Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veteran's Day Dad

In January of 1999, I unexpectedly received a packet of letters from an aunt. A brief note inside explained that they had been written by my late father to his family while he was stationed overseas. My grandmother had kept the letters which ultimately survived both his death in 1995 and her own in 1997.  My aunt (my grandmother's executor) wrote me that she thought the letters would interest me, as I had lived in Germany for a while in the early 90’s.

The Army drafted my father in 1951 at age 19, under the Universal Military Training and Service Act, in which all men 19-26 were subject to 24 months service in the US Army. After induction at Ft. Sheridan, Il, and basic training at Ft. Knox KY, and even more specialized training at Fort Campbell KY,  he was sent overseas and stationed in Germany until the end of 1953, serving with the 141st Tank Battalion in the 3rd Armored Division of the US Army. His insignia:

The Army was involved in the Korean war at the time, and President Truman believed that the war might be a ploy to concentrate all American resources on the Korean peninsula, thus leaving western Europe open to invasion by the Soviet Bloc. The Berlin Airlift had already occurred in 1948, along with the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1948. NATO was created in 1949 because of the perceived Soviet threat towards Western Europe. After the start of the Korean war, the United States deployed 4 divisions to Europe, culminating in the creation of the USAREUR in 1952. By this time, the US role in Germany had officially changed from an occupying force into an allied defender of the newly-formed German Federal Republic (West Germany). The 141st’s major task was to ferry US tanks to the Czech border to offset the Russian maneuvers occurring there. According to other soldiers in the battalion, the tanks were always fully armed and loaded, ready for war.
When my father's unit arrived in Germany in August of 1952, the barracks had not yet been built. Because of the rapid deployment of all these units and their associated personnel, there was a serious lack of adequate facilities at Fliegerhorst and they were initially posted to an old Luftwaffe barracks at Nellingen for a month [see the map below for locations].

The cities in red are places he was stationed or visited while in the service in Germany 1952-53:

And here is how Germany was carved up at the time:

I'm thinking about posting letters from his entire time. They trace the mind of a young man serving his country, albeit as a draftee of the times.  He saw no direct combat heroism,  though his older brother, then serving in Korea, did. There are many names of living people here to protect, and I'm going to edit these letters a bit. Here is what he wrote after arriving at Fort Sheridan for basic training:

October 31, 1951 [post marked 11/01/51]
Fort Sheridan, IL
Dear Mom and Dad,
I left Mil. At 4:00 o'clock Tue. afternoon for Fort Sheridan Ill. It took 2 hrs. They gave us about $200.00 worth of clothes today. Army life hasn't been to rough but they tell us it will be later. We are going to stay here about 7 days. There was 41 of us when we left Mil. Most of the guys we are with are 21 and over. We have been having good eats. Feel like I am already gaining weight. We are going to have tests all day tomorrow, shots Friday and maybe shipped out Mon.
P.S. a G.I. party Fri night Scrub the Barracks. The weather down here has been cool but no snow yet. When my check comes for the last 3 days work at C. take it and the 20 in my green box and put it in the bank. We should be getting $20.00 advanced pay this week yet. Seems like I've been gone a month. I hope everything is O.K.


  1. Very interesting!

    Thankful for your dad today.

  2. Aw, thanks Darcy! Your Dad was pretty cool too! God Bless them both!

  3. I sure the letters are a great insight to your dads life in those days. Wish I had some of my dads old army letter from WWII. He also saw no action, but did tell me some interesting stories over the years. Thanks for sharing. First time visitor, came via your comments on Track a Crat.

  4. What a great post. My dad served at the same time as an MP in Korea. He ran away when he was 16 to join the army because he didn't want to work as a mortician. He lived over a funeral parlor and the guy who owned it didn't have any kids and he wanted my dad to take over. When he heard that he stole his brothers id and ran away to join the army.

    I honor both of their service to our country and remember all the other brave soldiers sailors and marines who keep us safe. God bless them.

  5. @Ron Russell: Many thanks for stopping by & give Track my regards.
    There will be more later on.