596 Signal Company

                                       

Some About Me

      My name is John Osbeck.  I was born in Brooklyn, New York in September 1943.  I was the first of 3 kids.  My father left us before my brother was born in April 1947.  We lived at 56th Street and 6th Avenue.  I attended Our Lady Of Perpetual Help school at 59th Street & 6th Avenue for a couple of years then transferred to PS 140 at 59th Street and 4th Avenue.  In 1959 I started at Fort Hamilton High School where I dropped out in the middle of my 2nd year as a sophomore.  I worked for a short while at a book publisher in Manhattan then settled in with the A&P for about a year.


Early 1944

 

     In February 1962 I joined the army for adventure & went to Fort Dix, NJ for my basic with Company M, 4th Training Regt.  Here I had my butt chewed for the first time by Sgt. Glover when I tripped getting off the bus.
     We were not allowed to leave the company area for the first few weeks but we were required to purchase certain articles from the PX such as toiletries, rifle cleaning kits & etc.  Our caring and wonderful platoon sergeants to the rescue.  They sold these items to us.  We found out later how much markup they took for their trouble.  Our rifle was the M1 Garand left over from World War II (I now am the proud owner of one of these fine weapons.  It was manufactured the same month and year that I was born).  We had a very lazy training staff.  While other companies were running or walking to ranges & such, we rode in "cattle cars", 5 ton tractors pulling open topped trailers.  I signed up to go to Germany and asked for the infantry, so of course they sent me to radio school where I graduated 12th in my class
(of 12)Here the emphases was on learning Morse code (13 wpm), with a little phonetic alphabet, procedure, encoding and decoding.

 

 

 

 

 

Off to Germany in August on the good ship Simon B. Buckner leaving from the Brooklyn Army Terminal down the block from where I lived.

Half way over we got the news about Marilyn Monroe.

On arrival in Bremerhaven many of us boarded a train for the trip to Kaiserslautern where the 596th Signal Company (Support) was domiciled.  Here I and a few others were put in the back of a 3/4 ton truck for a long ride to Panzer Kaserne where I joined up with the part of Radio Platoon that was attached to D Company, 97th Signal Battalion.  On the ride down we had a little excitement when we noticed nuts and bolts coming out from under our truck & bouncing along the road behind us.  Turns out the drive shaft just came apart & we had to call for another truck to finish the trip.  Robert Stevens talks about this problem in his account.

 

    This part of Radio Platoon was known as Hotel Net.  We had 1 AN/GRC 26D mounted on a 2 1/2 ton truck that acted as the net control and 5 jeeps each containing a AN/GRC 19 as our primary (HF) radio and a AN/GRC 9 as a backup.  The jeeps pulled trailers containing C rations, spare parts, a hand operated generator, antennas and some change of clothes among other things.  This is where and when I learned to drive.  Bolted to our front bumper of each vehicle was a piece of 12 X 12" plywood painted red with the word HOTEL and the color of the site assigned to that vehicle.  I still have mine.  I was HOTEL RED.  These signs told the MPs and German police to leave us alone while we were on the road.  When the alert horn went off we moved like firefighters.  One guy ran to the motor pool to get the jeep while the other stopped at the orderly room to pick up the weapons (M14 rifle) and SOI.  We would meet outside the front door of the barracks building, jump in the jeep at a roll and on our way.  In 15 or so minutes we would be checking in with net control from our assigned site.  We felt great when we occasionally checked in before the net control got on the air.  Almost anybody could call an alert at any time from USAREUR (rare) to 7th ARMY (monthly) down to the platoon sergeant.  We had a platoon sergeant (SSGT Koch) who was a bit predictable.  We knew we would get woken up from a sound sleep whenever he got mad at anybody and that was often.  If it was not one of us then it was his girl friend or one of his superiors (usually Smokey, our 1st Sgt.).  The Cuban missile crises in October 1962 caused a few extra alerts for us.
     On the whole it was not bad duty except for the fact that most of us had a hard time going anywhere to see the sights as we always seemed to be short handed and had to have all the sites covered.  On many an occasion I had to handle it alone.  It was scary out there alone in the middle of those thick woods & no lights but from the radio dials.  Lots of strange noises for a city boy like me.  I guess that is why they did not give us any bullets.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

M 38A1 Jeep with trailer.
1 AN/GRC-19 and 1 AN/GRC-9

 

 

  My site, Hotel Red, was a small clearing next to a dirt road that went through the forest to I don't know where.  Nothing ever happened there unless it was a USAREUR alert then there would be hundreds of trucks using that road.  In the year I was there I think I saw activity on that road 3 or 4 times.  Once I saw a Brig. General standing there watching the trucks go by.   Ooooooooo.

  

  

    Well, I guess we scared old Ivan to the point that 7th Army did not need us any more and told us to go home.  When we got the word that we were going back to the states I went to the dispensary and had my shot record checked.  They always do a shot record check before you go anywhere and catch you up to date.  I needed 7 so I had one in each arm that day and over the next week I got the rest a little at a time.  When we got back to Kaiserslautern we were all marched to the dispensary for a shot record check.  The medic was very disappointed with mine as he found I was up to date.  Most of the rest of the company was walking around with sore arms after getting 6 to 8 shots at once and they used those nasty air guns that blow a stream of meds thru the skin.  Fast for them but painful for us.  I'm glad I took the needles.  So, it's back on the train to Bremerhaven to catch the Simon B. Buckner for the trip to CONUS.  A week or so later we arrive at the Norfolk, Virginia naval base.  Here we catch planes to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.  This was my first flight.  On arrival at Fort Chaffee we were assigned to the just activated 509th Signal Battalion. We settled into our company area and were issued new vehicles and a mix of old and new communications equipment.  We had to be retrained in using the new diesel trucks and the M151 Mutt (the replacement for the good old M38A1 Jeep).  These mutts would roll over quick if you weren't careful.  I was assigned a 2 1/2 ton truck with a communication shelter in the bed containing a AN/GRC 26 radio teletype rig.  There was also a trailer that had two 5KW gasoline powered generators.  This stuff was new to me so I had to get in a lot of practice, especially with the typing.  A radio is a radio.  They all had to be tuned in a similar way so other than being larger it was not that different from my old angry 19.  We had a long tall Texan platoon sergeant, Tom Johnson, who was a ham radio operator.  He had his antenna strung between the barracks buildings.  His call sign was WA5AFI and when calling on the radio he would say it as "Whiskey Alpha 5 Americas Favorite Idiot".  He was cool.

 

 

     I qualified expert with the M 14 rifle but got cheated out of a perfect score when the impatient 2nd lieutenant range officer kicked me in the foot to hurry my shot while I was prone at 500 yards.  Maggie's draws.  I was pissed  but what could I do?  That was my last shot and I didn't have any bullets left.  I came in second because of him.
     I was invited to joint the Fort Chaffee rifle team and accepted.  I got to do a lot of shooting and firefighting when we started the grass fires.  We beat out the fires with large rubber squares attached to broom handles.  This got me out of a lot of the make work stuff but not most of the training.  I was sent to the US Army Coaches Clinic in Fort Sill, Oklahoma for a week.  I learned a lot about shooting and saw some impressive demonstrations, especially the Infantry Trophy team.
     In November 1963 I was in our barracks when I saw on the TV that President Kennedy had been shot.  I went up to the PX & had them turn on the news to catch the reports.  It was a sad time for us all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Osbeck & Zurawski 1963

 

In April 1964 we loaded our vehicles and equipment on flatcars & took a train ride to Needles, California to participate in Operation Desert Strike, a large field problem with over 100,000 troops from the National Guard, Reserves and Regular Army spread over 13 million acres of the California, Arizona and Nevada desert up and down the Colorado River.  Our company was mainly in the Arizona desert north of Bouse and East of Parker close to the Buckskin mountains.  Those of you who have been to the NTC in the summer know what it was like.  We set up our site and began operating.  We used a tarp as a canopy, extending it out from the side of the shelter on the truck.  Under that were our cots & sleeping bags.  It was also the only real shade we had.  It was important to remember to shake the scorpions out our boots in the morning.  We had set up with the door of the shelter close to a tree to try to get a little more shade back there.  A few weeks later the tree started attracting hoards of bumble bees.  I sometimes would walk out the door into a clouds of them.  They never once bothered any of us.  We just moved slow through them.  As the advance party we were busy with message activity until the more advanced microwave stuff got set up & operating then we just twiddled our thumbs.  We kept operating as back up but had plenty of time to see some of the sights.  Zurowski & I did some exploring with visits to the mountains and a ghost town called Swansea.  We took a bath in the Bill Williams river.  We also slipped into Bouse for some decent food and cold beer.  I picked up the habit of eating ice on this trip.  Talk about hot.  Toward the end of each month I would run out of money.  I would try to borrow some from Zurowski and that worked until he got down to the 20 dollar bill attached to his drivers license.  He said he would never part with that as it went with the license if he got stopped by a cop.  He said that he learned that in Chicago where he lived.  So we would have to suffer the last week or so on army food and no beer.     The exercise was from mid May to the end of May.  We were there 3 weeks before and 3 weeks after.  Better than 2 months.
     Our company commander and first sergeant borrowed our mutt one day & brought it back the next full of blood.  Seems they went hunting and got a deer.  They ate well while we had to clean the vehicle.  Our section chief planted a garden under a large saguaro cactus near our rig and called it Burleson's pea patch.  He did get some peas out of it.  Near the end of the exercise our side must have got desperate as some officers rounded up a bunch of us comm guys & brought us to Parker.  There they formed us into squads & mine was hustled down to the river west of the airport.  Talk about fodder.  Just after we arrived & took cover a bunch of bad guys showed up.  We shot at them & they returned fire.  I was looking down the barrel of a jeep mounted 75mm recoilless rifle when it let go.  Then they hauled butt out of there.  By us refusing that flank they were not able to capture the airport & went back across the river to California.  So we won.  Too bad I didn't live to see it.  At the conclusion of the exercise the town of Parker and it's chamber of commerce hosted a huge barbeque in the park by the river for any soldier in the area.  That was good eating.  Thanks Parker.  We got busy again until everybody could break down & get gone then we packed up and convoyed back to Fort Chaffee.  Very soon after our arrival we were ordered to pack up again for the move to Fort Huachuca, Arizona as Defense Secretary McNamara had closed Fort Chaffee among other posts around the country.  We loaded our vehicles on trains again and those of us with our own vehicles were told to make our way to Fort Huachuca.  I drove my Olds and my two friends, Sprague and Birmingham, rode their motorcycles.

 

On arrival we had not even gotten properly settled in when we had to go back to the desert again to support the testing of the new unmanned reconnaissance aircraft.  These were the things that they used in Viet Nam later.  They shot them off a rail mounted on the back of a truck with rocket motors then the jet engine would take over.  When they came back the engine would just stop and the aircraft would parachute down to earth.  This time I was at a spot north of Dateland and east of Yuma.  We stayed there for about a month.  Again it was off and on busy.  On one weekend we took the mutt and went into Yuma to see what was there and get some cold beer and on another we detached the doublet antenna and operated on whip while we took the truck & trailer into Dateland to the diner for some decent food.  During a radio check by net control we could loudly hear everything through the diners speakers real loud so we moved the truck across the road & took turns eating.  During our times in the field we survived a lot on C-rations that we sometimes heated up on the engine manifold so getting some good food and beer was a priority.  After we returned to the fort we finally established a regular work schedule & so we had time for personal stuff.  I took the test for my GED & learned to ride motorcycles well by chasing jackrabbits in the desert area near Sierra Vista.   Somewhere in here the battalion had a readiness test to see how quick we could be ready to move out to a port for shipment overseas.  Our company was ready 2 days early I guess due to all the moves we had already done.  A sister company failed completely.  The battalion required a lot of our people to go over an assist them to get ready for a make up test.  We tried to help but the other company gave their people time off while our people worked on their stuff.  Our captain went to the battalion CO but was told to get lost.  He then went to the IG and got some results.  We did not mind helping some but to do it all while they got OUR time off was too much.  I hope that did not put a dent in his career.  I thought he was a good man.  I hope I find his name.   All good things must end I guess.  I had seriously considered staying in the army as I really enjoyed the life but the special court martial I received at the end of my obligation led me to think that my career would be hampered so I just got out and went back to Brooklyn.  This was February 1965.

 

In New York I went back to work for the A&P while I attended truck drivers school.  I had the intention of driving trucks over the road.  I then took a few driving jobs until the Post Office put me to work for them in April 1966.
     One of my army buddies called me from Michigan and told me he and his family was moving to Arizona.  I gave my notice and, in March 1967, I packed all I owned into my MGB and hauled butt to meet him in Indiana.  It took me one day to get to the meet and 6 more days to travel the rest of the way together and we arrived in Sierra Vista on the 25th.  I checked in with the Post Office but they were not hiring so I got a job at Libby Army Airfield as a ground equipment mechanic.
     I was there for 6 months & went back to work for the Post Office.  I got into motorcycles in a big way.  I really loved to go toollie hopping.  I did some racing too.  My racing number was 596.

A couple of pics from the early 70s BF (before fat)

Apr22_01.jpg (102607 bytes)
With 360 Yamaha in racing days (notice number)

Apr22_02.jpg (111124 bytes)
One of the hazards of toollie hopping

      In 1969 Yamaha released it's first 4 stroke motorcycle during a truck strike.  The Yamaha dealer asked me to go to California with him to pick up some bikes with his truck & trailer.  When we returned I was helping him put together the bikes.  The new 650 4 stroke had a serial number of 000596!  I bought it!  The following year I rode it to New York.  Good ride.  On the way back I had to replace the rear sprocket in Ohio and the upper rod bearings disintegrated at Elk City, Oklahoma.  The motorcycle shop there allowed me to pack the bike in a wood box for shipment to AZ.  I called my bank & they would send some money the following day.  I obtained materials from the lumber yard with a promise to pay the next day and got a motel under the same conditions.  I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Okies.                    
    

 In 1973 I got married & had 2 boys.  15 years in Sierra Vista then a promotion to Payson in the central mountains.  Out of the desert.  I also got divorced at this time.
     


About 1975

In 1991 I visited my mom in New Jersey.  My brother and I found our old uniforms that she kept.  The way they were talking about the casualties we will suffer in the upcoming Gulf War, we figured we better try on the uniforms in case they ran out of people to draft and came after us.  That is where this picture came from.  

 

 

     In 1998, at the age of 55, I retired & am now sitting here getting fat.  I spend my time cruising when I can afford it & visiting and playing with my 3 grand daughters and playing with computers.

     I think I will continue to add to this missive as I recall other events.

 

 

I gotta plug my brother here for sure with his picture above & all

Updated

11.12.05 09:24

Webmaster:  John Osbeck