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My Army Redstone Missile Days

Page 6


Overseas Duty

7th Army

Battery A, 1st Missile Battalion, 333rd Artillery
40th Artillery Group (Redstone)
Bad Kreuznach, Germany

10 August 1960 - 2 February 1962

Back to Fort Dix

I remained at home for three weeks. I finally received my marching orders from the Army, via mail, around the third week of July. Special Orders 173, dated 15 July 1960, from the USAAMC, Fort Sill directed me to report to the Overseas Replacement Station Fort Dix, New Jersey on 1 August, "for further assignment as indicated". I finally learned that I was heading for Battery A, 1st Missile Battalion, 333rd Artillery, APO 252.

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I left home once again early Monday morning 1 August, travelling via the Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station in midtown Manhattan, then a quick subway ride up 7th Avenue from 34th Street to Times Square 42nd Street station, followed by a one block underground walk to the Port Authority Bus Terminal located at 8th Avenue and 42nd Street, and finally a commercial bus to Fort Dix, where I arrived about noon. My stay at Fort Dix this time would last a week.

Just as in Basic Training, we were crowded into old WW II two-story wood barracks. The difference this time was of course that we were now all wizened, seasoned veterans - or so we thought and acted. The people in charge tried to keep us busy with plenty of "make work" projects. I think we policed the adjacent parade grounds every day. We graded a parking lot with bluestone one afternoon. I pulled KP twice that week. And, for the very first time in my Army days, I stood guard duty. They had us guarding some relic wood storage building overnight, near the Base housing. We didn't even have to walk the post, just stand inside the place. It was truly a complete waste of time.

Dix 1
Dix 2
Dix 3
Dix 4

Rumors ruled the day, and were primarily centered around when and how long before the next troopship would be leaving Brooklyn Army Terminal. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who knew all the latest there was to know. The reality was that none of us knew anything of substance or fact. The remainder of the time was spent just hanging out, in and around the barracks, or making trips to the EM club, PX, and things of that nature.

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Finally, at the end of a week of uncertainty, on Friday afternoon we learned that starting Monday 8 August, people were now going to be leaving for Germany by air. There was a collective sigh of relief that we now just might escape having to travel to Germany by troopship. I received a copy of orders to that effect late Friday afternoon. On Monday morning 8 August, those of us who had arrived the previous Monday were told to pack our bags and fall out in Class A's by 1000 hours. The weight allowance was 65 lbs. for duffel bag and one small carry-on "AWOL" bag. Around 1130 I was bussed over to McGuire AFB. So, this time I said my final goodby to Fort Dix.

On to Germany

USAF C-118

There were probably no more than 75, if that many of us, who boarded a USAF MATS C-118, the military version of the Douglas DC-6A, for the flight to Germany. I was among the last to go onboard, and those of us at the rear of the line were really sweating it out. None of us wanted to be left behind. We were also concerned about the baggage weight limit, but as it turned out, all our fears were baseless.

The aircraft was configured with two rows of rear facing double seats. The Air Force cabin crew boarded and seated us from the rear to the front, and as one of the last to get onboard, I ended up in the forward-most aisle seat on the port side of the aircraft, seated next to an Air Force 1st Lieutenant.


I had a tinge of nervousness about flying over the Atlantic, which was tempered by the excitement of the experience. The crew went through its safety spiel, and explanation of the inflatable life rafts onboard, in case of a requirement to ditch in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Real comforting words, to say the least. The potential peril in that era was real enough, however. In September 1962, because of the failure of two engines and the disabling of a third engine through improper crew action, a Flying Tiger Line Lockheed Super Constellation on a MATS charter to carry troops to Germany was forced to ditch 500 miles off the west coast of Ireland, with 28 fatalities out of the 76 onboard. It had been flying the northern route from McGuire to Gander to Prestwick, Scotland to Frankfurt.

Safety spiel concluded, we taxied out, and at 1230 hours Monday 8 August 1960, to a collective cheer, we were airborne. The aircraft headed northeast up the New Jersey coastline, then turned eastward just south of New York City. I think the Lieutenant next to me must have gotton quite a kick out of this Army Private leaning across him to take in the view, which I must say was spectacular. We proceeded along the south shore of Long Island, and I was able to point out my home town to the Lieutenant. We passed Montauk Point and Block Island, and you could clearly see Cape Cod off to the north. After that it became all blue water with a low level broken and scattered marine layer cloud cover below us. I would say we were cruising somewhere between 12,000 to 15,000 ft. altitude at around 300 mph.

My nervousness over the trans-Atlantic flight started to abate as the afternoon wore on. Most on board quickly fell asleep. Others took to books and magazines, and even a few ubiquitous card games broke out. I could not take my eyes off the view out the window. I continually reminded myself as to how lucky I was to be flying to Germany rather than being consigned to a troopship for 10 days.

After about 5 hours into the flight, we were fed a "sack lunch" meal of sandwiches and a soft drink, as I recall. Another impression that I remember from that portion of the flight was how the outside lighting seemed to change so quickly after sunset, as we flew eastward into the mid-Atlantic darkness.

After about 9 hours in the air, we landed at Lajes Field in the Azores. I recall the local time was about 0130 hours 9 August. We were taken off the airplane and into the terminal building while the plane was being serviced for the next leg. We were airborne again around 0230 to 0300 hours. The airplane now headed northeastward, flying over the Bay of Biscay at sunrise, and then over the west coastline of France.

As soon as we got inland over France, there was a constant cloud cover all the way to Germany. Our pilot announced we were flying directly over Paris, but unfortunately we couldn't see a thing. We didn't see another land feature until we broke through the cloud cover and showers coming into Rhein-Main Air Base, Frankfurt. The flight ended at 1200 hours German time, for a total flying time of about 18 hours.

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We were then bussed to the Army Reception Center in Frankfurt, where we spent the remainder of the afternoon and the night. A few of of us ventured out that evening for a little while, to get a look at that section of Frankfurt. Around 1000 hours Wednesday 10 August we were transported by Army busses to the main Frankfurt Bahnhof for the rail trip to our final assignment destinations. The train departed Frankfurt around 1130 hours. I remember it travelling along the Main River, and then crossing the Rhein River into Mainz. From Mainz, it was on to Bad Kreuznach where, as I recall, we arrived a little after 1300 hours.

I was met at the Bad Kreuznach train station by my new 1st Sergeant, SFC Clifton Amerson, and his driver who I think was SP4 Walter Wadsworth. It took less than 5 minutes to drive back to what would now be my new Army home for the next 18 months, Des Gouttes Kaserne, Bad Kreuznach, Germany.

Welcome to Battery A

Immediately after arriving at the Kaserne, Sgt. Amerson took me in to meet our Battery CO, Captain Pascal W. Pascarella. I would say right off the bat, Captain Pascarella made me feel welcome, and that he was genuinely glad to have me aboard. He dutifully went over all my paperwork that I had carried throughout this journey from Fort Sill and Fort Dix. However, since the Battery had put in a request for a Firing Section replacement several months ago, and told it would be getting one, my arrival was not in any way a surprise to the Captain or Sgt. Amerson.

What did turn out to be a surprise for Captain Pascarella, however, was my response to his question of how long I would be with them. I recall him asking me if I would be with the Battery for the next 24 months. I told him it would be more like 14 months, as my enlistment was up 26 October 1961. He couldn't believe his ears, and incredulously asked that "they" had sent me overseas with such little time remaining in the Army anyway? I assured him that was the case, but I was also anxious to do the job, regardless of time remaining.

Without missing a beat, in response to his question of what was the job I thought I was qualified to perform, I told the Captain I felt I was more than qualified to operate one of the checkout consoles in the FC&TT, as this is what I had been trained to do by going to school for 23 weeks at Fort Sill, and that is what I would like to do. I added that based on my year's experience in Maintenance at the Redstone School, I felt very confident and qualified to handle any Firing Section task on the missile that I would be asked to perform. I was not trying to be cocky, or over-confident about my abilities. That is the way I truly felt about things. With that, Captain Pascarella ended the meeting by saying, in essence, that starting first thing tomorrow I certainly would be given the opportunity to demonstrate what I could add to the Battery, even if it was only going to be for 14 months.

Sgt. Amerson then took me in to the mess hall for a late midday meal, where I met two of the Battery A cooks, Wilmer Wallen and Aubrey Goolsby. After that it was over to the Battery A barracks 1st floor squad room, where I was assigned my bunk and lockers. Finally, he took me to the Firing Section room in the motor pool area, where I first met the people who would be my new Firing Section colleagues.

That in itself was a truly amazing experience. I was welcomed with open arms. Sgt Amerson introduced me to SFC E7 Starr Palmer, the Firing Section Chief. Next I met former Fort Sill colleagues, SFC Forrest Stacy and Sgt Andrew Montgomery. SFC James McNutt was also quick to point out that I also knew him at Fort Sill, but quite honestly I could not immediately make the connection. He told me he was in REMMC 2-59.

I also recall meeting SFC George Underwood, SFC George Morse, Sgt Jose Pereles, and SSgt Bruce Stone that afternoon. SFC Palmer and the others had apparently known for a while that I was on my way as a replacement, and both Sgt Stacy and Sgt Montgomery had been filling them in with very good words about me. I had not realized I had made that type of impression on them at Fort Sill.

And, most important for me, I met the Firing Section guys I would be living with and working with over the coming months, including SP4 Lawrence Hubenak, SP4 Reed Moon, SP4 John Jardine, PFC Larry Satterfield, PFC Hubert Riddle, and PFC William Corcoran. Later, I would meet the guys in the other Sections who lived in the Barracks, among them PFC Ron Smith of Servicing Section. To a man, each and every one was a very special person.

Battery A 1st Missile Battalion 333rd Artillery

1960 Roster

In August 1960, the unit strength of Battery A was on the order of 65: 3 Officers and 62 Enlisted. Captain Pascal W. Pascarella was the CO. 1st Lieutenant Irwin E. Abt was XO, and CWO2 Robert L. Frost was GMMAO, e.g., officer in charge of maintenance. SFC Clifton Amerson was First Sergeant. The Battery, with nominal staffing shown in parentheses, was divided into 5 sections: Headquarters (6), Communications (6), Mess (6), Firing(18), and Servicing (24). The December 1960 roster shows Battery strength and personnel assigned at Christmas 1960.

Headquarters Section included our supply and motor pool people, and the Battery clerk. Communications Section handled all internal and external radio communications needs and requirements. In garrison, our Mess Section cooks operated the Kaserne mess hall along with 580th Engineer Company cooks. Servicing Section was responsible for all mechanical aspects of the Redstone Missile assembly and handling, and fueling operations. In manpower, it was by far the largest section. In August 1960 SFC Louis Fiore was Section Chief.

Firing Section was responsible for guidance and control aspects of the missile. Of the 18 in Firing Section in August 1960, 9 were NCO's E5 and above. I believe this was a vestige of the original concept at Redstone Arsenal that the Redstone Firing Sections be manned by career enlisted men with previous missile experience, preferrably Corporal Missile; and, quite possibly the ratio of NCO's to enlisted in the Firing Section was even higher during the first 2 years that 40th Artillery Group was deployed in Germany.

A Brief History of Battery A and 40th Artillery Group

There is an excellent document, available for download from the Redstone Arsenal Historical site (Warning: about 7 MB in length), about the history of the Redstone missile, entitled: History of the Redstone Missile System, written by John W. Bullard, and dated 15 October 1965. I have gleaned some very valuable information from this document, and coupled it with my own knowledge learned while serving with Redstone for nearly 3 years.

Here is my own brief synopsis of the history of the 40th Artillery Group. The 40th Artillery Group dates back to World War I. On 9 September 1957 it was designated and reorganized as the Army's first Redstone Group at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama. 40th Group deployed to Germany from Redstone Arsenal in June 1958, reaching Germany in early July. As originally constituted, 40th Artillery Group had as its component units Headquarters & Headquarters Battery, 630th Ordnance Company, 580th Engineer Company, and 217th Field Artillery Missile Battalion. The 217th, by far the largest component of the new 40th Artillery, was comprised of its own HQ & HQ Battery, a Servicing Battery; and, Firing Battery A and Firing Battery B.


In May 1958, just prior to deploying to Germany, Battery A became the first troop unit to fire a Redstone Missile under test conditions, at Cape Canaveral Florida. In June, Battery B became the first troop unit to fire a missile under tactical conditions, e.g., using the type of field support equipment that would be employed in Germany, at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

Des Gouttes 1959

Once in Germany, initially, both Battery A and Battery B were stationed at Des Gouttes Kaserne in Bad Kreuznach. However, Battery B susequently moved to McCully Barracks in Wackernheim, joining 40th Group Headquarters and 630th Ordnance Company. Battery A and 580th Engineer Company remained at Des Gouttes. I cannot speak with any authority about the disposition of 217th Field Artillery Missile Battalion's own HQ& HQ Battery and its Servicing Battery.

Battery A
[visit WSMR site]

The 217th structure would seem to be both top heavy and redundant. When 46th Artillery Group and 209th Artillery Group were formed at Fort Sill in 1958, they were done so with a newer streamlined structure, without an attached missile battalion with its own HQ Battery and Service Battery. 46th Artillery Group deployed to Germany in April 1959 from Fort Sill with the following structure: a HQ Battery, an Ordnance Company, an Engineering Company, and two firing Batteries, A and B who each were part of 2nd Missile Battalion, 333rd Artillery. Similarly, the 209th Group's 2 Firing Batteries were part of 4th Missile Battalion, 333rd Artillery.

Special Orders 64
Special Orders 64
217th Field Artillery Missile Battalion did not cease to exist until 1960. My Redstone colleague John Jardine has provided a copy of Special Orders 64 issued by Headquarters 40th Artillery Group on 30 April 1960, that redesignated the 217th units as Battery A and Battery B, 1st Missile Battalion, 333rd Artilley, and organic units of 40th Artillery Group.

Time To Go To Work

On Thursday morning 11 August 1960 I went to work in my new assignment. I was truly glad to now be part of the Firing Section of Battery A, 40th Artillery Group. The entire experience, day in and day out for the next 17 months, was literally the difference of night and day from my year in Staff and Faculty Battery and the Redstone School at Fort Sill. I remember that was raining that first full day, so we mainly performed weapons maintenance. As my very first task in Battery A, I was taught how to field strip a 30 calibre machine gun by Sgt Palmer. He then assigned me to support Reed Moon as the Section's machine gun crew.

Sgt Palmer followed that up by tellng me I would be part of the FC&TT test team. So, I joined checkout team in the van that consisted of Sgt Palmer as test conductor; with Sgt Stacy, Sgt Underwood, and SP4 Reed Moon as the console operators. Reed Moon moved over to the range computer console, and I assumed Reed's old slot of lateral computer console operator. Sgt Stacy operated the main ST-80 and pitch programming console,and Sgt Underwood handled the chart recorders and warhead checkout console. Sgt Stacy told me I had the distinction of being the first person under the rank of E4 to operate a console in the Battery A FC&TT.

Colonel Harrison

At the end of my first week in Battery A, on Saturday 13 August, we had a barracks inspection in Class A's conducted by the 40th Artillery Group Commanding Officer, Colonel Joseph Harrison. The Colonel was a slight of build man, with silver colored hair, who exhibited a very quiet but thoroughly professional demeanor.

I remember that morning quite well for what transpired. Captain Pascarella escorted the Colonel and his Headquarters entourage through our squad room. When they got to me, I recall a somewhat quizzical look on the Colonel's face, as if to ask why did this man have so little equipment on display in his locker. Captain Pascarrella was quick to inform the Colonel that I was the newest man, having only arrived on Wednesday, and that I did not yet have all my equipment issued to me.

Wall Locker

This was the first time I had ever stood for an inspection conducted by a Colonel. I must have been at overly rigid attention, and apparently starting to turn beet red. Colonel Harrison got a smile on his face, and addressing me directly he said in essence: "Relax, Ryan, we don't want you to pass out on us", and he quickly added a "Welcome to 40th Artillery Group". With that, I did indeed relax. He asked me what my job was with the Battery, and of my background with the Redstone missile. I tried to reply as briefly and concisely as possible. Apparently genuinely interested in and satisfied with my answers, the Colonel wished me well, and moved on to the next man. I received a sly wink from Captain Pascarella, as if to say "Well Done".

Meeting an Old Friend

About one week later, no more than two, Battery A took part, along with the other 40th Artillery Group units, in an artillery demonstration conducted by V Corps Artillery for the West German Army. We took the Trainer Missile to Wackernheim, and then to what I believe was Finthen Field, where we set it up on display. There were also Corporal Missiles, Honest John rockets, and the 280 atomic cannon on display. It was here that I crossed paths again with Lt. Kiefer of the Phase 1 REMMC/Corporal training at Fort Sill. I spotted him in the reviewing stand and he spotted me, in the front rank of our Redstone guard contingient.

First, however, while standing at attention, M2 carbine slung over the shoulder, I experienced a most interesting and totally silent encounter with the V Corps Artillery Commander, a Brigadier General. When the official ceremony and spiel started, the General, who was in the first row of the reviewing stand directly across from us, and obviously a stickler for detail, got up and slowly walked over to me. Without a word, and all the time with a smile on his face, he took hold of my left fist and rotated it 90 degrees to the fore to aft position from the side to side position, and then returned to his reviewing stand seat.

Immediately at the conclusion of the demonstration, Lt. Kiefer, now Captain Kiefer, as if to make a special point of it in full view of all assembled including the General, rushed over to me to extend his greetings. After an exchange of salutes, we had a conversation which lasted for some time, mainly covering our paths since the Spring of 1959. Captain Kiefer told me there wouldn't be any West German Army Corporal Missile outfits afterall, and that Major Mittestat had just recently decided to retire from the West German Army. I believe he mentioned that he would be returning to the States for Sergeant missile training. Captain Kiefer gave me his home address, which I recall as being to the north of the Frankfurt area, and told me to get in touch with him. Regrettably, I never followed up on that.

I remember the General watching this encounter with some bemusement over seeing this American PFC being in such an animated conversation with a West German Army Officer. My meeting with Captain Kiefer did not escape Captain Pascarella's notice either. Shortly after, he made some comment about not knowing that my talents also included being a good will ambassador with our Allies. I explained the connection with Captain Kiefer, which he found quite interesting, and especially so, in that our paths had crossed again.

New Friends

Ursula and Carlernst

The third week of August was Jahrmarkt time in Bad Kreuznach. John Jardine introduced me to that. One night we were sitting at a table in one of the beer tents when a group of Germans asked if we would share the table with them. There were introductions all around, followed by a genuinely good time by all for the remainder of the evening. And that is how we first got to meet Carlernst and Ursula Ackermann. Ursula and Carlernst, or "Chuck" as he preferred to be called, lived on Phalzstrasse. They invited John and me to their home, and during the next two months we spent several evenings with them, before John left for home in October. I would spend many more enjoyable evenings with the Ackermanns over the next 16 months, including two fantastic Christmas Eve celebrations at their home.

To the Field

In September 40th Artillery Group deployed to the field for the month. Here is what I remember about that experience. Our convoy of 20+ vehicles left Des Gouttes Kaserne early in the morning, and we headed south from Bad Kreuznach. I recall that I rode shotgun in the FC&TT for John Jardine, the van driver, as I was scheduled to take over that driving assignment when John left us. We were on the road no more than a few hours, at most, passing through several small German villages. Since all of this was new to me, I enjoyed every bit of this, playing the role of tourist.

It is my recollection that we never deployed any appreciable distances from our home base of Bad Kreuznach. I doubt that we ever traveled more than 40 to 50 kilometers away at most. For this exercise, we never crossed the Rhine. At the time, where we operated didn't mean much to me. Now, however, it seems perfectly logical that we would confine operations to a particular zone, and distance from home base, defined by topography, and the range limitations of the missile.

Because of its unique (for the time) inertial guidance system, and a maximum range of 200 statute miles, one factor would have been that Redstone had to be aimed at pre-selected targets from pre-surveyed launch sites. Getting ahead of my story, one of our Firing Section missile preflight tasks was to load range and target data into the guidance system tape recorder by means of a pre-punched Mylar tape chosen from a library of tapes kept in the FC&TT.

The other factor was of course to remain in reasonable distance of the nuclear warheads, which were stored in bunkers just outside Wackerheim and 40th Artillery Group Headquarters. Dennis Fife of B Battery says that in addition to special guards for the site, he and others stationed in Wackernheim pulled guard duty at these bunkers. I would say that 40th Artillery's assigned area of operation, with possible unique exceptions, was confined to the quadrant south and west of the Rhine defined by Bingen to the north and Ludwigshafen to the south. We would also operate reasonable distances to the west and southwest of Bad Kreuznach along the Nahe River valley.

Here are Ron Smith's thoughts on the nuclear warhead storage:

"About the storage bunkers for the nuclear warheads, I remember once being told by Sgt. Amerson to bring the Captain's jeep to the front. It seems that Herschel Worthy, who was the Captain's driver was away (probably playing basketball) and I was to drive Captain Pascarella somewhere. The captain got into the jeep and did his usual hand motions to get me started and then motioned with his hands and fingers when to speed up and when to turn. He didn't talk much when in the jeep. After a while I was totally lost and that was probably what he wanted. As we approached the place where we were going he asked me what my security clearance was, and I responded "Confidential Sir". He then said, "You have just been elevated to SECRET". Then he said "When we get there let me do all the talking" We then arrived at a gate and after the Captain showed the guard his ID we were allowed to pass. I remember there were bunker-like mounds there but don't remember much else. After the Captain took care of his business he got back into the jeep and we left. On the way back he asked me if I knew where we had been, and I said "no Sir". He then said that it was the storage area for the nuclear warheads. By the time we got back to Des Gouttes, I probably couldn't have found my way back there if my life depended on it."

And, here are Colonel (Retired) Charles "Chuck" Thompson's thoughts about 40th Artillery Group's Redstone missile nuclear storage facility. As a 1st Lieutenant, Chuck Thompson initially served as Executive Officer and Firing Battery Commander (XO's had the dual role in an Artillery Firing Battery) of Battery B; and, as a Captain, he subsequently served as 40th Artillery Group Adjutant:

"The Olmer Wald to the east of McCully Barracks (and south of Finthen) is almost certainly the location of the ammo area where the warheads were stored. I had to inspect the place every time I was OD, and it was a scary job -- the MPs of the 630th Ordnance Company and Polish guards guarded the place, and the MPs were rumored to be nuts (literally -- they spent months on duty out there, and being brought in to do gate guard duty at McCully was all that brought them back from the edge, it was rumored). The Polish guards spoke little or no English, and since the place was full of nukes and thermo-nukes, everyone was jumpy. When we went out there at night, regardless of the weather, we kept the jeep doors wide open so we could be sure we heard "Halt" when/if a guard challenged us. Failure to do so could have been disastrous (as the MPs reminded us after we stopped)."

February 23, 2013

I have just received an excellent write-up and valuable new information from someone who actually served as a Security Guard at the 40th Artillery Group Redstone missile nuclear warhead storage site: Lowell A. May, Military Police Command Sergeant Major (Retired), who as PFC E3 Lowell May served in the Security Platoon of 630th Ordnance Company, 40th Artillery Group (Redstone) at McCully Barracks, Wackernheim from January through November 1960. Here in Lowell's own words are Lowell's comments and thoughts about his time with 40th Artillery Group (with some very minor editing by me: jkr).

"I finished Military Police (MP) School at Fort Gordon, Georgia in December 1959 and was given the MOS 950.1, which was Security Guard. (At that time the MPs had two MOS: 951 Military Police and 950 Security Guard.) I arrived at the 630th Ordnance Company, 40th Artillery Group in January 1960 along with 14 of my classmates.  What we found did not make us happy, we wanted MP duty, white hat and all that went with it.

The commander of the 630th, Captain Towsley, informed us that he did not want the Security Platoon in his Company but had been told that he did not have a choice.  We would be guarding Redstone (nuclear) warheads in the exclusion area next to the Finthen airfield.  (The airfield consisted of some buildings built by the French but the hangars were still bombed-out shells.) We were told that we would be on guard duty for three (3) days then off three (3) days.  The off-days would consist of one day off and two days of training, but if the off-days were on a weekend we would have a barracks inspection on Saturday morning and the afternoon off and Sundays would be off.  If you were working on Saturday or Sunday, they were just another day.

While working in the exclusion area we lived in the guard shelter.  The guard shelter was inside one fence but outside the fenced area where the warheads were kept.  For three days we would be on four hours, off eight hours, on four hours and off twelve hours; and, this cycle would continue for the three days.  The guard shelter had a sleeping room with double bunks, a latrine (no shower) and a room like a day room (no TV in 1960). We would have some classes during the time at the guard shelter and our PT (physical training) consisted mostly of throwing a football or playing catch with a baseball (we did have mitts).  For our meals we were trucked back to McCully Barracks, which meant we either ate early or late chow.  This is also when you took a shower.  Sunday breakfast usually meant egg sandwiches for the ones on duty.

The duty in the exclusion area consisted of five guard posts.  Post 1 was the gate and it had a shelter with a heater.  The other four posts were walking posts (Post 5 was a guard from 3rd Missile Battalion, an Honest John Unit). Each walking post had a field phone connected to Post 1.  We carried M2 carbines with ten rounds in the magazine.   Needless to say, it was very boring duty and yes, you can go to sleep while walking.  While in the exclusion area we wore field clothes in the winter and fatigues in the summer.  In February 1960 it got down to -14 degrees F, so the walking hours were cut to two hours and the other times adjusted accordingly.

The only thing that resembled MP duty was that the Security Platoon also pulled the main gate duty at McCully Barracks.  For this duty we wore the class A uniform.  The 630th commander wanted us to wear UP brassards and an Ordnance scarf (Crimson piped with Yellow: jkr), but our platoon leader convinced the 40th Artillery Group Commander that since we were trained MPs that we should wear MP brassards and an MP green scarf.  Since we were not issued MP leather gear or white hats most of us bought them.  There would be four of us assigned to gate duty (one on duty at a time) and the shifts would rotate just like the exclusion area. Working the main gate was a sought-after duty, and if that was your duty and you wanted off for some reason, or were sick, there were always volunteers to take your place.

We went to the field whenever the 630th did, which meant the entire Group was in the field.  We would set up an exclusion area and wear white brassards, which indicated that we had live ammunition.  During the time we were in the field, the rear exclusion area would be guarded by 3rd Missile Battalion.

I remember that on Thanksgiving (1960) we went in for early chow only to be told that we had to be in a Class A uniform to eat.  We were wearing our field gear because it was rainy and muddy in the exclusion area.  Our sergeant finally convinced the mess officer that we should be allowed to eat in our field clothes, but they put partitions around us so the other soldiers could not see us.  A lot of the time if you ate late chow it was hotdogs, instant potatoes, and a vegetable.  We also ate more than our share of C-rations.

Whenever a (Redstone) warhead trailer left the exclusion area, it was guarded as though it contained an actual warhead.  This meant that there was a convoy with the escort vehicles.  Our platoon had M38A1 jeeps with 30 Caliber machine guns, which would be at the front and rear of the convoy, and we would place a guard in the warhead tractor and some of the trucks (if we had enough troops).

The Security Platoon was always short of personnel.  In the eleven months I was there we rarely got the three days out of the exclusion area.  Usually it was work three days, one day off, one day of details, then back to the exclusion area.

Even though we did (not) think we were being treated as we should have been, the Security Platoon had good morale and stuck together.  Since we got little time off, it was hard to take a leave.  If your leave was turned down due to the shortage of personnel, it was not uncommon for people to volunteer to take your place.  Sometimes this meant six days in a row in the exclusion area.

The Security Platoon really did not have much to do with the 630th Ordnance Company.  We did not stand their reveille or other formations or their barracks inspections.  When we had our barracks inspection it was by our platoon leader or platoon sergeant.  We did stand their Inspector General (IG) inspection and that is where the trouble started.  The entire Security Platoon, minus those on duty, went to the IG about the way we were being treated.  We also felt that guard duty was something any soldier could do and we had been trained to be MPs.  As a result we found there was a USAREUR Regulation stating that MPs were not to be on security duty for over nine months.  This was later changed to a year.  Therefore, most of us were given a choice of transferring to an MP unit or remaining with the 630th and getting OJT (on the job training) in another job.  Most of us chose to go to MP units, so as replacements came in we were transferred out.

Although duty with the Security Platoon was not a desirable assignment, I learned a lot.  Later, when I was the First Sergeant of an MP Company, I would get requests from MPs assigned to a security unit to be assigned to my MP Company.  I would almost always accept them, unless we were over strength.  They were some of the best MPs in the company because they wanted to be there and they did not complain if required to work long hours.

I hope this will shed a little light on the Security Platoon of the 630th Ordnance Company."

Lowell A. May, CSM (R).

PFC Lowell A. May
PFC Lowell A. May

Thank you, Lowell. Indeed it did shed more than a little light on the workings of the Security Platoon, 630th Ordnance Company, 40th Artillery Group (Redstone).

Sept. 1960

At mid morning we pulled into a heavily wooded area. The forest canopy was so thick that one could barely see any patches of sky. The first order of business was setting up our pup tents. I shared a tent with Reed Moon. The second order of business was setting up a perimeter defense. Reed and I had to set up the Firing Section's machine gun. After that, I was pressed into service to help put up the officers' tents, and to dig the latrines. Even short-timer John Jardine was part of that task. John was scheduled to leave for home in October. Traditionally, when you got to your last month you were placed on Kaserne gate guard duty for your final weeks.

Sept. 1960
Sept. 1960
Sept. 1960
Sept. 1960

Here are John's own words about that:

"In September or early October 1960 we went to the field. I don't remember for how long. I was scheduled to leave in the middle of October. I expected to be left back for gate guard duty as was the custom of leaving the short timers back for that duty. Of course that didn't happen. I don't know who made the decision but I always thought it was the "A." (John is referring to our 1st Sergeant, SFC Clifton Amerson) So I got to dig my last latrine. They even had Sgt. McNutt standing there in case I didn't dig it deep enough."

The weather was never a problem. In fact, I remember that September as being quite comfortable. There were only a few days that it rained. We were of course well equipped to deal with the weather contingencies. Because of the number and size of the trucks we were able to bring along extra food and extra comforts. We had our diesel generator running all through the day, so practically everyone shaved with electric razors. We even had hot water for shaving and washing. I remember the big deal for Reed Moon and me was to keep our hoard of cookies, crackers, and other snacks protected in our tent from mice and other ground rodents. Truthfully, we were not really roughing it. Even pulling KP in the field was not the hassle it was back at Fort Sill.

Reed Moon and I got in trouble that first night. Reed decided that he needed more light in our tent than his flashlight could provide. So he rigged up a candle in a tin can. No more than 5 minutes passed before the front of our tent was jerked open and an angry Sgt. Stacy confronted us. He told us in no uncertain terms that candles or any flames in our tent were strictly "verboten", and to douse it immediately. He added that he didn't expect to ever have to repeat this message, which was certainly clear enough in its meaning.

There was the serious side to all of this. First of all, we had to man the perimeter defenses to be on guard for the "Aggressor Forces" (usually Headquarters Battery personnel) whose job it was to hit us by surprise, and overrun our encampment. We operated in teams manning our machine gun and other posts, and there was comfort in that during the pitch black of night, with all the real and imagined night sounds around us. One real concern of course was about the German wild boar that inhabited the woods we encamped in. They were big, ugly and mean and we didn't want to tangle with them. I remember William Corcoran set up a trip string of tin cans out in front of the machine gun to give him ample warning of a boar, or "Aggressors", heading his way. Mr. Frost, out on his inspection of the line, commented that he thought that was pretty ingenious.

"Aggressor Forces" did finally hit us, but the attack took place during a noontime meal. The alarm went out soon enough, and I recall everybody dumping their food and running at breakneck speed to man their posts. The umpires declared that we successfully fended off the attack. I don't know. To me it appeared as if it was rigged in our favor.

Off Limits
License Plate

On an even more serious note, we were warned and briefed about potential encounters with the Russian observers in West Germany. At the time Russian military observers were allowed to operate in West Germany, although I recall being told that the area the 40th Artillery Group was supposed to be off limits to them. Perhaps they were not supposed to be operating anywhere west of the Rhine River. We were briefed to be on the lookout for the quintessential "big black limousines" in our areas and observing our operations. We were instructed to immediately report our sightings. Special personnel would be summoned to escort them out of the area. It was stressed to us in most emphatic terms that we were never to directly confront and challenge the vehicles or the Russians would shoot to kill us.

And, Ron Smith's comments on Russian Observers:

"I remember some discussion about the Russian observers, but don't remember what we were ordered to do or not do if we encountered them. We were told to watch what we said about our work while we were in town mixing with the locals, and not to get into discussions with anyone who asked questions about our work. We were also told that after we had a field operation and left the area, the Russians would move in and measure the tire tracks and check the depth of the impressions that the tires made to determine the weight of the vehicles."

All of this sounds as if it was something out of a Hollywood "Cold War spy movie", but it was all too true and real at the time.

After about two weeks encamped at this site, we pulled up stakes and moved on to another heavily wooded location. We couldn't have moved too far, because we were only on the road a few hours. The cycle then repeated itself for another two weeks. We finally returned to Bad Kreuznach in early October.

Missile Operations in the Field

Of course, while out in the field for a month, our primary task was to conduct missile operations. There is some difference of opinion as to whether 40th Artillery, and 46th Artillery for that matter, practiced with trainer missiles or tactical missiles while out in the field. I will tell you we did both. I distinctly remember conducting several daylight operations with the trainer missile, because we had the Analyzer Van on site and hooked up in the loop. However, when we conducted nighttime operations we used a tactical missile.

While the trainer missile system provided invaluable training to the Firing Batteries, it was in the final analysis no substitute for using the real thing. The whole feel of the operation was different with a tactical missile. I can cite numerous examples of this. For instance, there was a major difference in initially laying out and connecting the myriad of heavy-duty power and signal cables. Special handling techniques and care were required when installing the tactical missile carbon jet vanes. Servicing Section personnel pumped a full load of 25,000 lbs. of liquid oxygen into the missile. Guidance system checkout from the FC&TT had a different flow to it. And, not unimportant, a tactical missile had a new, pristine, real look and feel to it.

A Redstone firing mission was nominally listed as an 8-hour operation, from the time the Firing Battery first entered a launch site to the time the missile would lift off the pad. However, with a tactical missile, and operating in near blackout conditions, we were constantly pushed to perform the mission in less than 5 hours, and successfully operate in a race with time. Quite probably in a real war scenario, shortcuts would have been employed to reduce the operation to under 4 hours. We were pushed, cajoled, and reminded that we were always in a race with Battery B. It was a point of pride stressed by officers and NCO's that we would be better and faster than Battery B, and I suppose by extension, the two Firing Batteries of 46th Group. I am sure that Battery B, and the two 46th Group Batteries were given the identical spiel.

In fact the firing batteries always strove to implement effective timesaving measures. 1st Lt. Chuck Thompson, Executive Officer of Battery B, also served the collateral duty as the the Firing Battery Commander. During his previous assignment with the Corporal missile in Germany, Lt. Thompson had developed, tested and implemented missile checkout steps that significantly reduced overall Corporal missile checkout time. Lt. Thompson incorporated the concepts he had developed for Corporal missile into the B Battery Redstone missile checkout .

Here are Chuck Thompson’s own words on that:

"Incidentally, I don't believe I've told you of the changes to the missile checkout procedure I instituted. So I will.

While at the 1/39th, as a (Corporal Missile) firing platoon commander, I cut what we called the "missile compatibility tests" from 30-45 minutes to well under 5 (and in the dark). Originally, the crew did one chore at a time, and the next step didn't start until the previous one was completed. There was some reason for this, as in some cases, you had to verify something or another before you could do the next test accurately. Mostly, though, it was just a holdover from the days when every firing, every practice, was a form of research, and reliability was very suspect.

What the compatibility test did was to check out the missile and its cabling to the firing set truck and the firing panel. The FST had an air tank, a generator, etc., and the breakaway cable went to the FST and then another cable connected the firing panel which was about 50 yards from the missile.

What I did was to organize all the various tests, assign them to about four teams, write them out on 3x5 cards for the teams and a checklist for the firing panel operator. One of the tests was to verify that each fin was accurately represented on the meters on the firing panel. The fin had three holes in a plate which had to be aligned with a hole on the missile chassis, center, hard over clockwise, and hard over counter-clockwise. The existing procedure called for a Phillips screwdriver to be used, and each fin was laboriously put into all three positions and verified at the firing panel, one at a time. Then the next fin, etc. What I did was to cause all four fins to be centered while some other operation was going on, and the firing panel operator could verify all four fins at once -- then he ordered "clockwise" and though the holes may not have lined up precisely, he could read that all fins were clockwise, and then he did the ccw hard over.

The entire drill was done much like the cannoneers' hop, by the numbers. The firing panel operator would call out "Step 1" and whatever Step 1 was would be already in place. While the readings were verified (often the fp operator had to adjust his meters), Step 2 would be ready, etc.

We practiced this a good bit (and secretly from the First Platoon, our rivals!), and on an Army Training Test did it for the first time in an umpired situation. It was dark, and the umpire, though he had been told that we did it fast, couldn't believe it. We did the entire test, which he expected in the dark to take upwards of an hour, in well under five minutes. He made us do it two or three times more, checked our cards and checklist, etc., before he pronounced it "Outstanding!"

Well, sir, you may remember that the Redstone lay on its side for a good while so the explosive bolts could be checked, fin positions verified, and other tests I have long forgotten.

After I became Firing Battery Commander (aka Btry Exec), I decided to have our servicing section develop the same speeded-up drill I had instituted in the Corporal system. The first time I tried it in an actual practice firing situation, on a field south of Finthen Air Field near the Olmer Wald ammo dump, I thought Don Rhea (my very conservative West Point Battery Commander) would have a fit. He thought that Colonel Harrison (who was watching) would think we were just sloppy. Instead, Colonel Harrison was very interested, as we had cut an hour or two of delay from the process, and got the job done in under 15 minutes as I recall. Again, we had to do it several times before everyone was assured we hadn't missed a step and hadn't done anything which might affect the missile's reliability. The problem was that all those "original Redstone" folks still thought of the program as being "in the lab" and wouldn't turn loose of the security of slow, deliberate checkout procedures.

That was both fun and, in my mind, necessary. After all, I (and my battery) were the ones who would be sitting out there piddling around while the enemy was looking to stop us from firing our missile! I wanted to get it done and get the heck out."

One launch site that stands out in my mind was an active quarry located near to our field encampment. During the day we could observe operations of the mine. I recall a set of towers and buckets carried on cables that reminded me of a ski lift. All day long, buckets of rocks or limestone, or whatever, were carried from the quarry to waiting trucks. After the bucket system shut down for the day, at sunset we would convoy into the now-abandoned site, and start our missile operation. The goal was, of course, to be finished and out of there in the middle of the night well before sunrise. I remember us using this particular site on several occasions - and perhaps that was spread out over several field trips - with great successes. We completed one operation in the record time of just less than 5 hours. It usually then took us 2 to 3 hours to unload and secure the missile and equipment, and clear the site.

I remember one operation where we encountered a host of problems, and by the time we were finally ready to drive out of the area the Germans were starting to show up for work. I don't recall if their reactions were of amazement about what they encountered, or of disdain for these crazy Americans who were still in their way.

In my tour with 40th Artillery, I don't recall a time when we operated with a real warhead, but I cannot summarily dismiss it either. For nighttime field operations the Ordnance Company delivered the warhead trailer. On occasion I recall seeing it arrive under guard, but this may have only been for practice purposes. However, in 1959 in response to Soviet Union saber rattling over Berlin, Battery A was in the field with a real warhead, kept under heavy guard, at the ready. John Jardine and Reed Moon were both part of that exercise.

And, as a member of 580th Engineer Company, here are Desmond N. "Ted" Bonnington's thoughts on nuclear warheads in the field in 1959:

As for the May '59 alert deployment with the real missiles and warheads. During that time myself and another mechanic with secret clearance were dispatched to one of the Batteries to service some piece of engineer equipment. The unit was located in deep woods with a well-guarded missile checked out in the horizontal in a small clearing. Don't remember if it was A or B Battery. On another occasion we were called out to Gp Hq. There, I remember seeing a couple of strange trailer vans, non-GI looking guys in green army overalls and a number of green cylindrical containers similar to oil drums but smaller. All were inside a barbed wire enclosure and guarded by troops pulled from the groups units. One of them was a lox plant guy from the 580th. Never saw that equipment before or after May '59.

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