By Cpl. John M. Holman, U.S. Army, Germany
Hampton Union, May 1952
Cpl. John Holman, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Holman of Mill road, has been stationed in Germany for the last seven months. On several occasions he has sent pieces to Hampton Union about military life. The one that follows is concerned with "maneuvers."
In the army, "roughin' it" is a phrase which is used all too literally. Oh, sure, we have it comparatively easy while living in garrison but did you ever wonder what it was like to live outdoors, on the ground, under the stars? If not, maybe I can enlighten you on some of the highlights of living close to Mother Nature. The army has a word for this outdoor life. That word is: Maneuvers! A maneuver is when a body of troops move bag and baggage via truck or train out into the field, eat, sleep, and carry on all activities normally accomplished in garrison, but done in the field tactically under simulated battle conditions to train the men for what might really happen in case of another war.
Let's go back to the morning when we were awakened at 0330 (3:30 a.m.), dressed, ate chow, packed our duffel bags with all necessary clothing and equipment to enable us to live for a three week period in the field. The trucks were loaded with equipment, the troops climbed into the specific trucks assigned to them, and we were ready to move out in convoy formation at 0530 hours. By the way, a convoy formation is 50 yards between vehicles. We were then on our way to an unknown destination, known only to the convoy commander. This destination was approximately 180 miles distant!
Every two hours, the convoy stopped for a 10 minute break so the men could rest a bit from the hard seats usually found in the back of an army truck, stretch their legs a big, and partake of a sandwich which the mess hall had so generously provided earlier that morning.
The hours dragged by; the convoy was hitting 40 miles per hour downs the Autobahn (the super-highway which Hitler built before the war) and soon the lead jeep swung off the Autobahn onto a dirt road. "We must be near our area," we thought to ourselves. Another half hour of driving over dirt and dusty roads, we halted in a wooded area of pine and oak trees. It was level ground and looked like an ideal place to set up camp.
The Personnel Section (the administrative office in an Infantry Regiment handling all Service Records of Enlisted Men and the Records of all officers in the regiment plus all other military correspondence necessary in operating a regiment) of which I am a part, chose an area close to Regimental Headquarters. We unloaded the three trucks bearing the Personnel's equipment and put up the two large squad tents and a small CP (Command Post for Personnel Officer) tent which was to be our office for the next three weeks.
After all the tents were set up and all lockers, boxes, and field desks were arranged in the tents, we proceeded in erecting our shelter halves. When two are put together, they form a pup tent enabling two men to sleep comfortably together. When our pup tents were all up in a perimeter of defense, prone shelter holes were dug in the ground close-by the pup tents, large enough to enable a man to lie in a prone position for protection in case of an attack by an imaginary enemy.
That night when darkness descended and the star began to twinkle in the sky, there were some mighty tired men that crawled into their pup tents and it didn't take much effort to fall asleep that night.
The next morning was a day of activity. Up at 0530 hours for chow (breakfast), shave, wish up, and prepare for a day of work in the office. Electric lights were installed in the squad tents, also a field telephone for connection with all units of the regiment.
There wasn't all work for us in the field. Also recreation and relaxation was provided for. A mobile Post Exchange, where one could purchase orange juice, crackers, cheese spreads, candy, gum and the like, came into the area every 2 days. Also, a barber was available each week and a Coca Cola stand was open daily so we could have a nice ice cold "Coke" in the afternoon and evening on the hottest of days. Movies were on the schedule each night and a different show nightly, made the evenings more enjoyable.
To help keep us clean from the dirt and dust, a mobile shower was et up near our area and only a few minutes walk, and we were under the hot water shower. It sure felt good. You see, the water was drawn from a river by an engine-driven pump, purified, heated and ready to use in the afternoons and evenings. The chow was eaten at the regularly scheduled hours from our mess kits, but of course, it couldn't compare with what we were accustomed to in camp. The bees, flys and bugs were always on hand and were a hindrance to the enjoyment of the food.
The weeks sped by and soon it was time to return to the Kaserne (camp) after three weeks of wholesome outdoor life chock full of experiences for all who participated in the field maneuver. The next two weeks in camp will be taken up by cleaning of our equipment, and readying ourselves for another possible maneuver later on this fall.
Oh, well, this it the Army, and someday, each one of us can look back on these maneuvers and remember what it really was to be "roughin' it."