By JIM PURCELL
Former Intel Analyst,
4th Bn, 41st Infantry Regiment
"Fix Bayonets" Battalion
2nd Armored Division (Forward)
I was trying to find a few photos of Lucius D. Clay Kaserne, Garlstedt, then-Federal Republic of Germany (circa mid-1980s) and could not find any. At the time, East Germany was known as the German Democratic Republic -- ironically (not a lot of 'democratic' anything going on over there from what I saw). I learned the U.S. Army re-designated a kaserne in Wiesbaden Lucius D. Clay many years after I left Germany, so I am writing about the original Lucius D. Clay Kaserne, which I was stationed at while I served. Afterward, I figured I would post about it because there was not that much on it anywhere else on the Internet. All I found was this rather grainy, black-and-white photo that was undated and really only gives a sense of the kaserne itself. Even a lot of the story of the kaserne has been lost. So, without any further adieu, here is something about LDCK.
|41st Infantry Regtiment|
I arrived to Lucius D. Clay Kaserne in early December, 1986 from the 21st Replacement Detachment, in Frankfurt. I was transferred from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and there had been winter there -- but nothing like what I had experienced in Frankfurt, and certainly nothing like what I came to find at LDCK, in Garlstedt.
At the time, the kaserne hosted the 2nd Armored Division (Forward), which was an 'infantry heavy' forward brigade of the 2nd Armored Division (Main), then based at Fort Hood, Texas. I was at the replacement for the Division (Forward) for a brief time and then assigned to HHC, 4th Battalion, 41st Infantry. The other infantry battalion on post was the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry. The 2nd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment was also headquartered there. To the best of my ability to remember, so was the 4th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment; a signal battalion and a support battalion (whose designation I have forgotten over the years).
I caught pneumonia almost immediately at LDCK. though back then that was no reason to go on Sick Call let alone go to the hospital. In fact, the Army back then had its flaws -- common sense sometimes lacking being one of them. Eventually I was treated for pneumonia, though it was only when it nearly became very bad.
|66th Armored Regiment|
LDCK was a small kaserne with its own LTA (Limited Training Area). It was one of the first places where the Bradley Fighting Vehicles (M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, M3 Scout Vehicle) were introduced. Every soldier was required to attend the HOW Academy once at LDCK. "HOW" stood for "Hell on Wheels."
According to the fine folks at the HOW Academy, the 2nd Armored (Forward) came to Northern Germany in 1978, as a result of a decision by then-President Jimmy Carter to assist British operations in the NorthAG (Northern Army Group) of NATO. The Division (Forward) as it was known, supported operations of a British armored division, as I recall. And, the British had operational control of the Division (Forward) in sector. Indeed, later on, when 4/41 Inf. rotated back to Fort Hood, in 1988, its final pass in review at LDCK was taken by a British two star and his wife. And, in general, there were infrequent visitors in garrison by British Army dignitaries, though this was known to me only by reading The Forward Edge, which was the kaserne's local newspaper.
So, I was assigned to the S-2 Section at 4-41, which was known as the "Fix Bayonets" battalion because it was the greeting between officers and enlisted men upon passing. The 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry held the greeting "Straight and Stalwart" and the 2nd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment greeted each other as "Iron Knights."
My NCOIC (Non Commissioned Officer In-Charge) initially was SFC Craig Fisher, who was a 25 year soldier, the Intel Sergeant at the section when I first arrived. He was a long-time 'Germany soldier' who had spent most of his years in uniform in the FRG. SFC Fisher was an infantry soldier, and was given the position of S-2 NCOIC. I learned some history from him about the unit. At the time I arrived, 4-41 was in itself relatively new, as it had recently been designated such after being the 2nd Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment when he originally arrived at LDCK (what year that was I have no idea anymore).
There was something different about this post. It was located in 'cow country' in Northern Germany. The locals were a mixed bag: Younger people seemed to enjoy the young, wild GIs from the Division (Forward) in the nearby towns -- Osterholz-Scharmbeck, Bremerhaven, Bremen. Meanwhile, many older Germans gave off the distinct impression they did not, though largely they were courteous to us. I lived on the economy, in Osterholz-Scharmbeck, with my wife at the time.
As well as being among the first units to receive Bradleys, 2nd Armored (Forward) was also among the first to receive the then-brand new MI Abrams Main Battle Tank. Another first was that infantrymen (originally designated 11B) from LDCK were among the first to go through specialized Bradley training to become the MOS 11M (a Bradley designator for infantrymen). Of some note, when the M1 first was fielded, it had a 105mm main gun, which was later dropped in favor of the 120mm main gun. And, while I was at LDCK, its improvements included going from homogenous steel to depleted uranium. Only later in my tenure at LDCK would the M1 receive the designation M1A1.
At the time, the Division (Forward) was commanded by then-Brigadier General Tommy Baucum. He was flamboyant, and very well regarded by everyone within the command. Meanwhile, 4-41 Infantry was commanded by LTC John Voessler, who was someone I came to respect very much and who taught so many of us so much. Of some note, I find no reference to LTC Voessler's name anywhere online associated with 4-41 Infantry, which is a shame because "Pale Rider," as was his fixed call-sign, deserves to be remembered with the unit he cared so deeply for in its history.
There were some hallmarks of service at 4-41 Infantry, as well as the rest of the units at LDCK. The Division (Forward) spent an inordinate amount of time in the field, compared to either the units I had served in at Fort Bragg, North Carolina or in Ft. Ord, California.
The weather was harsh. Division (Forward) soldiers were very used to operating in extreme cold environments and cold-weather safety was second nature to everyone. Where soldiers from Southern Germany used to receive cold weather training in Northern Germany every year, the Division (Forward) (which was the northern most home of American maneuver forces in Europe) annually received its cold weather training in Boris and Oksbol, Denmark. There was a former refugee camp in Oksbol that had been converted into military use over the years and regularly headquartered visiting units. Boris and Oksbol are the coldest places where I have ever been and never before or since have I seen anti-freeze freeze.
The Division (Forward) was in garrison more than its three maneuver battalions, and it was no surprise if one or two of its maneuver battalions were gone at the same time doing some training or other somewhere.
Between regular gunnery in Grafenwohr-Hohenfels, REFORGER, certain rail exercises, cold weather training or whatever else came down the pike, 2nd Armored Division (Forward) soldiers were, it seemed then and now, mostly living in the field. However, the 'field' was occasionally different from what I was used to as a soldier. This unit was very good at rail movements for armored vehicles, which is art and science. Railcars we used to transport M113s, Bradleys, M1A1s, M88s and the like and were not designed to such specifications perfectly. And, these vehicles only just fit on the railcars. If drivers or ground guides were as much as a few inches off when guiding these behemoths onto these cars, these vehicles would have capsized onto the ground. How could that be good for anyone? So, one either learned how to do this well, or things became very scary.
There were times when encampments were in occupied villages or towns, or just outside of them. There were times when armored vehicles convoyed on busy public highways or thoroughfares. Maneuver training sometimes happened in areas occupied by German nationals, though the Army went out of its way to work as unobtrusively as possible. Frequently, American units worked with Dutch, FRG and British forces. In one instance, the Division (Forward) even worked with elements of the French Army in training.
In short, garrison life was short-lived in the "Iron Deuce." In the rear soldiers, particularly those from the maneuver battalions and the artillery battalion, seemed to be given some leeway with schedules to allow for time with families and time off. The soldiers were young and prone to frequently going out and getting in trouble the way that soldiers have always, in time immemorial fashion. At the kaserne, though, in my experience at 4-41, vehicle maintenance, field readiness, personal fitness and tactical training were paramount. Yes, the fellows were given a longer rope than ordinarily back at the kaserne, but no one wanted to be on the wrong side of training requirements. Business was business.
|Then Specialist Jim Purcell at the Hohenfels Training Area (1987)|
The Division (Forward) was a family, in the truest sense of any word I have ever known. In 4-41, we knew each other better than our wives and loved ones did, we certainly spent more time with each other in almost every condition than they did. It was a clannish place, where friendship was taken very seriously, and soldiers were very lucky to have leaders they could generally respect very much. Good leadership is not something assured in every army, at every post, at every time. This was a very combat-ready unit that was used to working in extremely harsh weather and terrain environments and which was easily able to work with a wide array of NATO units. By modern standards, I suppose, much of its equipment was antiquated and basic. Still, if given the choice, 4-41 Infantry and the Division (Forward) would have been and still is my first choice to have served in would the balloon have gone up for the Third World War in Europe during the 1980s.
I was made a corporal in Germany, and after returning to Fort Hood, Texas, in 1988 with the unit, an exception was made and I was assigned as the S-2 intelligence sergeant. Normally, the S-2 NCOIC job went to a senior infantry non-commissioned officer. However, the then-commander, LTC John Vermillion, thought it was a good idea to retain me there instead -- and I was promoted to sergeant, E-5 and served at this despite being an intelligence analyst and not serving in an infantry MOS at that time.
No one can capture the whole spirit of a unit with words, or pictures. These are the things left to memory, sad to say since memory is such a fallible thing. It was the finest unit I ever served in, though, and there were many fine units I was assigned to during my tenure in the Army. However, those are other stories.