596 Signal Company  



Robert Stephens Deployment Account
Page 1                             Fort Benning

(To Page 2)

Robert Stephens Memories of his time with the 596th Signal Company (Support)

Arrival to 596th at Fort Benning, Georgia

"I figured as a garrison clerk he was just not used to soldiering."

     I had been in Germany for over three years with the 123rd Signal Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division. In late April, 1961, I had departed from that assignment, returning to the United States on the troopship USNS Patch, the same one which we had gone to Germany on in 1958.  We had been due to land at Brooklyn Army Terminal early on 6 May, but the ship had been delayed by fog going around the north end of the British Isles and we had landed late in the day. We finally off-loaded, moved into a huge shed where we were given a short orientation about what was to happen next.  The great majority of the troops were to move to Fort Hamilton where they would be processed for discharge.  For those of us going on to other assignments, we were to go past tables where our orders would be stamped showing our arrival date, after which we would be free to find our own ways to wherever we were going.  For those of us who had shipped automobiles from Germany, we were told the vehicle processing center was just around the corner. We were also told they would close at 1700 (5 pm), regardless how many people may be waiting to pick cars up, and, it being Friday, they would than remain closed until Monday morning.

  I managed to be one of the first ones out of the shed and hurried to the vehicle area, not having any intention of staying in New York until Monday.  It took very little time to pick up my little black Renault from the center.  Outside of being a little dirtier, it was just as I had left it when I turned it in at Bremerhaven about a months before.  There were a good number of other people still trying to process their cars when I got mine and I hoped they would be able to get done in time, especially the ones I saw with families along.  However, I could not worry about them, as I loaded my duffel bag into the Renault and started it up.

     Going out the gate of Brooklyn Army Terminal I drove less than a block before pulling into the first service station I saw.  For shipping, all gasoline was drained from vehicles. The terminal put in only a gallon or so before the vehicles were claimed.  The Renault only held eight gallons so it took little time to have it filled up, while I checked the oil and cleaned the windshield.  It also allowed me to ask the attendant for directions to confirm the small strip map which the terminal had given me, showing various ways out of the New York area.  Leaving the station I had only a short drive to the landing where I drove directly onto a Staten Island Ferry.  I had long heard of those ferries, especially in books and movies.  Now I had the chance to ride on one. (That, of course, was several years before they built the bridge across the mouth of New York Harbor).  Riding over to Staten Island I had a good view of the Statue of Liberty, as well as the New York skyline.  Once landed on Staten Island it seemed a long drive to reach the New Jersey Turnpike and it was dark by the time I did.  The last time (and the only time) I had been on the turnpike had been on a bus in November, 1957, when another man and I had gone from Fort Dix, New Jersey, to New York and back, having secured a weekend pass while at the Dix replacement company waiting for orders to the 999th Signal Company.

    I left the turnpike, exiting into Delaware, and finally stopped at a cheap motel for the night.  I am no longer even sure what state that was in, but I was tired enough not to care, and I slept good for my first night in the United States.  I got an early start on Saturday morning, with the sunroof of the Renault opened, enjoying the air.  I passed through Washington early enough so there was little traffic. That was in the days before the interstates and I went right pass the capitol building on US 1.  In Virginia I experienced the Richmond-St Petersburg Turnpike.  The New Jersey Turnpike issued a card when one first drove onto it, and that card was returned at the exit, allowing one to drive the entire turnpike without slowing down.  The Richmond-St Petersburg Turnpike, by contrast, used tollbooths every few miles where it was required to stop and pay a small amount.  To this day I can not understand what the purpose is of having a turnpike if one is constantly having to stop.
Anyway, the driving was pleasant and the traffic was fairly light for the entire trip.  I stopped again for the night at a country motel in mid-Georgia, before going into Fort Benning on Monday morning.  I was hoping the two boxes of "hold baggage" I had shipped from Germany might have arrived there, but they had not, the clerk telling me it would probably be another week or so.  After that it was a long drive westward to my home in Louisiana, where I spent a fairly pleasant leave.  (During that leave I made a round-trip to Benning to secure the boxes.  An old school friend, Billy Shaw, went with me.  At that time he was attending Louisiana Tech.  Later he went on to Tulane University to get his law degree.)
One other item about the trip and leave.  I grew up in the sunshine of Louisiana and never had any trouble with the sun.  But for three years I had been in Germany where the sunshine in any great amount was a rare thing.  I quickly found out my body had changed during those three years and I could no longer tolerate much sun.  I managed to get my head and left arm badly burned during the first full day of the trip.  Thereafter I closed the car's sunroof and kept my left arm off the door.

When my leave was about up, I again faced to the east and headed for Benning and my new assignment.  My orders called for the 1st Infantry Brigade (later the 197th).  I had no idea why I was assigned to them, but I had been told they had a small signal detachment, including two AN/MRC-69 Radio Terminal Sets.  Reporting into Benning in early June I found the assignment to the brigade was just an administrative procedure.  I processed into the Benning replacement detachment early one morning.  They were located in the middle of the south side of the middle quartel.  I was only there for an hour or so when I was called up to the counter.  The clerk (a private first class, I believe) handed me a stack of orders and told me he hated to do it to me.  Asking what he was talking about, he pointed out the back windows to a company sized unit holding a formation.  He said that was the 596th Signal Company to which I was assigned.  I asked him what was wrong with that, and he said they held formations at least three times a day, in addition to always marching around.  I did not say too much in reply, having come from a line unit which did all those things.  I figured as a garrison clerk he was just not used to soldiering.

END Part I Section 1

      As the 596th was in the same quartel, the southwestern end, I did not have far to go in order to report. I carried my orders, personnel records, and finance records to the orderly room and reported to First Sergeant Harvey Spencer for the first time.  I did not even have to move my car from its parking space.
     The 596th Signal Company (Support) was assigned directly to the Third United States Army.  Why they were at Benning I do not know.  Maybe, as the old joke goes, everybody has to be somewhere. They, as a lone company with no parent organization, were attached to the United States Army Infantry Center Troop Command (USAICTC).   USAICTC was an "umbrella" outfit which all the "garrison" troops at Benning came under for control, personnel, finance, etc.  As far as I can remember and knew, the 596th was the only Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E) unit there.  Everything else under USAICTC were Table of Distribution and Authorization (TDA) (or "garrison") units.
The first day or two in the company are blurred in my memory. I was assigned to the Radio Relay and Carrier Platoon. The platoon sergeant at the time was a master sergeant (E-7) whose name I cannot remember how to spell, and having lost all my old orders I cannot look it up.  Everyone in the platoon, when the first sergeant or any officers were not in ear shot, called him Swede.  He, along with several other of the senior non-commissioned officers had been with the company for several years, or at least so I was told.  The platoon leader, who I did not meet right away, was Lieutenant Keith Clum.
     I was taken to the platoon quarters on the second floor.  The old quartels had been built in the 1930s. The platoon had one huge "bay" where the lower ranks had their bunks.  There was a medium sized room on the west end of the building where most of the sergeants had quarters.
There were also three individual rooms in between the medium room and platoon bay where three senior sergeants (E-5s) slept.  One was occupied (as I was to find out) by a SGT Burney, one by SGT Cox, and the third by an acting sergeant.  The acting sergeant was evicted and moved to the medium room and I moved into his small room.  (I felt a little bad about him having to move out, but that was the system. I was a sergeant with a year and a half in grade.  As I discovered, most of our sergeants were "acting" sergeants.  They wore the stripes and did the job, but did not get the pay.  Only after we moved to Germany would most of them be promoted to E-5.)  My room looked out onto the sidewall which ran into the first floor door, right where the quartel bent on the southwest corner. I also had a good view of some of the large oak trees which had been planted by troop labor in the 1930s. It was a small room, but very comfortable.
     Processing in also involved drawing "field" equipment, bedding, and other required items from supply. I set to work to get my wall locker and footlocker straightened out and everything put away.  I had to go to vehicle registration and get my Fort Benning decal for the Renault.  That involved meeting LT Clum in order to get his signature on the proper form.
     One of the first things I was told was the company was preparing to go to the field for its annual Army Training Test.  I would not be going out for that but most of the company would be leaving early on Monday morning.  That Sunday night I met SGT Cox.  I had been introduced to him before but only in passing.  He had the middle of the three small rooms.  Sunday night he knocked on my door and asked if I had a car.  He wanted me to take him to the NCO club to get a case of beer to take to the field.  I drove him over, than back past the motor pool so he could place the case in his truck.
END Part I Section 2


Settling in

     Very early Monday morning the company moved out for its annual Army Training Test.  I did not go because I was new to the unit, but outside of a few other people, the entire company was committed. The company was spread out a good bit of northwest Georgia for the exercise, with teams as far away as almost on the Tennessee state line.  As for myself, I had been told by SFC (E-6) Nix to report to him at the orderly room early that day.  Nix was the senior man left behind.  We were to take care of the orderly room during the day, with another E-5 acting as charge of quarters each night.  There was almost nothing to do except answer the telephone, and there were almost no telephone calls.  We mainly sat around, read the paper, and went to the snack bar once or twice a day for coffee. As best as I can recall the company started coming back on Wednesday afternoon.  Because they had been spread out over such a vast area, they dribbled in a few at a time.  Some of the teams which had been in north Georgia did not make it back until early Thursday morning.
     Being new, I was left out of post-exercise meetings, but everyone was keyed up and sure they had done a good job.  I never heard any official results of the test.  I assume they must have been positive overall as we did not go into any remedial training period as was usual after an ATT did not go well.
SGT J.T. Cox, my neighbor, knocked on my door again Thursday evening following the final formation.  He wanted to know if I wanted to go to town.  He said, being Thursday, Happy Hour would be on at Gray's Cafe, with large frosted steins of beer going for a nickel.  I said that was fine with me and I proceeded to change clothes.  Cox came back, bringing Otis Gauntney with him, my first meeting with that man.  Cox asked if it was okay if Gauntney went with us and I had no objection. I do not remember if Gauntney at the time was a private first class (PFC E-3) or a specialist-four (SP4 E-4).  I will not go into details about him here, having devoted a section to him in earlier "Characters" writings.  It was the first time the three of us went to town together, but far from the last.
     Gray's Cafe was on Old Lumpkin Road and had Happy Hour from 1800 to 2000 (6 to 8 pm) each Thursday.  They had large glass mugs of great draught beer for 5 cents each.  The mugs were wet, frozen, and taken out just before the beer was added.  It was some of the finest beer, and coldest, I ever had in the states. Gray's also had a grill which provided some of the best hamburgers around.  We enjoyed Gray's for those two hours and changed to vodka for the rest of the night.  (There were a number of good drive-ins along Victory Drive which served good food.  That was before any of the chain outfits such as McDonalds ever arrived.  There was one older Krystal's across town).
     During that era Columbus allowed beer to be sold across the counter. Mixed drinks were a no-no.  One could purchase a bottle at a local package store and take the bottle to a bar.  At the bar we would order glasses and ice and mix which we paid for, than mix our own drinks.  All that was legal so long as the bar people had nothing to do with the alcohol.  Alabama was slightly different.  They, the customer, could provide the bottle, the bartender could label the bottle with the customer's name, keep it behind the bar and serve only that customer mixed drinks made from the customer's own bottle.  At the time, also, there was no required closing time in Columbus for drinking establishments. Most of them would close not long after midnight, depending on customers, but there were at least two on Victory Drive which closed only for about an hour each morning for clean-up.
     Cox, Gauntney, and myself soon found places where we could enjoy Happy Hours almost every night, Monday through Saturday.  We also discovered where the country music was.  Sunday "Blue Laws" still were in effect in Georgia.  All bars and package stores had to close from Midnight Saturday until midnight Sunday. Most stayed closed until Monday afternoon, except for the two on Victory Drive which opened again at one minute past midnight on Monday morning.  We did not always go to those bars.  We also liked to stop at an old restaurant on Victory Drive which had great hotcakes, along with a jukebox which contained many Jimmy Davis records.  (The "blue laws" also kept almost all retail establishments closed on Sundays.)
     All the nightly activity might have worn us out, but we did take nights off.  Sometimes we would go to a movie or to the non-commissioned officers club before retiring early.  I early on found out work during the day was not too hard.  I was assigned to a team.  At the time we did not have separate radio terminal/relay/carrier teams.  Our shelters all had combined equipment.  Each had a AN/TRC-36 radio set, a AN/TCC-7 carrier, and an eight-channel AN/TCC-4 telegraph carrier.  That was the setups we used until we arrived in Germany in October, 1961, and split the equipment between the Radio Terminal/Relay section and the Carrier Section.
     My team, as all the others, had a 2-1/2 ton truck with a shelter mounted on it.  We did not have any of the new type shelters, but the ones we had worked great.  I have described them in other writings and will not do so again here.  We also had a 3/4 ton truck for a team support vehicle, along with a 3/4 ton trailer.  We carried all our antenna equipment in the 3/4 trailer, keeping the truck free for other uses.  We also had a 1-1/2 ton trailer behind each 2-1/2 ton truck.  Those trailers contained two 5-kilowatt gasoline powered generator sets.  Most of the generators were PU-286(*)/G types.  Many of them were the older unlettered models, with a six-volt electrical system.  They were good sets but the six-volt system gave a lot of trouble.  I was lucky enough to have one A Model and one B model PU-286. They both had twenty-four volt electrical systems which provided much better cranking power for the engine.  The only main difference between the A and B models was the cover provided on the B which covered the control panel and kept it dry and clean.
     Mornings in the 596th started with a 0530 wake-up, the charge of quarters (CQ) going through the barracks turning on lights and blowing a whistle.  Often the CQ would turn on the light switch in a platoon bay with no results.  The old bays had high ceilings, with open light fixtures.  There were long poles with baskets on the end which were used to change light bulbs.  The troops would use them to unscrew the light bulbs as they went to bed, allowing other people to keep lights near their bunks on. Sometimes they would all be unscrewed and the CQ usually could not find the poles.  All one could do was blow the whistle and yell at them to screw the bulbs back in place.
     People living in the barracks had revile formation each morning, Monday through Saturday.  On Mondays we were joined by all the off-post personnel for company command revile.  The off-post personnel did not like that, having to come in early and having little to do until work formation.  The on-post people did not like it because the off-post people, following the 0600 (6am) revile formation, crowded the mess hall, hung around the barracks, and just generally got in the way.  Saturdays were usually inspection days, depending on what the company commander felt like, and we got off at noon.


     In addition to myself there were three operators on my team.  The senior man was a repairman (MOS 294) officially.  As with so many signal units, there were too many maintenance people and a number were always assigned as operators.  Like so many other names, his has been lost to memory.  I believe it may have been Schuler or something similar, and for convenience I will call him that during this narrative.   Another operator has also had his name disappear from my mind.  He would turn out to have a medical condition which would disturb me when I found out about it while we were in South Carolina, and which would return him from Germany for discharge later. The third man was Bender, who I never had any trouble with and who was an excellent operator.  The only trouble with Bender was that he could not hold his tongue with other sergeants and officers.  Try as I did later to have him promoted to sergeant, he was still a specialist-four when I left the 596th, all because he could not resist telling people what he thought.
     I have mentioned MSG "Swede," the Radio Relay and Carrier platoon sergeant.  I wish I had my orders so I could get the names correct.  His was one none of us could pronounce right.  He had been with the company for a long time, even when they had been in Germany before and possibly before the company had gone to Germany in the 1950s.  We also had several sergeants first class (SFC) (E-6) who had been around the unit for awhile.  SFC Kibble served as the platoon supply and maintenance coordinator.  SFC French was another.  There were others whom I have forgotten.  They would all go to Germany with us but not stay long.  Kibble would be the first to return, for retirement as far as I knew.  Swede would not be far behind him.  French would stay longer, long enough to cosign a loan for SFC Nix, at Captain Payne's "request" and "urging", and long enough to find Nix  defaulting on the loan, so that France had to pay the entire thing.   I would run into France at Fort Gordon many years later.  He would be retired and working a civilian job there, but we were both hurrying somewhere and did not have time to talk.  I ran into Swede in 1965 or 1966 at Benning.  He came up to be while I was sitting in the old beer hall which used to be next to the Main Post gym/swimming pool building.  He was working, as a civilian, for Benning Post Signal.  He had a pole line truck and crew and was in charge of keeping all the telephones on the ranges working.  We had the chance to enjoy a beer together and talk for a short time.  He was sober and seemed to be enjoying himself.  I was glad of that.   I do not think there was anyone in the company who did not like and respect Swede, unless it was the company commander and first sergeant.
     One thing about the company at Benning, we never had much of a training schedule.  Most of the time it merely said motor pool duties or some such thing.  After morning formation the "sick, lame, and lazy" would drop out of formation and the first sergeant or the company commander would march the company to the motor pool.  There everyone above platoon sergeant would disappear until the 1300 (1pm) formation, when we would return to the motor pool following the noon break.  Once in the motor pool Swede and most of the E-6s would retire to the platoon office, where they would stay most of the time.  The rest of us would go to our trucks and do what needed to be done.  There was never too much to do.   Once we had checked the trucks and generators we had little work left over. 
     Many days I would climb up into the shelter, open a technical manual onto the heater cover (which made a good table),  pull a chair up close and take a nap.  My crew would be out behind the truck somewhere, talking or playing cards.  There would be a number of card games going on each day.  Our motor pool was one of the old tank parks built early on, before or just after the start of World War II.  We had pull-through sheds which provided shade from the Georgia sun.  If any officers came into the motor park there would be plenty of warning from the people closer to the gate.  However, our officers tended to stay away from the motor park.
     That type duty was all new to me.  I had come from a division signal battalion where we had always had work or training to do.  I did not feel right about goofing off so much but I also did not feel right about "rocking the boat" when they had things the way they wanted them.
     We did have one day of range firing scheduled in June for people who had not fired their weapons lately.  Probably twenty-five percent of the company had to go to the range, including me.  I drew a carbine, which I was told later belonged to someone else.  We fired on one of the KD (known distance) ranges on Main Post, using the standard targets, instead of the pop-up "Train-fire" targets which was by than standard for qualification.  At least the day on the range broke up the monotony.
     In June, also, we were told there was a possibility that if the United States sent any units to Viet Nam, the 596th Signal Company would likely be one of them.  We were never told very much about that possibility, only that we had to be ready.  As a result we all went to the old Fort Benning hospital one day, most of us piling into private cars for the trip.  There we lined up at the immunization clinic while the medics gave each man a yellow fever shot.  Still another day we marched across the street from the quartel and formed a long line outside the dental clinic.   It took a good while to get the entire company checked, even using two or three dentists.  It was not required to later get dental work done, just to have on records what sort of shape each person was in if work needed to be done later.  The same thing occurred with physical examinations for people who had not had such within a certain time.  I had had a reenlistment physical the year before, so I missed that part. 
     (It should be noted here that we never heard too much more about Viet Nam while at Benning.  However, when we went to Germany, Seventh Army was unable to assign the company a job at first.   We were told, on fairly good authority, that the reason they could not do so was that even in Germany the 596th was still on possible alert for movement to Viet Nam, and that until Department of the Army released us from such alert, we could not be put to work in Germany.  In early 1962 we were finally assigned to operate Seventh Army Rear and we heard nothing else about Viet Nam.   [The 39th Signal Battalion went to that country early in 1962, with the 232nd Signal Company (SPT), the 178th Signal Company (SPT), and the 362nd Signal Company (Troposcatter)). 


      J.T. Cox, Gauntney, and myself continued our night time activities.  One evening we were downtown at a bar at the lower end of Broad Street.  They had no happy hour but they did have a jukebox with plenty of good country music records.  It was a night when rain fell on and off, and it was misting heavily when we got ready to leave the bar.  Because of the rain I started to run to the car and twisted my right ankle.  I thought it would be okay later, not bothering me when driving and giving me little trouble when we returned to the barracks.  However, when I woke up the next morning it was slightly swollen and hurt some when I tried to walk, so I went on morning sick call.  Our dispensary was just across the street so I did not have far to walk.  The doctor checked the ankle, told me what I already knew, and turned me over to a medic.  The medic gave the ankle a soak, dried it, and wrapped it with an Ace bandage.  I received a "buck slip" which said I was to do no marching or prolonged standing for three or four days. 
     There was not much else going on to break the day to day routine.  Either in late June or early July I received a note from SGT Andy Burch in which he told me he was back in the United States, at Fort Stewart, Georgia.  He said the fishing was good anytime I wanted to come down.  The end of the week I telephoned him and made arrangements to go.  We must have had a Saturday morning off for some reason, because I seem to remember going down Friday night.  I had asked Andy if I could bring someone (Gauntney) with me.  We arrived at Andy's house, just outside Hinesville late that night.  The details are not important here as I have written about the weekend in another narrative.  We enjoyed ourselves, had a great catfish supper Saturday, and returned to Benning Sunday after a good night's sleep at Andy's.
     Gauntney and I also arranged to donate blood one day when they were having a drive on post.  That was the first time I had ever done so.  We were not so much ready to give blood, but we were ready for a day off, which was what was promised after donating.  By time we had finished with the blood and changed clothes half the day was gone, but half a day was better than none at all.  We headed for town and enjoyed ourselves once again.

     One day when we were in the motor pool doing little, SFC Nix came up to me and told me someone had run into my car, which was parked in the quartel  area.  I started for the area, with Nix alongside.  I was mad and trying to figure out how anyone could hit a car parked in an angled parking place.  We got almost to the car and I could see no damage.  It was only after we arrived and I was looking at the car that Nix told me there had been no collision, but he needed to borrow twenty dollars.  That was the first time he had asked me for money but I was aware many others had either been asked and refused or had loaned him various amounts.  I gave him the twenty, which he paid back before we went to Germany.  It was later I found out he seldom paid anyone, so I guess I was lucky for some reason.  He also asked me for a ride home that afternoon, which I did, after taking him past an off post laundry to pick up some clothes.
     Exercise Swift Strike was due to take place in the Carolinas in July and August and we were scheduled to be part of that.  That was the original Swift Strike.  There would be numbers II and III the following two years.  The first one was not as large as the later two but it was large enough.  I do not believe the actual exercise lasted much over a week, but we would spend 35 to 37 days going, coming, and operating in the exercise area. 
     We did little preparation for going to South Carolina.  Of course, we had to make sure all equipment was ready, everything was fueled, and we had our personal gear ready, but the company provided little guidance for any of it.  And for a well trained unit, with as good as people as we had, there was no need to do very much.  The only thing I remember emphasis being placed on was being told several times to ensure all drive shaft nuts and bolts were tight on our vehicles.  What that was about I can only assume that they had had trouble with some drive shafts during the Army Training Test.  (Even with being told over and over about them, we still had three or four vehicles lose drive shafts between Benning and our first stop at Fort Gordon,} At any rate, we were overall ready to go at all times.
     A short aside here about STRAC.  I hope that is the right abbreviation.  It has been a long time since I have heard it or read it.  It stood for Strategic Army Corps, or something close to that.  It was to my Army what the Central Command is to today's Army.  It was the first attempt to have an overall organization  for emergency use on a large scale,  to have units ready to deploy as needed.  There was, as far as I recall,  no separate headquarters for STRAC.  Instead the XIII Airborne Corps was the major headquarters.  Operation Swift Strike was to be a STRAC exercise, with the XIII Corps running it from a field headquarters in South Carolina.  We were to be part of the communications for exercise control, not part of the opposing forces.  We were due to be in the exercise area early to install and test our communications.



Swift Strike

     One day late in July we moved out from Benning in groups of vehicles, heading for our overnight stop at Fort Gordon.  I was driving the 2-1/2 ton truck, with the man whose name I cannot remember riding with me.  Schuler and Bender were crewing the 3/4-ton.  I remember very little about that first day of our trip.  I do recall going through Macon.  I liked Macon but the city was a mess of narrow streets, traffic, traffic lights, and some of the most crooked  ways of routing traffic I ever saw in any city.  It took years for them to get the route of US 80 halfway straightened out.  When  the interstates were being built I would swear they had at least four or five different routes marked for US 80.  In 1961 they only had one but it was a nerve-wracking drive for convoys.
     We stopped for several breaks along the way, and once for lunch.  We had been issued sack lunches before leaving Benning.  There were supposed to be two sandwiches and a piece of fruit in each sack.  When we stopped to eat I found two sandwiches with nothing on them but bread and one thin slice of lunchmeat, along with an orange.  My operator found bread with nothing between them.  He really raised a howl, not calming down whatever I said, even after I offered him one of my sandwiches.  He moved out looking for someone to complain to but soon came back with nothing else, as what was in the sacks was all anyone had.
     We pulled into Fort Gordon in the late afternoon, first going past the fuel pumps to gas up, afterwards going over to the transient barracks which were just across the railroad tracks from the warehouse areas.  There was a large paved lot there where we pulled the trucks into lines so we would be in the proper order to move out again the following morning.  The barracks were a half block away.  We held formation at the trucks, once they had all arrived, and everyone who had vehicle problems left someone with their truck to wait for the motor pool personnel.  At least two or three trucks had to be towed in due to drive shafts coming loose, even after all the instructions to check them at Benning.
     We took what baggage we needed for the night and marched down to the barracks.  The transient barracks issued us sheets and pillow cases to use and each platoon was assigned a barracks area.  Such comfort was not expected by us.   (At least two other times in the future I would make stops at Gordon with convoys and each time we would sleep on air mattresses placed directly on the ground or on our own cots, but always out of doors.)  The barracks had plenty of hot water, another treat.
    We had to place guards on our vehicles overnight.  A few men had been left watching them while we settled in and had supper in a mess hall which had been set up for us and other units due to pass heading for Swift Strike.   As soon as the main body had eaten, a sergeant and several men went back to the trucks as the first guard relief.  I was stuck with two hours of guard supervision in the middle of the night, making a good rest impossible.  We were woken early, probably 0430 or so, but I do not remember the exact time.  We had to clean the barracks, turn in all bedding, and have breakfast before getting to our trucks and checking them out and reloading our personal equipment, not to mention cleaning up and shaving.
      We rolled out of Gordon, taking a long round-about route into South Carolina instead of going directly up US 1.  I let my operator drive and I took it easy.  Somehow we eventually came back into contact with US 1.  It was never explained to us why we used such a route, which must have added fifty miles or more to the trip. Somewhere along the highway south of Columbia I allowed my hat to fly out the window of the truck.  I tried to grab it without result other than banging my head on the door frame.  I figured that was the last time I would ever see that hat again.  When we stopped for the next break I went into the shelter and was digging in my bag looking for my helmet  liner, the only other headgear I had with me.  Before I could find that, SFC Nix came along from the rear of the march unit calling out for whoever  had lost a hat.  Bringing up the rear in a jeep he had seen it on the side of the road and had picked it up. 
     We went through the middle of Columbia, South Carolina,  following US 1, right past the state capitol building and grounds.  Columbia was a breeze compared to Macon, with straight streets and police guiding us through.  We exited the city and kept going to Camden, through that city, and finally to the small town of Bethune, where we made a left turn off the highway onto a state road.  We drove on out into the country and finally pulled into a dusty field which had been a cornfield not long before.  All the corn was gone except for the stubble of the stalks and we were left with dry sand.  We pulled on the field, making a wide swing to come up on the earlier trucks, raising clouds of white dusty powder, before pulling into a side-by-side line just as if we had been in a motor park.  It did not look like much, the only major tree line being some distance away.  A few scrubs and bushes were near but not much else.
     We wandered over to the scrub, where  at  least  there were enough weeds to hold the dust down.  We were assigned areas, each platoon   staking out a section of dust and weed to be home away from home for awhile.  The mess hall was already putting up their tent and getting gear unpacked.  The South Carolina sun was  baking everything in sight, not making a good omen for the coming weeks.
     We started getting the company and platoon areas set up.  Here once again my memory has totally failed me.  Try as I might, I cannot remember if we had tents with us.  I know we must have had General Purpose Medium (GPM) tents, because we did not use "pup tents" and we were not allowed to sleep in the trucks, even if there had been room.  I do recall the supply room had a tent set up.  It is strange how so many things can be remembered, while things which would seem to be important are lost.  I do know there was little way to get away from the sun and the dust. 


     The first few days at the corn field were slow.  The company had nothing for us to do and mainly, except for formations, police calls, and various details (such as digging latrines), we were left alone.  Sometimes a group would get a softball game up on a field laid out behind the trucks.  Maybe that was what was going on that day I had to take my shirt off, or it may have been some other  activity.  Anyway, we were standing around out at the edge of the field and for some reason they wanted everyone to be shirtless.  One of the lieutenants told me to take mine off.  I tried to protest, explaining that I did not tan but would burn with little exposure to the sun.  He would not listen to that and I removed my fatigue shirt, feeling the results almost at once.  Not too long afterwards a different lieutenant passed, stopped, told me I had best put my shirt on as I looked red!  My upper arms, and especially the back of my neck, were good and sore by the next morning. 
     One of those early days Otis Gauntney asked me if I had noticed how many blackberries were around.  I said I had noticed but I did not like blackberries, mainly noticing so I could avoid the thorns.  He said he had a different idea and if I wanted to help him pick the berries, he thought we could get enough to make some decent blackberry wine.  That was something I could see doing, even if I did not like wine.  At least it would provide something for us to do for part of the time.  We were restricted to the area right around the corn field.  There was a small store about a quarter mile away which was off limits.  The nearest major tree line was a half mile or so in the other direction.  It too was out of bounds for us. 
     Still, there were a great number of blackberry bushes in the shrub near us.  Gauntney and I  started picking berries, using our steel helmets as pails.  Other people commented we must really like blackberries and we just answered yes and kept picking.  J. T. Cox told us it was too hot to be picking berries.  Even if he was our drinking partner, we did not tell him what we were up to at the time.  We picked every blackberry we could get to in the area we were allowed to be in but we still did not have enough according to Gauntney,  who said he would see what he could do that night.  In the meantime we started with what we had. 
     Gauntney proceeded to use his helmet as a container to squeeze the blackberries, crushing them with his hand over and over again.  We had found a spot behind his generator trailer to work.  His team was missing the canvas off the trailer, which Gauntney said was good, as the wine needed plenty of air.  He also said if it was sealed up under canvas the smell might become more noticeable.  Without the canvas the air and wind would carry the odors, if any, away.  He took a five-gallon (we were still using the metal ones at that time) water can, emptied some of the water and poured the blackberry mix into the can.  To allow the mixture to "breathe" and to allow the fermenting material to give off expanding gas, he did not close the lid of the can.  Instead he tied a tee-shirt over the top.
     Why nobody took notice of the strange can with the tee-shirt top I never knew.  Most of the senior non-coms and all of the officers were doing just about what they did at Benning:  Stay away from us and do no more than required.  Maybe none of them ever walked around the trucks.  If other troops asked about the can, Gauntney just said it was something he was trying out.  Gauntney talked to one of the cooks at the mess hall and obtained sugar to add to the mix, but the mess hall had no yeast,  something Gauntney said was not required but which would speed up the action if we could get some.
     We also still needed more blackberries.  Gauntney went roaming at night, armed with a flashlight and his helmet, down to the tree line where he figured there would be more blackberries.  The next morning he showed me a helmet full, obtained with a lot of work, holding his flashlight with one hand, the helmet strap around his wrist, and picking blackberries with the other hand.  He said he thought that would be enough.  At any rate, he was not going to spend more time doing any more picking in the dark.  He smashed those berries and added the results to the mixture.  His hand was a deep purple from working the berries and it took a lot of soap, water, and time to get the stains off.
     He said it would help if we had the yeast.  There was no way to tell how long we would be around the corn field before they started to put us to work.  When they did start sending us out, we would be split up and would not be able to share the wine.  The only place we could obtain yeast was at a store in a town.  The only way we knew to get to town was to go on sick call.  The medics supporting us were at least fifty miles away and each morning the company sent a truck over to them with anyone needing medical attention.  I do not know what reason Gauntney gave for going but I said I needed something for my sunburn.  We loaded into the truck and went.  I believe we were the only two going besides the driver.  We made the sick call, I received some cream for my burns, and we started for the corn field.  Going through one of the small towns on the way to sick call, I had taken notice of a bank.  That was important because it was the end of the month and neither of us had any money.  I did have a saving bond which I had thought to take with me to South Carolina, and we stopped at the bank so I could cash it.  Another stop at a store produced several packets of yeast, after which we returned to the company.
     Gauntney headed for the water can with the yeast, while I had to report to the first sergeant.  He chewed me out for going on sick call with a sunburn, saying I could be court-martialed for being burned.  (Which was a lot of "bull" but I was not prepared to argue the point.)  All I said was the sunburn had happened in the line of duty as I had been ordered to remove my shirt, even after I had protested.   He let me go and I went to help Gauntney.


    A Night In Bethune

    While at the cornfield site we had almost nothing to do except wait for assignments to establish communications.         The company decided they would allow a truck to go into Camden, South Carolina, so that any troops who wished to do so could have a "night on the town."  We had not been allowed to carry civilian clothing with us but we all had a khaki summer uniform along.  (At the time the summer "Class A uniform was still long sleeve shirt and tie.)  A 2-1/2 ton truck was prepared and all who wanted to go to town the first night signed up.  Otis Gauntney and I decided to go and enjoy a few beers.

     Unknown to anyone in the company at the time, Camden was a "dry"  town.  The people who went to town discovered that fact upon arrival in Camden.  Gauntney and I did not plan on going to Camden.  We had earlier taken note of the small town of Bethune, the place where the local roads to the cornfield site left US 1.  The truck would drive to Bethune, turn south there onto US 1, and head for Camden.  Gauntney and I had both noticed, when we had earlier gone through the town, they had two bars, one on each side of the road.  We always believed a small town offered better chances of cold beer, good company, as well as women.
     We told the driver to stop in Bethune and let the two of us off.  We invited anyone else who wanted to stop with us to do so but nobody took us up on our offer.  That left twelve or so men still on the truck heading for Camden.  The driver and sergeant in charge gave us the time they expected to be coming back on the return trip.  They cautioned us to be on the side of the road waiting or we would be left behind.  They said they did not want to have to wait or look for us and we promised  we would be at the drop-off point at the correct time.  We watched the truck pull off, turning south onto US 1.  Gauntney and I headed into the nearest bar.
     That bar turned out to not be very much.  They had the bar, stools, a couple of tables, and a pool table.  There were two or three men in the place.  We took stools and had a cold beer, at the same time watching a pool game being played.  After that first beer we went out, crossed the street to the second bar.  There we found a carbon copy of the first bar, even to them having a pool table with a game already going on.  Once again we nursed cold bottles of beer, taking our time drinking them.  There was nothing else to do in the small town.  There was a truck-stop about half a mile north on US 1 but for some reason it never entered our minds to go up there.   I do not recall how many beers we had that night, or how many times we switched from one bar to the other.  We could not even play a game of pool because the tables in both bars stayed busy all evening with the same local men using them.  There were no women in sight at either bar.
     On one of our trips crossing the street we noticed a local policeman watching us.  He followed us into the bar and talked to the locals, watching us but not saying anything to us.  After following us across the street again and into the other bar, he finally came up to talk to us.  It turned out he was one-half of the local force (Shades of Mayberry!), the chief being the other half.   He was concerned that large numbers of soldiers might be coming into their town in the future.  

He wanted us to ask the company commander or first-sergeant to drive into Bethune and talk to his chief before any problems developed.  We promised to pass his request along.  He talked to us about a few other things before he wandered out of the building, leaving us to continue doing what little we had been doing. 
     I do not know for certain how long we stayed in the town, probably from about 1800 until 2200 or so.  Four hours can seem mighty long doing what we were doing that night.  The beers were good and cold, the bartenders willing to talk, but that was about all we had.  When the time neared for the truck's return we finished our last beer, made our final trip to the restroom, and headed out to the curb where we found a fairly clean spot to sit and wait.  I had obtained an old newspaper in one of the bars and we read the old local news under the street lamp.  While we waited Gauntney and I discussed what we would do to keep the other troops  from finding out what a terrible time we had spent in Bethune.  (At that time we assumed they would be telling us what a good time they had had in Camden.)

     We heard  the truck before it rounded the corner and we stood up, brushing the dirt from our uniforms.  As the truck approached and stopped we were both laughing, talking close together, slapping each other on the back as if we had been having a great time.   We climbed on board the truck, finding a couple seats near the rear, continuing to talk and laugh about what a good time we had had.  It turned out the rest of them had not enjoyed themselves at all, having discovered they could not even get a beer in Camden.  The city had a couple theaters and a restaurant or two but not much else to interest soldiers on pass.  Gauntney and I did not feel near as bad once we heard their tales and what they said made us laugh even more.  Several of them tried to get information from us about what had been so good in Bethune.  All we would say was that we might go back again and we continued a if we were sharing a great secret.
     The following day the company again announced there would be a truck going into Camden and again a dozen or so people signed up for the trip.  About half were men who had gone the night before.  Some asked Gauntney and myself if we were going back but we told them we needed a rest from the night before.  We watched the truck pull out and we headed for our tent, where Gauntney took his place in a card game and I settled down with a book.
     Several hours later the truck returned.  Several of the men came by the tent and said some unpleasant words to us.  The ones who had gone to Camden the night before had all got off in Bethune to see what had given us such joy.  They now knew we had pulled a hoax on them and were not happy with us, the whole bunch having been stranded in the town for hours, with nothing to do except what we had done the night before.  That was the last truck which went to town.  The word got around and nobody signed up for passes anymore while we were at the cornfield. 



    While we were sitting around doing nothing little but  waiting for the blackberry wine to ferment, Gauntney decided he was not fond of sleeping on the ground.  We had few cots in the company and most of us were sleeping on air mattresses on the ground.  There had either been a small sawmill in the area at one time or else someone had hauled pieces in and dumped them, but for whatever reason there was a scattered pile of slabs cut from the side of pine logs.  There was nothing fancy about the slabs, those rough pieces cut off to trim the logs into square timbers ready to cut into lumber, but Gauntney wanted a bed and those slabs were the only things available.  Before we knew it he had constructed a bed which,  if rough looking, provided a firm  bedstead upon which he placed his air mattress and sleeping bag.  He had left the legs much too long, but that was madness of a smart sort.  He borrowed a posthole digger from a cable team and buried the legs deep in the ground.  He explained that way the bunk was going to stay put and nobody was going to steal it or try to play games with it while he was not looking.
     Many people had been laughing and teasing Gauntney when he was dragging slabs to his tent, and while he was sawing, hammering, and digging.  All the joking stopped when he went to bed, three feet or so above the chiggers and other insects which abounded in the vicinity of the cornfield.  The following day several people went looking for slabs with which to build their own bunks but Gauntney had pretty much cleaned out the ones which were suitable.  The ones left were mainly small,  jagged, or cracked beyond use.

     A day or so after we had started the wine to brewing, we received word several teams would be sent out to various sites to conduct test systems.  That meant we would install communications where the system engineers thought they would or might work so we could determine just how well they did work, if at all.  I do not remember whose team Gauntney was with at the time, it may have been Cox's, but they were slated to go.  Along with the wine brewing in the water can.  My own team saddled up and was sent to a site somewhere southwards, just north  of Camden.
     Our location turned out to be an old airfield left over from World War II.  The runways had been grass and the entire field area was still fairly open.  Maybe the area had been farmed over the years or had just been burned off, but there was no large growth there, just heavy brown grass about three or four feet tall.  We were placed on the old "hardstand" near an old two story building which had probably been the field headquarters or operations.  The building was in pretty sad shape, slowing rotting away, and I told my men to stay away from it.  There was already a relay team from some other unit set up near the building, so we picked a site at the opposite end of the hardstand.  The hardstand most likely had been the only paved portion of the airfield.  It was about the size of a football field and was made of thin (maybe 1-1/2 to 2 inches) of asphalt.  We positioned the 2-1/2 ton and I picked out the locations for the two antenna base plates.
    It turned out we had no trouble driving our antenna stakes directly into and through the asphalt.  While the asphalt was thin, the sub-surface had been properly prepared those many years ago, with well compacted clay and gravel, which also presented little trouble getting the stakes in.  When we later went to remove the stakes, we had a time getting them out of the clay.  We raised both antennas, one to go to a terminal somewhere north of us, the other going to another team somewhere southeast of us.  We had positioned the generator trailer and connected our power along with everything else.  Once  we had electricity into the shelter, I started the radios and tuned them up while my three team members policed up ropes, antenna sections, and everything else we had used to erect the antennas but which would not be needed again until we prepared to take everything down.  They loaded all extras back into the 3/4-ton trailer, drove our ground rods, and made the site like home as much as possible.
     I quickly made contact with the north leg of the system, with fair communications, except for some strange operating symptoms.     Normally with a system we oriented our antennas for maximum signal strength at both ends.  For some strange (and never before or afterwards encountered) reason, we could not get the antennas to agree.
When my receive signal strength was at maximum, the other team's antenna was about twenty degrees or so off where it should have been, resulting in his receiver having very poor reception.  When his receiver strength was at maximum, my antenna ended up off, giving us poor reception.   We finally, after trying various combinations, gave up and went to midpoints where we figured we could operate.
     I tried to raise the second end of the system but we had no contact with them.  In the two  days or  so we were there we never did get in contact with them and we never found out if they were even in position.  That was not an uncommon thing during field operations, often we did not know what was going on with other teams and had to depend on trial and error operation.  We put tone on the transmitter for them to tune into, if they were trying to receive us, and every thirty minutes or so one of us would cut the tone and identify our location, as well as scanning the receive frequency we had in case their transmitter was a little off.  
     While we were waiting for any contact, or for word from the company about what was going on, we fixed our site up.  We were near the edge of the hardstand where the heavy grass started.  We went a short distance into the grass and dug a latrine that would last us several days.  The grass provided a good shield from view (We were at least a quarter mile from the road.) but I had shelter-halves strung around on antenna mast sections to provide positive privacy.  We also dug a trash pit.  Both the trash pit and the latrine were easy to dig.  The clay/gravel hardstand base only extended a few feet beyond the edge of the asphalt, everything beyond that being plain soft white sand. 
     I saw no reason to put up pup tents, which tended to be hot in the sun, not to mention the fact we had used some of ours for the latrine. We fastened all four of our ponchos together and made a good sized lean-to shelter coming out from one side of the truck.  We placed our air mattresses and sleeping bags under that.  I hoped if we got rain it would not be hard or blowing.
     We had not had a shower since we had left Fort Gordon and we were all getting a little gamey, considering the heat, dust, and the liberal use of sticky insect repellent.  The man who had had been my driver/co-driver took our 3/4-ton truck and went scouting for some place we could get a shower or bath.  What we usually looked for were streams, lakes, ponds, or a national guard armory to use.  He came back in about an hour, saying he had found a pond with a good flowing spill well which would provide good showers.  However, he thought I should make the decision as the concrete spill well base was slippery and might be unsafe.  He also brought back several watermelons which he had "liberated" from a near-by field.  It was too late in the day to make another trip and I said we would check the pond next day, if possible.
     Before we could get started doing anything the next day, the man who lived between the airfield and the highway came over to see me.  I do not know if he owned the entire area or not, but he was friendly.  That was  a trait shared by most people we ran into in South and North Carolina, both during Exercise Swift Strike and other exercises I went on into those states.  He pointed out  the small building between us and his house, which he said was his well and pump house.  He knew we would be most likely  be needing a place to bathe.  He stated he had a faucet outside the pump house and he had attached a short piece of garden hose to it, hanging the hose in such a way that we could use it for a cold water shower.  I told him that was great and we certainly thanked him for his trouble.  The only condition he attached was that we use the shower ONLY at night, as he had two teenage daughters, in addition to his wife,  who would be within eyesight of the shower. 
     I was really looking forward to a shower that night.  My man, saying the pond was no longer needed, still asked permission to go check on more watermelons.  I told him to go ahead but try to buy a few, not steal them, and gave him a few dollars.  He came back in about an hour with eighteen watermelons in the truck, and gave me my money back.  He said that when he reached the field the farmer had a crew working picking and loading.  He told the farmer he had come to get a few melons if he could and the farmer had his crew load all those.  He was going to load more but the man told him that was probably all we could use.  Afterwards the farmer had refused to take any money.  Just one more example of the good people, many of which had been in the service themselves at one time or other.  I always made it a policy to tell my men to play straight with the "natives" and they would treat us right.


     While we were at the airfield site we depended on our meals being brought to us.  Three times each day a truck would drive from the mess hall at the cornfield, carrying our meals to us in Marmite Cans.  Marmite cans were insulated food containers used to serve/carry food in the field.  A can could hold a lot of one item, or three items by use of removable inserts.  I do not remember the details.  I assume they must have brought trays and utensils with them each time as we had no way to clean mess kits, and that was several years before the Army  discovered paper plates.  Then again, we may have been using paper plates.  The memory has just been lost.
     We received our food at noon one day and I went to wake up  XXX (The man whose name I have forgotten.) who was sleeping in the cab of the 2-1/2 ton truck.  No matter what I did I found I could not arouse him.  I went to talk to Schuler and Bender about it.  It was then they told me about his medical condition.  It seemed he had a medical trouble which caused him to fall asleep at anytime and anyplace.  They said his medical papers ("buck slip" in Army slang) said when he fell asleep he was to be allowed to wake on his own, that no action should be attempted to try and wake him.  This was the man who had been driving the 2-1/2 truck about half the time since we had departed Benning, with me as a passenger! 
     The three of us went ahead and had our meal, with me thinking about all those miles when he might have fallen asleep at the wheel.  We put XXX's meal aside for him.  When he finally woke up and came around to where we were, I asked him about the medical problem.  He showed me his buck slip.  It said just what I had been told, that he might fall asleep at anytime.  I asked him if, when seeing the doctor or doctors, had anything been said about him driving.  (There was nothing on the buck slip to indicate he should or should not drive.)   He said the doctor had not said anything, that the subject had never come up.  I also asked him what the military driver's examiner had said about the condition.  Again, he said the subject had never come up.   I told him that when we returned to the company I was going to check the thing out, but as far as I was concerned he was not to drive for my team anymore, at least not with passengers.
     (I do not recall what happened to XXX about driving officially.  I do remember telling Swede about the problem.  XXX stayed with us and went to Germany with us.  He was finally, I believe, returned to the states for a medical discharge.  What topped his story off in Germany was a day in early 1962 when we were taking part in the first tryout of the Army's new physical fitness test.  XXX was on the mile run when he fell asleep, while running.  He fell face forward onto the cinder track.  He was picked up, carried over to a bench, and allowed to sleep until he woke up normally.  The first thing he wanted to know was how his hands and face came to be scratched up and dirty.)
     The same day XXX had gone out to the trash pit, throwing away trash and had prepared to burn the trash, not only to hold down the volume but also to discourage rats and other pests.  The first thing I knew I heard a scream and turned around to see the tall, dry, brown grass burning.  All of us grabbed tools and ran towards the pit.  We finally got the fire under control after a circle about twenty-five feet across had been burned.  The grass extended for at least a mile in three directions.  If the fire had gotten started good there was no way we could have stopped it.  Most likely, given the conditions, the field would have burned and the wood line would have been endangered before any fire crews could have arrived.  I have no idea how I would have explained that to the Army or to the State of South Carolina. 
     We were really looking forward to nightfall so we could take showers at the pump house, as cold as we realized the water would be.  We needed cleaning up even more after we had fought the grass fire.  However, late that evening we experienced a sudden and unexpected thunderstorm.  The rain started pouring down with almost no warning and the lightning and thunder came along right behind the first shower.  We managed to get our sleeping bags up and put them into the shelter before they got wet.  Than we had to get our air mattresses secured as the water started flowing across the asphalt, threatening to wash any light weight items away.  The rain was coming down so good we considered taking showers in it, but I vetoed the idea.  The rain was COLD, the wind was blowing hard, and the lightning kept occurring.  I knew it would be tempting fate for wet naked bodies to be out in the storm.  And as long as the storm was going on, there was no chance to use the pump house shower.  So we looked forward to staying dirty for another night and day.  The rain went long for a long time and I told everyone not on duty to sleep in the trucks where they wanted, regardless of company orders.  I was grateful to the rain for one thing: It soaked the field good and did away with any more danger of fire.
     Army payday was normally the last work day of each month.  We were already two days or so past it and had not been paid.  The company officer who had been stuck as payroll officer for that month had to go all the way back to Fort Benning where he picked up the payroll early on payday.  He then had to pay the few people we still had at Benning serving as a rear detachment, before driving all the way back to South Carolina.  Once back at the cornfield he paid everyone there, then had to start traveling around to all the remote sites to pay us and others. He finally arrived at the airfield site, paid us, and quickly drove on towards the next location.  (When he finally had everyone paid, he still had to face another round trip to Benning to turn the payroll back in.


     Another word about the airfield site before I continue with the narrative.  We had been told the 82nd Airborne Division would be making a mass jump onto that area during Exercise Swift Strike.  I was hoping we would be able to see that.  I had seen small jumps, up to company size, but I had never seen a big one.  The field should have been large enough.  We were set up in the middle on one side.  The open grassy area must have gone a mile at least to our right, as well as to our left.  And it must have been at least a mile across the field at any point.  I never was able to find out what type training had taken place there during World War II.  Maybe it was basic or primary flight training, where grass runways would have been okay for trainer aircraft.  Later I was to wonder if perhaps the field had been used for glider training.  Fort Bragg was the center for airborne and glider operations and a large grass field in the area would have been required for glider pilot training, as well as training glider troops. Not that it had anything to do with our operations in 1961,  but it would have been interesting to have known.
     The pay officer left and we got on with what we needed to do.  Our clothes were getting about as dirty as our bodies.  Schuler and Bender took the 3/4-ton and headed into Camden with sacks of their dirty clothes.  They found a laundry mat and did their laundry, afterwards going to a store to get whatever they needed.  As soon as they came back XXX and I took the truck and made a run into the city.  We went to the laundry mat first to clean our clothes.  I knew the fatigue uniforms would not look all that good being washed and not pressed, but at least they would be clean.  And we sure needed clean underwear and other items. 
     The laundry mat had front loading machines, something I had not used before, so I made certain I read the directions carefully.  One of the things the directions stated was to use no more than  one-half a box of soap for each load of wash.  A machine in the laundry mat had boxes of soap and bleach for sale.  Top loading machines would take a whole box, front loading machines needed only half that.  I loaded my fatigues in one machine, everything else into a second machine, split a box of soap between them, and started both up.  I watched XXX put his clothes in.  I started to say something when he poured an entire small box of soap into each machine but held my voice.  Once the machines started it was plain to see why the instructions called for limited soap.  XXX's machines started spitting soap out around the door to the extent he finally had to stop them, clean as much suds out as possible, and restart the machines.  He managed to get everything washed finally, with soap all over the front of the machines, as well as having suds on the floor.
     While the clothes were washing I made a trip to a grocery store in the same shopping center, trying to find something to read.  They did not even have a magazine stand.  They did have a good rack of comic books and for lack of anything else I picked out half dozen of them.  Other than the comics, I did not even find a newspaper rack in the shopping center.  (I read the comics while the laundry was working.  Later, when we returned to the cornfield  sometime in the future I passed them on to others who also were a little desperate for reading material.)
     Once our laundry was done we headed back for the airfield site.  Neither of us needed anything else in town, except for reading material, but I did not feel like spending time looking for a place which had some.  While still some distance from the airfield site I could see that something did not look right.  When we left we had had two antennas up, but coming down the highway I could only see one.  I speeded up and pulled into the driveway onto the asphalt hardstand.  As we rounded the old building I could see one antenna still standing.  Schuler and Bender had the second one on the ground and was taking it apart.
     Once out of the truck Schuler said they had received word from Swede (via the radio system order wire) to take the site apart, pack up, and meet him at the crossroads going towards the cornfield.  He said he would be at that place by 2000 (8 pm) or so.  He had given them no idea what was going on except to say we were being moved. 
     We lowered the other antenna, took everything apart and packed up.  That was more of a job with our set up than it would be in the future when the new shelters came onto the scene.  When the new shelters came along, all the antenna systems and parts had places in the shelter from where they could be taken and returned to fairly quickly.  In 1961 we still had to place all items into shipping cases and close them before stacking them in the 3/4 trailer.  Still, I had a well trained team and everybody worked well together and we made pretty fast work of packing.  We did have some trouble getting the antenna stakes out of the clay/gravel foundation of the hardstand and trouble cleaning the clay off them before we could put them away.  After the trucks were loaded we still had to close and fill in the latrine and trash pit and check for anything we had overlooked.  That was easy on the open asphalt, unlike normal field operations where small items could be overlooked in weeds or brush.
     Once loaded we moved out, me driving the 2-1/2 ton in the lead.  It must have been six or eight miles to the crossroads, about half the distance back to the cornfield.  It was growing dark before we left the airfield site, totally so by the time we reached the crossroads and parked on the shoulder with our parking lights on.  There was little traffic on the country roads at anytime, even less after dark.  All we could do was wait for Swede and his instructions.  I got out of the truck and walked around some.  The truck engines were off and there was no sound at all in the area.  I started hearing a cat meow and looked around.  I retrieved the flashlight from the truck and flashed the beam on the shoulder where I thought the sound was coming from.  A tiny yellow kitten was coming through the high grass,  making low sounds of what sounded like distress.  I neither heard nor saw any other cats.  There were no houses anywhere near, so I could only conclude some heartless person had dumped him.  
     I went over and picked the little creature up.  He was wet from the grass and shaking.  I got a clean tee-shirt from my laundry, dried him off and wrapped him.  About that time Swede drove up in a jeep and I turned the kitten over to XXX to watch.  I went over to Swede as he got out of the jeep and started explaining where we were going.  I made some notes of directions and names, looked at Swede's map by flashlight and checked my map against his.  I made sure Schuler  was  listening in case we got separated somewhere along the way.  Once we were clear on everything, Swede asked if we needed anything, and I said no.  He told us good-by and he and his driver turned the jeep around and headed back towards the cornfield.
     I climbed into my truck.  The kitten was sound asleep.  I had no idea what I planned to do with him.  I only knew I could not leave him out there to starve.  I cranked the truck, watching my mirror for the 3/4's headlights to come on indicating they had cranked okay, and pulled out onto the road.  A hundred feet up we made a right turn onto the crossroad which would take us to Bethune and the junction with US Highway 1.


     Before continuing I have to add one more small item about the meeting with Swede at the crossroads.  We had eighteen watermelons in the 3/4-ton.  We gave Swede about half of them and told him to take them to the platoon/company people still at the cornfield.  The rest of them we took with us, eating some, giving others away as we went.
     Right here I have to apologize to the reader for my memory failure once again.  Once I had finished writing about the crossroads meetings and the kitten, I realized my chronology was wrong.  I had previously indicated that prior to the move to the Airfield Site we had not left the cornfield.  I knew something was wrong and after some hard thinking, and even some doodling on paper, I realized that statement had to be wrong.  All I wrote before about the Airfield Site was correct.  The only thing wrong was that we had moved out once before that.  I must now backtrack in my thoughts and writings to add what happened before we moved to the Airfield Site.  The only excuse I can give is that forty-plus years play tricks on memory.
     After Gauntney and I had started the blackberry wine to working, we again had little to do.  That was changed a day or two after we had started the wine.  We received word we would be moving out the next day.  Almost all our teams scattered to distant areas.  For my team, and maybe one or two more, we were given directions to a location not too far from Southern Pines, North Carolina.  We were told there was a game preserve or some sort there which other signal units were already using for communication sites.  We were to report there for possible deployment.
     When we arrived at the game preserve we could see a good fence around its boundary.  The gate was open and we drove in.  (I do not remember if the preserve was North Carolina or federal property.) The area inside the gate was fairly open, with grassy expanses making up most of what we could see.  Inside, to the left of the gate, a signal company (probably from Fort Gordon) had a AB-216 tower (162 feet worth) erected, with AN/TRC-29  microwave radio antennas on it.  Their trucks were grouped in that section, along with a Jamesway shelter which they were using for their equipment.  A few other trucks were parked nearby.  We were met near the gate and told where to park, and given orders where not to drive.
     I had already noticed areas where signs were posted saying to keep out and off.  It turned out that the preserve people were a little angry at the United States Army.  The story, as we got it later, was that the microwave people were supposed to meet a preserve ranger at the gate and that ranger would have shown them where they could set up.
They had waited at the gate for a good while, no ranger had shown up, and they had entered the preserve, the gate not being locked.  They had selected their own site, the ground being level and open, with just short grass growing there.  They had their tower well started before the ranger finally showed up.  It turned out what the microwave people (and later us) took to be grass was some sort of plant being grown for quail food.  The preserve people estimated at least $7,500 worth of the plant had been destroyed.  The microwave people had offered to move but the rangers said it was too late, moving would only destroy more plants. 
     It turned out there was no work for us there, at what I will call the Quail Food Site.  We spent two or three days taking it easy again.  One advantage we had at that site was we could get showers.  The earlier people had made arrangement at the national guard armory nearby to use their showers.  The only condition was the showers had to be kept clean, which was reasonable enough for all the hot water we wanted.  A couple times a day a truck would go to the armory for anyone off duty who cared to go. 
     Other than going for showers, there was nothing to do but hang around.  There were enough people at the Quail Food Site to have a mess hall, so we ate good.  It was hot in the area, with no trees nearby.  We spent most of the time setting in the shade of the trucks, or in the cabs.  There was one major problem at that area:  There were flies everywhere!  It was almost impossible to relax because of the swarms always around.  I have no idea why there were so many flies there.  There seemed to be nothing around that would attract them or provide breeding space.  On the first shower run I discovered the national guard armory had a good number of wire-type fly swatters hanging in their kitchen.  I took one, later bought a couple more at a neighborhood store, and when we returned to the Quail Food Site I was prepared to give battle.
     I always carried a small pocket notebook.  I started killing flies and keeping track of the ones I killed.  In the two days remaining there I killed over five-hundred and there was no indication of any let-up.  When we received word to return to the cornfield I knew I was going to miss the hot showers but I was also going to be happy to get away from the flies. We moved out from there heading south again.  The trip back, like the one going up, was uneventful until we had gotten within a few miles of the cornfield.  I was driving the 2-1/2 ton truck and its engine started missing and finally stalled, giving me just enough time to pull off the road.  The 3/4-ton was behind me.  I waved them forward, told Schuler and Bender to go on to the cornfield and tell the motor pool personnel I needed mechanics or a wrecker.  I told XXX to go on with the other two. 
     I did not have to wait more than thirty minutes or so before the company wrecker showed up and backed up in front of me.  The mechanics hooked up the tow-bars and we headed for the cornfield.


     Strictly speaking, the mechanics did not come after me with a wrecker.  Few company sized units had wreckers.  They were normally authorized only at battalion level.  What we had was a 2-1/2 ton with a modified "A-frame" boom on the back which had a hand operated hoist.  Being as darkness was approaching and we were not far from the cornfield, they said they would just tow me on to the cornfield instead of working on the truck by the roadside.  They hooked up their tow bar, made sure my front wheels were straight, made sure I had the brakes off and the transmission in neutral, and told me to enjoy the ride.   I stayed in the driver's seat as we moved down the road and back to the cornfield.
     Once there they disconnected the tow bar and the mechanics started checking for the source of trouble.  They wanted to get the truck operating again before dark if possible to  comply with company orders to maintain maximum availability in case we had to deploy again on short notice. It took them little time to determine the carburetor was at fault and to change that item.  Once it was done I started the truck and pulled it over into an empty spot with the rest of the platoon's vehicles.
     After shutting down I went and found my men, checking that they had found places to sleep.  I also touched bases with Schuler to make sure the 3/4-ton was running okay and was ready to go again.  After that I reported to Swede.  He told me we had been the last team to report back and just to take it easy again until we received new orders. I found a spot to throw my air mattress and sleeping bag, after which I went looking for Gauntney.
     The blackberry wine had been brewing for over a week by that time.  Gauntney thought that with the aid of the yeast it was probably about ready to drink.  More time might improve it but as we might have to leave again on quick orders, we had best use what we had while we were all together.  We took our flashlights down to the trailer, it having gone totally dark by that time.  We took the water can down and removed the tee-shirt cover.  The shirt was getting pretty dirty by that time but it had done the job of keeping dirt and trash out of the can, while allowing vapors from the mixture to escape.  Gauntney said we needed something to put the wine in.  I went over to my truck and brought back a plastic one-gallon Clorox Bleach bottle I had been using to carry water.  We poured the mixture out of the water can into Gauntney's steel helmet, and from there we filtered the wine through a (somewhat) clean portion of the tee-shirt into the bleach bottle.  We obtained a full gallon, plus enough to fill about half a canteen cup.  Gauntney poured the dregs back into the water can, saying he would get rid of the remains the next day.  Plus he would have to clean out the water can.
     Then came the moment of testing.  Gauntney took a drink from the canteen cup, pronounced it not half bad and passed the cup to me.  It certainly tasted like wine.  However, I never liked the taste of wine and I told him he could have all of it.  I had gone along with the business just to have a project to break up the do-nothing period.  We wandered back up to one of the tents where a card game was in progress. Gauntney passed the cup to allow the card players to try the wine.  Then they all procured their own cups and Gauntney and the players proceeded to drink the entire gallon.  As for me, I went to clean up and go to bed.
     The following morning after breakfast and a morning company formation, we gassed our trucks up as well as replacing what little generator gas we had used.  I had my men check both trucks and make sure they were ready to go again.  That done it was back to killing time as before.  I had my flyswatter out, mentioning to someone how few flies there were at the cornfield and how we had been pestered by them at the Quail Food Site.  The person said I should go down and check with the lieutenant who was our supply officer.  (That lieutenant was our only West Pointer and was wasted being a company supply officer.  I wish I could remember his name).  I wandered down to the GP medium tent serving as supply room.  The sides were rolled up, as with all our tents, providing maximum ventilation, so I just walked in from one side.  The lieutenant was at his field desk and I said someone had mentioned he had been killing flies.  He showed me a lined tablet covered with "tic" marks and told me three pages of those marks represented the flies he had killed so far.  I did not ask for the total.  All at once my five-hundred flies no longer seemed like many. 
     We only stayed at the cornfield for two or three days at the most before we were given new assignments.  I took my team from there to the Airfield Site which I have already written about.   That narrative would have been properly placed at this point but due to my faulty memory is out of order, but at least has been told. 
     The narrative about the Airfield Site ended with us leaving the crossroads meeting with Swede.  From there we drove to Highway 1 and turned north again, heading back to the Quail Food Site.  We arrived there in the middle of the night and slept there while we waited for daylight and a move to our final site of Exercise Swift Strike




     After we left the crossroads we drove to Bethune and turned north on US 1.  Those were the days before very much of the interstate system had been started, much less built, and US 1 was still the major north-south highway for that area.  We drove back to the Quail Food Site that night.  I cannot recall if we just stayed the night or waited longer.  At any rate, it was not long before we moved to  our next and last operational site which we would occupy during Operation Swift Strike. 
      We went to the town of Raeford, North Carolina, and turned from there to drive onto a dirt road which entered Fort Bragg.  There was a location there called Finalayson Mountain, or some such name.  It was not much of a mountain, more of a hill, covered with pine trees with one fair sized open area.  There was another AB-216 tower already installed there, with a microwave team operating another AN/TRC-29 relay.  The microwave company, as we found out, had a system operating from XVIII Airborne Corps headquarters at Fort Bragg, through two relays (the Mountain Site being the first) to the Corps field headquarters in South Carolina.  We were told the system had had some troubles and to back it up.  Three AN/TRC-24 systems were being installed in parallel with the microwave system. 
     Some other signal company (unit forgotten) had already put in two of the AN/TRC-24 systems.  The 596th was installing the third.  The other company had two trucks parked next to the base of the tower and their teams had already installed four antennas on the side of the AB-216, two antennas going towards Bragg and two going towards the next relay site.  Putting the antennas on the side of the tower saved room and trouble as we did not have to raise our own masts.  We backed our truck up  so that it was between the other two, our tailgate being almost up against the tower base.  It took very little work to assemble the two antennas and pull them up the sides of the tower, tying them on with field wire and putting mast guy wires on as safety lines.
      Communications went in with no trouble.  We cleaned up our unused equipment and supplies and  prepared to settle down again.  We did not even have to run our generators.  The microwave people had large generators with plenty of spare capacity, so we just connected to their system.  We parked our generator trailer out of the way and prepared it for operation in case the main ones had trouble. 


     I tried to take care of the kitten which had adopted us at the crossroads.  We had no cat food of course but we gave him the best we had, along with a little milk.  It did not matter, he got sick.  Maybe he had been exposed to the elements too much after he had been dumped, maybe he just not have much of a chance to start with.  He started shaking and could not eat at all.  One of the people suggested he might have distemper.  There was nothing I could do.  I had no idea where any vets were in the area.  Besides, the Army probably would not have looked favorably on me using an Army vehicle and Army time to try finding a doctor.  Plus I did not have very much money.  Finally, after much soul searching, I came to the only decision I could see.  There were 55 gallon drums around the site, filled with water for fire purposes.  The kitten looked and acted as if he was about to die and I did not know what else to do.  But doing it was one of the hardest, if not the hardest, thing I had ever done before or since. 
     I started to lower him into a fire barrel and when he saw the water he showed more life than I thought he had in him, but he was still shaking and crying and I went ahead.  I knew he was not going to get any better.  As weak as he was I was able to hold him in the water with one hand.  I was crying while I did it, holding him until all movement had ceased.  I dug a hole and put his wet limp body gently into it, covering it carefully.  It was deep enough so I hoped no wild animals would disturb him.  I did not feel much like doing anything after that but I went around and checked the site, trying to keep busy.
     We used pup tents at the Mountain Site and they were okay at night, just a little hot in the daylight hours.  I worked out a shift schedule for my three men, not pulling a shift myself  but stayed around most of the time to make relief's as needed.  Not having to run generators saved a lot of trouble and meant the operators had little to do except monitor the radios every so often and listen for any alarms or calls at all times.  We had one transmitter amplifier (What we usually called a tuning head) go bad while we were there.  I had to call and ask the company what we were doing for maintenance support, with our own maintenance back at the cornfield.  We were told there was a direct support maintenance site set up at Fort Bragg.  Schuler and I drove in and found it.  It turned out they had "equipment floats" and they just traded us a good amplifier for our defective one so we did not have to hang around while they checked  ours.  We took a short while to go past the Fort Bragg post exchange and do a little shopping, including finally finding some reading material.
     We had good food while at the Mountain Site.  The Fort Bragg "fixed station" receiver site was about a mile down the road.  They had a small mess hall and we were set up to eat there.  I guess all such sites are gone now, with the advent of satellites and all but in those years every major post had high frequency radio sites to provide secure teletype communications around the world.  To minimize interference the transmitter and receiver sites were usually in different locations.  I do not recall  what they did for "kitchen police" (KP) personnel, but the food was always good and hot.   I do not remember having anyone from our site being tasked as KPs. 
     One day XXX asked me if he could drive into Raeford and use the small Laundromat we had seen while driving through town.  I was hesitant to let him drive but none of the rest of us wanted to go so I decided to let him go alone, hoping he would stay awake for such a short trip.  Besides, since the time I had tried to wake him at the Airfield Site he had had no sleep spells as far as I knew.  It was only a few miles round-trip to Raeford and I figured it should not take him more than an hour or so to do his laundry and return.  I asked him to pick me up a newspaper and a pint of vodka while he was in the town. 
     XXX left and we went about our business.  He did not return after an hour, nor after two hours.  After three hours I really started to worry about him, thinking he might have fallen asleep and had an accident, or been arrested for some reason.  After four hours I was about ready to try and borrow a driver and truck from one of the other units so I could go look for him.  Finally, after over four hours and fifteen minutes he returned.  I asked him where he had been so long.  He said he had done his laundry and tried to find my vodka but the county Raeford was in was dry and he had been required to go elsewhere to find a bottle.  It was probably no more than eight miles round-trip from Mountain Site to Raeford and back.  I checked the odometer on the 3/4-ton.  He had driven over one-hundred-twenty miles!  Almost anyone else would have come back after finding Raeford was dry, but not him.  I asked him for the newspaper and vodka.  He had forgotten about the newspaper!  And the store had had no pints of vodka, or any vodka at all.  He presented me with a half-pint of "Crab Orchard" whiskey.  I tried one drink of it and put it away.  (When we returned to the cornfield later I gave the Crab Orchard Whiskey  to Gauntney and he drank the rest.  Until I obtained a drink of "Old Cotton Picker" whiskey a few years later I thought Crab Orchard had been the worse possible taste.)
     I do not know how long we stayed on the Mountain Site, maybe as long as two weeks, maybe less.  LT Clum stopped by on one visit, about the only time we saw him during the entire exercise.  We finally received word that we (my team and the other unit) would be taking our systems down.  Yet another company (I believe it may have been the 208th Signal Company.) was sending a team up to set up a relay with regular masts.  In the meantime the other teams closed their systems and took their antennas down, packed up and left.  We were to maintain communications with our system until the new team had their equipment ready to take over from us.  Once they had both directions in with their equipment we could close down and return to the cornfield.  Once their entire system was in, the microwave teams would close their system and tear down.  Once the microwave people were packed up all along the system, the new AN/TRC-24   system would close  their system and pack up the last multi-channel communications of Exercise Swift Strike.
     The new people showed up and laid out a site in the field a hundred feet of so in front of us.  They parked their generator trailer and spotted their truck where they wanted it.  (They would have to supply their own electricity so the microwave generators could be shut off and packed up.)  My team stood in front of our truck, leaning against the front bumper mainly, watching as that team prepared  to take over from us.  We were in no great hurry to return to the cornfield but we did not want to be late getting there either.  Besides, it was nice to be able just to relax and watch how someone else did the job instead of having to erect antennas of our own.  


     When we had started watching the new team arrive and get their vehicle spotted in preparation to get their site operational, I had expected to see a trained team.  It was always a pleasure to watch antennas being raised properly, to see three or four people doing what they had trained to do.  We figured within an hour or less we would be taking our own antennas off the AB-216 tower and packing up to return to the company at the cornfield.  I never expected to see a team as untrained as the one we saw that day at the mountain site.
    To start with they began to unload their equipment.  There seemed to be little order in what they were doing or how they went about doing it.  The team chief (a sergeant E-5) had gotten the first antenna mast base plate and was putting it in the location he wanted.  While he was working on that he had to keep calling out to the other two (or three?) men to tell them what to do and they kept calling out to him questions about one thing or the other.  The team chief and one man got the four antenna stakes out and started walking around positioning them, pacing off the distances and eyeing the angles to make sure they would be right.  The sergeant seemed to know pretty much what he was doing but the entire thing appeared as if the team members were new and that the team had not trained too much as a team.
     My operators and I stood and watched, not wanting to get in the way.  Raising antennas could be dangerous if not done properly and I told my people to stay away and not interfere or try to help which might cause them to get confused with strange people around doing things.  They continued to lay out the antenna mast and antenna head.  I also noticed that when they started putting out the mast guy lines (thin steel cables with adjusters) they had to run the adjusters down the lines a long way.  When we used ours they were already always nearly correct from past erections and we never had to do anything but minor changes.  Guy lines needing a lot of adjustment indicated they had not been used much or had been used improperly.
     They finally had the first mast and antenna ready to start up.  They raised the gin pole and tied it off on both side states with ropes.  The gin pole stood almost upright at first.  The guy wires which would go to the "front stake" were fastened to the top of the gin pole.  A block and tackle extended from that top to the front stake.  When the block and tackle  was shortened by applying brute force to pull on it, the gin pole would come over towards the front stake, bringing the mast up from the ground until, if it was done right, the top of the gin pole would be at the stake and the antenna mast would be almost vertical.    At that time the guy lines  (three of them) would be removed from the gin pole cap and fastened to the stake.  After that it was just a matter of adjusting the three sets of guy lines at all four stakes to get the mast completely straight.
    Their mast was up about twenty degrees from the ground when I asked my men if they noticed anything wrong.  It only took a few seconds for one of them to notice they had not put the back guy lines on.  We discussed if we should tell them.  Without the back guy lines the mast would go vertical but there would be nothing to stop it from going right on over.  I told Bender to go point out the omission to them.  If the mast dropped it was a very real possibility that someone could get injured or even killed.  Besides, if they dropped an antenna they might have to wait for replacement parts. which meant we could be a long time getting off the mountain.    Bender went over and told the team chief.  He stopped pulling on the block and tackle, looked, shouted at his men and they started lowering the mast back to the ground.  While they had been raising it they had also been having trouble with the side guy lines because they had not been adjusted correctly.  They had been required to keep loosening the adjusters as the mast went up to prevent too much pressure on the side guys, which could have caused the mast to buckle.
     They positioned the mast back on the ground, positioned the "A-frame" support to hold the antenna off the ground, got out the other set of guy lines and hooked them between the mast and the back stake.  However, they did not bother to make any measurements so the guys would be at about the correct length.  They got back on the block and tackle and started hauling away again.  When the mast was only a few feet off the ground one of the men had to run to the back stake and start feeding the guy lines through the adjusters because the lines were adjusted so short they could not raise the mast.  He had to keep doing that until the mast was vertical.  That was something I would never have allowed due to the danger to that man if the mast had fallen.      They finally got it up, transferred the front guy lines and made some adjustments to get the mast straight.  About the time they were moving the block and tackle and gin pole over to where they would be needed for the second mast, Schuler said something still was not right.  We all looked but Schuler finally had to tell us they had not put the coaxial cables on the mast.  Sure enough, there were the antennas on top of the mast, ready to transmit and receive, but there were no coaxial cables to connect them to the radio! There was no danger involved in that so we waited.  The team chief, while his men had started on the second  mast, had started his generators and applied power to  his shelter in order to get the first radio operational.  
It did not take him long to come out and try to connect the coaxial cables.  We could not see his facial expression very clearly from where we were but their was little mistaking  his arm gestures.  His men looked back at the first mast and started moving everything back so they could lower it and hook on the cables.
     They shut the generator down to reduce the noise and started lowering the mast.  All the way down, hook up the cables, raise the mast again.  Again they started moving everything  needed to the second mast site while the team chief restarted the generator and worked on the first radio.  That radio was going to be the leg going to Fort Bragg.  The Bragg site put tone on their transmitter  so the new team could tune their receiver.  As soon as the new people declared their radio ready I was to cut the high power on my transmitter and the new team would establish communications with Fort Bragg in our place.  One of my men had positioned himself at the tailgate of the new team's truck.  As soon as the team chief said he was ready, my man waved  to another man by our tailgate, who told me.  I told Bragg I was cutting my transmitter power and he could tune in on the new transmitter.  At least that is what was supposed to happen.
     My receiver stayed tuned to Bragg's transmitter and I had the headset up to my ear.  After a minute or two Bragg started ringing the buzzer and telling me to turn my transmitter back on, which I did.  Bragg said they had not picked up any signal from the new team.  I walked over and asked the  new team chief.  He said he had not received  Bragg's signal.  I told him to check all his equipment and make sure his equipment was okay.  I also confirmed  what channels he was transmitting and receiving on.  Five minutes or so later I received the signal to try again and I cut power.  This happened three or four times.  Bragg told me just to stay on until the new team figured out what they were doing.  I sent a man over to tell them they should be having no trouble as we were communicating very well with Bragg.  While that man was walking over to the new team, I was looking up at their antenna.  It finally dawned on me they had made another mistake.  The AN/TRC-24 antenna could be positioned so that the dipoles were either horizontal or vertical.  Ours were horizontal.  The new team had put theirs up vertical.  With cross-polarization communications would never be established.  I slowly walked over and told the team chief.  Once again my men and I stood and watched as they one more time lowered the mast and changed the antennas. 
     We were beginning to wonder if we were going to leave the Mountain Site before dark.  It took time for them to lower the mast and change the antennas.  They did it and put it back up.  In the time the team chief had been working on the radio the crew members had gotten the second mast almost ready but had not raised it.  Later before we departed I noticed they were taking careful pains to make sure it was correct before they raised it.  After they had changed the dipoles on the Bragg antennas and raised it back up, the team chief reported he was ready again, and once again I cut my transmitter.  Finally he made contact with the Bragg site.  I was still listening on my receiver and I heard the Bragg people tell the new team chief to pass on to me that we  could close down and pack up.  I had cut all switches before the message reached me in person.   
     It did not take long before we were on the tower taking our own antennas apart and lowering them to the ground to be packed.  Our personal gear had already been loaded, along with everything that was not required to be used.  The new team was raising their second antenna mast when we started our engines, hooked up our trailers and started off the hill on the long drive back to the cornfield.

     (The following had nothing to do with the 596th, but is about another time and place where I ran into a team which lacked proper training.  Many of the units which were sent to Vietnam were done so, apparently, without the proper training.  In 1967 I was with Company D, 41st Signal Battalion.  D Company was part of the 39th Signal Battalion, one of the weird things which happened there. We operated a major radio terminal and carrier site at what was called VC Hill, near Vung Tau.   The 9th Signal Battalion of the 9th Infantry Division put a terminal on the hill to connect with their division headquarters at Dong Tam.  I was  a sergeant E-5 at the time, in charge of the site maintenance section.  One day one of the 9th's operators came over to see me.  He said they were having trouble with high "reflected power" on their AN/TRC-24 transmitter and asked if I would take a look at the problem, that they had not been able to figure out the cause.  I went over and checked and at first could see no reason for the high reading.  Once I went outside the shelter and looked at their antennas I saw at once what was wrong.  The dipoles on the antennas could be adjusted in length, in distance they stuck out from the reflectors, and in spacing between the dipoles, all depending on the channels (frequencies) being used.  Their dipoles were all set incorrectly.  I had him get the manual out and showed him what should have been basic radio training.  His team chief came up about that time and he did not seem to be aware of  what had been causing his trouble either.)


     We headed back to the cornfield.  Due to the distance and thanks to the replacement people being so slow in getting their equipment in place, we were again about the last team to return.  We parked our trucks and I reported to the platoon while my men again got settled.  We were told we would be soon be returning to Benning.
     While we had been in the Carolinas the East Germans and the Soviets had started building the Berlin Wall.  We had managed to get parts of the information from occasional newspapers we obtained and from radio newscasts.  However, we had received little solid information as to what the United States response to the wall was going to be.  None of us believed the US would risk a war over the wall.  At the same time it seemed as if President Kennedy could not just ignore the action.
     Within two days or so we closed everything down at the cornfield and packed up.  Early one morning we moved out in groups of vehicles which we had lined up the night before.  We were going to make the return trip in one trip, with no overnight stop.  We did not even go near the Fort Gordon area.  Our route home took us towards the west and south, over various highways.  I do not remember where we crossed the Savannah River.  It might have been at the Clark Hill dam.  The route was a little crooked as we changed from one highway to another.  I believe we even bypassed Macon, something which was okay with me.  It was a long drive but we made it without the loss of any vehicles that I can remember.  In fact, I remember very little about that return trip except for one incident which happened when we stopped for a break somewhere in Georgia.  We had pulled onto the shoulder of the highway. There was a house on the other side where two children, probably in their early teens, came out to look at us.  They had a beautiful collie who was excited at seeing so many people.  The dog was running around and started darting across the road, around the trucks, and back again to the children.  The few cars passing in either direction slowed down but still one happened to come along at just the wrong time, as the collie darted between two trucks and started back across the road.  The children had been calling him, trying to get him to stay in the yard.  He headed back and the car hit him.  The man driving the car was shook up but no fault could be put on him.  The dog was seriously hurt.  I never saw an adult around the house, maybe none was home.  One of our people asked the boy if they had a gun and the boy brought a 22-caliber rifle out.  Someone used a ground rod to pull the dog off the pavement onto the grass and the man shot the dog to end his suffering.  He unloaded the rifle and handed it back to the boy.  We returned to our trucks and moved out again.
     We pulled back into Fort Benning finally without any other trouble. We fueled our trucks so they would be ready to go again if needed, turned in all defective equipment to the platoon office, and unloaded our personal equipment.  We carried everything up to the barracks.  We had a final formation to account for all personnel and get instructions as to what was coming up the next day and were then turned loose.  I checked my Renault, which had a dead battery after setting idle for over a month.  I should have disconnected the cables to avoid any leakage but never thought of it.  One thing about the little Renault was that the jack handle doubled as a hand crank.  I got it out and tried turning the engine over, with little success starting it.  Several of our people came over and offered to give me a push.  We only went about fifty feet and the engine started right up as soon as I popped the clutch.
     I do not recall what else I did that day.  Cox, Gauntney and I probably went to town.  There were rumors about Berlin but if the company knew anything they were not telling us.  I also do not recall what day of the week we returned, but the first weekend we were given off.  That was a rare treat as we almost always worked Saturday mornings or had inspections on that day.  Gauntney was from the panhandle of Florida.  He suggested we go to Panama City for the weekend.  He said the city was always loaded with women and plenty of beer.  So we set out Friday afternoon and drove to Florida, the first time I had ever been to the state.  Panama City turned out to be a disappointment.  There were few women around.  As a matter of fact, there were not too many people there at all.  And what drinking establishments the beach area had were the types which college kids would like, not the "hillbilly" jukes we were used to.
     We found us a cheap motel and got some sleep.  Saturday morning we drove back through Panama City and Panama City Beach, heading westwards towards what Gauntney said were his old "stomping grounds."  We stopped at a small cafe at the far west end of the beach and prepared to have breakfast. While we were doing that a pickup truck backed into the Renault, its tailgate (which was on the chains) putting a good sized dent in the front hood.  The driver, who was hauling a pinball machine, gave me his company card and said to get three estimates as to cost of repairs and his insurance company would be contacting me.  I never did get the estimates, that seeming to be a lot of trouble for the dent, most of which I knocked out myself.
     We drove on into "redneck" country.  I do not know what we did most of that day but by evening we were at some roadhouse out in the country south of Samson, Alabama.  That was more our type place: cold beer and nothing but country music on the jukebox.  I do remember that I, who had never danced a step in my life, was being taught to clog by some country lady, providing much entertainment to Gauntney and the locals.  Sometime that night we left the bar and looked for a place to sleep.  There were no motels or much else around that part of the country and we finally pulled into what we thought was a small isolated lane, to sleep in the Renault.  I took the front seat and Gauntney took the back.
     We had a sound sleep, waking with bright sunlight heating up the car. I leaned over the seat and shook Gauntney awake before I looked around.  When I did look I found we had not parked in an isolated lane but in the driveway of a country house.  Half a dozen kids were in the yard or on the unpainted pouch staring at us.  I quickly started the car and we left there.  Neither of us had a watch but we figured we had slept late, thinking it must have been noon or later.  We headed towards Benning, wanting to get home and cleaned up.  We stopped at Dothan, Alabama, for gasoline and discovered it was only then coming up to 1000 (10am).  We drove on back to Benning and prepared for Monday morning.
     Monday we finally received word that we were going to Germany, and very soon.  We were told we would have a lot of work to do to prepare.  It had already been announced in the papers and on the TV news that forces in Germany would be beefed up.  The reports said most of the units to be sent would be support type units, the "rear echelon" of Seventh Army having been pared back over the years and needing to be restored.  None of the reports gave any indications which units would be going.  Still, even after the newspaper and news reports, we were told not to discuss anything about the move with outsiders.
     Work on preparing to go started almost at once.  Teams from post signal and some from somewhere else came along and started checking all our equipment.  Much of it was taken to be repaired so everything would be as perfect as possible.  Post maintenance and our own motor pool section started checking trucks, changing parts as needed.  Many of our trucks received new tires, something that normally would not have happened unless they had fallen completely apart.  We had to empty all gasoline cans.  I do do recall how we did that, maybe we poured them into a tanker truck.  They all had to be drained, aired out, and certified free of all fumes.  We received a number of large "CONEX" containers.  Gas cans were packed into them, as were other company equipment which had no place directly on the trucks or in the shelters.  It was a busy time for all of us. We started early and worked late.  We had to dismount all our radio and carrier equipment which was bolted to the walls of the shelters, place the covers on everything, and stack the equipment in the shelters so the cases would not move around.  All canvas had to be taken off the vehicles, including cab covers.  The canvas, vehicle tools, and dismounted mirrors all were crated and placed inside the shelters.  By Labor day weekend we had everything done that needed to be done.  We were told we would get the three day weekend off but Tuesday morning we would be back at work.  On that day we would start loading our vehicles on flatcars so they could be shipped to Savannah and loaded on ships for movement to Germany.

    One last word about when we first received official word we were going to Germany.  When we had returned from Swift Strike, Bender went on leave, something which he had requested before the exercise.  When we received the Germany word all leaves were canceled and all people already on leave were sent telegrams telling them to return right away.  Bender's mother telephoned the company commander from their home in Pennsylvania, saying Bender was somewhere in the mountains, on a hunting trip with his father and there was no way to contact them.  The company started talking about Bender being courts-marshaled for not being where he could be contacted, that is, at the address which he had listed on his leave request form.  I was angry and ready to do whatever I could about it, which probably would not have been much.  Bender returned and the company was going on about it.  The Fort Benning inspector general finally stopped the business when he told the company the address on the leave form was not where the person had to be at all times, merely a general address.


     We had a three day weekend for Labor Day, with the promise of plenty more work starting again Tuesday morning.  I wanted to go home to Louisiana for the weekend.  Gauntney wanted to go back to Florida, promising me some good fishing.  I had the car so my wishes carried a little more weight.  We set out Friday evening, headed westwards along US 80.  Somewhere in Mississippi Gauntney, who was driving, woke me up to say there was something wrong with the windshield wipers.  I found them jammed and the motor extremely hot.  I crawled under the dash, with Gauntney holding a flashlight for me.  A small screw had fallen out of place, allowing a connecting arm to drop and jam.  Looking around we were lucky enough to find the tiny screw on the floorboard and after much trying I was able to get it back in place.  (The second lucky break was that I had an angled screwdriver in my toolbox which allowed me to get at the screw which fitted into a tight place.)  However, down the road the wipers stopped again and we found the screw had come out again.  Once again I returned it to its place, this time making sure I tightened it as much as possible without taking a chance of breaking it.  It held that time, never giving me anymore trouble for the short time remaining of my ownership.
     There was almost no interstate on the route between Columbus, Georgia, and Ruston, Louisiana, at the time.  US 80 was a major highway but with only a few stretches of four-lane pavement.  Most of it was two lanes, much of it across lonely countryside.  At night traffic dropped off.  Still, the highway went through a number of small towns.  Most of them were locked up tight, not even having service stations open.  We were getting pretty tired across Mississippi, stopping once at a roadside park to try and take a nap, only to find that after stopping we could not sleep.  We drove on to find ourselves at the town of (Newton?) which had one traffic light and one cafe which happened to be open twenty-four hours a day.  Coffee never tasted so good.
     I mentioned the interstate highway system.  One thing I had found when I had come home a few months earlier was that Mississippi had made a start on I 20 between Jackson and Vicksburg.  They had put in the overpasses, four laneing the interstate sections where it went under those overpasses, with maybe a half-mile in each direction.  A really weird way of driving: Two lane, four lane, two lane, etc. When we arrived within about twelve miles of Ruston we hit the first really completed section of I 20, a stretch which ran to Ruston only.
     We arrived at my parent's house in Ruston, cleaned up some, and after a little talk set off to fish.  We backtracked eastwards and spent some pleasant time fishing, returning home with enough to have a good fish dinner, followed by one of mama's great coconut pies.  We stayed the night and on Sunday morning started back for Benning.  Where we went and what we did Monday I just do not remember.  I was glad to have had that visit home because Tuesday morning before we started work on the trucks we were told about leaves.  Most of the company personnel would get a week's leave before we left for Germany.  I, having had a thirty day leave after returning from Germany, would not be allowed to take more.
     As soon as the morning formation was over that Tuesday, we set to work, most heading for the motor pool, a lot of us heading for the railroad siding in the Benning warehouse area.  When I stopped by Benning a few years back I found that railroad siding gone.  In fact, the spur-line which used to go into Main Post was gone totally.  I have to wonder how many thousands of men had gone and come over that railroad, how many tanks and vehicles had been shipped over it, including our seventy-plus?
     The main tracks passing Sand Hill are still there but the sidings there may or may not be gone.  In 1962 that siding had been packed with flatcars, loaded with 2nd Division tanks and equipment, ready to be shipped to port for use in an invasion of Cuba.  The spur-line going into Main Post had crossed the old bridge near Outpost One, a bridge which had markings on it indicating it had been built by the Quartermaster Corps, not the Engineers.  Not until sometime after that bridge had been built would the Corps of Engineers take over construction projects.  So much history in such simple things.
Many of us moved down to those sidings where we found a large number of flatcars, backed in on several tracks.  At the end of each track there was a concrete ramp so vehicles could be driven onto and off the cars.  We knew nothing about loading flatcars but post transportation had a civilian there who knew all the rules the Army had for how to do it.  There also soon appeared a civilian from the railroad company, who also knew all his company's rules.  Some of the rules agreed, some they had to argue about.  There were plenty of supplies, wooden blocks, 2 by 4 board sections, metal strapping, huge nails, hammers, and everything else transportation had calculated we would need.  Not long after we arrived our first vehicles drove up.  Someone with a clipboard holding paperwork directed each truck to the proper ramp.  At the ramp someone else stopped the trucks until things were ready.  We had wooden pieces, fitted so they would cover the gaps between the flatcars so that the trucks would drive onto the first car and keep driving until they arrived at the last empty spot.  We put those pieces into place and the civilians checked them before calling for the first trucks.  Guides led the trucks up the ramps and onto the flatcars. A close watch had to be kept, a 2-1/2 ton truck's wheels being right near the edge of the cars.
     A truck would be guided to the end, the civilian carefully working out where each one should be positioned, stopping them just right so no backing would be required.  Once the first trucks were in place a team assigned to that track would go work.  Heavy metal straps had to go over each axle, the ends of the straps being wrapped onto metal plates which were then nailed to the flatcar bed.  Heavy wooden chocks had to be positioned in front and behind each truck wheel and nailed down.  A double layer of 2 X 4 lumber pieces had to be positioned on both sides of the tires and nailed. Somewhere after we had been doing all this for some time the two civilians disagreed.  The metal straps were being wrapped around the metal plates in the manner prescribed by the Army transportation manual.  The railroad man said that was wrong, his company would not let the cars move while they were secured in such manner.  Arguments also arose about the wood blocking.  The two had to work out their differences, after which we had to remove many heavy nails and reposition different things.  To top all that off, later another civilian arrived. It seemed the cars, in order to reach the docks at Savannah, would have to transient two different railroads.  The new civilian came from the second railroad, whose rules for blocking etc., differed from both the Army and the first railroad, at least in some ways.  All work came to a complete halt while the three civilians and officers conferred and worked out details and compromises on how we were to secure the vehicles.
     The enforced break would have been easier to take if there had been a snack bar close by.  All we could do where we were was to try and find some shade while the discussions went on.  Some of the men spent their time in contests, seeing who could drive a heavy nail the fastest without bending it.  Finally the arguments were ironed out and we started work once more.


     When the civilians and officers finished discussing and arguing about how we were going to secure the vehicles on the flatcars and had come to an agreement, more or less, we were allowed to get back to work.  The crews driving the vehicles onto the cars had gone ahead at first but even they had stopped, just in case agreement required taking trucks off again.  Before we could get back to work completely the civilians and officers had to get our work crews together and instruct us in what they had decided, than keep a close eye on us as we resumed work, making certain we were doing things by the settled rules.  Altogether we had lost almost half a day of work while we waited for the word.
We started again and kept the work up the rest of the day.  We did not have to go past the regular workday, the schedule calling for eight hours of work being enough to get the vehicles all loaded.  As best as I can remember we spent most of three days getting all our vehicles onto the rail cars and properly fastening them down. We had around seventy-two vehicles and each of them, with a few exceptions, had trailers.  I think we were all happy when the last ones were loaded and had been inspected by Army transportation people, as well as by civilians from both railroads concerned. We left the rail yard, taking a last backwards look at our trucks.  We did not see the locomotives pull the train out.
     Now we had little else to do to prepare to leave.  That would have been a good time to give all our drivers classes on driving in Germany, including international road signs.  But, as with so much the 596th command did, there seemed to be little thought of such things.  We had time for such classes. We spent hours hanging around with little to do.  Once the trucks had been taken care of we never worked more than eight hours a day.  We were given boxes to put our excess personal equipment in, things such as extra civilian clothes or extra uniforms, or just anything we had.  We were told to make sure everything we were keeping would fit in one duffel bag and one small handbag.
About that time we were told no personal automobiles would be shipped.  Normally most higher ranking personnel were authorized to ship one privately owned vehicle (POV) to and from Germany.  I had brought my Renault back from Germany and had been planning on shipping it back again.  Now I had to plan on what I was going to do with the car.  We had been told early on that no dependents (family members) would be authorized to go, either as concurrent travel or in the foreseeable future. We were told family housing was already in short supply in Germany.  In addition we were going over to bring Seventh Army more up to a wartime status and there was no reason for families to go in that case.
Leave had been authorized for almost everyone who wanted one.  A few people, such as myself were told we would not have any because we had already had plenty within a short period before.  That did not really bother me, except I wanted to take the Renault to Ruston.  A few others did not want leave for one reason or other.  For ones who did want leave and were authorized it, they would have a week, all starting and ending at the same time.  SFC (E-6) Nix was not taking any.  He informed me that he and I would be in charge while the main group was on leave.  We would take care of the orderly room in the day, with another sergeant on duty at night as charge of quarters.  Our mess hall had already closed, with all their equipment packed up and shipped.  All the boxes of personal gear we had packed were labeled and packed into CONEX containers and they disappeared from us.
     The first weekend everyone was gone on leave I asked SFC Nix for the time off so I could take my car home and get rid of it.  I left Friday evening, drove hard for the five-hundred miles and arrived in Ruston early Saturday.  I had made arrangements to turn the car over to my father.  The vehicle registration was closed on Saturday but I went to see a real estate agent who had been our landlord for several years and who was a notary.  He signed over my paperwork so my father could sell the car for me.  After parking the car back at our house I had someone drive me to the bus station and I soon caught a Trailways bus headed east.
There were express buses which went through Ruston, going both directions, and getting one of them going east would have allowed me to go all the way to Columbus without changing.  To catch an eastbound express I would have had to wait around Ruston several hours.  I got on a regular bus and rode it to Jackson, Mississippi, where I would have to change buses, with a two hour wait between them.  I fell asleep in the bus station at Jackson and missed my connection, giving me several more hours to wait for the express bus which I had not wanted to wait for at Ruston.
     I finally arrived back at Columbus where I had to walk from the Trailways station to the Fort Benning bus station to catch the bus going to Main Post.  When I got to Main Post it was only a short walk back to the company where I reported I was back, after which I took a much needed shower.
     That week went fairly fast.  All company business had been closed out on post so that we received few telephone calls or visits.  Mostly Nix and I read, enjoyed coffee, and waited. The company was due to return from leave soon and until than the barracks was empty and quiet.  One of us made walking trips around the building ever so often to check things.  The next weekend the sergeant who had been taking care of nights needed time off and I moved to replace him.  One of those nights, just after dark, two lieutenants walked into the orderly room.  They were both wearing flight suits and carrying "B-4" bags, in addition to bags holding flight helmets.  They were both a little "ticked off" that nobody had been at Lawson Army Airfield to meet them.  They had just flown two L-19 aircraft (single engine fixed wing) up from Fort Rucker, Alabama.  They showed me a copy of orders assigning them to the 596th.  They said they had hitched a ride from the airfield to the company but nobody around seemed to know anything, even having trouble finding people who knew where the company was.  They had had trouble getting spots to put their aircraft and getting people to help them tie them down.
     I said I was sorry for the trouble but we had had no idea they were coming.  Even if we had known, we had no vehicles to send after them.  (I never did find out if the company commander knew we were getting airplanes and pilots.)  They were both tired, wanting a place to eat and sleep.  That threw me for an answer.  I called the USAICTC (US Army Infantry Center Troop Command) duty officer, explained the problem to him and he said to send them over to his office and he would sign them in and take care of them.  The USAICTC building was on the western side of the quartel. I told my charge of quarters runner to give them a hand with their luggage and escort them over to the duty office.  That took them off my hands.
     (A signal support company was authorized two such aircraft with pilots for liaison and messenger purposes but few companies ever had them.  We got ours without notice, and with little notice to the pilots who said they were given only a few days notice they were going.  I have tried to remember if the two pilots went to Germany with our group of drivers.  I believe they may have.  I believe the aircraft may have gone over on the same ship with the trucks.  I have a vague memory of them being checked out and flying off from Bremerhaven while we were getting our trucks unloaded and readied.  I do know we never saw them again.  As with all such aircraft and pilots they were sent to the battalion aviation section and consolidated with them where they would have maintenance support and could be properly used.)
     The company personnel came back from leave and we started getting ready to leave Fort Benning in earnest.  Seventy-plus of us had been picked to fly over and pick our trucks up at Bremerhaven and drive them to where we would be stationed.  At the time we had not received word where we would be at in Germany.  At one time we had even received word we would be stationed in France.  The main body of the company would be leaving via troopship.  When the company returned from leave we were also given word the information on cars had changed and that now we would be authorized to ship such.  That did me little good.  Mine was gone.  Even if I had still had it, I did not have time to get it to Charleston, South Carolina, where it could be shipped.


Flight to Germany

     The day to depart soon arrived for the truck driving detail.  We were to fly out of the Columbus Airport on a chartered airplane.  Much of the time from the time we were ready until we arrived at Bremerhaven is hazy in my memory.  For example, we were to leave Benning late in the day by bus but try as I have, I cannot recall if the buses were chartered civilian buses or Army buses.  I remember nothing about the drive to the airport.  There was no expressway around Columbus at the time so we had to drive out on regular streets but the trip is a blank in my mind.  I do remember being at the airport.  We had a good while to wait there and we started wanting coffee.  I recall they had no snack bar, just vending machines which did not work very well.  I can also remember looking at an insurance vending machine.  I had only flown once before, on another Army charter flight, and such things were new to me.
     I should be able to remember something about the aircraft but that too is a blank area.  I do not remember what type airplane we had, what company it was, or what the crew complement was.  I always was able to sleep very well on planes and buses so I assume I spent much of the time between Columbus and McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, sleeping.  We landed at McGuire early in the morning, when it was just getting light.  It was early October and it was cold as far as I was concerned. Here is another blank to me, whether we landed and unloaded at the passenger terminal or somewhere else and then rode buses to the terminal.  (The only other time I had flown was an Army chartered DC-3 which went from Augusta, Georgia, to McGuire and which had landed and unloaded us onto a paved hardstand in the middle of almost nowhere, where we had stood and watched the aircraft depart, and had continued to stand there in a late November New Jersey wind until buses had come for us finally.)
     We did get to the passenger terminal one way or the other, only to be greeted with amazement by the Air Force.  Before we left Benning we had all been given copies of our orders.  Those orders said only that "the following personnel" were to report to McGuire AFB for air transportation to Germany.  There were about two or three lines on the orders telling us that and listing a lot of numbers, followed by the list of our names.  I never saw such simple orders and never would again.  However, the Air Force accepted them and said they would do what they could to take care of us.  Again, however, they had had NO word that we were coming and therefore no planes had been scheduled.  For the time being we would have to wait.  We stood around and watched other military people get on and off airplanes, including at least two flights which left for Germany while we were there.  I remember watching one Air Force aircraft load and take off, only to return thirty or so minutes later.  The ground crew pushed the ramp back to the aircraft door, followed by two military policemen who went up that ramp and brought back a soldier who had to be drunk.  How he had got on the plane to start with was a mystery to us.  The MPs carried him away, the door closed, and the airplane took off for a second time.
     Most Army personnel traveling to and from Germany during that era traveled by troopship between Brooklyn Army Terminal and the Army Staging Area at Bremerhaven.  We figured we were lucky to be going by air, even by one of the propeller driven aircraft of the day.  Most of the people who did fly at the time flew by Air Force MATS (Military Air Transport Service) aircraft.  The era of chartered civilian airplanes was in the future, especially jets.  Not too long after we had arrived we were all called together by a PA system announcement.  Our lieutenant informed us that he was taking part of our group to Idyllwild Airport (later to become JFK) in New York to fly on a civilian flight to Germany. The Air Force had managed to get a certain number of seats on that plane.  (The number? It may have been twenty-five or thirty of our people.)  I believe their flight was to leave about noon.  The Air Force provided a bus to take them to Idyllwild and they soon departed, leaving the rest of us in charge of our sergeant first class (SFC E-6) who had not impressed us too much so far.  We went back to standing or sitting around.

     We had had no breakfast that I can remember, and I do not recall any noon meal.  If there was any dining facility at the terminal it had to be more vending machines.  If there was an Air Force mess hall anywhere around I do not remember anyone being invited to visit it.  We must have had something, but I sure do not remember what.
     Late in the day we finally received word we would be bused to Idyllwild to fly out on yet another civilian aircraft.  The Air Force did not have a plane available but they reserved seats for all of us on a regular civilian flight going to Frankfurt.  That flight was to leave late that night, around 2200 (10 pm) I believe. We envied the first group.  By the time we were to leave New York they would have at least ten hours head start on us.  We figured they would be waiting on us in Frankfurt, wondering what had happened to us.  We did not find out until later how lucky we were being delayed all those hours.
     The Air Force again provided one of their buses and a driver to take us into the city.  Here once again I should have memories of such an experience but there is nothing but a blank there.  Anyway, remember it or not, the trip happened and we arrived at Idyllwild.  We were kept together at first, until the SFC had checked us in with the airline.  He came back and told us what time to form up again.  Until that time we could wander around, just stay out of trouble.  SGT J.W.W. Lewis (of Fort Smith, Arkansas) and I decided we would try and find something to eat.  The terminal had a nice looking restaurant, and we assumed nice prices.  We finally found a hot dog stand.  In Columbus we could have had a hot dog and a full bottle Coke for fifteen cents, and the hot dog would be provided with ketchup, mustard, relish, and maybe onions at no extra charge.  At Idyllwild we paid forty-five cents for a hot dog, and mustard (the only condiment they had) cost us an extra nickel.  A small paper cup of Coke cost us an extra quarter.  Still we were hungry enough to get two hot dogs each.  We skipped having a second drink.
     About 2000 (8 pm) the SFC came around looking for us, telling us the Army had made arrangements for us to have a full meal at the restaurant.  We did not have to be told twice.  We hurried there and were seated with all the rest of the group.  We had no choice of menu.  The Army was only paying for a hamburger steak dinner but that sounded great.  We received (for the $1.50 cents the Army spent for each of us) a hamburger steak about the size of a present day McDonald's hamburger patty, five or six small French Fries, and a small cup of coffee.  We were not allowed refills on the coffee nor ketchup for the French Fries.  That small expensive meal tasted great and we felt ready for another long spell without food.
     About 2100 (9 pm) we came back together at the announced place to get ready to board our aircraft. We found out we were to fly with Pan American.  Not only with Pan Am, but on one of their new 707 jets.  All at once we felt like VIPs.  We boarded and took our seats in the tourist section, which was crowded but comfortable.  I had only flown twice in my life and now I was flying what, to me, was first class.  I was in an aisle seat.  Serban, who would join my team later, was next to the window.  (I have already written about Serban and will not repeat myself here.)  The man in the middle, whose name I partly remember but cannot spell, was from Chicago and had worked at O'Hare Airport and was used to jets.  He was the one who told me, after I had started wondering aloud, that the wings of a 707 were supposed to flex.  I had been looking out the window as we taxied and had wondered about the wing tips bouncing.


      Once the 707 was in the air and started to level out,  the in-flight crew came down the aisle pushing a cart loaded with drinks of all sorts, hard and soft.   That was something we never would have had if we had flown via MATS.   (And as we later found out, something the first group never had.)  All I wanted to do was sleep but for a long period I was kept busy passing drinks and empties between the two women handling the cart and Serban in the window seat.
     Serban was a Hungarian who had escaped from the Soviet repression following the 1956 revolt.  He had made it to the United States and had become a stevedore on the Philadelphia docks.  Then he had been drafted.  He was a good worker and a good driver.  However, I was to find out he had one fault when driving:  He was forever getting lost.  More about this later.
   Finally he was sated and I was able to get to sleep and stay that way.  It was only a six or seven hour non-stop flight from New York to Frankfurt's Rhine-Main International Airport.  We landed early in the morning and deplaned at the civilian side of the airfield, being a regularly scheduled civilian flight.  We did not have to go through customs, just turn in customs forms we had filled out before landing.
     We claimed our luggage.  We had last seen it at McGuire before we had gone to New York.  It had all been taken care of, more great service. We soon found out we had once more arrived at a point where we were not expected.  Somehow the Army was contacted and told we were at the airport.  The Replacement  Battalion sent a senior sergeant and a bus for us and we rode into Frankfurt.  At that time time the Army's replacement battalion was a block or so from "WAC Circle" where the Frankfurt main post exchange and commissary was located.  We unloaded at the battalion and several people came out and tried to figure out who we were and what we were doing in Frankfurt.  Our SFC went back inside the building with them and we once more waited.  One of the battalion's junior sergeants talked to us and we asked about the other part of our group, who had left New York at least ten hours before us.  That man said they had come and already gone.  I do not know if he was an idiot or just trying to impress someone but it turned out he did not know anything. 
     The SFC finally came back out  with a replacement battalion sergeant.  That sergeant gave us a short talk.  What he mainly said was that they had not seen our other group, that they had not known we were coming, they knew nothing about what they were supposed to do with us, and finally, with the orders Benning had given us we should not have been able to get to McGuire, much less all the way to Germany.    They were trying to find out about us, one of their number being even then on the telephone to Seventh Army asking for information and instructions.   In the meantime, it was noon and dinner was being served at the local mess hall.  He told us where that mess hall was (about two blocks away) and how to get there.  He would post someone to watch our bags while we went to eat.
     The SFC formed us up and we marched the two blocks up a civilian sidewalk along side one of Frankfurt's busy streets.  The mess hall had a good meal prepared.  It tasted especially good as it was the first full meal we had had since leaving Fort Benning.  After eating we drifted back to the replacement battalion area by ones, twos, and small groups, to wait some more.
     After some time the sergeant who had talked to us before returned and informed us we would be going to Bremerhaven soon.  Seventh Army had cleared us for movement and the Air Force or  somebody else had determined our missing group was still flying (!) and was due to land at Rhine-Main later in the day, hopefully in time to go to Bremerhaven with us. 
     Before long we loaded back onto a bus and were driven downtown to a railroad siding near the main railroad station.  There we found the daily troop train parked waiting for us.  The train made a daily trip from southern Germany, picking up troops and others at various points and finally going to Bremerhaven where most of the people on board would catch a troopship for the United States.  (There were also a few cars going to Berlin.  Somewhere along the way those  were detached and hooked on to a train going to that city.)  The troop train had a mess hall car where food was prepared and served but the troops had to eat in their compartments.  The compartments  held six (I believe) people and the seats made up into comfortable beds for the overnight journey.   We loaded onto the train and were assigned compartments.  We were told the train was being held pending arrival of our  missing personnel who were expected shortly, if their plane came in on time and if they could get through traffic in their bus.  The train was a military train, with a civilian engine and crew, but the German railroads ran on time and they could only hold the train for so long.  In addition the train had to be in Bremerhaven so the troops going home could connect with their ship, and had to be on time so the Berlin cars could connect with their train.
     Many of us were standing at train windows watching when a bus at last pulled up and our people unloaded,   grabbed their bags and were hurried onto the train by people from the replacement battalion.  The last man  was barely onto the train when the door was shut and the train started moving.  We were on our way to Bremerhaven where we would  again be mated up with our vehicles and drive them to the company's new home in Germany.  And the entire  group of  was together again.
     I have noted that  my part of the group had been displeased that the first part were sent to New York ahead of us.  As noted, they left about ten hours before us, and arrived in Frankfurt about eight or nine hours after us!  What made the difference was that we had been put on board that Pan Am 707.  They had been put on board a propeller driven aircraft (airline forgotten).  We had flown non-stop from Idyllwild to Frankfurt.  They had flown from Idyllwild to Gander, Newfoundland.  From there to Shannon, Ireland.  From there to London.  From there to Paris.  And FINALLY to Frankfurt.  At each stop they had long delays.  So we were lucky after all in being left behind at McGuire.  (And they had been served no drinks at anytime during their flight.)


This also ends my entire narrative of The 596th Signal Company At Fort Benning.

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