Summer of '61
In early May I went on leave for five days, the first such break I had since the previous July. I traveled to Amsterdam via train on a Monday morning, and returned late Friday evening. On the train I met up with two guys who were stationed in the Kaiserslautern area. We formed the dynamic trio for the week. A middle-aged Dutch woman boarded the train in the outskirts of Amsterdam and handed us flyers about her rooming house she ran in a residential section of the city, catering to American and Canadian servicemen. The rates were reasonable, which she said included a full "American-style" breakfast; so the three of us took a taxi to her establishment to check it out. After seeing the rooms and the general layout, we decided to stay there for the week. True to her word, she prepared oversized breakfasts of juice, ham and eggs, pancakes, waffles, and plenty of coffee each morning. The size of her morning meals allowed us to save a few dollars by skipping lunch each day.
We each had a room on the second floor of what I remember was a 3 or 4 story building. We shared a common bathroom and tub on that floor. The stairs were so steep and narrow that the only way to get furniture in and out of the upper floors was to hoist it from the street and swing it through the windows. That was typical of the buildings I saw in Amsterdam. There was a tram stop about a half block from her place. It took no more than 15 to 20 minutes on the tram to reach center city. All in all, it was very comfortable, very convenient, and best of all, very inexpensive.
Perhaps even better than that however, was the friendly and I would say motherly attitude that this Dutch lady exhibited toward us young American GIs. Although we never got the courage to ask her directly, we had the impression that she was a war widow. She typified the attitude of the Dutch people I encountered that week. They were always friendly towards us. Their attitude that I observed that week in 1961 towards the German tourists however was a totally different story. It ranged from aloofness to disdain to out-and-out disgust and hatred. They were willing to accept the German tourists' money, but they certainly did not go out of their way to make them feel welcome.
We rented motorbikes for a few days from a shop in the vicinity of the rooming house. On our second night in the city we used the motorbikes to go to the center of Amsterdam. Somehow the one fellow got split up from his buddy and myself. The two of us doubled back to find him. His bike had conked out and while trying to kick-start it, an Amsterdam policeman came by. The policeman thought he was trying to steal the motorbike, apparently a fairly common occurrence in Amsterdam at that time. He was marching our friend to the police station at the end of a very long sword. We all ended up at the police station where we convinced the police that he was with us and, although we had no rental paperwork to back up our story, that he had legitimately rented the motorbike. I thought we were really in for it, however, when the police sergeant asked the buddy with me if he was a GI, and he said no, he was a student. The police sergeant just sort of smiled at us with his "I know better than that" type of smile, and sent us on our way.
We also used the motorbikes to take a trip out to the tourist town of Volendam one day. I tried using mine to again go around the city, but after a too-close encounter with a trolley car, I immediately gave that up, and returned the bike to the shop. I decided that it was less risky to ride the streetcars rather than getting run over by one while riding a motorbike.
At the end of May Carl Heskett, Robert Martin, and David Cook of Servicing Section, and I went on a Saturday afternoon Rhine river steamer excursion from Bingen to Koblenz and back. Bingen was only a short train ride away, about 12 miles north of Bad Kreuznach at the point where the Nahe River flows into the Rhine. This section of the Rhine is steeped in history and very scenic, with its numerous medieval castles overlooking the river, and several at midstream of the river. The river was, and I would guess still is, a major commerce artery through Germany.
We had an interesting encounter on the steamer involving an American tourist couple. The wife was in dire need of a glass of water to take some medication, but neither she nor her husband could make a waiter understand. He kept bringing them alcoholic drinks of one kind or another. The four of us with our limited German speaking skills came to their rescue, of sorts. We told the waiter that the woman required water, but the best that he could do was to bring her a bottle of mineral water. We had to explain to the woman and her husband that getting a cold glass of water American style was practically a physical impossibility in Germany, and absolutely impossible on our boat. The husband thanked us profusely for coming to their rescue, and introduced himself, telling us that he and his wife were on vacation from Oklahoma, where he was the president of a railroad. He was so grateful for our intervention, however limited it truly was in my eyes, that he told us to get in touch with him after our Army days for potential employment with his railroad.
In July we returned to the field for about three weeks, including some time in the Soonwald (Soon Forest) in the highlands to the west of Bad Kreuznach. I think most of 7th Army was in the field during July. We moved around several times, conducting several night missile operations. We had an all day map reading exercise thrown in for good measure. And, on this particular field trip for my first time in the Group we crossed the Rhine, ending up encamping somewhere north of Wiesbaden. Two specific things stand out in my memory about this field exercise. One was that I was the Battery Commander's jeep driver for this particular trip. The second was overtaking a convoy of 280 mm atomic cannons on the autobahn while heading back to BK via Mainz. While I had the opportunity to inspect one up close at Fort Sill, this was my first (and last) time seeing one actually on field maneuvers in Germany.
Colonel Royal E. McShea, who had previously been the Commanding Officer of the Department of Materiel, USAAMS, Fort Sill, and who I had driven for as Colonel's driver on several occasions, took over as the Commander of 40th Artillery Group, relieving Colonel Harrison. Colonel McShea scheduled a Group Organization Day exercise at Group Headquarters, Wackernheim for Monday 21 August, to celebrate the anniversary of the establishment of 40th Artillery Group in August 1918. There were inter-unit competitions including such diverse things as tug of war contests and volleyball games.
On the preceding Friday 18 August, however, I was a somewhat reluctant participant in the 40th Artillery Group Soldier of the Year competition. Although I had been selected Soldier of the Quarter back in January, I honestly hadn't given a thought about possibly, or eventually, having to compete for Soldier of the Years honors. Sgt Stacy reminded me the day before. I told him I honestly didn't want to participate, because I didn't think I was worthy of it. He insisted that I should be part of it, however, and, in deference to this outstanding NCO who did so much for me in my three years in the Army, I agreed. So, Sgt Stacy drove me to Wackernheim that afternoon. This time, instead of being interviewed by a panel of officers, the four quarterly winners met before a board of senior NCOs of the Group. I believe the panel consisted of the five organic unit First Sergeants and the Group Sergeant Major. Again, the questions covered a host of Group and military areas and current events. The final question put to me was: if I were promised a promotion to Sergeant E5, would I reenlist. I gave my most sincere answer to that, and the answer was no. I told the panel that I had been very fortunate to serve in a Redstone missile outfit, and that I had truly enjoyed the experience. However, my enlistment would be up on October 26 and my plans were to return home and start college shortly after to pursue a degree in engineering. With that, the Group Sergeant Major thanked me and dismissed me.
Surprise of surprises, on the afternoon of 18 August 1961, SP4 James K. Ryan, Battery A, 1st Missile Battalion, 333rd Artillery was chosen 40th Artillery Group 1961 Soldier of the Year. The Sergeant Major took me to Colonel McShea's office to meet the Colonel, who extended his congratulations. In the introduction to the Colonel, I mentioned that I knew the Colonel from Fort Sill, and that I had the pleasure of serving him on several occasions as his driver. The Colonel replied that it was good to see me again, but truthfully, I am sure he did not remember me. He did award me a 3-day pass and a savings bond. I was also told that I would accompany the Colonel as his orderly for the parade and festivities the following Monday. With that, I departed Group Headquarters for the ride back to Bad Kreuznach.
On the drive back, Sergeant Stacy was very pleased that I had won, for me personally of course, but also for the honor it brought to Battery A. He shared with me that the four of us were all judged and rated very close, but the deciding factor was my absolute honesty and candor about the offer of promotion to Sergeant E5 if I were to commit to reenlisting. Apparently each of the other three answered in the affirmative, but in such a manner that the panel could tell they were answering, without true conviction, only what they thought the panel wanted to hear. When we arrived back at Des Gouttes, Sgt Stacy took me in to see Lt. Abt, who seemingly engrossed in other matters, offered - in my mind - only perfunctory congratulations, and then quickly dismissed me.
The following Monday, August 21, the entire Battery traveled to Wackernheim. There was a Group parade, and I was part of the Colonel's group reviewing the assembled troops marching by. I was then supposed to accompany the Colonel for the remainder of the morning. However, with the conclusion of the parade he dismissed me to rejoin Battery A in time to play in a volleyball game against one of the other units.
The Berlin Wall
Early in the morning of Sunday August 13 we were rudely awakened and ordered to fall out with all our field gear, line up and man our vehicles, and get ready to roll out of the Kaserne on a moment's notice. We were told we were possibly going to war! The Russians and their East German clients had sealed off Berlin with the now-infamous Berlin Wall. They had also cut off all access to Berlin from West Germany by the American and Allied Forces. The US Army was planning to send an armored cavalry unit up the autobahn from West Germany to Berlin that day to demonstrate our absolute right under the Four Powers agreements at the conclusion of WW II of free and unrestricted access to Berlin. No one knew for sure what would happen when the American force attempted to drive through the West German - East German border that Sunday morning.
We loaded all the vehicles and assembled our convoy inside Des Gouttes Kaserne, and then we sat and waited. After several nervous, anxious, and also irritating hours, the word came down. We were to stand down. Apparently the Russians and the East Germans let the American convoy proceed up the autobahn to Berlin without incident. There was a collective sigh of relief over that news. I think we were also angry that the better part of a beautiful August Sunday had in our minds been wasted away for naught.
Here are Chuck Thompson's thoughts on that August 13, 1961 Sunday in Wackernheim:
Planning for Home
Battery A was scheduled to travel back to the States the beginning of October for its annual Service Firing Exercise at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Sgt Stacy had come up with a plan for me that would have left me at Fort Dix to await discharge when the Battery was on its way back to Germany. That certainly sounded like a great plan to me. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Later in August, in response to the Berlin Wall crisis, President Kennedy issued orders that froze all military personnel in Germany in place for an additional four months effective 1 October. The WSMR trip notwithstanding, my rotation date was 4 October. I missed separation from active duty in October 1961 by four days!
Duty is duty, so I figured that with a month back in the States at WSMR, and having the great experience of helping launch a Redstone missile, I could easily handle the remaining three months extension back in Germany. Sadly, a trip to WSMR for me was not to be, either. Lt. Abt decreed that since my replacement in the Firing Section had already arrived in the Battery there was no room and no need for me to make the trip. He left the unsavory task of informing me of this decision to Sgt Stacy. Obviously, I was disappointed, in more ways than one to say the least. There is a side story life-lesson that I personally learned and took from this. In my aerospace career, as a supervisor I always made it a point to relate distasteful news directly to a subordinate, and never through a middleman or buffer. But, the Army was the Army, a world unto itself.
Being a state of limbo of sorts - told by my unit that I'm not really needed any longer, but told by Presidential decree that I can't leave it for another 4 months- I decided to start using up some accrued leave time. So, in September I made a week's trip to Copenhagen, followed by a week's trip to Bavaria. I'm glad I did both. The train trip to Copenhagen took about 18 hours. I recall the route and time as being in the evening from Bad Kreuznach to Frankfurt, overnight to Hamburg, and then on to Denmark arriving midday. For the Hamburg to Copenhagen leg, to reach Denmark the train was placed on an ocean-going ferry.
Visiting Copenhagen was a great experience, expensive but worth every penny. Copenhagen being such an attraction for so many, I met people literally from all over: the USA, Lebanon, the Sudan, Turkey, Morocco, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, and of course the Scandinavian countries. Even ships from the Soviet fleet were in town that week. Each day and each evening was a new adventure. I took a daylong bus tour to the surrounding countryside, which took in Elsinore Castle, the setting for Hamlet. On my last night in the city, I met two Danish couples, and they gave me a grand tour of Tivoli Gardens on its closing night of the season. They followed this up by taking me to their favorite neighborhood pub for a round of nightcaps.
I returned to Bad Kreuznach for a few days, took another trip on the Rhine, and then headed to Garmisch on Saturday afternoon for the week. It was about a 6-hour train trip from Bad Kreuznach. I travelled with Lt. Dennis Durant of 580th Engineer Company, who was heading to Garmisch to attend a basketball coaches clinic. Lt. Durant was going to play for and coach the 40th Artillery Group team for the 1961-62 season. Actually, Lt. Durant would be assisting Captain Charles Thompson, Group Adjutant, who had been placed in charge of the team for the 1960-61 season by Colonel Harrison. When Colonel McShea took over the Group, the Colonel asked Captain Thompson to continue as Officer in Charge of the basketball team for the 1961-62 season because of the outstanding team success in the 1960-61 season. By his own admission, prior to taking over the team in 1960, Captain Thompson had no basketball coaching experience, so he recruited able basketball assistants to help him run the team.
Here are Chuck Thompson's thoughts on the 1961-62 Group basketball team:
During the train ride I remember Lt. Durant talking about his ice hockey exploits in college, possibly in Northern Michigan . I happened to light up a cigarette, and asked Lt. Durant if he'd like one (it seemed as if we all smoked in those days.) His immediate retort to me was: "No thanks. I don't use them!". That phrase has stuck with me forever. And, at the time, it was such a stinging and sobering retort and rebuttal, soon after returning to Bad Kreuznach, I gave up smoking for good - cold turkey!
In Garmisch, I stayed in one of the $1.00 a night hotels set up at the time exclusively for American and Allied forces. I shared a room with a Canadian Army soldier. Weather-wise, that had to be the all-time perfect Bavarian September, with clear blue skies and daytime temperatures in the 70's all week long. I managed to get in all the notable tours throughout Bavaria and parts of Austria. The week's activities included travelling to the summit of the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain, and touring the castles of Bavaria's King Ludwig II.
We performed a few more practice missile operations, these times always using the trainer missile. I asked for and was granted permission to take pictures of one Kuhberg Hill operation, which I have incorporated into this document.
The Battery flew back to WSMR on 4 October, my original rotation date. Twelve of us remained behind at Des Gouttes, attached for up to 40 days per special Orders Number 165 to 580th Engineer Company for administrative purposes. We were under the daily direct supervision of SFC Bert Coy. Sgt Coy had us service and start all the trucks each morning, and then we took off to Rose Barracks for an extended coffee break. That was about the extent of the duty for over a month. I used some of the afternoons in our hobby shop to fabricate wooden shipping crates for some of my personal possessions. I had a Zenith short wave transoceanic radio at the time, which I had purchased in the PX. They were very popular, rather large and somewhat expensive radios in those days. One of the things the guys enjoyed in our squad room was to have me tune in and listen to short wave broadcasts from the US. On Sunday evenings we would listen to live broadcasts of NFL games. Especially popular were the New York Giants versus the Cleveland Browns games, with the Giants middle linebacker Sam Huff trying to stop Cleveland's great running back Jim Brown.
AFN Frankfurt would broadcast the football games later on a delay basis. Since we would know the outcome beforehand, guys would try to place bets on the final score with the unsuspecting in the other squad rooms. When we weren't trying to tune in broadcasts from America, the radio dial was usually set to AFN Frankfurt. That fall, 1961, the most popular play was Frank Sinatra's rendition of "Autumn in New York", as the DJ put it, "for all of us who didn't quite make it".
In December the Group went out to the field again for a little over two weeks. To spare me that, Sgt Stacy placed me on Gate Guard duty. His justification was that if the Battery felt it did not need me at WSMR, it certainly did not need me to be out in the field in Germany in the month of December. So, my final six weeks in the Army and with Battery A was spent as a Des Gouttes Kaserne gate guard. We manned the gate around the clock in shifts of 6 hours on, 24 hours off. Once the Battery returned from the field, those hours allowed me to play in some of the Battery's BK league basketball games. Working the gate on the 1800 to midnight shift, I missed playing in one particular game, in which our CO, now Captain Abt, broke his ankle. I was checking my watch, wondering why the team seemed to be so late in getting back from the HS gym, when our 3/4-ton truck pulled up to the gate, the Captain in the front seat with leg propped up and his ankle in a cast. The team had immediately taken him to the BK hospital for emergency treatment where the medical staff put his ankle in a cast.
December 1961 was also a time of great sadness for us in Battery A. We tragically lost one of our men, SP4 Lynn Miller, of the previous summer's "wild boar shooting spree", in a jeep accident. Lynn had driven our new XO 1st Lt. William Little up to Kuhberg Hill for an inspection tour. On the way down the hill, Lynn lost control of his jeep, which went off the road and overturned. Lynn was killed in this accident. I believe Lt. Little fortunately suffered only minor injuries. We attended a memorial service held for Lynn at the Rose Barracks Chapel. With Lynn Miller's passing, at the end of 1961 Battery strength now stood at 58 personnel: 3 officers and 55 enlisted men, although Lynn's name was posthumously included on the December 25, 1961 Christmas Dinner Roster.
I was off duty on Christmas Eve, which allowed me to enjoy a second very special Christmas Eve celebration with the Ackermann family. I was on gate duty on Christmas Day during the Battery's family dinner in the mess hall. I recall that I was relieved for an hour, however, to enjoy a Christmas dinner. My gate guard schedule also prevented me from again participating in the children's Christmas Party at Wackernheim. However, we were able to celebrate New Years Eve at the Rose Barracks NCO Club. So, there were some plusses and some negatives attached to my four-month extension on active duty.
Perhaps the most important "fringe benefit" derived from being extended dealt with the active reserve commitment. I wondered about that, but nobody seemed to have an answer. So, I wrote a letter in November to the Stars and Stripes Letter to the Editor "B Bag" column, asking if the 4 month extension negated any requirement for active reserve duty. Stars and Stripes found that to be a question of interest for many, I suppose, so they published it along with a response and a personal letter back to me. The four months of additional active duty would more than equate to active reserve duty time requirements, They found out that those of us who had been extended four months would no longer incur any active reserve duty time. We would immediately be placed in the inactive reserves.
Orders for Home
Finally, on 19 December 1961, I received my copy of Redeployment Orders Number 295, relieving me from assignment in Battery A, 1st Missile Battalion, 333rd Artillery APO 252, and reassigning me directly to the US Army Transfer Station (1386) Fort Hamilton, New York. The orders further stated that I: "WP 23 Jan 62 reporting for transportation to Comd, 3917th Emb Det, USAPOE, Bremerhaven, Germany, NLT 0645 24 Jan 62, for transoceanic tvl aboard the USNS UPSHUR." So there it was at last.
We had a favorite Gasthaus located west of us on Bosenheimer Strasse just a short walking distance from the Kaserne. The name of the establishment was Gasthaus zur Lammerbrucke. It was owned and operated by Heinz Muller and his wife, and Frau Henniger who we believed was Herr Muller's sister.The Muller's daughter, Gisela, also helped out on weekends. Gisela was a beautiful young lady about 18 years old at the time, and I think we were all secretly madly in love with her. Popularly known as the Last Chance, Gasthaus zur Lammerbrucke was a favorite stopping off place on Friday and Saturday nights on our way back from town. We would pick up a schnitzel or brats sandwich with home fries to go, all wrapped up in paper, for a "midnight snack" back at the barracks. I would also go there for supper on average once every two to three weeks. Frau Henniger provided a going away meal for her regular American customers who were leaving for home. I was no exception. So, in January when she heard that I would be leaving within the week, she made sure that I stopped in for one last goodbye meal and good German white wine, on the house.
On my final Saturday night in Bad Kreuznach, January 20, 1962, some of the guys held a "short-timer's" going home party for me at the NCO Club. Now that the Army had started to resume shipping people home, a few of them were scheduled to follow me home within a month or two. But the "shortest short-timer of them all" had a great time that evening with my Battery A and 580th Engineer Company friends.
I was issued a "Certificate of Achievement" from 40th Artillery Group; and then, on the evening of Tuesday 23 January 1962, I said my final farewells to the men of Battery A, 1st Missile Battalion, 333rd Artillery. I was the first person to depart in over six months. Around 1900 hours Sgt Stacy drove me to the BK train station, where I boarded an overnight troop train headed for Frankfurt and on to Bremerhaven. It was the first such troop train since September, headed for the first troop ship to sail since September. My friend Dennis Fife of Battery B boarded the train in Mainz. Having started our Redstone experience together at Fort Sill in January 1959, it seemed only fitting and proper that we were ending our Redstone experience together and sailing home together.
Army and German Rail efficiency and promptness got us to Bremerhaven early the following morning on time as scheduled. We then sat around in a large hall until about 1600 hours before boarding ship. At 1800 hours Wednesday 24 January 1962, to the strains of "Auf Wiedersehen" played by a dockside band, the Upshur was pushed out from the wharf, and I departed Germany. Fittingly, and not surprisingly, it was raining.
To say the ship was crowded would be an understatement. As the first troopship to depart Germany in almost four months, it was overcrowded. Dennis Fife and I ended up with berths toward the ship's bow. The instant rumor mill had it that the Upshur wasn't really designed for trans-Atlantic travel, implying that it was going to be a rough voyage. Actually, in 1949 the Upshur was originally being built as a passenger liner, the President Hayes, for American President Lines for trips to the Caribbean and South America, but was taken over by the government at the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, finished as a troopship, and assigned to the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS). 534 feet in length with a beam of 73 feet and a draft of 29 feet, it was equipped with a single shaft. I would assume the Navy originally operated this vessel, but on our trip it was operated and manned by the Merchant Marine.
Early the very first morning, still traveling across the North Sea, I got seasick. Fortunately, that was a one-time occurrence. We were topside on the foredeck around noon when the ship approached Dover, England to pick up the English Channel pilot. It was great to see, if only for a brief span, the famous White Cliffs of Dover. Midway through the English Channel we had a lifeboat drill. What that meant of course was that in a real emergency, over 500 dependents and officers would be placed in the ship's lifeboats, and over 1,500 GIs wearing life jackets would be placed in what amounted to cork and netting floats.
Naturally, we had to be assigned some type of duty: that is, many but not all of us were, or so it seemed. In our section of the ship, I recall several non-stop around-the-clock card games taking place, each with the same set of individuals, for 9 days. I was assigned to guard duty on the dependents' deck. I think it was on the order of 2 hours on and 8 hours off, around the clock. I was on watch at an aft topside post on the port side of the ship, with another guard posted opposite me on the starboard side. At least we had each other's company. I guess our task was to prevent the "unruly mob" assembled on the aft deck below from climbing up the ladders to the dependents' sanctuary. For this potentiality, we were armed with a nightstick, wore a helmet liner, and were given ill-fitting old Navy parkas to puff us up, and help ward off the chill and dampness. Fortunately for all, I only had to turn away two or three guys who didn't quite get it, from attempting to reach the upper deck sanctuary.
The trip lasted 9 days. We pitched, rolled, shuddered and vibrated our way across the North Atlantic at the height of winter. Actually, the crossing could have been a lot worse than what it was. The ship followed a more southerly course. Once we cleared the English Channel, we first sailed south, and then off Portugal headed due west for New York, sailing into or along the Gulf Stream. As a result, the daytime temperatures on deck sometimes were in the 50's. I believe the weather allowed us to go topside, if only for a little while, on perhaps 5 of the 9 days.
On the morning of our fifth day aboard I had a very happy occurrence. While making my way through the ship to go out on the aft deck, I spotted a high school classmate and friend of mine, Frank Mauro. Frank had joined the Army a few weeks after I did, and the last time I had seen him was at Fort Dix in December 1958. Frank told me that after advanced training he served in Germany for 24 months, returned to a stateside assignment, only to have his unit deployed back to France in September as a consequence of President Kennedy's response to the Berlin Wall crisis. He said they literally lived in "tent city" and mud for the next four months. We tried to spend as much time as possible together for the remainder of the trip.
We had one mid-journey day however, that forever swore me off being on a ship on the ocean. There was a huge North Atlantic storm located, fortunately, several hundred miles to the north of us. On our westbound track, we steamed crosswise through tremendous swells generated by the storm, which judging by the beam and length of our ship, had to be at times on the order of 50 feet high. As each swell hit us, the ship would roll to port, then be carried up the swell, straighten out at the crest, then roll to starboard and be carried down the rear side of the swell. At the bottom, surrounded on both sides by a mountain of blue-green water, we would flatten out, and then the process would be repeated. It was a scenario worthy of "Victory at Sea". This continued for the better part of 24 hours.
By the eighth day, things were starting to get really bad. On top of the now pervasive built-up stench, we were ordered to dramatically cut back on the use of water for showers because of the low water supply. At 0400 on the morning of the 9th day, we were rousted out of our berths and at 0600 fed a meal of boiled hotdogs. They had run out of food, which just might have been a blessing in disguise, based on some of the "junk" we had been forced to endure the previous eight days. There was quite a run on Clark Bars and O'Henrys from the ship's store that week.
However, we knew the end was in sight. Sailing through a snowstorm along the south shore of Long Island, I heard loud and clear a local radio station, WALK in Patchogue Long Island, on one fellow's radio. So I knew it would be just a matter of a few more hours before we reached New York City. We were topside just after noon as we passed close to the Ambrose Lightship at the mouth of lower New York Harbor and took aboard the Harbor Pilot. After that, everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty as we sailed through the Narrows into upper New York Harbor. At just about 1500 hours Friday 2 February 1962, tugboats guided the ship into a pier at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. And, as simple as that, the Atlantic crossing was over.
My father, who had come to Brooklyn to welcome me and drive me home, was at dockside, along with two good friends from high school days. It took a while longer, but eventually we were all bussed to Fort Hamilton for mustering out, where we encountered some typically Army further delays. At 1900 hours Friday February 2, 1962, along with my final month's pay and a lump sum payment for 21 days accrued leave, I was issued my DD 214. Three years, three months, and seven days removed from first joining the United States Army, I was now officially separated from Active Duty and transferred to the Inactive Reserves. I said a final goodbye to my good friend, and Redstone colleague for the past three years, Dennis Fife. Accompanied by Frank Mauro, another good friend through four years of high school, we drove out the gate of Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn New York and headed for our homes on Long Island.
I have been unable thus far to pinpoint the exact date of the deactivation of 40th Artillery Group as a Redstone unit. One source lists it as September 1962. However, this is incorrect, as Gene Chronister was still serving in Battery A in February 1963 at which time he left for Fort Benning, Georgia to attend Infantry OCS. Also, USAREUR Station Lists through 1963 show the various component units of 40th Artillery as still active units.
With the deployment of Pershing missile units to Germany, Redstone was declared obsolete in June 1964, and all equipment was returned to the United States at that time or shortly after. I am making the assumption that 46th Artillery Group remained active until that point in time, and that 40th Artillery Group disbanded sometime before June 1964. If anyone who reads this has information about the stand-down of 40th Artillery Group, I would greatly appreciate receiving that information for posting on this web site.
I have received a message from Ron Weber who served in Battery B 1st Missile Battalion 333rd Artillery, 40th Artillery Group from February 1962 to early June 1964. Ron says he was a LOX and hydrogen peroxide fueler in Battery B. Prior to joining 40th Artillery Group, Ron was at Fort Sill first with the USAAMS and then with Battery A of 209th Artillery Group. Here are Ron’s own words about the deactivation of 40th Artillery Group:
So, it would appear that both 40th Artillery Group and 46th Artillery Group remained active until the first half of 1964. Thanks, Ron. Your information certainly sheds quite a bit of light on what has been up until now a mystery for me.
I will continue to add to this web site as I receive additional information from former colleagues and others who served with Redstone. I ask all who are in a position to do so to please send me your Redstone experiences and information.
As for the now former SP4 James K. Ryan, in February 1962 I quickly transitioned back to civilian life. During February I went on several job interviews where my Army service and Redstone training stood me well. I was offered a position of an IBM Customer Engineer in Manhattan. After training at an IBM facility I would have worked on servicing and maintaining IBM office equipment at various places of business in the City. However, rather than commuting to or living in New York City, I made the decision to accept a position of flight test Instrumentation technician with the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation at their Calverton, Long Island flight test facility, which was located less than 10 miles from my home.
This of course altered my plans for college. However, through a combination of several years of part-time study followed by 2 years of full-time study – the latter thanks to the educational benefits of the Cold War GI Bill of Rights, and a highly supportive working wife! – in early 1969 I became an Instrumentation engineer in Grumman’s Flight Test Department. Over the ensuing 25 years I had the opportunity to work on just about all of Grumman’s numerous and varied flight test aircraft programs of that timeframe. These included the Grumman/Navy F-14 Tomcat fighter, the A6 Intruder, EA6B Prowler, E2C Hawkeye, and the Grumman/Air Force/DARPA X-29A forward swept wing demonstrator, in both hands-on operational and supervisory capacities. So, that instant decision made in January 1959 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, requesting to remain a REMMC student certainly paid long term dividends beyond expectations for me.
From the vantage point of time, I am glad I served in the US Army when I did. I am truly proud of my Army service, and the opportunity it afforded me to work so directly with the Redstone missile. Most importantly, however, I retain great personal satisfaction and pride in the fact that I had the opportunity to meet and serve with so many good people from all corners of our great nation; and most especially, the men of Battery A, 1st Missile Battalion, 333rd Artillery, 40th Artillery Group.