MY ARMY EXPERIENCES   Leave a comment


Throughout this writing, to see a larger version of any picture, simply use your mouse and click on the picture and it will expand.  To bring the picture back to its small size, click the return arrow normally located at the top left of your screen.
To learn about my family’s side of the Cleveland, Ohio, Nathansons, go to:


You will get an insight to the world I left to make my own way.
new_tiny When I go back and add something in, I’ll use this “NEW” sign to keep you from having to read all the way through again.  You can just read the new stuff and move along.  new_tiny


The bus carrying me and my fellow trainees arrived at Ft. Fix at 0230 in the morning.  We spent two days in the Reception Station attending classes, getting our uniforms issued and throwing our civilian clothes in the dumpster.  When we moved to our basic training area, we once again moved at 0230.  Now Ft. Dix is a large post and I didn’t have the faintest idea where we moved to.  Later on I learned the reason why we only moved during darkness.  If you didn’t like your beginning Army life some folks might like to go AWOL (absent without leave).  To go AWOL you have to know where you are and you have to have an idea as to where you want to go.  By moving only at night, we had no idea where we were or how to get off the post.  The sergeants kept us busy and scared with their stories of what they did to AWOLs that were caught and brought back.  All lies, but we didn’t know that.  We were taken out of our comfortable civilian life and thrust in to the structured discipline of the Army.  If you did what you were told, you got along fine.  If you didn’t, you wished you had.
We had one person in our barracks who didn’t like to take a shower.  It wasn’t long before we couldn’t stand his odor.  One night at about 0100 we gave him a GI bath.  A group of us dragged him into the shower and proceeded to scrub him down with GI scrub brushes and lye soap.  When we finished, he looked like a tomato, a clean tomato.  From then on he took a shower every day like the rest of us.
Although I didn’t realize it, the Drill Sergeants had a sense of humor.  One of the first formations we had, one of the sergeants asked if anyone had a drivers license.  A bunch of the guys raised their hands, thinking they were going to dive a truck while the rest of walked.  Wrong answer:  they wound up pushing a wheel barrow.  All through basic training the sergeants pulled stunts on us.  You soon learned to never raise your hand or volunteer for anything.
  Today you could not use the cadence we used while marching.  It was nowhere close to politically correct and the liberals would be on your case in no time.   “I don’t know but I’ve been told, Eskimo pussy’s mighty cold.”   We enjoyed it, young boys acting like men.  It wouldn’t be long before we were men.  Payday was another story.  In those days we had three classes of soldiers, National Guard (on active duty for training), Draftees and Regular Army (enlisted in the Army to avoid being drafted).  Everybody was paid in cash.  Each of us had to go up to the Pay Master,  salute,  sign the register and get our money; what little there was ($72.00 a month).  The difference was how you got your money.  If you were Regular Army, you approached the pay table, saluted the Pay Master and received your pay.  If you were Draftee or National Guard, you could not face the Pay Master and salute; rather you backed up to the pay table with your hand out behind you and the Pay Master put your money in your hand.
In 1960,  during basic training, I tasted coffee for the first time.  It was February,  at Ft. Dix, NJ,  and it was cold and windy.  We were on an all night  march and maneuver.  Being very cold, we welcomed anything hot.  One of the sergeants came around and told us they were making Field Coffee at the mess area.  Off we went and I saw the cooks making Field Coffee for the first time.  They took a round 15 gallon pot with 12 gallons of water, put it on a fire and got the water boiling.   Once the water was boiling they poured 2 number 10 cans of coffee into the water and let it boil a little longer.  Then they pulled the big pot off the fire, set it on the ground and poured 3 gallons of cold water on top of the hot water.  The cold water made all the coffee grounds settle on the bottom of the pot.  They then  gave everybody coffee.  I drank some and it was so good that I have been hooked on  coffee ever since (black, no sugar, no cream).
The dining facility (mess Hall) was a trip.  From the moment we walked in for a meal, we had 5 minutes to eat.  If you weren’t finished, you dumped your tray and left anyway.  Typical breakfast consisted of a hard boiled egg, cold, nasty bacon/sausage, oatmeal (with or without lumps) and all that we washed down with a hot cup of Spic-n-Span. Lunch and Dinner were no joy either.
The day we graduated, we had a parade in our company area.  We made it through and we were so proud.  The Drill Sergeants who had been so nasty to us showed that they were indeed human.  They went around shaking our hands and actually smiled.  That day, we knew we were soldiers and MEN!  By the way, I did such a good job during Basic Training that I was promoted to Private First Class (PFC) during our graduation.


After completing basic training at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, I was given 30 days  leave before I had to report to Ft. Devens,  MA.  I went home, visited with my family, got my TR3 and headed for ft. Devens.  I reported in at my next assignment at Ft. Devens 3 weeks early.  I reported in early because I knew we would get 30 more days leave after advance training.  I knew I received  30 days leave a year and if I took both leaves I would be two years in the hole and was just starting out.    Reporting in early was unheard of.  Not knowing what to do with me, the “powers that be” put me on KP.  KP stands for Kitchen Police.  You do everything from cleaning grease traps to peeling potatoes to cleaning large kettles, etc.. After spending three days on KP, including my birthday, I decided that I had had enough.  I went out and found a shiny helmet, a pistol belt, a clipboard and a pen.  I put on starched fatigues along with the items mentioned above so I looked like I belonged with the permanent party folks.  For the next three weeks I walked around the area and in and out of barracks and other buildings making notes on  my clipboard.AR000302  ME_A1960I even went to the mess hall to have coffee with the NCO’s.  Since I was dressed like they were, I was never challenged as to what I was doing.  If someone did ask, I simply told them that I was on a special mission for the commander and that I couldn’t talk about it.  Like I said, if you look like you know what you’re doing, nobody will bother you.  This helped to save my ass throughout my Army career.  When it came time to go to ASA School, I got rid of my shiny helmet, pistol belt and stood in formation with everyone else.  Some of the cadre walked by, saw me in formation, did a double-take, but didn’t say anything.  Others walked by and broke out laughing.  When nothing was said about my role-playing the first day, I knew I had gotten away with it.
At Ft. Devens, I attended Army Security Agency (ASA) training to be a Morse Intercept Operator.  I was supposed to sit for hours on end listening to morse code, translating it into English and passing it along to the Traffic Analysts to do their magic.  I also started dating a local girl and was hardly ever in the barracks at night.  I also learned another quirk.  If you order a Milk Shake, that’s exactly what you’ll get;  flavored milk, shook up.  To get a Milk Shake as the rest of this country knows it, you have to order a Frappe.  Now you get the flavored milk, and Ice Cream.


After my ASA training, I was shipped off to Ft. Richardson, Alaska.  Beautiful country and still wild.  In those days I was into sports cars. Back home I had a Triumph TR3 (Left Picture).  AR000302AIn “The Last Frontier” I drove a Austin Healy Sprite (Right Picture).  Small, but a barrel of fun.  AR000602After getting settled in, I purchased my Austin Healey Sprite (Otherwise known as the “Bug-Eyed Sprite”) and joined the Alaska Sports Car Club.  Now this club was an action club.  They didn’t sit around having a monthly meeting and getting nothing done.  We rallied during the Summer and raced on frozen lakes during the Winter.  Most Summer activities consisted of racing on abandoned World War II airport runways and rallies.  Long rallies would start in Anchorage, Alaska, and end 750 miles away in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.  The sports car club in Whitehorse was very friendly and all our single guys were always ready to go to Whitehorse.  The women there were among the most beautiful I have ever seen, then and now and extremely friendly.  They were a mixture of Indian, French and English.  We had some wild parties up there.  Short rallies usually went to Fairbanks or smaller towns around Alaska.
In the meantime I decided that I was tired of working in an underground bunker listening to Morse code from the Russians,  so I requested, and was granted, release from ASA.  ASA was one of the few units you could request release and it was normally granted.  I was reassigned to the Alaska Aviation Battalion as the Colonel’s driver.  Easy job and to make things  easier, I started dating the Colonel’s daughter.
Back in my early days in the Army, there were men that were called Professional Privates.  Two stand out in my mind.  One was thje Mail Clerk for the Aviation Battalion and the other was a cook in the Mess Hall.  Both had been in the Army for about 18 years.  One was a SP4 and the other was a PFC.  They had no desire to be a Sergeant, supervisor or boss.  They was good soldiers, happy doing what they did.  In those days, the Army allowed this, hence the name Professional Privates.  Today, it’s up or out.  You either make rank in a certain time, or you’re put out of the Army.  I’ve always thought this policy was wrong.  Some folks are happy not being a boss.  The Army did away with the Professional Private, and that’s a shame. 
I used to catch rides on military aircraft at various times to go to places I hadn’t been before.  One day, I caught a ride on a plane going up North to deliver mail.  To get through the mountains surrounding Anchorage you had to fly up a pass.  About half way in the pilot told me we were going to turn back.  I asked what the problem was.  He explained to me that the plane had a top speed of 90 miles per hour (mph) and we had a head wind of 100 mph: so we were flying backward at 10 mph.  He banked the plane around and we literally shot back down the pass.  I came real close to peeing my pants.  Needless to say, from then on I always asked what the weather conditions were before getting on another plane.
At that time, everything in the Army ran on gas.  The tracked vehicles, trucks, jeeps, even the stoves *(Yukon Stoves) that heated our tents  ran on gas.  On maneuvers we lived in tents.  When a tent would catch fire you barely had time to get out before it burned to the ground.  Everyone was schooled on what affect ice fog, cold and wind had on vehicles.  Ice fog is ice crystals that hang in the air.  Sometimes the fog gets so thick you can’t see the tent next to yours.  Good way to get lost, if you’re not careful.  The vehicles were never shut off.  If you did, 15 minutes later it was frozen solid. Forty and fifty degrees below zero does strange things to humans and equipment.
 Everyone in the Alaska Command was warned against sleeping the vehicles, especially personnel carriers.  As with any large group you have a smart ass or two who insisted on sleeping in vehicles.  Most of the time death was the result of sleeping with a gasoline heater.
Taking care of aircraft was a different matter.  When a plane came in at the end of the day, while the engine was being shut down the maintenance crew would drain out half of the oil into a metal bucket and take it into the maintenance tent so it wouldn’t freeze.  Starting the plane in the morning was something else.  The maintenance people would take a Herman Nelson heater out to the plane and place the large tubes into the engine compartment and into the cockpit.  Meanwhile, the oil that had been drained out the night before was cooking on a Yukon stove in the maintenance tent.  At the right time one part of the ground crew would begin starting the engine while two of the crew would run out with the hot oil and pour it into the engine.  Most of the time, the engine started.  Otter 2On the rare occasion when it could not be started, the wings were removed and a crane loaded the plane and wings onto a railroad flat car and the railroad took it back to Ft. Richardson to thaw out in a hangar.   Aviation in Alaska in the Winter is a trip.
Each Winter a unit from the states would come up and “fight” against us.  One year the 82d Airborne came up, bragging how they were going to kick our ass.  One of the National Guard units we had was called the “Eskimo Scouts”.  These young men were the finest snow fighters I have ever seen.  As I said earlier, if you look like you know what you’re doing,  nobody will bother you.  The Eskimo Scouts snuck into the 82d Airborne camp area and stole all their gas tankers.  The convoy of gas tankers drove right out the front gate without anyone trying to stop them.  Without gasoline to run vehicles and heaters, the 82d Airborne got mighty cold at 40 degrees below zero.  The next day, the maneuvers were called off.  Guess who got their ass kicked…..
 Speaking of gas tankers, I drove a 5-ton tractor and pulled a 8,000 gallon trailer when my Colonel was out of town.  I didn’t have to drive a tanker, but it was the only way for peace and quiet and to be alone.  There were time swhen I was in a “be alone” mood and driving that big rig was a great way to be alone.  I would haul aviation gas to various storage facilities around Alaska.  Many times we drove in convoy of 2, 3, or 4 trucks.  In those days I was a smart ass and would try most anything.  When the trailer was empty, we would climb up on the top of the trailer, open a hatch, stick our head in and take a deep breath and promptly fall off the truck, stoned from gas fumes.  Our heads spun around for about 20 minutes.  We didn’t do it often, but when we did, it was really kool.  
During the Summer, I coached a Little League team.  The kids weren’t the best players in Alaska but they made up for it in spirit.  My assistant coaches and I came up with a plan to win ball games:  we taught the kids how to steal bases. Alaska 7 1960 Little League Unlike normal baseball, in Little League, you could not begin your steal until the pitched ball went past the batter.  We reasoned  that if you could get  the children throwing the ball around, some of them would miss the ball and it would go rolling into the outfield, in which case  the other team would have to give chase.  While the other team was chasingAlaska 6 1960, we were scoring runs.  We won the Alaska State championship.   We then went in to Canada to play some of their teams and promptly got our butts kicked.  They played real baseball while we were out there having fun.
During the long Winter was when the real fun began.  First of all, we never put our tops up, no matter how cold it was.  We thought we were cool (frozen).  The club had a used dump truck with a large V snow plow mounted in front.  The folks that ran the club would find a frozen lake, check the thickness of the ice and use the truck and plow out a race course.  It was normally longer that a mile and shorter than two miles.  The next morning, they would check the thickness again and, if OK, we were cleared to race.
Some of the members went to extremes to make their tires stick to the ice.  They would get a tire two or three sizes larger than what their car normally carried, screw stove bolts through them, remount them over their regular tires.  Not real effective, except to bounce the hell out of you going around the track.  Some would remove their tires and soak them in Clorox.  Supposedly Clorox would make rubber stick to ice.  Another “old wives tale”.  Like the stove bolts, Clorox didn’t work either.
I have raced on dirt, pavement and ice.  The most bang for your buck is ice.  What a thrill to be going 60 or 70 miles per hour on ice and trying to maker a turn.  If you break loose, you think you’ll never stop spinning.  Either you stop spinning on your own or you wind up in a snow bank covered with snow.  Win, loose or draw, you couldn’t help but laugh.  What fun it was…
I also tried out and was selected to be member of the US Army, Alaska, Rifle team.  I enjoyed this because I love burning up ammo. Alaska 4 1960 We went all over Alaska and Western Canada competing.  We went to Canadian Army posts across western Canada.  I saw towns and Canadian military posts that  most travelers and tourists never get to see.  Everywhere we went, the people were extremely courteous and friendly.  We were not the North American champions but, we held our own and had fun doing it.
When it was time for me to leave Alaska, I cleared post and was waiting around the company area for my port call to board the homeward bound airplane.  On the second day, the First Sergeant came up to me with a big smile.  He told me that because of the Cuba missle crisis I was not going back to the USA and I had been extended in Alaska for six more months.  I was disappointed to say the least.  I did finally get back to the States at the end of the six months.  I was reassigned to Ft. Lewis, Washington and because I only has three months left on my enlistment, they discharged me.


After trying civilian life for a while, I decided to go back in the Army.  Why?  I’m not really sure why.  I did miss the discipline and being a soldier.  I also liked being sent all over the world and learning about other countries and their people, something I could never afford to do on my own.  They sent me to Ft. Huachuka, Arizona to retake advanced training.  When I finished training they assigned me to Korea.


Korea is a land of contrasts.  In the Summer it is one of the most beautiful places on Earth with all the lovely shades of green, especially the rice fields on the hills and mountains.  In the Winter it is one of the bleakest places on Earth.  All the greens have changed to dingy brown.  I was assigned to KMAG (Korean Military Advisory Group) in the Personnel shop.  The work was easy so I had plenty of time on my hands to explore that strange, exciting country.  Korea 1One of the first things I noticed was that the woman of the house walked behind her husband.  There was a old saying that the only time a woman gets to walk ahead of her husband is during war: checking for land mines…  The country has changed dramatically since my first assignment in 1966.  There were parts of Seoul where young, single soldiers went for fun.  Naturally, me, being young and single, went there to have fun.  When we weren’t in “the ville” (downtown Seoul) we went to our enlisted club (The KMAG Club) to drink beer, gossip and play the slot machines.  Slot machines were legal in those days, then some do-gooder convinced the services to remove them so as not to corrupt our young men.
Well, pretty soon I was reassigned to KMAG Detachment East, way up on the east coast about 2 miles from North Korea.  We were 18 soldiers, commanded by a full colonel, advisors  to the 3rd Korean Army Corps.  We were 4 hours by road to the closest American installation.  There’s an old Army expression that “The further away from the the flag pole, the bMe in Korea, age 19etter off you are”.  That expression is so true.  In the evening our girlfriends would come to us in the KMAG BUS (A duce and a half with wooden signs on the front and rear saying KMAG BUS.  The young ladiesKorea2 would ride the KMAG BUS back to their village the next morning.  What happened during the night I will leave to your imagination.  The KMAG Bus had to go through three Korean Army checkpoints from the village to our place.  Most of the time the truck came down the road without a problem.  One night, a checkpoint guard attempted to stop the truck for a unknown reason.  The driver, knowing the KMAG Bus was not supposed to be stopped, ran the checkpoint.  The brand new guard emptied his rifle in to the rear of the truck.   All the girls and the driver peed their pants.   Why he did it, nobody knows.  Thank God no body was hit.  Later. we received word that we would not be seeing the guard again.
We had our NCO club with a manager and one waitress.  The manager also doubled as the cook.    He stocked only what we drank.  At that time I drank Schlitz Malt Liquor in  the little silver cans.  Since there were so few of us everyone had their own  stash.   Whenever we had a cookout for a holiday, old SFC Strawberry did the cooking and the Mess Sergeant assisted.  SFC Strawberry drank a fifth of Old Gran Dad every day, but he could whip up BBQ like you have never tasted before.
The KMAG bus was driven by Korean soldiers.  One night they decided to steal some gas out of the truck.  Not being too smart, they tried to check the amount of gas in the tank with a lit newspaper.  Needless to say the truck burnt to the ground with these fools stood there watching it burn.  The Korean Army got them and we never did find out what happened to him.  Probably a good thing.  There has never been a place like Det East.
My one year tour in Korea was over and I was reassigned to Ft. Knox, Ky.


When I arrived at Ft. Knox Replacement Center they sat there scratching their heads.  When my orders were issued, I was a Specialist 5 (E5).  In the mean time I had been promoted to Staff Sergeant (E6).  There were no positions for me in the Headquarters, so they assigned me to the Senior NCO Promotion Office.  As soon as I arrived for duty I noticed a huge acetate covered board on  the wall with every NCO on post and his/her promotion information.  This monster filled up a whole wall of the office with two clerks running up and down ladders making updates.  I worked for a old-time Master Sergeant who was going to retire in a few months and did not want anybody make waves (suggest something new).  I looked around the offices and found an 026 Key Punch Machine that was not being used.  I then went to Automation Support, talked to the Sergeant in charge about running off cards into rosters for us.  He said he would be glad to.  I went back up to our work place, feeling pretty proud of what I had accomplished and all the work it would save, especially the two kids going up and down the ladders.  I talked to the old time Master Sergeant about what I had accomplished and inquired as to when he wanted to begin.  As I explained things to him I noticed a glassy look come over his face.  He told me that he would let me know tomorrow morning.
The next morning I went to work thinking of where to put the key punch machine, when we could have rosters and get rid of the monster board and ladders.  When I walked in the office, I was handed a set of orders transferring me out of the Promotion Department to the Separation and Transfer Point on the other side of the post.  I was floored.  I couldn’t talk to the old sergeant because he conveniently took the day off.  So, with my tail between my legs, I reported to my new duty station.  I learned another important lesson:  plan your changes carefully and know who you will be dealing with.  The old time Master Sergeant did not want to come into the modern age, so I was moved.  The old fart didn’t know it, but he did me a favor.


It wasn’t a large place; located in a World War II building.  All personnel that were being moved around post or going to leave Ft. Knox had to clear through us.  When I got there I found out that I was the NCOIC (Noncommissioned Officer In Charge) because I outranked everyone there.  I didn’t have a hard job, just calming tempers when  customers didn’t agree with my clerks as to what paperwork was or was not needed.  Behind the building were two old concrete coal bins left over from the coal days.  My boss was a first lieutenant with a great sense of humor.  He drove a VW Beetle and parked it behind the building where the coal bins were.  On two occasions, when the lieutenant wasn’t looking, my clerks snuck out,  picked up the VW and placed it in the coal bin crosswise.  It fit so he couldn’t drive it out.  At the end of the day, the clerks would get it out of the coal bin so he could go home.  Everyone, including the lieutenant, had a good laugh.  He finally started parking out front in the parking slots.


After a while I received TDY (Temporary Duty) orders to attend the First Army NCO Academy.  I didn’t mind because it was located at Ft. Knox and I knew I needed to get this training or I would never make Sergeant First Class (SFC).  The courses were classroom work along with field training and physical training (PT).  Everything went smooth until near the end of the cycle.  In a PT test you have certain tasks to accomplish, the more do and the faster you do it gives you more points.  To pass the PT test you needed so many points.  Well, me and this other smart ass name “DOC had enough points to pass the test without passing the last event: the run.  So, when the run came up, we walked rather than run.  The place erupted with the cadre screaming at us and telling us we were not going to graduate.  When the events were over, we were called in to the Captain’s office for more ass chewing.  When the Captain was through screaming, I asked him what the policy was on passing the PT test.  He said we had to pass the test in order to graduate.  I told him that we DID pass the test because we had enough points to pass without the run.  He checked our paperwork and agreed that we did indeed have enough points to pass.  He then told DOC and I to get the hell out of his office.  Well, we did graduate and I found out later that the NCO Academy changed the rules so you had to pass each leg of the PT test,  no matter how many points you had.
A few months later I received orders to Germany.  I was excited because I had heard so many good things about the country, especially the food.


I wound up taking the big airplane to Frankfurt, Germany.  The Frankfurt airport is different than most in that both civilian and military aircraft share the runways.  I processed in and was bussed to Heidelberg for assignment.  I finally wound up as a Shift Supervisor in the CINC US Army, Europe’s headquarters in his Message Center.
I was on the job two days before I understood the German telephone system.  Every time I picked up  phone to call out, all I got was what I thought was a busy signal.  Finally I asked why the phone was always busy.  My crew informed me that’s the dial tone in Germany.  Now I knew why the GI’s called the phone system “Hitler’s Revenge”.  Very appropriate.
Now, each of the staff sections was run by a General Officer.  These Generals were the biggest bunch of cry babies I have ever seen.   The other Shift Supervisors and myself were responsible for routing incoming messages to the appropriate staff section (G1, G2, etc.  We routed messages according to what the content was.  Sometimes we routed messages to more than one staff section depending what was in it.  These general officers looked for any excuse to raise hell as to why didn’t they get a message or why did they get it because it didn’t have anything to do with them.  After a while we learned to ignore the daily ass chewing and went about our business.  I finally got my wish.  At this time I was assigned to a Signal Company even though my primary MOS was admin and not signal.  We were responsible for all communications in Heidelberg.  One day the First Sergeant called me into the Orderly Room and told me that because of my admin background he wanted me to be his Field First Sergeant.  The Field First Sergeant, shortened to Field First, was the First Sergeant’s assistant.  I did whatever he didn’t want to do.  It wasn’t a bad job and it had it’s rewards.  I lived off post in a two bedroom apartment with another Staff Sergeant named Rossmiller. I do not remember his first name.  In the Army your first name was your rank.  Now Ross worked in the “Frame” Room.  Every telephone line on post ran through this central point.
I came back from lunch one day and found the First Sergeant in orbit.  We had small repair trucks to perform service calls the different offices around Heidelberg.  Since parking was at a premium, our little service trucks started parking on the grass.  Now, whenever an MP saw one of these little trucks parked on the grass, a ticket was issued..  The ticket meant that the driver had to appear in front of a military judge and get his ass chewed and, maybe loose a little money.  I had talked to the MP Company Field First to no avail.  Finally the First Sergeant called and tried to talk to the MP First Sergeant.  He was told that the MP First Sergeant didn’t have time to talk to him.  That did it.  My first Sergeant told me to get the Frame Room on the phone.  It just happened that SSG Rossmiller was in the Frame Room that day.  My First Sergeant took the phone and told SSG Rossmiller to pull the MP’s phones, every damned on of them.  I thought we were all going to get arrested.  Didn’t happen.  The MP First Sergeant kept trying to get our First Sergeant on the phone.  Our answer was that our First Sergeant didn’t have time to talk to him.  Finally,  the MP First Sergeant came to our Orderly Room. and both of them retired to the conference room to hash things out.  About 45 minutes later they emerged, arm in arm with the agreement.  Our service vehicles were to get special stickers for their windshields and would not be ticketed, plus the MP’s get their phones back.  About a month later, we had a problem with a Major over at Finance.  The First Sergeant did it again and a little while later the problem was resolved.  Finance got their phones back.  The whole area soon learned not to mess with us, if they wanted to keep their phones turned on. You can’t make this stuff up.
Ross and I used to tend bar for Colonels and Generals private parties on the weekends.  We had the time and the money was good.  One thing you need to know about the Army is that the younger officers and their wives were always trying to be noticed by the Colonels and Generals.  They thought it might help them get promoted faster:  it didn’t.  There are always people that think they’re better than others.  We could spot them by the way they walked, carried their drinks, hand gestures, etc.  Ross and I learned to pick these people out.  We would then decide on one young man and one young lady (not necessarily married to each other) to get the treatment.  During the early part of the evening, we would give doubles and sometimes triples for refills to the designated couple.  So, by midway through the party, everyone was feeling good and these two were making complete asses out of themselves.  After a few parties the General or Colonel hosting the party would come by the bar and ask who the victims were for tonight.  We would point them out.  He would smile and go walking off to watch the fun.
I had been in Germany for about a year and, all of a sudden, I received orders back to Korea.  Thinking the Army had made a mistake, I went to my local personnel shop and talked to the Management Chief Warrant Officer.  He explained that after I left Korea the Army was going through the big build-up for Vietnam.  Most NCO’s in the military advisory groups were given orders for leave in CONUS with the final destination of Vietnam.  To refill the MAGs the Army gave orders for anyone with MAG experience who was not in Vietnam:  me.  I really liked Germany, especially the food, and was sad to have to leave.


Arriving in Korea was like old home week.  I saw many of guys I had been with  the first time.  Most of us with more stripes on our arms which meant a more responsible duty assignment.  This time they sent me to the seaport of Pusan, in the southern tip of South Korea.  The port of Pusan is where all the military assistance cargo for the Korean Army arrived at.  Big beautiful ships with outstanding food on board. KMAG made me the NCOIC of the pier and all the cargo checkers/inspectors, about 30 GI’s plus the typists.  When the ships came in, they would invite me and my chief cargo inspectors on board for lunch.  They also invited the night crew on for Dinner.  Nice folks, great food.  The Merchant Marine has beautiful accommodations on their ships and the ships are huge.  The crew always gave is a tour.  More than once I wished I had joined the Merchant Marine instead of the Army.
Our offices were in Quonset huts which the Koreans called “can houses” because the huts looked like a half a can on the ground.  Outside of the main hut was a railroad track which was about three feet from the back door.  In those days they ran steam engines.  If we left the back door open the Korean engineers would slowly come by and fill the hut with steam by blowing it in from the front of the engine.  Scared the hell out of everybody.
Myself and three other GI’s landed a job in a Korean-owned casino.  This was popular with the Japanese, who came over every night in small ships because Pusan is only 90 miles from Sasebo, Japan.   There had to be Americans working there for them to open the doors for gambling.  It was less expensive to use local military than to import people from the States.  Myself and one other GI dealt Blackjack while the other two were given chips and would play roulette, craps, etc.  We could have all the food and soft drinks we wanted during the evening.  It was a sweet job and we all enjoyed it.
As my tour in Korea wound down, I received orders to Ft. Dix (NOT AGAIN).  If they were going to give the world an enema, Ft. Fix is where the tube would go in. I couldn’t wiggle out of the orders so, off to Ft. Dix I went.


One of the first things I did back at Ft. Dix was to try to find the area I took Basic Training in.  Never did find it.  That whole basic training establishment had been torn down to make way for new permanent buildings.  One building I would have liked to help tear down was the old Mess Hall….
I was assigned as a instructor in an offshoot of the AG School.  They put me in a classroom to teach typing.  I couldn’t even type !  I learned that you do not have to know how to do something to instruct others how to do it.  In my first class I had a class clown.  This young man was doing everything he could to disrupt the class.  Finally I had enough.  I threw a eraser and hit him on the side of his head.  Now this black student really looked funny with chalk dust all over him.  The rest of the class was going wild with laughter and at the same time I ordered the smart-ass out of the class and to report to the School Sergeant Major.  Later, I was told to see the Sergeant Major after school.  The Sergeant Major proceeded to chew my ass, telling me what a bad instructor I was and he was going to put the class clown back in my class.  I told him that if he did, I would loose all control of my class and I would lodge a written complaint with the Ft. Dix Inspector General.  He proceeded to tell me that the Army had guaranteed this kid would be a clerk.  I told him the Army had offered the kid the opportunity to go to school and if he failed he would be assigned to whatever the Army had a need for at that time, probably the infantry.  Well, we agreed to disagree and the kid did not come back into my class room.  I was sure I hadn’t seen or heard the last of the Sergeant Major.
I didn’t have to wait too long.  Three weeks later here came the Sergeant Major with a big smile on his ugly face carrying TDY (Temporary Duty) orders sending me to Camp Drum (now Fort Drum) for the Summer in support of the Reserve Summer training.   That was fine with me as I didn’t like being around him and I’m sure he was glad to be rid of me.  So, I packed up my car and headed for Watertown, New York and Camp Drum.


I arrived at Camp Drum at the end of March.  I was really surprised to see snow all over the place.  I thought the snow would have been gone as it was at Ft. Dix but no, it was still up to the second story of the old World War II buildings.  If I didn’t know better I would have thought I was back in Alaska.  The roads were clear so I drove around to get the lay of the land.  The two-story wooden World War II buildings ran down the left side of the main road for about a mile.  Behind these buildings were motor pools filled with tanks.  I have never seen to many tanks in one place before or since.  Stationed at Camp  Drum is a caretaker force of civilian workers whose job it was to thaw out the sea of armor and get them in shape for the summer.  National Guard and Reserve Component units would start arriving at the end of April for their two weeks of annual training.  Camp Drum went from a ghost town to overcrowded in less than a week.  It was so bad that at the height of Summer training that incoming units had to wait until the departing units had cleared out of the barracks before they could go in. 
On the way back up the road toward the main gate, I saw a sign sitting in the street that said “ACTIVE DUTY REPORT HERE”.  I walked in to a large office space where a young “buck” sergeant and a First Lieutenant were waiting.  After looking at my orders the Lieutenant gave me a card with his phone number on it and told me if I needed supplies to call him and that this place was mine.  They left.  There I was a lonely Staff Sergeant standing in the middle of this large office space with no idea what I was supposed to do.  I walked  around and found an old SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) from last year.  Now I could understand what the mission was and what role I played in it.  We were a Provisional (temporary) Battalion  Headquarters responsible for all TDY active duty troops there for the summer and overall responsibility for the reserve and National Guard forces there for training.  I found the mess hall, had some lunch and returned to the Orderly Room.  When I walked in my Commanding Officer was there.  We sat down, went over the SOP and he gave me his philosophy of how he wanted the work to flow.  I was to be in charge of the fifteen clerks to handle all the paperwork and whatever else was needed.  If I had any problems, I was to come directly to the Sergeant Major and then to him.  The Sergeant Major came in the next morning and I knew after talking with him that I would never have to take any problems to the Major.   The Sergeant Major’s home was near Watertown and he was on his last assignment and would retire at the end of the Summer.  His previous assignment:  Sergeant Major of the US Army Ranger School.  This man was ready for anything; short and built like a fire plug.  He was up early each day and ran 7 miles before breakfast.  Any soldier that was sent to him for discipline left his office with teeth marks in his ass.
Camp Drum was unique in that the land it was on is state land.  So, it wasn’t a federal reservation rather a New York State Reservation with the State Police having complete run of the installation.  When the State Police wanted someone they would check in with us and we would help them find the person.  Many a young soldier found that out after getting into trouble in Watertown and running to Camp Drum, thinking they were safe  from civilian law enforcement and would be dealt with by the Military.   They were sure surprised when the State Police came in and took them out.  Now,  the Army could not punish the soldier for what he did downtown because of double jeopardy but, the soldier was punished for being AWOL for the time he spend in civilian custody.
I took a job as a bartender at the Camp Drum NCO Club to pass time in the evenings.   A pretty mundane job except for what happened one night at closing.  Earlier in the evening three New York National Guard members came in, sat down at the bar, and proceeded to get bombed.  One of the three was a huge man that I didn’t think could fit in a tank.  Now it’s been my experience in life that there are three kinds of drunks.  The first drunk wants to whip somebody’s ass.  The second drunk becomes everyone’s friend.  The third drunk just wants to go to sleep.  The huge man I had at the bar put his head down and went to sleep.  Closing time and I’m trying to figure out how to get the big guy out of the club.  I took a handful of ice and put it on the back of his neck.  Nothing.  His pal told me to find him a glass with some whiskey in it.  I did.  His pal lifted the big man’s head and put the glass of whiskey under his nose.  The guy slowly got up from the bar and headed for the door with the whiskey glass under his nose.  I had never seen anything like it before or since.  You just can’t make this shit up.
Near the end of my Summer adventure, I took a couple days leave and headed to Washington, DC to visit a Sergeant Major friend of mine.  At that time he was the Sergeant Major of the Military District of Washington.  I told him that I wanted to go back overseas as I could not save any money in the USA.  He said he new just the person to help.  The next morning we went to the Pentagon.  After wandering through the maze of hallways, we arrived at this friend’s office.  He told her my story and she asked me if I would like to go to Japan.  I told her I would love to.  She told me to expect order in two to three weeks.  I thanked her and the Sergeant Major and I headed back to Camp Drum secure in the knowledge that I would not have to endure the school Sergeant Major for long once I got back to Ft. Dix.   I arrived back at Fr. Dix and the orders to Japan were already there.  I was a very “happy camper”.  Two weeks later I was on my way to Camp Zama, Japan.
If you want to read more, please go to PART 2.













Posted March 4, 2014 by Max Nathanson in Uncategorized

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