Memories of Prinz Eugen Kaserne Duty 69-70

Memories of HHD 512th USA Arty GP in Gunzburg Germany: I was there from Dec. 1969 through Dec. 1970.  The personnel office roster for that year at the Prinz Eugen Kaserne just outside of Gunzburg Germany was made up of CWO Leroy.C. Sweet, SGT Mendez, SP5 Richard McBee, SP4 Alan Lang, SP4 Pete Spera, SP4 Bruce Shoe and SP4 Robinson.  See: http://armykaserne.com/us/prinz-eugen-kasernegunzburg/

I was assigned there when I came through Frankfurt after dropping out of Infantry OCS after the end of the fourth month (OC1 – 70: “OC One! Second to None” was our slogan. I decided I didn’t like the kind of guy I was turning into as a wielded sword man.). In the casual company in Frankfurt I got bored sitting around waiting to be assigned, so I walked into the personnel office and asked if they had any place in the medical corps that I could be assigned since my background was in Biology.  They said no, but could I type.  I said I knew where to put my fingers on the keys because I had one class in typing in High School, so they called up the Det. in Gunzburg and I got assigned as the new Officer Records Clerk for all the 512th SASCOM Detachments in early Dec., of 1969.   See Gunzburg at : http://www.itcwebdesigns.com/tour_germany/guenzburg.htm

When I arrived in Gunzburg, in December, the fellow I was replacing, named Sp5 Larry Hicks, had almost the same history as me and he sold me his old (really old) VW and also talked to the land lady who had his apartment in the town of Gunzburg with his wife and they agreed to rent the place to me after he rotated out at the end of January. They put me in the barracks with a roommate, Gary Sauers who had also just arrived. Gary was a cool guy, but he liked to play the song “Nights in White Satin” – very popular then – almost drove me crazy he played it so much.  The barracks were absolutely first class, having been old officer quarters for the Germans in WW2 and had been upgraded.  Big rooms we actually had cleaning ladies (putzfraus) who came in and cleaned.  Fabulous meals and on Sunday when the cooks didn’t work we got to go into the kitchen and make breakfast. That’s where I learned how to make omlettes.  I stayed in the barracks until Jan. 24th when my wife arrived from her home in England (I having gotten married there in between the end of Infantry AIT and Infantry OCS in July. This I could do because I still had my Peace Corps Passport even though my orders said not to leave the continental US). We moved into the Lamb Hotel in Gunzburg for a week until Larry Hicks moved out.  The first night in the hotel was the festival of Fashing, the night before Lent starts. The Germans had a giant party all night long and kept us awake, but it was good to be together again after so long apart.

In the personnel office I found that my typing was not up to snuff and I needed to go into the office after hours for two hours or so each night for that first month that I was there in order to keep my assignments up to date.  By the end of that first January I had the system pretty well down. It’s amazing what motivation can do for a fellow.  They signed me up for a correspondence course to upgrade my skills so I could be promoted to SP5 which was the roster level for my position.  It took me about two months to complete everything and I was then promoted to SP5 and we had a big party out at one of the gasthauses where we passed around the half gallon of whiskey between drinking liters of beer. A lot of crossed eyes and staggers by the time we left.  I got a couple of days leave in January before my wife came over and took a quick trip with one of the 510th Det clerk, SP4 Shinn down to Garmisch to go skiing.  Fabulous place and a good Gauthous to stay in as well. Also went to a beer festival in Munich with some of the guys and just about got crushed by the masses of people moving from place to place. 

After my wife arrived, she met up with the wife of another SP4 – Barry Smith, whose name was Julie.  Jill and Julie and also the wife of  SP4 Larry Mallete. They shopped together and kept each other sane while we were off doing our work each day.  When they had an alert on the base, for some reason the jeep was supposed to come around through town and collect all of us who were married and haul us into base at whatever time so we could take off for the woods.  For some reason they could never find my place, so I would arrive at 8AM ready to go to work to find that everyone was all suited up in helmets and had the trucks all loaded for the field and had been there since two in the morning.  This happened three times while we were there and never once did anyone find me.  Fortunately the Russians never decided to press the button.  

After work every day we had R&R in the base canteen with the slot machines and a few beers.  The worst duty was policing cigarette butts with supply SGT North shouting his head off while we casually strolled up and down the field occasionally picking up a butt left by the Lt’s. The rest of the time we were in our offices typing like mad trying to keep up with paperwork pre-computer era.  On the days when Robbie had to put together all the rosters for the Dets., we all spent the entire day walking around one big table piled high with stacks of paper putting together the bundles that had to go out to everywhere in the world to let them know who we were,  The most tedious job was completing the Officer Efficiency reports for the Colonel.  I couldn’t make more than three errors on a page and the paper was non-erasable anyway so it was perfection …or…  I ended up typing a number of things over.  In fact the last part of the report had to fit exactly into a special rectangle.  The amount of writing could generally only be gotten into the space by laboriously back spacing each letter to cram things together.  That was when I sweated blood, getting in the last letters if I already had my quota of corrections.

Weekends my wife and I saw a fabulous number of castles, hiked in the German woods and met some people who were always helpful and friendly.  One day I’ll go back and have another look at the area because it was probably as great a place to be stationed as one could wish for.  I got an early out in Dec. 1970 to return to graduate school at Montana State on the GI Bill. Pretty lucky duty for a 2 year guy who started off in the Infantry, had orders for the Nam but got them changed because my brother was already in country. Fortunately he got out alive.

 



Categories: Opinion, Rick's Memoirs, Writing Process

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3 replies

  1. Rick,

    Great memories.
    I was also stationed at the 512 from 1969 to 1971 working in the S1 section in the message center.
    I remember all of the names you mentioned.
    Everyone had a “nick name” back then, mine being “Ollie”. I hung out with Dan “Tex” Wegman & golfed with Richard “Rex” Harrison from supply.

    John Hardy
    Cheyenne, WY

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  2. I remember the name Pete Spera. If it is the same guy, he was from, I believe, the St. Petersburg Tampa area of Florida. Pete was in the first building on the right and I was a guard (they called us Custodial Agents) housed in the second building and there was a third building to the left of ours where the officers had offices. Most, or all, of them lived off base. We were US Army guys based on this German Kaserne.
    I hung out with the other guards mostly. Bill Jackson from Houston, Freddie (Moon) Mullins from West Virginia, Pete Cavaretta (sp?) from Buffalo NY, and a guy named Gary Cooper who was straight from Vietnam and replaced Freddie as my roommate just before I was finished my service commitment and was released to go back to the States in March of 1971. My name is David Bagstad and I was from, oddly enough, Las Vegas, NV.
    Speaking of the first barracks and Pete, there was another colorful character in that building who’s nickname was Gronk. We would go into his room in the evening and find him laying in bed with a half eaten chicken leg in his hand resting on his chest, fast asleep.
    The Custodial Agents were tasked with guarding the warhead storage site about 3 miles West of the Kaserne. I had become a Senior Custodial Agent (SCA) in a Sargent slot but without the extra stripe. There were four of us and we would send the other guards out into the earth-covered bunker area and check the bunker doors after the day-shift left. The SCA on the day shift that week, would check the maintenance guys in to the facility to work on and practice arming the warheads. We guarded the warheads and the Germans guarded us in a double-fenced ring around the facility.
    There were also two fellows, one from North Carolina and the other from Seattle, that also hung out with us. I apologize, to them, for not being able to recall their names right now. The fellow from Seattle went on a two week leave with Friddie and myself, in a Volkswagen that Friddie had bought, that took us up through Denmark, with a quick cruise on a fairy over to Sweden and than over to the Netherlands and down to Belgium and Luxembourg.
    Another time, a bunch of use went on a day trip to see Neuschwanstein Caslte and, in “Dumb and Dumber” style, we took the correct road but in the wrong direction out of Munich and, ended up going North and thinking “these Alps are not all that impressive.” We finally realized what we had done and headed back the other way but, got to the castle just after it had closed for the day.
    Richard, I also was levied twice to go to Nam but, my brother was there and I didn’t go. He was relatively safe in a basecamp with an electronics MO but I was 11Brovo.
    John, I was also there from 1969 to 1971 (April and March respectively).

    David Bagstad
    Houston (Tomball), TX

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    • David, Great to hear your comments on the 510th/512th USA Arty Gp. in Gunzberg. It was an important time in the Cold War with Russia and a duty that often get dismissed as “ho-hum,” but in fact kept the Russians from taking further advantage of the European nations and bullying them and their puppets into further concessions.

      Looks like you landed on your feet after your time there. I’m now retired and managing to still enjoy life, family and friends. Have a happy Thanksgiving and New Year. Rick McBee

      On Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 3:54 PM, Rick McBee's Writings wrote:

      >

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