Dad’s Time in the Service 1955-1956 Part 04

February 3rd, 2024 Comments Off on Dad’s Time in the Service 1955-1956 Part 04

Richard Delk Time in the Service

Okay. When I got to Schwabisch Gmund and signed to the medical battalion, they asked me about my OS and I said… Because they said it’s the things don’t add up. And I said, well, I had it changed and they said, you can’t do that, so they changed it back, which didn’t really mean anything because of it not being active in war-time. So, while I was there from December of ’54 to August of ’56, we had two division maneuvers. One NATO maneuver where we were with the other and one core maneuver.

And what this entailed was, you would sit around all evening waiting for them to tell you to leave, and then you would load up your trucks were all loaded. You would load yourself onto the trucks and head out to a designated spot, usually woods, where you would set up essentially a mesh hospital with the four tents. And usually we had another tent we’d set up for the mess tent, for the cooks and stuff. And you’d do this in the middle of the night. And then in the morning, they would inspect, and you would move to
tear you down your tents, put them back in your truck with all your equipment, move to another location. And then they would put off smoke bombs during the day. Then you’d have to put up your tents within the smoke. And they’d come in and inspect, and that evening you’d tear them down in the dark, move to another location, put them back up in the dark. Sometimes you did this four or five times, others you just did it just couple times.

And, we always moved, went to the east of Schwabisch Gmund toward the East German border. And we got close on two occasions, enough to see across the border and see them ready to shoot us if we did anything wrong. And at that time you felt a little tension, but you just lived with it and nobody got real upset. But you could tell there was tension, especially when the MP’s were telling you, when you get up here don’t make a right turn cause you’re going to go the wrong place and you’ll initiate some bad activity.

The NATO maneuver that we had, the French were using live ammunition. So we did have two or three Frenchmen come back and they didn’t bring one back, but we were told that he died before they could get him back. Why they were using live ammunition, I don’t know. But most of the time when we weren’t onmaneuvers, we were in training. We made sure that our equipment was all ready to go all the time. We trained in loading the trucks a certain way so that you could take it off. We had classes, I taught classes, and I also at one time was the assistant company clerk, so I didn’t have any duty. We did not have KP.
We hired Germans to pay the money every month. We did have to do guard duty.

Start back up with, you didn’t have to do the KP duty.

But we did have to do guard duty. We had a ammunition dump where we kept stuff. We had a gasoline petroleum dump outside of the Kaserne. It had a fence around it, but at that time the Germans were still recovering from the war and they stole if they could get it and we were issued live ammunition to put in our carbines when we were on duty. So, part of the time I would walk around one or the other of those dumps when I was on guard duty.

We also had to have guard walk around the gym building and the mess hall building, even though part of the mess hall building was pretty light, it lighted up. Then there was Officer’s Quarters and varied NCO and Enlisted Men Quarters off of the base. And we had to have guards around those. But on the base we had a Enlisted Men’s Club, an NCO Club. Down at the Kaserne in Schwabisch Gmund they had an Officer’s Club. They had a PX, and a bowling alley. And I spent a lot of time bowling when I was off-duty and not on pass.

We formed our own league and we had a league and I was treasurer of it for awhile and… So I spent a lot of time bowling. Oh, on one maneuver, the Germans were, like I said, pretty poor. If we went out on a road march, we never went down into the city. We always went on the road that led out onto the east. It went through a town called Oberbettingen. And, Oberbettingen, which means, over Bettringen, and Unterbettringen which is down below.

And all these little villages… People didn’t live out on farms. They lived in the villages and then they would go out daily to the farms and grow their crops. And these homes… be like an attached garage or an underneath garage because they kept animals in there. And a wagon that we called a honeywagon because they had straw in there. They had the manure from the animals, they mixed it with the straw, urine from upstairs mixed with it. They loaded on this honeywagon, this wagon, that’s the reason
they called it a honeywagon, and took it out to their farms to put it on the ground to fertilize. We were told, do not eat the raw vegetables from… But, most of the places I went to eat, they made it very clear that they had washed their lettuce very good. So I had the salad and nothing ever happened, but then I didn’t smell any different or the lettuce and that.

But I didn’t go out on pass very often to Schwabisch Gmund. That was a soldier’s hang out. And the guys I hung out with, most of us wanted to learn about things. So we would get a cab, which the cab driver sat outside our camp every night. And we’d get a cab and take it down to Oberbettingen. All these little towns had what they called Gasthauses, guest houses, Gasthauses. And they’d have one or two or three bedrooms that people could rent, and they had a restaurant down on the first floor. And we would go to these places and talk with the Germans to try to learn about them. And it was very interesting, learning
about the conditions in the war because Schwabisch Gmund was bombed. But these people out in the… were not, but there was Nazis that kind of kept an eye on everybody, and they were all afraid. But they’re all pretty poor people. They were glad to have our business, I’ll tell you that.

I went on leave one time, it was the summer of ’54… summer of ’55. There was four of us. Bill Quinn, Jerry Ratterman, Bob, and myself. And we took the train out of Schwabisch Gmund to Stuttgart, got on another train and went north. Part of it went by the Rhine River because it was going North, and to Amsterdam. We stayed a few days in Amsterdam, went out to see the Zuider Zee and the dykes that they’d put up and the land that they had… And I have a couple of pictures of stuff there. And then we got on a train and went from Amsterdam to Paris. In Paris, for some reason we didn’t get to go to Notre Dame. But there was another cathedral there that was well-known that we did get to tour. We went to the Louvre, didn’t have the money to get in there. But we did go to the Folies Bergere. And that was quite interesting. And it’s quite interesting to walk the streets of Paris at that time at night because they trying to hustle you all
the time.

And I don’t remember how many days we were there but we took the subway out to the airport, Orly. It’s Gaulle now. And you got on what is called a Military Air Transportation Service Airplane. And they were flying all over, taking people here and there on official duty, so we could hop on rides. So we got on a MATS plane, and flew to London.

And even in ’55, ten years, they did not have all of the bridges fixed 100%. And so we were roaming the streets of London. My camera got jammed, and we ask a guy about a camera shop and instead of giving us directions, he took us there. But on the way he showed us this bridge. He said, this bridge was fixed, that the bombs had torn the bridge apart and they had planks over it. And women driving ambulances because all of the men were in the service and they had to drive over these planks over the Thames River. It was very interesting because he said, some of those planks dipped down and the ambulances was
went across them. He said, they just had to do it to get from one place to the other. And we saw Big Ben of course, and Parliament, and 10 Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, and we had a good time in London.

Talking to them, you would think they won the war, single-handed, and that was okay. But they were nice people, they looked after you. We ask them where good places to eat were, they told us. We ask about beer, they drank their beer warm, but they said, if you go here you can get cold beer. From London then, we took a train down… and I think it was close to the mouth of the Thames, and got on a barge that took us all back to Amsterdam. We stayed another day or two in Amsterdam, and then went back.

I went on probably four three-day passes. Friday, Saturday and Sunday to Zurich, Switzerland. Most of the time the weather wasn’t too good when I was there, but it was cold sometimes and rainy others, but people in Switzerland were wonderful. I took a three-day pass to go up to Heidelberg. If you’ve ever heard of The Student Prince, that restaurant where The Student Prince hung out. We went there, saw the castles and we… I took a three day pass and went up to the army hospital. Was up by Mannheim… I don’t
remember the… There was an air field there.

But one of my guys that I went to neuropsychiatric school back, we went into the service at Fort Riley, and went to Camp Pickett. We were together in Camp Pickett, and then we were together at Brooke Army Medical Center for that training. He went to Denver for his, I can’t remember the hospital, but there was an army hospital there for his training. And then he got sent over to Germany right away. So he was up
there at that hospital and we went into town. And at that time, segregation was still…

And we went into this dance hall restaurant, and we were sat in the back. It was a fairly big room, because there was a big dance hall, there was a band, and a lot of tables. We were sitting at the back enjoying a nice beer. And there was French soldiers sitting right over here, and we could see across the dance hall to the front door. And some black soldiers came in. They didn’t get in more than a few steps and they were told that they weren’t welcome there. And they insisted that they were going to come in, so a fight broke
out. Well we were clear at the back and before things could get too out of hand, the MP’s come in. But when the fight broke out, the French soldiers went right under the table. And not because they were cowards, but because if they got into trouble they’d be in jail for a long time and mess with them. They made sure that they understood that if you get in trouble, you’re probably going to spend a long time in jail. They went right under the table.

In, Stuttgart, which was the big city, we went there a few Sundays. Go down on the train Sunday morning and… Stuttgart still had big piles of rubble, and there was areas of the city that we were told not to go to because homeless veterans or gangs in this rubble. And if we went, make sure that there was three or four of us together because if we went by ourselves, we’d be…

But, in Stuttgart, they had a big square, and streets went out from it and the train station was on one side and there was a restaurant on the other side and dance hall. You went into this place and on the first floor there were some tables and place for band and a dance floor. But then, like the rotunda at a Capital, you go up, second level was round, had tables. You could look down at the dance floor. Third level, you could look down at the dance floor. And if you wanted to dance, you had to go down the stairs to get there. But most people that were on the second and third level were just eating. German food was was great. French food, it was okay. English food was very boring. Food in Amsterdam was was very good. And I brought back labels from beer, Heineken labels, which is… But in Schwabisch Gmund, we had our own local beer, Dinkelacker.

You also brought home mom those steins.

Yeah, I probably sent them home. I sent some to Joyce. And, are those the ones you’re talking about? Yeah, and her mother, she collected them. But I’ve got one there that it was the 9th Medical Battalion stein. I’ve got it. And some from others that are German types. I sent your mother a set of dishes that are in that cabinet and crystal.

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