OVER THERE memories from my military service including thirty nine months of a four year enlistment in the Occupation Forces of Germany.

                           BASIC TRAINING 1st ID

I went to basic training at Lackland in March of 1951. There were so many of us draft dodgers that they had no room for us in the barracks. They built a separate bathhouse for a whole lot of tents and we were billeted in 15 man tents. We were there two weeks before they could issue us uniforms. Sleet and snow were the order of the day and night. Everyone else made PFC leaving basic, I left as a private. The 6’6” DI and I just couldn’t see eye to eye. I went through A & E at Curtis Robin, which became Cal Aero while I was there. Learned the trade working BT 15s, B-17, P 40 and P 51 with the cage canopy instead of the bubble. We also had a ME 262? (the German twin jet) but we were not allowed to touch it. I graduated in the top 2% of the class (I have to brag somewhere) and was flown out to Chanute (two day flight from Glendale via Flagstaff and an overnight in St. Louis). Graduated 4360 schools at Chanute using test cells and B 50 Bombers.  We all got our A/2C stripes at the end of this class. 
I was sure I was going to SAC but ended up leaving New York on Dec. 9 1951 aboard the USS General Bunter, a twin screwed troop ship. As we loaded onto the ship the Air Force band played "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now".  We had 5,500 troops in the back 1/3rd of the ship and 450 dependents had the other 2/3rds along with the navy. I volunteered for watch duty, as it was 4 hours on and 4 hours off for the total trip. You didn’t have to sleep 2nd level in a 4 level stack of cots with a bunch of sick troops. On watch under the close surveillance of a Marine Sgt. We soon discovered that we were there to protect the poor troops from being ravished by oversexed dependents. The rough seas of the North Atlantic in December, seems to make some females hotter than the best dinner, wine and dancing. We landed in Bremehaven on Dec 18th.  That afternoon we were loaded on a passenger train in 6 man roomettes with wooden benchs facing three men to three men  for an over night trip to Sonthofen.  Sonthofen was originally a Gestapo base which had been taken over by the U. S. army for their Military Police unit.  We had the smallest two men crawl up into the luggage rack to sleep, two more slept one on each seat, and garnered some newspapers to put on the floor where the last two men slept on each side of out duffle bags.
I got to Rhein Main just before Christmas and since I didn’t have enough time in the unit I had no pass. I stood Line CQ for an Airman named Crumb on Christmas Eve. He did not have an overnight pass so when he came back he brought me one of those half liter bottles of Cognac. I was afraid to drink it on duty so I had it on Christmas Morning.  The next day I went to work in the first dock on the R2800s of the C-82. I have no idea how it happened but very shortly they made me an engine inspector and gave me a desk among all of the M/Sgt. inspectors. Boy did I take a razing over that. I believe the line Sgt at that time was M/Sgt. Blount. I can’t remember the Maintenance officers name but though he looked nice he was a real tight ass. 
M/Sgt. Blount had the permanent rank of M/Sgt. A little later he was called to the Squadronn. Commander’s office and when he came back a couple of days later he was wearing a Lt. Colonel’s oak leaves and came to say goodbye. They had re-commissioned him to the last rank he had held in WWII. Then they transferred him to another outfit, which was the practice when a promotion of that grade happened. The maintenance officer had a really different approach to Blount on that last day, much more respectful. ‘Twas fun to watch.  Before the 119s showed up we went on a mission to Toul-Rosier Air Base, France on a C-82. The runway there was PSP as were the taxiways. The PX was a semi van, the housing was 15 man tents and the weather was mud.  I learned there and at our maneuvers in the French Occupied Zone that there is one thing you will never be able to do unless you are French, and that is to “out sneer” a Frenchman.

I don’t know if the specifications for the 119s or Fairchild had screwed up but we got them with standard fuel cells meaning they would light up like a roman candle if hit with tracers.So I ended up on a crew that replaced all of the fuel cells, left and right inboard and outboard, on all of the 119s we had just received. We drained them as well as we could, opened the inspection plates, crawled through them into puddles of 115/145 aviation fuel to reach the far upper corner bolts, unfastened all of the bolts, then came the hard part – collapsing the damned things small enough to get them out of the inspection plate hole. The new ones came bundled small enough to get them through the hole but you better have them facing the right direction because if you didn’t then you had to rotate them after they were expanded. We had one of the first troops to get in the cell pass out and we had to drag him out. I then took an oxygen mask, hooked about two lengths of hose to it and let it trail out the inspection hole so one could breathe un-gassed air. I usually just held my breath long enough to do each bolt and then would drop out of the tank for a breather before going back in.

There was a 119 went down in the Alps that was reported to have run out of gas. I still think they had plenty of gas on board; they had just screwed up using the fuel transfer valves. I think the group lost a plane for various reasons every January for at least three years running. I can’t remember if it was an 82 or a 119 that got flipped over (became inverted)  on a trip to Belgium. The pilot managed to roll it back to right side up but all of the loading ramps had broken loose from their tie downs and wrecked havoc in the bay. Then one time on one of the aircraft (I think it was a 119) a hotshot pilot got into a dog fight with a B26 flying over Belgium and turned inside of the 26 which bent a wing spar and we had to send it to depot for repair.

At the end of my tour I was a crew chief on a 119. I can’t remember if it was #130 or not but that sticks in my mind. They had put the crew’s names in little name holders on the front door. Ours read, Ledbetter, Quakenbush, and Huetson. Should have been either a firm of lawyers or accountants. There are hundreds of stories lurking in these damaged brain cells. The absolute worst chore with a morning hangover was helping the engineer tie down either aircraft tires or earthmoving tires. It would take at least twenty well-timed pulls on the oxygen to get through it.

Some of the missions that the 12th TCS took part in were: In 1952 we evacuated the British from Egypt when the July 23 uprising of the Society of Free Officers overthrew King Farouk and named Maj. Gen Mohammed Naguib commander in chief. That was a C82 mission. It was fairly hazardous for the flight crews.

There were regular flights down the Berlin Corridor with both the C82s and the C119s as we were a major link for some types of supplies, even after the airlift.

In 1954 we brought the French Foreign Legion troops from Africa to Orly Field in Paris along with weapons and other gear. The material was reloaded on to the C124s at Orly and flown to Vietnam. I think this was about the time of Dien Bien Phu.

I believe it was in 1954 that the group flew disaster relief into East Pakistan following severe flooding. As I remember all but one of the planes were stocked with medical supplies, tents, food, and water furnished by the German Salvation Army. The other plane had a coffee wagon provided by the Red Cross to make coffee and snacks available to the rescue workers.

There was a regular route that the 119s flew weekly. I am not sure that my memory is totally correct but it involved something like a crew flew from Rhein Main to Marseille and over-nighted there. The crew there took the aircraft on to Sidi Slemaine in North Africa and over-nighted there. The crew there took the aircraft to Athens Greece and over-nighted there. The crew there flew to Rome and over-nighted there while the crew in Rome brought the aircraft home. I may have the SOPS wrong but in general that was what they did. It was not popular with the flight crews because it meant flying other aircraft than their own.

One last tale and then you will have to pull the rest out one at a time as you remind me with your tales of adventure. When the last engineering officer that I remember rotated back to the states the line was missing a three-wheel trailer. It was Capt. Keith Johnson (I believe the same one that piloted #259 through the head on) and they were threatening to charge him with $1700 for that missing trailer (maybe only $1200 but I know it was over a thousand). I can’t remember who I got together with but I was hanging with Joe Vernon and Gabe around then. Anyway we decided that we would go around to all of the maintenance sites on the base and find it after dark one night.  We hit every flight line on the base looking for it with the serial number. We couldn’t find it but we did find one from which the serial number plate was missing (or soon would be, I can’t remember which). We drug it back to the squadron by hand (couldn’t risk pulling a tug into another area) and spent the night painting it olive drab (somehow it had faded to yellow) and punching the serial number into the yoke. We were kind of tired the next morning so after roll call we went down to the specialist shack and laid out on the shelves under the workbenches for a nap. Soon Capt. Johnson came to the shack (I have no idea how he knew we were there or how he knew it was us he had to talk to) and told us we needed to paint all of the trailers OD as there was one that had new paint and all of the rest were old beat up paint. We weren’t thinking good thoughts about this captain that we liked so well. He told us when we were done to report to him in the line office. We did and he told us to look in the trunk of my Opel Kapitan Convertible and in the glove compartment. In the trunk was a case of Old Taylor Whisky, recently brought from Greece I am sure, and in the glove compartment was a three day pass for each of us. I think that I had purchased that Kapitan (known as the green latrine) from Busson after creaming my Opel P4 into a tree. But that is another story!!

I would like to introduce you to this couple and their family who were friends of the heart during my tour of duty in the Occupation of Germany, Frederick (Freddy) Grunebaum, his wife Mia and their children Irene and Gunter.  I tell you their story as I can best remember it from my conversations with them.  Freddy was a Jew.  He was arrested and sent to a concentration camp, I believe it was Buchenwald where he was assigned to slave labor.  These men were undernourished and forced to labor producing war materials.  As the prisoners became more and more undernourished it required fewer guards to march them to their assigned work places.  In fact it became the usual thing for one guard to march the group out.  Because of this Freddy was saved from sure death by a group of Hungarian Gypsies.  The Gypsies would pilfer the bodies of prisoners already dead from where the Germans piled them and take them into the woods along the route that the workers were marched back to the camp at the end of the day.  The guard would be leading them back to the camp so the Gypsies would grab one off the end of the line, usually the weakest and take him to safety leaving the previously acquired body by the road.  The prisoners were counted in and out each day.  If one was missing they were probably dead or ready to be killed so the route would be retraced and if they found a body they would not go looking for him.  They had grabbed Freddy off the back saving his life.  Gypsies are travelers and they would come by to visit Freddy when they were in the area.  I and a trusted friend or two were often invited to their camp with Freddy.  They played Gypsy music in local Gasthaus’s along with other business ventures to support themselves.  There was one small Gypsy man who could render a version of Schwartzen Augen (Dark Eyes) on his violin that could make a man tear up.  Of course Military Personnel  were forbidden to go to these camps and we had to wear our uniforms whenever we were off base so our choices were to borrow clothing or stay home.  I’ll let you guess which one we chose.

I became aware that when Freddy was arrested Mia was allowed to remain free with her daughter if she would become the par amore of the arresting officer.  I believe that in order to save her and their daughter they agreed to do that.  I was told that her son was actually the result of that affiliation.

Gunter told me that he had been assigned to an anti aircraft battery at the age of 14.  He said that the British flew through at night low and fast while the Americans came during the day and flew higher than his particular gun could fire.  He had to leave the country and join the French Foreign Legion when he was identified as being involved in the highly lucrative black market.  In 1962 I was a field engineer for ITT on the Atlas Missal sites in Plattsburg New York.  On the flight back to Plattsburg I had to take a bus from New York City to get there.  I spotted Gunter in the bus Station.  He had just purchased a ticket to Miami.  I went up to him, called him by name and said hi.  He told me in his very German accent that I was mistaken, he was not Gunter, then climbed into the bus and left.


Walter Hornig was an unusual German soldier.  When talking to American G.I .s he would readily admit that he had fought in the west.  He fought in the west and he surrendered in the west.  Unfortunately his wife and sons were trapped in the Soviet Zone at the end of the war.  The horrors of living under the conquering Red Army soldiers are too hideous and unforgettable for me, who only heard them described by some of the victims, to express here.  Our aircraft were C119 transports, which had twin booms extending between two engines one at the front of each boom.  The refugees from the east trying to escape the Red hordes were packing the roads fleeing on foot in lines extending sometimes for some 60 kilometers.  They told me how planes that looked like ours would cut their engines so they couldn’t be heard and strafe the whole length killing and wounding whoever was in the line.  they were, of course, not C119s but were P38 fighters.


It was 1952 Russia was making crossing the border between East and West Germany without permission less possible with it becoming more and more dangerous while Walter was arranging to smuggle his family over the border past the checkpoints.  He would never describe how they managed it because of the danger that could create for those who helped and those they might smuggle across in the future.  They made it safely and I celebrated the next four Christmases in their home with them.  The tree was decorated with popcorn strings and candy and nuts and real candles.  I have a one-liter beer mug that he gave to me for a gift at one of those celebrations.  While he awaited the arrival of his family he worked for Freddy as a waiter opening his own Gastatte later in 1953.


To capitulate - is to find reason in the unreasonable.  In 1933 Hitler sounded like a modern neo-conservative.  He advocated “family values,” “moral renewal,” “military greatness,” and “peace through strength”.  Between 1933 and 1938 trade unions were abolished, as well as collective bargaining and the right to strike. The right to quit also disappeared.  The Jews were then designated as enemies of the state and slated for elimination.  Today our government panders to evangelical voters.  The "family values" which they loudly tout simply consist of rampant, self-seeking greed.  Insatiable CEOs rejoice in profits gained at the expense of workers, investors, and consumers.  National leaders fight to abolish unions and their collective bargaining rights. In 1997 Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz along with several others published this statement about military greatness and peace through strength; “We need to increase defense spending significantly; We need to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values; We need to promote political and economic freedom abroad; We need to preserve and extend an international order friendly to our security and our prosperity.”  Leaders and clergy have declared that today’s enemy of the state is militant Islam.  The integration of Muslims into our country must be stopped and Muslims slated for elimination.  The Germans said, “They lied to us” but we held them collectively responsible and forced them to bury the piles of murdered Jews.  Will the world now hold us collectively responsible? Or will it simply wait for us to implode?

According to what I was told by Freddie, at one point Hitler announced that all of the Frankfurt area Jews should come to the Romer Plaz where he would perform an act to exonerate them.  When they gathered in the plaza he came before them on a balcony, raised his right arm, when they  had quieted down he dropped his arm at which time machine guns opened fire from all around.  They figure that 5,000 Jews had gathered there.  Freddie had placed himself by a basement window cell and was spared by jumping into it as the guns opened fire.
We frequently took R and R in Dublin Ireland.  The Nelson Pillar was designed in 1808 by the English architect William Wilkins (1778-1839).  The pillar was topped by Thomas Kirk’s statue of Admiral Nelson.  Some forty metres high it was, at the time, the tallest Doric column in the world. An early work by Wilkins, who was already making a name for himself as a leading Greek Revivalist, it was the greatest monument of Georgian Dublin, with the finest public viewpoint in the city.
In 1966 Nelson Pillar was blown up. The Pillar had long been an unpopular symbol of British rule. The IRA decided to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising against the British with its destruction.

Dublin from the top of Nelson's Pillar
Accident description of the Flyby for General Rose' rotation home.


15 MAY 1953


Fairchild C-119C Flying Boxcar


United States Air Force - USAF



Msn / C/n:



? fatalities / ? on board


? fatalities / ? on board


? fatalities / ? on board

Airplane damage:

Written off




Unknown (UNK)



A flight of F-84s flew through a formation of C-119s during a fly by. One F-84 collided with a C-119 and it caromed off that one and hit another. The F-84 pilot ejected. Three C-119 crew were killed, 3 injured. Both C-119's (51-8235 and 51-8241) were lost.  In the teletype instructions to the F-84 formation they were to overfly the C-119’s approaching from the opposite direction.  A “0” was omitted from the altitude given in the instructions to the Fighters bringing them in at the same altitude.