Ray Hinson – “We were in Germany to keep the Russians out”

 

 

Handsome Pete

Staff Sgt. Marion Ray Hinson

U.S. Army – 9th Infantry Division

Fire Direction Center — Heavy Mortar Company

Cold War Germany (1953-1956)

 

I am honored to be posting this particular veteran’s oral history because this veteran is my dad.  I remember growing up and seeing photos of him and his time in Germany in our photo shoe box.  I also remember rummaging through his “treasure chest” on his dresser and playing with his military patches and pins.  But it wasn’t until recently that I discovered more about his service in Germany during the Cold War.

By the time he served in Germany, the Korean war had just ended and Russia and China were still significant Communist powers and each was demonstrating that it planned to expand its influence and control across the globe, by force if necessary.

Many of his fellow trainees in basic training were sent to Korea to occupy South Korea and guard the DMZ (demilitarized zone). But his exceptional character and leadership potential were evident and he was promoted to corporal and escorted a group of soldiers to occupy Germany — a high tension area between Communist Russia and the recently unified West Germany.

My dad spent twenty-seven months there rising to the rank of staff sergeant.

Thank you for your service, Dad. I am very proud of you. 

 

Where did you serve?

I was overseas in Germany as part of occupation.  The United States sent a lot of troops, new trainees, over to Germany to help the German community with taking care of things after the settlement of the war was over.

Fullscreen capture 3122018 23803 PM.bmpThe Russians still had troops up in Berlin and had fences right down on into East Germany, down by Czechoslovakia from what I understand and there were high fences.

During WWII the United States had captured a tremendously large German cannon that Germany had developed to put on the French border in order to send a shell over to England, over the English Channel. They didn’t use it on England, but the United States captured this cannon when they invaded.  The United States later converted it to an atomic cannon and developed some atomic shells.  It had a range of about 30-40 miles.

One day we were in training out in the German countryside, some of the agricultural areas.  I looked up ahead of me and there was a tractor trailer across an open field.  And on that trailer was that cannon. It looked like it was 40-50’ long, the whole thing.  It was close to the border of Czechoslovakia where the Russian troops were.  I understood that the United States told Russia that we were not going to come over into their territory, but if they wanted to come over to ours, then we were ready for them.

I never had any combat while I was over there, but the tense feelings seeing that cannon there and knowing the United States had atomic shells for it, I was afraid they were going to fire it over there to where the Russians were across the border.  And if they did , the troops were wondering how the radiation would be, but nothing happened.

That’s good!

There was no shell fired at all.  So it worked out okay, but I’ve still got a picture of that in my mind.

Wow…that’s scary stuff. 

Were you drafted into the Army or did you enlist?

It was during the draft period, but they could not tell me when I was going to be drafted, so I went ahead and enlisted for three years whereas the draft would have been two.

Where were you living at the time?

In Mississippi, near Bay St. Louis on the coast.

Why did you choose the Army?

The Army was the only thing available at the time because at the end of the Korean war they were reducing the number of troops they were sending in.  We tried to join the Navy, but every time we went, they were closed. Nor the Air Force or the Coast Guard.

Delbert Zengarling
Zengarling

And I didn’t want to join the Marines, because my friend had just gotten killed in Korea and he was a Marine.  His name was Delbert Zengarling and he was from Bay St. Louis.

Tell me about your first days in the service.

The first days were in Basic Training and being from Mississippi I went to Fort Jackson, South Carolina near Columbia.

It was funny, usually as a draftee, you go in as a group of people and back then, they were drafting by communities.  But since I enlisted I caught a plane in Jackson, Mississippi and flew at night to Columbia, South Carolina.  It was a military plane – big ole plane!  And when I got there it was at night and they evidently knew I was coming and they had a van out there to pick me up and I went into Fort Jackson.  And they said, “You just stay in this barrack by yourself for the night and we’ll get you going in the morning.”  So I did and the next morning, I met the rest of the troops that were just coming in getting issued all of the new clothing and whatever training material they wanted to give you at that particular time.

And then I was assigned to a unit and then went into the barracks with all the new troops.

Were you scared? Nervous?

Fullscreen capture 3122018 23729 PM.bmpNo, I wasn’t scared.  I guess we all were — (he chuckles) we didn’t know what was going to happen. Well, the field first Sergeant – you have one that’s administrative and then you have another that’s out in the field with you – and he was a Korean War veteran and tough as nails.  He was kind of yelling and screaming at us a little bit, but he turned out to be a real good man.

Did you have an instructor that you particularly respected?

This field first sergeant, the one that was training us, he was a bad guy.  He could out-cuss any sailor he ever saw.  But he was good.  He was very good.  And my company commander was a veteran of WWII and Korea. He was Lt. Plavionich.

And these fellows who got a pass to go into town and would get in trouble – well, we had Saturday inspections and he told us one Saturday that any of you fellows that go in town and feel like you want to fight somebody, I want to give you my address and I will not have my uniform on.  So if y’all want to jump on somebody, just come on by the house.

And he’d take them on! [We laugh]

But anyhow, after we finished the four months of basic training, we were waiting to go into another school called leadership school. But while we were waiting around for that, one of my buddies in basic and I went into a PX where they had a restaurant thing where you could get cold drinks and beer and whatever you wanted and we looked over at the other table and there was the sergeant and another sergeant just sitting there and our sergeant recognized us and he said, “Hey! Good to see you! Come sit down with us.”  He was just as fine and nice a guy as you ever saw.

Huh.  So he didn’t have to act as a sergeant.

No.  He didn’t have to put on his show, which he was very good at. But he was very nice to us.

Wow.

Tell me more about your actual experience through Basic Training.

Well mine was a little different because I had a physical problem with my teeth and I was on dental call a good bit.

But I was assigned a job as a trainee.  They had some new trainees that had come in – after you’d been there a month or so, they’d let you go into Columbia at night on the weekend or to go into town just for the day – but there were always some guys who were going to get into trouble. Well one got in enough trouble that he had to be put in the stockade – the Army jail.   Being in the stockade did not excuse him from Basic Training.  So they’d go pick them up in the morning and bring them to their unit and they had a guard there that would meet the truck, with a weapon, and escort them to wherever the training was being held that day.  And that was my job.

I had a carbine rifle with about six rounds of ammo.  I asked the commander, “If one of these guys runs am I supposed to shoot to kill him?”  He said, “No, just shoot him in the leg.”

Oh! So you were supposed to shoot him!  That was an interesting job for a new recruit!

[He smiles] But the good part about it was, if you’re in the barracks, the CQ, the charge of quarters goes into the barracks and yells at everybody to get up and get dressed and fall out (get in formation) to go to the mess hall to eat breakfast.  But having this job, he came and got me about 45 min before that and I got dressed and walked on down to the mess hall and I got my own breakfast at that time.  I didn’t have to fight the crowd.  And then I went on out to the truck.

Nice.

And that went on for a good long time.

You had one event where the troops are crawling under barbed wire with machine guns firing over the top of you, and you’re crawling along and they’ve got mud and they’ve got some explosives that every so often go off near you and you would make it to the other end and get out.

And I said to myself, “Good! I’m not going to have to do it!” I had to watch my guy for when he came out the other end.

Fullscreen capture 3122018 23648 PM.bmpWell my company commander came over and said, “Hinson? Give me your carbine. I’ll guard him for awhile.”  [He chuckles]

Uh-oh.

He said, “Go down and get you an M-1.”

So I still had to do it. [We laugh]

But basic training was very hard.  The boots that I had on affected my heels – did something to them.  I could hardly wear’em, but I did.  We had four months of basic.  Usually it was two months, and then they sent you out to a school somewhere. But the basic that I was in was what they called heavy weapons infantry. And the advanced phase of that was going to be done in the same barracks anyhow.

We trained for heavy mortars which is the weapon that stands up and slide the shell down into the bottom of the barrel and hits a firing pin.  When it hits that then it goes off and fires it.  But the 4.2 mortar, the big one — heavy mortar – stood up about five or six feet tall and has a very heavy shell that is four and a half inches in diameter and about two feet long.  It’s real heavy to carry and when it fires, it’s a pretty good explosion like an artillery shell.

And it was interesting that when you drop a shell down in the barrel, if it doesn’t fire, then you have to tilt the barrel over.  It’s a ball and socket kind of deal that’s hooked to a big plate at the bottom.  Two men have to lift the entire thing and tilt it to let the shell slide out and one has to hold his hand in a cupped fashion forming a hole at the opening of the barrel so the shell won’t hit the ground.

That’s dangerous!

Yeah that was dangerous. But nobody ever got hurt.

So in basic training, my company commander did invite me to go to officer candidate school in Fort Benning, Georgia, but I did not want to make my army my career.  So I told him I would rather not.

Sunday, June 18, 2006 (19)After basic training, they gave you a thirty-day leave and I came home. [He pauses]  I was thinking about who I saw when I came home. [He smiles]

And who was that?

That was Anna Claire, my future partner, your mother.

Yes. [I smile]

But anyhow, we were home for thirty days and then back to Fort Jackson.  They had a school called leadership school.  My company commander said that everyone that went into the school they gave PFC, or a stripe to the top four graduates.  So basically it was a stripe for two more months of basic training.

So I said, “Noooo.  I don’t want to do that.” (It wasn’t worth the trouble.)

But anyhow the old general came down to the school and inspected it.  He was so impressed with it that he said we’ve got to make a change in this.  He said instead of giving PFC, or one stripe, to the top four graduates, we’re going to give everybody that enrolls a stripe and all those that graduate, will keep their stripe.  The others don’t.  They lose it. And we’re going to give corporal to the top ten!

I said, “Sign me up!”  I’d at least take a chance on it.  I’d at least get PFC when I finished.

A lot of the school was like basic training.  The first half was out in the field, real busy.  And if you saw an officer anywhere even across the field, you yelled, “Good morning, Sir!” And if he raised his arm, you had to salute him no matter what ever distance it was. [He grins]

You had one set of clothing that you had to get everything creased and hung up in your locker – you didn’t wear’em.

Oh really?

You put them in there for inspection. Your shoes had to be “spit polished.”

But when it was all over they started selecting the top ten for corporal. I came out number 10! And this friend of mine, the one when we met the sergeant that day, he came out number 11.

Oh, my…

To use his expression, “I know damn well I was a better soldier than you!”  [We laugh!] So he wasn’t happy!

I guess not.

I don’t know if it’s true or not, but draftees had “US” in front of their ID number and if you enlisted you had “RA” for regular army. And I think the ones that had RA in front of their number got better treatment, in training and everything.

Hmm, because you went voluntarily and wanted to be there.

pete.buddies.1955Yeah and I think there is a good chance that if I had not had the RA, I might not have been number 10. I don’t know that for a fact, but I just feel that way. And in my basic training company, I was chosen the best trainee in the whole company!

Wow!

And I was on dental call half the time. [I laugh]  I don’t know, I didn’t feel that way until after I got out of the army, but looking back on things and see. And I’ve heard other people say the same thing.

Fullscreen capture 3122018 23835 PM.bmpBut that ended my training and about two-thirds of my training company were still assigned to Korea even though the war ended while we were in basic training – the fighting ended.

The other fellow who was in basic with me, number 11, he and I were assigned as cadre to escort trainees that were going overseas as a group.  They were drafted as a group from a particular area like a town or community.  They were bound together by the place where they lived. They were assigned a platoon size or a company size depending on how many they had.  Well, me and the other guy were high rank, PFC and Corporal! But anyway we went with them on the ship to Germany.

We stopped in a port on the way to Germany and there was a gorgeous cruise ship anchored not too far from our ship. Well after we headed again to Germany, way off in the distance we could see a ship getting closer and closer.  It was that same ship! And it passed us.  When we got to England, it had already unloaded and was heading back to the United States! As it passed us going back we waved at it “Hey wait you got room for us?!” [He laughed]

We went to Bremerhaven,  Germany which is up on the North Sea end.  Then we took a train from there and went down into what they called the Black Forest which is beautiful – just like going to the Smoky Mountains here only it was all fir trees and conifers real tall and beautiful things.  And come to find out there were barracks there that had been special barracks for the SS – Nazi troops, the finest, some of Hitler’s favorites.

Oh really!

We stayed there for a couple of weeks time while they were getting ready to assign us to a unit depending on what kind of training we had. We were in that heavy mortar company.  They’d send us to a class here and a class there. But they didn’t send us with the other group that we came over with.  We had to give up our guidance with them when the ship docked.

I had one class that taught Morse code – you know dot, dash – and they test you to see what your memory was.  They’d give you a group and then you’d have to repeat it by printing it out or typing it out.  I didn’t think it was anything to it.  It was just kind of fun and interesting.

 

Then we got assigned to a heavy mortar company down in southern Germany in a town called Ulm. It was between Stuttgart and Munich on the upper end of the Danube River.

It was beautiful.  The river ended at Ulm and there were rocks and waterfalls and stuff like that.

Ulm had a cathedral the Ulm Minster that is as tall as the Louisiana State Capitol (Cathedral 510 ft/ La Capitol 450 ft).  It was extremely tall and beautiful!  And I walked all the way up, as far as the steps would go and I looked down at the river and it was so small then.

Ulm was a town about the size of Baton Rouge. It was bombed in WWII by the Americans that were going into southern Europe to bomb some oil fields that the Germans had.  But they bombed the town because it was a center for railroads.  So the United States dropped in there one night with the big bombers and dropped a bunch of bombs on the city to break up those railroads. They knocked a lot of the city down, but they didn’t kill anybody that I know of.  I met a German family and they were there when it happened and they weren’t hurt.  But they had a lot of people who were hurt and, maybe some were killed, but the United States did its job and they didn’t bomb anymore.

I stayed in Ulm two or three years to train and to do anything we could to help the Germans.

DSCN8550
Ray at PRC

But when we went into our heavy mortar company, the commander asked, “Do any of you have any college training?”  And each of us had two years. I went to Pearl River Junior College in Mississippi and the other boy went somewhere else in Tennessee.

And they had what they called The Fire Direction Center. These heavy mortars are just like artillery in the sense that they have someone tell them which direction according to the compass to point the weapons if they know the target area.  The Fire Direction Center takes the map and all the differences in the change of the compass and so forth. And we’d tell them how to fire their weapons.

Well that particular job and the Fire Direction Center called for a higher rank. I was corporal and Snuffy Reeve, the other guy, was a PFC.  But the job for both of us called for sergeant.  And they had two sergeants in there that had been there for a long time.  And it wasn’t too long, maybe five or six months before they came back home.

So as soon as I had time and grade, I qualified for sergeant! And that summer, I think I was in the army less than a year and a half when I made sergeant.

yep, that's my daddy....

The company commander called me in before I was assigned to the Fire Direction Center, and said, “Col. Razer, the regimental commander wants to talk to you. But tell him, ‘No.’ “

You mean, Col. Razer, I’m going to tell him no?

“Just tell him No!”

Fullscreen capture 3122018 30255 PM.bmpSo I went over there and he invited me in, very nice.  He said, “I understand that while you were in the Black Forest over there that you took a little radio course, the Morse code.  You made the best grade that they had at that point. So, I need a jeep driver and I want you to operate my radio and send you to school for that and then you can drive my jeep.”

I said, “Well that sounds real good, but I have just one question. What kind of rank can a jeep driver have?”

He said, “I was afraid you were going to ask that. A colonel is allowed a corporal.”  That’s the top rank that a colonel could have.

I said, “Well I’ve got a long time over here – about 27 months because I had signed up for three years.  I would rather go back to my regular unit where I’m already in a position that calls for sergeant rank as soon as I get time and grade.”

He said, “No problem. You go back. I’d like to have you, but you’ve got to do what’s best for you.”

And one more note about him.  We were out in training about three months later in a German field up on a hill and off in the distance there was forest.  And we heard a helicopter and it came flying low over those trees and then the motor started going out.  It took a down turn and crashed right into those trees.  And Col. Razer was in that helicopter, but nobody got hurt.  It wasn’t that far off the ground and the blades of the helicopter hit the trees and slowed it down.

Wow…

And they made it out safe.  It was kind of scary, you know.  I could have been out there driving a jeep where that thing crashed, maybe!  [He laughs]

The army in Germany at that time — this was after the war was over.  The war ended in ’45 and this was ’54.  I went into the army in ’53 and this was January of ’54. We were over there, as they told us, to keep the Russians out.  So we were constantly in training.

We were stationed in some old army barracks outside the town of Ulm way up on a hill.  These barracks were three stories and you could go out on top and look south and see the Alps in Switzerland.IMG_6159

And they had what they called Alerts.  Alerts were when they came in with police whistles in the middle of the night, or whenever and wake you up.  You had to get up, get dressed and go to the basement to get your weapon and then you had to go load up your truck with your equipment.

DSCN8525With the Fire Direction Center, we didn’t have as much to load as the rest because we didn’t have to load up all the weapons and the heavy mortars.

Then they had other big trucks that we would get into and ride out in the country to an open area.

 

Usually we would go out for three days and set up a false battle.  You chose offensive and defensive groups. You had to advance against your enemy and then you had to retreat, and then advance again.

It was kind of funny, but not to the infantry guys, the riflemen, at the time.  Once they got out there — they didn’t ride anywhere. They had to walk everywhere they went!  They had to go and dig the holes and everything to set up.

With the heavy mortar companies, everything was carried in the trucks.  We had a heavy jeep with a cab in the back – like a pickup truck.  I usually rode in one of the big trucks that carried some of our guys. The ones who had to fire the weapons rode in a deuce and a half truck and I rode in front of one of them.

oh, yes, shaving....

Everyone had to go into position and dig their own foxhole.  Then you had to dig a trench for a bathroom. Then set up camouflage nets over everything.

 

We had practice rounds – practice firing.  Sometimes we didn’t shoot a weapon at all, but they had to go through the motions of setting up the guns.

computingI had to do my job of reading the maps and telling them the directions to point the guns according to the compass.  Once they did that they had to go through the motions of preparing the ammo and dropping a dead round down in there. They’d just do that one time and then they’d take that out.

But when they got through, there was a lot of moving and walking like the military would do.  If you were advancing, you’d have to get the truck, go forward and set the weapons up in another place. Then you’d do that back and forth and back and forth til the three days were up.

The last night we had out, I remember it had rained and rained and rained – muddy!  We were driving along back to our final position and we were passing by the riflemen and they were walking in the mud. And they looked at us and they didn’t have the best expressions on their faces.

I guess not.

They weren’t happy.

But there was a real dramatic experience in the field one time.  We had a week-long trip in the field and we had to go do a live fire test of the weapons.  They had a little mountain out there with nobody on it, but it was one that they used as a target. There was the mountain and then maybe a half a mile or so just flat open ground and all the troops would advance.  They had the tanks, the riflemen on the ground, and all this would be advancing toward this hill and we were to fire at the hill at least a half mile to a mile farther than the troops. There was no one put in any danger.

CCI04262013_0004-001Well the way we set up the guns and fired was four guns in a platoon and each one had six shells. They would set the number two gun and it would fire one round and you had a forward observer near the hill who could see the target and he would call back and say if the round was over, short or if it was right or left of the target and then we would adjust the readings. Usually after the second round, they’d get it right.

DSCN8514So the one gun would fire and the others would set their readings on their compasses and get their guns pointed in the right direction. They didn’t have to change the elevation.  It was constant, but they would change the amount of propellant they had on the bottom end of the shell.  So when it was “platoon right – three rounds, the gun on the right would fire a round, the next would fire a round, the next would fire a round, and the next one would fire a round.  Then it would start over – boom, boom, boom, boom – and do that three times.

Well they fired, and I think it was the number two gun in the third round that fell a thousand yards or maybe a thousand feet short and it fell amoungst the tanks.

Oh no!

Fullscreen capture 3122018 23843 PM.bmpAnd it was a white phosphorous round and it sprayed stuff that is very dangerous.  All the other rounds – see when you shoot a mortar, you’ve got rounds that go way up high in the air and come straight down at the target.  Well the other rounds are already in the air when they found out this one was short.   But as it worked out only that one round was short.  But it was dangerous enough that the general came out there to check.  And when he saw that all the rounds hit the target except that one, he knew that it wasn’t my readings.  They were right.

Whew!

So it wasn’t the gun, but the shell.  On the base end of the shell had a propellant – little bundles of charges slipped around the cylinder.  When the shell went off, that made the bundles of propellant explode and however many you had determined how far you went.  But if you missed a whole bundle, that was a 1000 feet short. So the guy who was preparing the ammunition, on one shell he failed to put in say, three bundles of charges and he put two on one shell and made that one shell fall short.  Needless to say, I think he lost his job.  And I think the sergeant that was in charge of checking all that, lost his too.

Was anybody hurt?

Nope. It landed right up in front of the tanks, but they said that the forward observer was looking at the tanks and everyone of them had the tank commander standing up looking around, you know, watching the firing up ahead, but when that shell fell short, you can’t believe how fast they buttoned up those tanks!!  [He laughs]

After that, in Germany, it was just that same routine over and over and over.  And we had barracks out in the field and had miles and miles of space that they had — old farmland.  I even went in one church that was destroyed that still had some of the most beautiful stuff inside.

But after I left Germany, there was an incident where the readings were wrong and the shell landed back in the barracks area and killed two or three troops.  They were firing a lot bigger shells than we were. Things can go wrong.

Tell me about Germany itself.  What did you like about it?

lake.in.alpsGermany was beautiful.  When I landed and we took the train south, it was right in the middle of the night. You couldn’t see anything!  I really missed a lot there.  But later on some of our training was up into central Germany.

When you got to Ulm where I was stationed and you’d get a three day pass, they say the first place you’ve got to go is Munich.  “Munchen” the Germans called it.

They had a big battle there – a lot of aircraft bombing because there was a big rail center.  So we did – me and another guy.  When you took the train in, you could see a bomb crater off the side of the train track that just grassed over.  But it must have been as big as this room – at least 20 feet across.  And when we got into the Bonhauf – what they call the train station – it was all stone – it had machine gun marks on it.  And they were all over the place!  They had a lot of fighting there.

civilian.peteWell that night, the first night, me or Snuffy Reeves, or another guy, but we were walking down the sidewalk and it was cold!  There was three of us! And  these gals came up and tapped us on the shoulder and one of them said, “I’ll take these two.  You take that one.” [We both laugh]

Military…

But we were scared and nervous and they went on about their way.  [He smiles]

I do remember the hotel room, the bed for instance, was a big rounded mattress, but the sheet buttoned to the side of the mattress.  It was real tight, real smooth.  And they didn’t have a sheet on top or any quilts.  They had one thick comforter.  It was full of feathers.  You’d put that thing over you and you’d feel the heat building up.  It was very comfortable.  And there was no heat in the room and it was COLD.

I remember you talking about being out in a tent when it was really cold.

Oh yeah. In January after I got over there, we went out into the field to do cold weather training. They had just had a real northern snow storm come through and we went out there the day after the storm, the coldest weather of the storm.

They put up the big squad tents for the kitchen area and so forth and we had to put up pup tents, a little tiny tent for one or two people.  I did have the idea before hand to buy myself an air mattress.  They didn’t assign them in the army at that time, but they did later.  That got me up off the ground.

It got down to 27 below 0 that night.

Oooo!

Fullscreen capture 3122018 23752 PM.bmpIt was one of the coldest spells they had seen in a long time – in a pup tent.  If you think that ain’t cold, just have to go to the bathroom! You’ve got to get out of the pup tent and when you sit up, there’s ice all over the inside of the tent from your breathing.  And it goes down your collar.

Ohhh!

But it was cold.  I learned that you don’t fill up the mattress too hard. You fill it up just enough to keep you off the ground to keep it soft so you can sleep on it good.

When you build a pup tent, you have to put pegs in the ground and sticks on either end to hold it up.  There were two guys that would stay in a pup tent.  I don’t think there was a single peg that came out of the ground when we left.  They had frozen so hard in that ground.

One night a guard saw a fire at one of the tents.  He ran over to tell the sergeant to get out, but the sergeant said it was keeping him warm!  But he got out.  He was alright.

And it was cold enough that the snow had crusted over about 2 inches thick and we went out into an open place – we had some time to play – we stayed out there a week and we got some of that crusty snow and built us an igloo.  It was about four or five feet high inside.  It was round and you had to crawl into it.  We found that if you put water between the blocks, it freezes and holds it together. It was an interesting experience.

What about home? How often did you hear from your parents?  I know you wrote Mom a lot.

Well we didn’t have telephone so I didn’t do any calling.  Well, I called your momma one time.

But we had regular mail that was pretty efficient. Anna (my mother) and I wrote to each other all the time. I saved some of her mail.  But I didn’t save hers as much as she saved mine. As you know we have letters that we had written over a long period of time, before I ever went in the army, in junior college and all.

What were the actual years that you were in Germany?

From ’53 to ’56. November of ’53 to January of ’56.

But I’ll just say this about the some of the pleasant parts of being overseas was, where I was stationed was only three hours by train to Zurich, Switzerland.  You could go by train to Stuttgart and go south around the Zurich Sea or you could go south to Ulm and onto the border between Germany and Switzerland at the Zurich Sea and take a ferry. Then catch a train on the south end and take you on into Zurich.

But the historic thing about the town where the ferry was, was that was where Hitler developed the big hydrogen filled blimp, not the helium type.

When I got ready to come back home to the States I was living in an apartment in town in Ulm.

Really, I didn’t know that.

Yes, I had some other guys who stayed there with me.  It was in a nice building that was an old German barrack too.

Well, when it was time for me to leave, the army wanted me to re-enlist the first of June and I would make Master Sergeant and that would have helped my pay if I had stayed over there.  I said, no, I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to get out of the army and use the GI Bill and go to LSU and get my degree there, which I did when I came home.

And you got married.

DSCN8536And I got married right after I came home, at the end of the summer.  Your mom had already gotten all the paperwork done at LSU, so I started in Forestry training in the fall.

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LSU Forestry Publication Committee

But during the summer I was in east Texas because a friend of mine from junior college was there and he was a forestry graduate.  I went over there for a few weeks before I got married.  And while I was there I got poison ivy.  I had it all over my neck and my back!  And here I was getting ready to go on a honeymoon with poison ivy all over me!

[We laugh]

Well the fellow I was working with in that beautiful National Forest of pine trees, took me to the town doctor to get a shot.  It helped pretty good, but it was still there, so he took me back to get another one.  When I went home, and I got married almost as soon as I got home, the poison ivy was gone!

[We laugh]  Well good!

Didn’t you go home sometime during your service time in Germany with an engagement ring? You tied it around your neck or something?

Yes, I came home on leave one time with her engagement ring hung on my dogtag and I went out to your Momma’s in Baton Rouge.  That’s when we got engaged.

When you came home for good, did you come back on a ship?

When I went over we went on a ship and went first to England and let off some Air Force troops then we went up the English Channel to northern Germany.  When I went home on leave, I didn’t fly.  It was too expensive. I went back on a ship and it was the same one I went over seas on.

Oh really!

And when I went home after my tour was over, I went back on the same ship again.  It must have been the common one.

That was in June of 1956 and I got married to your mom in August of ’56.

Well I know you think that you didn’t do much in the Army since you didn’t fight in a battle, but you served your nation well during a very tense time in our history, the Cold War.  Thank you for your service, Dad.

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