice swimming pool and I got to go into it a couple of times. Anything that was irrigated around there had been given up years ago.
That's me in my "aggressor uniform" under the netting of my truck.
We didn't get to participate in any shoot'm ups in the maneuver, you'd never know we were even involved as all we did was our regular work. I and a couple buddies got an opportunity to go watch some of our Honest John rockets fired and when we got there, they told us where to stand off to the side and said, "When it fires, it'll get off the launcher and kind of hesitate, then take on off. The best time to take a picture is when it hesitates."
Well, we got ready and they fired the thing and we've got our cameras up and that thing never slowed a whit and it was gone before we snapped picture and all we got was some exhaust, not the side of the thing.
But the maneuver had kicked off and there was a rumor that our C.G. (Commanding General) had started the maneuver right at midnight and our armor had captured 1 or 2 companies of the 4th right off. Then he captured the 4th Inf Div hdqrs with our air arm. That's the word I got anyway.
I do know that one of our units screwed up in that they were guarding a hill there somewhere and they had this kid soldier (he was 17 years of age and married when this happened) that the unit assigned to guard this one "minefield" in their front. Well, like I said, it was a live-fire maneuver and the 4th was supposed to attack this ridge when the 5th pulled off of it. The 4th would be using live ammo!
Well the 5th Inf unit made their move off the hill but then left the kid there. When they finally got him out of there after it was done, they asked him what he'd seen, how he felt etc (for the 5th's division newspaper which is where I read it) and the kid says, "Well, I didn't think much about it. I thought maybe I'd got left but didn't know what else to do so just stayed there. The planes came over and bombed but they were bombing the hill beside the one I was on so I just sat down and watched the show."
"Then these tanks and infantry came up to the bottom of the hill I was on and the tanks started firing uphill towards me. I was getting scared but kept watching and pretty soon the infantry started up the hill towards me and they all started firing and stuff was flying all over the place. Then I got scared and laid down on the ground in a ball with my helmet pointed towards them."
Wonderfully, the kid didn't get a scratch!
So we bumbled through the thing and started wrapping it up. Getting ready for the return trip. We came back down the other route so got to see a little different terrain, sights. Probably so each half would have traveled the same distance, etc.
Odd, but I don't remember anything of the trip back.
When we arrived back at Ft Carson, we went right to work as usual. As I said I had a good buddy named George Fair. Fair was from Florida and worked on electronics, missiles, mostly. Fact is, he and I were put into a two-man room together. And we got along just fine. Fair was a pretty smart guy and understood his job fairly well.
So, he decides to get himself a radio in a pawnshop down town. He came in with this old clock radio he gave $5 for and took it to the shop and modified it and anyway, he had the thing fixed so that when the Colorado Springs radio station came on the air at 6 A.M. every morning, the lights on our room would come on, and the radio came on with the station blaring the "Star Spangled Banner". The first or second morning this happened, Fair jumped upright in his bunk in his shorts and saluted.
Anderson came into the room one evening and we got to swapping tall tales and I told the 2-tiered joke about the brick layer who made a brick wall and when he was done with it he had a brick left over, so what did he do with it? Anderson says he sold it, and a couple more things and I'd just shake my head and told him, no, he threw it away!
Anderson says, that's not funny and I say OK, OK - I'll tell a funny one, I know a real funny one but he insisted that he could do it better and wouldn't let me finish up. So he told his story and when he'd got the punch line out, Fair and I just sat and looked at him, never cracked a smile. Fair, of course knew what was coming.
So I said again, OK now I got a funny one and the kid says OK. So I tell him well, there was this drunken bum that got on this bus and sat down by this fat woman who had a dog in her lap. The drunk had a cigar butt he'd picked up and was smoking and the little dog started snorting and the woman complained to the drunk and she said "If you don't put that cigar out I'll take it and throw it out of the window." The drunk says, "If you do I'll throw that dog out the window, too."
So, she did and he did, they both did what they said they'd do. They came to the next stop where both got off and here came the little dog running up to them and guess what he had in his mouth? 'Course Andy says "the Cigar."
And, of course, I say, "Nope, he had the brick the brick-layer threw away."
And so help me if the kid didn't jump up and leave the room without saying a word! But we all remained friends.
Along in here I transferred to D Company. Not because I disliked C Company but because D Company had a open slot for an E-5 instrument man. Promotion was available.
I arrived in D Company and went to the shop where they had this kid who was not an instrument repairman and knew next to nothing about ordnance. There were questions about some equipment that seemed to be missing so the company asked me to do an inventory of the equipment that was supposed to be in our shop.
Now we are talking about the infantry TOE that the combat units bring to us for repair. Some of it couldn't seem to be found. Particularly 5ea 7x50 Binoculars and 3ea .45Cal Pistols.
I did really close check on the paperwork and got it down to 2-3 pair binoculars and 2ea pistols. The Infantry units were raising Hell and wanted their stuff. Now I had seen this before over in Germany, where new, green people don't keep good records and pretty soon lose control and wind up with some stuff they do not know who it belongs to. They can't find out then later someone else takes over and says, hmmmm - surplus stuff - and they don't turn it in. Normally they trade it for something they need BUT there are those who just up and sell it for whatever they can get out of it.
I think that was the case here. I think someone in the section thought it was surplus and no one would ever know so just sold it down town. Everyone had a pretty good idea about it but nothing was ever proven.
Anyway, having gotten the inventory straightened out, then went on to other things. The whole platoon was in bad shape, actually as far as job efficiency went. We were short help in the Small Arms area as well as the Fire Control end of it. It seemed not many F.C. Instruments came our way but we had a heavy load of small arms work. So, I helped all I could in that regard as I was somewhat familiar with most of the stuff.
I'd never been around the Grenade Launcher M79 and they apparently did not have 3.5 Rocket Launcher either but had a shoulder fired Recoiless Rifle that they used. Otherwise I knew something about the rest of it so wound up doing just as much small arms as instrument work and maybe more.
And then they transferred a guy into the section who was E-5 F.C. Instrument Repair - there went my promotion - couldn't believe it. Then, to top off everything else, the guy didn't know the first thing about Instruments! He said he was small arms repairman and I asked well, how the world did you get the Instrument MOS? And he said, "oh, that was the only slot available in his previous unit so they promoted him into it but I kept working in small arms ........" I was really ticked about the whole deal.
I tried to continue my studies in things Russian and signed up with a Russian language class. It was ran by a Russian woman who had married an American Officer over there in Russia, I think. Anyway, she was at Ft Carson with her husband. We no more than got started and that big maneuver in S. Carolina came on the scene and I never went back when it was over.
The only word I remember she taught us is "vilka" which means a fork that you eat with. But I already knew some words, yet today when some one says "Can you speak Russian?!" I smile and say one word ...... "Da" which is yes.
We did our best to do P.T. but it was not organized P.T. - we ran the 1.7 miles to the shop in the mornings in lieu of the regular thing. Not necessarily every day but at least 2-3 days a week.
And I started looking at the Vietnam thing out of the corner of my eye and so I went to the post library looking for books on guerrilla warfare and there was hardly anything there. They had 2 books on the warfare in Yugoslavia during WWII and they had Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" so I read'm all. Lawrence was mostly social stuff and the Yugoslavian stuff was generally of a tactical nature.
None of it applied to what I'd seen so far in Indo-China. So I just kept reading my geopolitical stuff and the divide and conquer, the instigations, the stirring up of populaces to achieve merchantilistic advantage, etc became ever more apparent as I studied the causes of guerrilla activity.
Along in here we got a new M88 Retriever, a really nice looking, solid vehicle. It was parked next to the fence separating us from a little building next door and I went out into the motor park to get a picture of it and when I raised my camera to take the picture a guard of the little building next to us yelled "No pictures." Well, I figured what the heck and raised the camera again and the M14 Rifle flew off his shoulder and he jacked a round in and said, "I said no pictures!" And I said, "yes sir!"
I asked if it would be OK if I moved to the side so the building wouldn't be in the background and he said that would be all right so I did and got the picture which I have since lost but here is a picture of a M88's likeness.Just all of a sudden, I remembered that the infantry battalion our D Co. supported were supplied with rifles from Springfield Arsenal and everyone else had Harrington and Richardsons. Obviously, the Springfield Arsenal weapons were not malfunctioning so I got their attention and laid that on them and suggested they should go to the units and compare performances of the rifles.
We had seen gun-jeeps come down the road and take up a position on the hillside overlooking the little building and our shop and then a 3/4 ton truck with the canvas on would come flying down the road with a gun-jeep in front and another in the rear. All the gun-jeeps had ammo belts loaded into their guns.
The 3/4 ton with the canvas top on would back right up to the building, right against it, so you couldn't see what was going on. They were obviously loading something into the vehicle, then they'd take off out of the little compound and off down the road they'd go under the heavy guard.
Putting this and that together I finally surmised the building was a storage facility FOR DUMMY TRAINING ROUNDS AND OTHER EQUIPMENT FOR THE T.O.W. MISSILES.
There is more info on the things later in this page. I found out the gun/missile/tube wasn't necessarily secret but the control elements for the system and the ammo was. I can't imagine anyone storing secret ammo in such a flimsy building with only one walking guard and one of the crewman told me once they used "dummy" rounds to train with and that they were secret, too (I think there was only one building but not sure).
Anyway, it was something watching those jeeps zipping around there and everyone all business.
And of course, I was glad to get my picture of the M88 - our guys were sure proud of it.
Along about this time, they put me on the division's inspection team as a Fire Control Instruments inspector. At first there was a couple of us I think, a Fire Control Instrument guy and a Small Arms guy. Then it wound up just me.
One day I was at a critique in support command where some of the Armament problems we had in the division was discussed. One involved the M14 Rifle's malfunctioning when it was fired on full automatic - the bolts came apart (the M14 could be fixed with a bipod and selector switch and was supposed to take the place of the old BAR). They were really pounding that subject and I couldn't understand what the problem was, we'd never seen anything come into our company like they were describing. There were a couple LTs blaming the ammunition.
They didn't act too crazy about it but I think they did it. Now, I was an instrument man, not small arms, so that may have had something to do with their tepid response.
In any event, when I got out of the meeting I went to our shop and knowing our spare parts came from Harrington and Richardson's, went right to the small arms work bench and grabbed the drawer that had all of the M14 extractors and dumped it on the bench and the fake Instrument guy said, "What's the matter with you, are you crazy?"
I just ignored him and as they spilled onto the bench top I saw them right away, it was obvious as hell in some of them, not all, but too many. And when examined closely no reasonably knowledgeable person would miss in the die-cast extractors a swelling at precisely the point where they come flush with the bolt when assembled. The extractor "stem" holds the bolt together which is under load from the firing pin and ejector springs. The swellings at the shoulder of the stem where it connects to main body of the extractor caused the extractor to work it's way out of the bolt especially during automatic fire and then the bolt flew apart because of the load on the springs. It was that simple.
I had that figured before I dumped the drawer of parts.
For cryin out loud, if the extractor is the part that holds the bolt together and it comes apart ....... then the extractor didn't do it's job of locking the parts in the bolt, period. Find out why the extractor came out and you got it.
See the picture to the right of what appears to be some "healthy" extractors, no swellings here but "X" marks the spot where I found the swellings.
Considering what I found it's entirely possible there was a problem with the total outside length of the "stems," also. This could cause the outside of the extractor to hit something and jar things loose, I don't know.
So, I got some of the fatter stemmed ones, cautioned the guys about using them and took off for our orderly room. I got up there and got ahold of some Lt and told him about it so he could take them to battalion and make himself look good. I waited a few days and when nothing happened gave some to the people in support command hdqrs - never heard a word from anybody and I just kept working on the inspection team. Next thing I know I'm doing the small arms and the instruments both, for the inspection team.
As you might have guessed, I kind of checked this little story with the internet and boy is there a bunch of info on the "extractor problem" but you'd be surprised at how few identified the extractor's stem as being the problem where they were flying apart. Here are a couple excerpts from blogs I ran across that zeroed on the "stem."
Now I did my thing in 1963 and people are still struggling with this thing. I don't really know what to say. I wasn't even a Small Arms Repairman and was right on it. Maybe I should have gone to the Colonel myself and presented a really solid case but I was thinking hard about getting out and was out of time, I guess.
I apologize for not pushing the thing harder, especially to anyone in 'Nam that may have had problems with the weapon.
Then, my company up and promotes me to E-5. I wondered how they did that with no slot and when they gave me the orders, there it was, MOS 421.10 Small Arms Repairman! Now I was pissed off! They had just screwed me out of any chance to get my Pro-Pay back. Small Arms didn't have pro-pay 'cause those guys were a-dime-a-dozen, Hell, everybody was a small arms man. They thought they were, anyway.
I talked to them about changing me and the other guy back around but they never did. I took my promotion, bought a car, got my pass in my pocket and started re-thinking any army career. I disliked the promoting in slots of people who could not do the job. What if Stewart would've wound up in Nam where they needed Instrument bad and they already had a shit-pot full of small arms? Why didn't something happen with the defective rifles? Didn't they realize that the only ones working correctly would eventually fail because of the use of defective spare repair parts they might get? And so on ........
Now, there were three of us promoted to E-5 on the same set of orders. Myself, Sutton and a French kid from Louisiana whose name I believe may have been Slater (not sure though). We got the orders first of month, I think and all went to town to celebrate. We didn't get back to the barracks until very late. We only wound up with like 2-3 hours sleep and would you believe .......? Here comes a 5th Army inspection team to do an unannounced MacNamara check of our division!
And they chose our company for the P.T. test ....... unbelievable! They took us right from work formation to the testing. The kid from Louisiana passed out on the "40 yard crawl" and Sutton fell off the "overhead bars" but continued the test until he fell out on last exercise, the "2 mile run" after 1 lap around the field. I got through all of it and made almost 2 laps on the field and could do no more. Damned near killed us. Had we known, of course, we would never have gone to town. But we survived it and even in our depreciated state did better than some and probably just as good as the average did.
And about this time, I went into messhall for breakfast and it was one of my very first times after the promotion so I went into the dining area set aside for Officers and NCOs and it was an eerie experience as I had always taken my meals with the regular enlisted men. Anyway, I got my food from the mess line and went to an empty table, where a new guy would set, and sat down to eat and had just started when a Sgt First Class came sat at the other side of my table.
I didn't recognize him but he just sat there, looking into his plate and then made some derogatory remarks about the food. But heck, it wasn't the best but I'd had worse and then he said "For two cents I'd take this stuff in there and throw it in the colonel's face!"
So, all I said was "I doubt the colonel is in for work yet."
And lordy if that guy didn't jump up, grab his tray, and headed for the battalion offices which were right across the hallway from the messhall doors. It was summer and all the doors were open and he walked straight through and into battalion and slammed the tray down onto the desk there where, I believe, the Battalion O.D. was setting.
I sat there watching and didn't know for sure what to do. I didn't feel senior enough to try to calm the situation. His head is bobbing up and down and he is, literally, raising Hell. And when he slammed his tray down, his coffee cup tipped and the officer was trying to sop that up and the guy helped but was still raising Hell.
Then he whirled away from the desk and walked out and down the hallway and I never saw him in there again.
Within a day or two, they had a big re-organization of the messhall. The mess officer and the mess sergeant are both replaced, etc. There was no big row about it and nothing in the division paper nor was anything ever posted on the bulletin boards. It was a non-event, believe it or not.
I finally figured that the little deal had been staged and the sgt was probably C.I.D. because he sure disappeared - I never saw him again. The people in the messhall had probably been exposed as having done some irregularities and the army was just cleaning up the mess.
All I know is the new mess sergeant, either Freeman or Freeborn, was from Albia, IA about 25 miles from my hometown. And boy, could that s.o.b. cook. We had the best chow from then on I ever ate on a regular basis anywhere, including my own home.
Then we are off on a big maneuver to S. Carolina. It was a big one, 5 divisions and all kinds of unattached units and sections. We were to fly to S.Carolina where we would again be the aggressors attacking the USA. We had one of the other divisions on our side, can't remember who, maybe the 2nd Armored Division.
We drove from Colorado to Wichita, Kansas and then they loaded everything onto C130s and C133s and flew us there. It was hot as Hell going across to Wichita and was really hot on the airstrip where we waited about 24 hours before they got us out of there. I drove our ordnance van right up into the back of the thing and they got three vans straight in there and two trailers, which were set kind of cock-eyed, if I remember right. Each vehicle had been weighed and the weight written on their windshield. One van was about 16,000# and the other two were about 18,000# apiece. Can't remember what the trailers weighed, probably not much. The vans had all the tools and stuff in them as they could be better secured there.
We flew into some S. Carolina Air National Guard base and immediately deployed into the countryside to prepare for the exercise. Kind of odd; land, back off the plane, get in line and just drive off and into the countryside like it's one fluid movement! Never even hardly stopped!
We got into the field OK but there was confusion and we had trouble finding rations. We had emergency rations with us but wouldn't break them out until absolutely necessary. The mess sergeant put out a call for food from the guys, whatever they had in their rucksacks, so to speak and they all pitched in whatever they had and it all went into one of the big pots at the messhall and he made up whatever extra he had to have and we got one meal of just plain pot luck stew and it wasn't too bad either.
The mess sergeant took up a collection and gave it to one of the cooks who took a couple volunteers and a 3/4 ton truck and went over to a farmer's house where we had seen a field of watermelons growing and asked to buy some and the old farmer asked "are you with that bunch over there?" And they said yes and he said "well, if you're army you just go ahead and take whatever you need" and refused our money! I really thought a lot of that old guy's help. Really appreciated it! He raised good melons, too!
The people of South Carolina that we came into contact were almost always just great. Friendly, helpful and so forth.
As a matter of fact, our maneuvers that had thousands of men in it produced no heroes that I am aware of but those people did, and it was a girl!
In the later exercises, we had a helicopter go down in a lake there in the area. It was nice day and everything and may even have been on a Sunday and there were a lot of people enjoying themselves there by a lake. The pilot later said he was going down and there were people all around except for the water and so that's where he went to avoid going into some bystanders.
When the machine went down into the water, the people got up to see what was going on and the pilot finally got out of the thing and was trying to swim to shore but couldn't do it as he had some pretty debilitating injuries so one of the local girls who had been swimming there jumped in and swam out to try and help him and, by golly, she got him out of there! Saved his life, without a doubt.
A genuine Heroine! Our division newspaper featured her in the next issue it put out. She was just a teenager and pretty and of course she then became the Division's Sweetheart.
Would you believe ....... a few years later the girl was on the TV program "I've got a secret" which I was watching with my brother's family in Davenport, IA. and when she came on I was sure I knew her and she never said but just a few words and I remembered and told them who she was, etc. and they didn't believe me AND IT WAS THE GIRL!
When the actual maneuver started, our C.G. moved his anti-aircraft missiles forward and vectored on the areas where he figured the opponents would use his airborne. He knew the prevailing tactics would lead them to use the airborne to blunt our attack and that they could only be dropped in certain areas so he had those "covered" so to speak.
Well, I heard the umpires ruled he got about 3/4 of them while still in their planes then everyone was pulled back and they started the exercise again in a more conventional manner. Rumor? Who knows ........
All I know is that later our Ordnance company got cut off and abandoned. We were left so the main combat body could use the roads - they always get first dibs that way. This is an acceptable practice in a combat situation - you must preserve your battle strength.
The airborne sent a scout party down the little side-road towards us, probing I reckon, and we had a perimeter set up. But what they didn't know was that we were an ordnance company and that we had a lot of weapons in-house (brought in for repair and ready to go back) that was not our normal TOE.
We had several machine guns, for instance, in addition to our normal complement. Instead of attacking 1-2 guns, they ran into 4-5, for instance on just that one side of the perimeter. Well, the scouting party was wiped out, of course.
Kind of funny here. When we set the perimeter up on the road side of our position, we figured somebody might try to escape back down the road as we were using blanks and couldn't stop them but our guys found an old log, not real big, somewhere there in the brush and brought it to the ambush site and had it there by the road. When the airborne came down the road we let a jeep or two go through unmolested then sprung the "ambush" and as expected they just started turning around to drive home except we ran out into the road with the log and trapped their lead jeeps and one got around it and the other one ran into and over it as it wasn't that big, anyway.
Then they drove their jeeps home and reported there was at least battalion strength up the road and we had maybe 100-120 men and they were mechanics ..........
Well, having grossly miscalculated our actual strength they called an air strike in on our "Battalion" (we were only one small company). So our outfit negotiated with the umpires and everyone agreed that the air strike had crippled us badly so they said we were to leave there and return to our regular command. Well, we went down the road towards the airborne to get out of there and the airborne took umbrage with our passing through.
They descended on us in a fury, made everybody dismount the trucks and lay face down in the ditch jamming rifle butts into our backs while they looted our trucks, regardless of the umpires. And they got pretty rough.
We lost our beer and they stole the nice portable radio that my fellow driver had. All for showing them up, I guess. Had we known that rough stuff was allowed, there would've been a fight, for sure.
We made our Division Newspaper over that deal because of the scrap we imposed on the opponent - battalion, indeed.
We got the maneuver over and went back to Colorado, flying into Denver this time. We asked why Denver and they said we can land there but we were afraid to take off from there, the air is too thin.
Soon after we got back, I went home for a quick leave then back to work. I pretty much was occupied by the inspection team. It was all right by me as I was exempt from extra duties, carried my pass in my pocket and drove to work in a new car. If I had to be there, what better job could I get?
A very interesting thing happened when I went on leave. I went through the northern part of Kansas on a highway that would be Hwy 136 in northern Missouri and passes through about 25 miles south of my hometown in southern Iowa.
As I approached this one Kansas town of fair size I decided I'd better fill up with gas not knowing what was on down the highway so I pulled into this sizable filling station to get the gas ........ and nobody was there! I started hollering and pretty soon here came this kid about 15-16 years old and he pumped the gas for me. The place had cars on lifts and everything and not a soul in sight, kind of like one of those weird movies. I asked him what was going on.
The kid says "Well, we had some excitement." and I asked what could do this and the kid kind of reluctantly says "Well, this Army officer was driving down the road and didn't like the way we were flying the flag. So he stopped and started arguing and yelling and next thing him and my brother were duking it out and we called the police and they came and took everybody to court! They took bystanders 'cause they were the witnesses! I got left to watch the place."
I could hardly believe my ears! I finally got enough information out of him to know what happened.
Kennedy had been assassinated not long before and the flag was being flown at half-mast all over the country but here in Kansas where I had seen billboards with "Impeach Justice Warren!" on them there were hard feelings about the politics then in vogue in the country.
The people at the filling station had displayed the flag "upside-down" and when the officer, a major, came by and saw the flag he pulled in and expressed HIS political views. Since reconciliation was non-existent, they opted to settle the matter with fisticuffs.
The thing is, as far as I'm concerned, they were both probably right. Anyway, I got my gas and went on my way, figuring the Major could/would take care of himself and reason in the community would prevail.
I got my leave over and got back to Ft Carson OK. I took the leave to avoid giving up any time when I was discharged as had happened to me in my first enlistment.
Now, we had this TOW missile thing that was secret, or parts of it were, anyway and we supported the people who had the things. If one of them required repair or something it was brought to our shop in it's crate, like a gun case sort of. We would process the paper only, not opening the crates nor handling the weapon, and send it on to post depot where civilians, who had "secret" security clearances I suppose, would do the repair on them. I don't remember seeing any sighting mechanisms or anything with the crated tripod/tubes.
Now, we had this one tube, I guess you'd call it, which had come through our shop 3-4 times for the same defect and apparently it never got fixed, so the Infantry unit would send it in again and so on. Here it comes to our shop one day about the 3, 4th time and I signed for it and had them put the crate just inside our door and after they had left, I opened the thing up and it was very simple, just a tripod and a tube in the box so I got them out and set the tripod up and put the tube on it and started checking the thing and it was exactly like the Infantry guys said. It had too much play in the azimuth locking mechanism and the muzzle would drift quite a bit (in the photo you can see the sighting mechanism is mounted directly to the tripod system ABOVE the locking mechanism - if the muzzle drifted, so did the "line of sight") - causing problems with target acquisition.
About that time, I got a call from our Armament LT and he asked if I had the gun/missile there and I said yes, I still have it and he said well hurry up and get the thing over to base, they are waiting on it. Then I understood that they had a time set on the movement of the thing for security purposes, I suppose. I went back to work on it and worked on a ring in the lock mechanism.
And got another call and Lt says get that thing out of there and then he says he's coming to the shop. Well, I had it figured out by then and when he got there I was just ready to re-assemble the thing, re-crate, etc. But when he walked into the shop it was still laying on the floor in pieces. I thought the poor guy was going to collapse but I got it together and into the box and on it's way - wasn't that much to assemble, actually. I tagged the defective part so there was no way base could not see it.
Well, I really caught Hell for that in my company and they sent me right on up the line. Too hot for them to handle, I guess. Next day I was standing before the man. Full bird colonel that ran the Support Command for the 5th Division. He was a really sensible man and he started the little deal by asking somebody in the room, from battalion I think, just what the deal was and that guy presented the whole thing to the colonel and when they were done he asked me if I knew the thing was secret and I told him "yes sir, I did."
Now, he knew me, not well, but he knew I worked with the inspection team. So he says "Why did you do it?" not in a hostile way but more like he's still gathering the facts of the case. So I told him.
I said, "Well sir, the gun had been through the system about 3 times for the same defect and no one ever fixed it. It occurred to me that if we are a STRAC and ROAD designated unit and we have to be able to fulfill our mission overseas but if we are suddenly sent to Africa or some such place and if one of the guns doesn't work, who is going to fix it, can't send it back to base then. So I figured I may as well do it and maybe get some experience while I'm doing it."
He ask me a couple more questions pertinent to the deal at hand then ask the battalion officer if there was any objection to my having a "secret" clearance and he said no and he asked me "can you pass an investigation?" and I said "yes sir, I was sure I could." So he said OK and looked at the Battalion CO and said, "better get this man a security clearance then, right away."
No way did I get an ass-chewing. That old boy didn't have to do that - the mark of a good leader. I was impressed too, by the way he did it. Calm, nothing but the facts, only pertinent conversation allowed and so forth. Direct and to the point without being abrupt and aggressive or abusive. Always keeping in sight what would be best for the army.
Also, I'm positive that had I done it in almost any other way, he'd have roasted my turkey ass.
We were still working on the clearance when I got out of the Army.
And the gun? It came back through the shop and it was fixed and the silly s.o.b. over at base put a note on the part I had worked on saying, "By the way here is the part you ruined". I pointed the defective part out to them, only then did they fix it and then blamed me! But we never saw the gun again, either. And if my work on the gun caused the problem, what was the deal the first 2-3 times it came into the shop - we never even opened the box either of those times?
I'm not sure about this but I do know this was some kind of base facility. I took the picture because of the clouds on Pike's Peak. I think this could very well be part of the base thing that gave me the heartburn.
By that time I had a couple months to go and since no one would talk to me about helicopter school, my pro-pay was gone, my MOS had been changed to something I didn't want I figured it was maybe time to get out. I didn't have much time left to make up my mind.
We were out driving one day and I had a couple of the guys in my car and we drove up into the hills west of Colorado Springs on a pass and came to this one place. I had taken a couple pictures of the place from the west and after found I out the name of the joint I couldn't believe it ....... Cripple Creek! I had heard of it all my life and there I was .... there!
After we drove through the town the guys wanted to make a stop and there is an intersection on the hill west of town and we stopped there. I went into the cemetery to look around and see if any Conger people was there but I didn't get to check many sites when the guys wanted to leave but I got two pictures showing a part of the cemetery. Also, it was kind of sad but it seemed to me there was an abnormal number of small graves there. Just babies some of them. I could only surmise that the conditions there must have been pretty rough, especially on the young ones. Makes one think a little.
We drove on North from there, up to an east-west highway then turned around and came back.
One more story and .........
I had my orders for discharge and was going to leave after one last thing was done so I was just waiting and some one said something about a parade so I thought I'd kill some time watching one. I had been in enough of them and never really seen one excepting the big one over in Hanau, Germany. I asked where and went there and sure enough, they were gathering on the review stand so I just stood by the stand and watched and right away here comes this outfit marching down the road and they get up by the field and leave the road and come onto the field.
As they come on the field and stay back a ways forming up into a square then went to "at ease" and a cloud of smoke arose over their heads. The next unit came down the road and same thing, they get on the field and a puff of smoke goes up from the formation when they are given the command "Smoke if you got'm."
It was really odd kind of, every unit came on the field and a puff of smoke went up. I don't remember ever smoking on a parade field but they sure did.
Then they passed in review.
And I went back to personnel, did the last item and started driving for Iowa ....... not really wanting to but did it anyway.
Ernest E Conger 6/14/2013
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