Bad Kreuznach and Des Gouttes Kaserne
After completing our field duty in early October, we continued at a hectic pace in garrison for the remainder of 1960. We would not go out to the field again until March 1961. Garrison for us was Des Gouttes Kaserne in the city of Bad Kreuznach. The main entrance was located on the southeast corner of Bosenheimer Strasse and Alzeyer Strasse. Des Gouttes Kaserne was a very compact facility, measuring probably no more than 100 yards north to south and 300 yards west to east. It was the much the smaller of two kasernes in Bad Kreuznach (warmly referred to as BK). The larger was Rose Barracks, sometimes called Rose Kaserne, the home of the 8th Infantry Division at the time. Rose Barracks was located just a few blocks to the south of us, going up (because it actually was going uphill) Alzeyer Strasse. Both bases were located in what I would call the south-southeast section of the city of BK. Des Gouttes was just a 10-minute walk from city center. Des Gouttes was the older of the two, and built by the French soon after World War I.
There were three 3 story barracks buildings, one of which appeared to be a more recent addition. This building housed non-40th Artillery personnel, including Company B 382nd MP Battalion. Of the older original barracks, 580th Engineers occupied the larger building, located on the south perimeter, abutting Ringstrasse, a side road leading to the Schneider Optics Works. Battery A occupied the first floor of the smaller building, which abutted Bosenheimer Strasse. 580th Engineer Company personnel were housed on the second floor.
The first floor of our building had two squad rooms and several two-man rooms for the resident NCOs. The showers and washroom were at the west end of the building and the latrines at the east end. There were three entrances into a front hallway that ran the length of the building. We had a day room in the basement. The day room was sparse, but contained a table and chair set, several easy chairs, a sofa, magazines, and a Grundig console AM-FM-Shortwave radio with 3-speed phonograph record player.
There was a furnace room in the basement opposite the day room. It was operated and maintained by German civilians. It had a large coal bin and a coal furnace to provide hot water to the sinks and showers, and to the radiators for heat. The room was off limits to us.
There was a two story firehouse located between the Battery A building and the main gate. The firehouse was manned 24 hours a day by German civilians. A 1&1/2 story structure abutting Alzeyer Strasse contained the Battery A orderly room, the mess hall, a small first aid station, a barber shop, and in the basement, a mini-px, snack shop, tailor shop, and hobby rooms. Medics, cooks, and gate guards were billeted in the attic section at the north end of this building. These four buildings formed a quadrangle around a paved courtyard, which had a small triangular grassy parcel in the middle containing the main flagpole.
The firemen were stationed on the second floor of the firehouse. We would go up there to purchase a carbonated orange-flavored soft drink called Tropi from them. "Ein Tropi, bitte." It came in a half-liter bottle with the ubiquitous German ceramic reusable pop-off cap. Tropi was not in any sense or stretch the equivalent of an American orange soda pop. The best way to describe Tropi is to say it looked like and tasted like carbonated Tang. NASA claims to have invented Tang early on for the space program. But I will tell you the Germans beat them to the punch. As bad as it was, the price for the time was right, one deutschmark - 25 cents in those days.
The 580th Engineer Company orderly room was located in a small flat roof building immediately adjacent to their main barracks building. It was attached to the side of a one-story building with an attic. This building was used as the guardhouse. This cluster of buildings occupied no more than a third of the area of Des Gouttes Kaserne. The other two-thirds was mainly used as the motor pool area. There was a large vehicle maintenance building, and several general-purpose buildings, which housed the supply room, a classroom, and the Firing and Servicing Section shops. There was sufficient room in the motor pool area for us to conduct Trainer Missile operations.
Bad Kreuznach was a very old city, actually dating back to Roman days. It was a very compact city, certainly by American standards, with a population of about 40,000. The city straddles the River Nahe at the mouth of the Nahe valley, and is located about 12 miles south of the confluence of the Nahe and the Rhine River at Bingen. It certainly was (is) a very picturesque city and setting. Since we were actually stationed within city limits, we had almost daily contact with the citizens. There seemed to be genuine warmth between Americans and Germans. I have nothing but good remembrances about being there for almost 18 months. It truly was a special place to be assigned overseas.
At the time, there were probably close to 10,000 American troops stationed in Bad Kreuznach, the bulk of them being with the 8th Infantry Division at Rose Barracks. There was an Army Hospital and an American high school located in the southwest part of the city, and an Army airfield located along Bosenheimer Strasse at the eastern edge of the city. The American housing complex of multiple story apartment buildings, with the main PX, commissary, and other facilities was located along Alzeyer Strasse just to the south of Rose Barracks.
There was also an Army Education and Service Center located on Bosenheimer Strasse a short distance (less than a 5 minute walk) to the west of Des Gouttes Kaserne. Some of us would go there to try and learn some conversational German using 33&1/3 l.p. records. They also administered US Armed Forces Institute high school level and college level GED tests. Sgt Palmer recommended to Captain Pascarella that I take the series of college level GED tests, administered in two sessions. The Captain gave his approval, and in November I took the first two of the four tests, which lasted just about the whole day. I then took and successfully completed the second set of tests administered in January 1961. With that, my Army records were revised to reflect an education level of one year of college.
I recall that we conducted a Trainer Missile operation on average about every 10 to 14 days. We set up the missile a few times inside the Des Gouttes complex, but the majority of the time we would convoy to Kuhberg (literal translation: Cow Mountain) to do this. We all referred to Kuhberg as "Kuhberg Hill", obviously a redundant name, i.e., "Cow Mountain Hill", but this is how I will refer to "Kuhberg" in most instances throughout this document. Each missile operation on Kuhberg was an all day undertaking. There were actually three sites we used on Kuhberg. Two were located inside fenced-in complexes immediately across the country road from each other that were sometimes used by 580th Engineer Company for LOX tanker storage. The third site was an open field at the top of Kuhberg that had multiple training uses. The BK hospital would set up their field hospital tents at this site. There was also a Signal Corps communications facility located there. And, 580th Engineers would operate their LOX plants at this location. Since this was an open area, whenever we would set up the missile, a fairly large number of Germans (and Americans) would park nearby to view the action.
I have added a video with audio to Page 16 Appendix D: Redstone Missile Videos, showing scenes of the Block I Redstone trainer field operation conducted by Battery A, 217th Field Artillery Missile Battalion, 40th Artillery Group at Kuhberg Hill located 5 kilometers outside Bad Kreuznach on 10 March 1959.
On days that we were not conducting missile-training operations, we spent our time on such things as vehicle and equipment maintenance, and classroom training sessions. I recall that we also seemed to spend a lot of time traveling to Wackernheim on a regular basis, but I am hard pressed to recall what exactly it was that we did there once we got there. Much of it was probably related to sharing or exchanging parts and equipment with B Battery, or possibly transporting items to and from the 630th Ordnance Company. The travel time was on the order of 30 to 45 minutes each way. Sometimes we would go for the day, other times for half a day. And sometimes it would be a quick in and out trip. I remember on occasions we would make a game of trying to out-race the late afternoon Frankfurt to Saarbrucken Schnellzug through the little farming villages we passed through on the way back to Bad Kreuznach. Aside from the vineyards, a major crop in this area as I recall it was sugar beets.
There were two routes that we used between BK and Wackernheim. We were not supposed to drive anything bigger than a 3/4-ton truck through the small farming villages between BK and Wackernheim, so when traveling with 2&1/2-ton or 5-ton trucks we would head north toward Bingen and the Rhine River to use the autobahn that ran along the south side of the Rhine. We would then head east towards Mainz, and exit at Heidesheim Am Rhein and head south again toward the village of Wackernheim. McCully Barracks was located just outside of Wackernheim. I recall McCully Barracks as being located just to the north of the village, on the east side of the road. However, former Captain Charles (Chuck) Thompson, who served at McCully initially as B Battery XO and subsequently as 40th Artillery Group Adjutant, has written me to say that McCully Barracks was located to the south of Wackernheim.
We did not pull KP in Des Gouttes. The enlisted men paid $4.00 a month into a pool to hire locals to work the mess hall. I think that was raised to $5.00 before I left. We did pull guard duty, however. There were three posts, one at the Kaserne and two up on Kuhberg Hill. The Kaserne post was strictly overnight, walking the rear perimeter fence around the vehicles. The Kuhberg posts could occasionally be manned for 24-hours, however, whenever the two fenced-in facilities up there were not being used during the day. These two posts were quite literally in the middle of nowhere. At night it was pitch black, and spooky. And, here too, there were plenty of wild boars roaming around. There was some, but hardly total, comfort in knowing that you had a colleague across the road from you walking his post. The two of us were literally the only living souls for miles around. We each carried 3 30-caliber rounds in our M2 carbine clips.
While on guard duty overnight at Kuhberg, although obviously we weren't supposed to do it, there was an unspoken ritual of carrying and passing on to the next man a small pocket-sized transistor radio. We were trying to listen to Radio Luxembourg, "Radio 208", an AM station operating at 208 meters -1437 Khz - that in those days operated along the lines of a pirate station, almost exclusively broadcasting the latest American rock and roll music, with American-syle (or British) DJs. I think they also exceeded any legal limits of broadcasting power, trying to blast their signal all over Western Europe. Radio 208 directed their broadcasts in English northwest towards Great Britain and their brodcasts in German northeast towards West Germany. I know listening helped pass the dreaded 2-hour guard shift up on Kuhberg.
I pulled my first tour of guard duty with Battery A at the end of my second week after my arrival. I remember that our Mr. Frost was Officer of the Day. When he got to me, he asked me for my eighth general order. I sheepishly blurted out that I could not remember my eighth general order. He said to me: "Well, what is your first general order?" to which I loudly proclaimed "SIR, MY FIRST GENERAL ORDER IS TO TAKE CHARGE OF THIS POST AND ALL GOVERNMENT PROPERTY IN VIEW". That satisfied Mr. Frost, who moved on to the next victim. My goodness. Why did the Army expect us to memorize ten general orders that were printed in a manual, nine of which didn't mean a thing at all to us? The truth is the only general order that truly mattered on guard duty was the first general order. I recall that I walked the Kaserne post that first night. Nobody tried to break in or attempt to steal something.
Larry Satterfield of the Firing Section was a very good football player. In the autumn of 1960 Larry played halfback for the 8th Infantry Division team, so on Saturday afternoons we would go up to Rose Barracks to see Larry in action for home games. Unfortunately, Larry injured his leg in a game midway through the season, and that was the end of his Army football career.
In November quite a few of us signed up to go by Army bus to the Mannheim area to see the USAREUR-USAFE championship football game. It was held in a soccer stadium holding in excess of 70,000 fans. The game had the flavor of a major college bowl game. That year the Army won quite handily, by the way.
From football, In November we jumped right into basketball. Herschel Worthy of our Servicing Section played for the 1960-61 40th Artillery Group team. That was his full-time job for the basketball season. In a complete turnaround from the previous season, the 1960-61 Group team, now coached by Captain Thompson, was quite good, and racked up about 30 or 31 wins, against only 3 or 4 losses, mostly to teams from larger units in the 8th Infantry Division. They played against 8th Infantry Division battalions and other comparable battalion-sized 7th Army units, e.g., around 650 member units. We would go to Wackernheim for weekday evening and weekend home games, and some weekend road games, to see the team in action. The team won the Battalion League championship that year, but lost to 8th Infantry DivArty in the Division Championship game.
Here are Chuck Thompson's thoughts on the 40th Artillery Group basketball team:
At the local level, I played on our Battery A basketball team in the BK league. These were Company-size teams. 580th Engineer Company had a team. There were several teams from 8th Infantry Division, a Hospital team, probably one or two other units, and a local German Club Team. We played on weekday evenings and used the American High School gym, and occasionally the gym at Rose Barracks. The Germans were quite good, and certainly taught us a thing or two on how to play this quintessential American game. Of course we were using European basketball rules, with the angled foul lanes, etc. But running up and down the court with the Germans was like trying to run with deer. Since there were no paid officials, each team also had to provide referees for games on nights your team was not scheduled to play. We tried our best to be impartial about it.
People Come, People Go
As with most units of the US Army of 1960, comprised of enlistees and draftees, there was a constant turnover of personnel in Battery A. But I would say we had a significant turnover of personnel at the end of 1960. In late October John Jardine left us to be discharged, but Eugene Chronister arrived that same month from Fort Sill. Wilmer Wallen was due to rotate home in November, but he chose to re-enlist and stay on instead. However, eighteen people, primarily from Servicing Section, and all draftees, left between the 16th and the 25th of December. In one month alone the Battery lost 25% of its most experienced people.
I took over John Jardine's assignment of driving and maintaining the Fire Control and Test Truck, under the ever-watchful eye of SFC James McNutt. I had the idea that for every driver and vehicle there was an NCO supervisor, or so it seemed. Sgt. McNutt must have thought he was still back at the Redstone School in Fort Sill, because he certainly had me constantly spot painting the van and blackening the tire sidewalls.
Holidays in Germany
It was a Thanksgiving tradition in Battery A for the Officers and NCOs to invited the enlisted men to their homes for Thanksgiving dinner. Along with SP4 Walter Wadsworth of Communications Section, I was invited to celebrate Thanksgiving with Sgt. Amerson and his wife. It was a very interesting day and experience, and we certainly enjoyed the Thanksgiving dinner that Mrs. Amerson prepared. I learned that day that Sgt. Amerson had been a very good amateur or semi-pro boxer back in his home state of Oklahoma before his Army days, and had even considered a pro boxing career.
The Christmas holiday of 1960 was my first one spent away from home. The Battery tried to make it as festive as possible. We were given a Christmas tree to decorate, which we put up in the hallway of our barracks. I asked Captain Pascarella for permission to tape our Christmas cards from home around the squad room windows. The Captain liked the idea, and told us to go ahead. Of course, no one considered the consequences of what would happen to the painted window trim when we started pulling the cards down after New Years Day. So, in January we had a little bit of spot painting repairs to take care of.
Christmas 1960 was 40th Artillery Group's third Christmas in Germany. In 1958 the Group had established a tradition of holding a Christmas party at headquarters in Wackernheim for children from a Wackernheim-area orphanage. When asked if I wanted to participate this year, I signed on. The party was held on Saturday afternoon December 24th. That year about eight of us from Battery A drove to Wackernheim to take part in the festivities. Each man "adopted" a child for the afternoon. The kids had a party with ice cream, cake and milk, and each received a present from Santa Claus. We were then treated to the children singing German Christmas carols.
That evening I experienced a most enjoyable Christmas Eve at the home of Chuck and Ursula Ackermann in Bad Kreuznach. I was treated to a traditional German Christmas Eve celebration, with a dinner of roast goose and all the trimmings, plenty of good German wine, and toasts galore with schnapps. Their Christmas tree had candles burning on it, which initially caused me to size up the closest exits from their house. After a few toasts, however, the burning candles no longer fazed me a bit. Since the combination Saturday night/Holiday curfew was 0100 hours, we ended up celebrating to well past midnight. It was an evening that I still think about, and remember warmly, each Christmas holiday season.
On Christmas day we had our Holiday dinner in the Kaserne mess hall. Families participated in this. I believe we had to eat in assigned shifts, by units. 580th Engineer Company families dined together, Battery A families dined together, and so forth, for the various units assigned to Des Gouttes. We also had a Christmas grab bag in our orderly room, to which everyone had contributed a small gift. People would come to the orderly room to share Christmas greetings and wishes.
I can't seem to remember much about New Years Eve celebrations. I am sure that we hoisted a few rounds in the local BK establishments, but for some reason New Years Eve 1960 and New Years Day 1961 do not stand out in my memory to the extent that my first Christmas in Bad Kreuznach does.