Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Military Jeep and its Role in the Armed Forces


In 1983, I was 17 years old and had just returned to my Army Reserve unit in Bristol, Pennsylvania after graduating Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. I had to bum a ride with another soldier in the unit to get to the drill, because I didn’t drive yet. But, in my first weekend back, I was told to report to the Motor Pool, where I learned how to drive an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier and a jeep.
The M38 Jeep became a legend during World War II

   My father fought in World War II (1941-1945) as a combat engineer. He sometimes talked about jeeps, and praised them for their flexibility, reliability and relative ease in repairing. Many of my cousins served in the Army or Marines and they held jeeps in high regard also. It could be argued that the continuity between my father’s days in uniform and mine was the jeep.

   So many things had changed between the 1940s and 1980s: uniforms, rifles, rations, head gear, you name it and it changed. But, what hadn’t changed all that much was the Army’s workhorse, the jeep.


   In 1939, the U.S. Army began standardizing many of its military vehicles by payload. Five categories were recognized: half-ton through 7 ½-ton. Yet, by 1940, the War Department also identified a need for a new vehicle, specifically a ¼-ton, cross-country reconnaissance vehicle. So, the U.S. Army solicited proposals from 135 domestic car manufacturers for this new vehicle.
The M606A2 Jeep was successor to the M38

   Bids were received back to the Army in just 11 days, when the War Department gave prospective jeep manufacturers 49 days to create a prototype vehicle and an additional 70 days to put those prototypes through a series of tests outlined by the War Department.

   The War Department required that the new ¼-ton truck would have to be four-wheel drive, include a crew of three on a wheelbase of no more than 75 inches (that was later changed to 80 inches), feature a fold-down windshield, carry a 660-pound payload and be powered by an engine capable of 85 lb-ft (115 Nm) of torque. It also had to weigh no more than 1300 pounds when empty.

   During 1941, the Quartermaster Corps released a memorandum that stated the design of the ¼-ton truck would not be the property of any one manufacturer. I don’t recall this provision ever being imposed on a model design, before or since.
The M151 Jeep fought the Vietnam War

   The first companies to come up with working prototypes were American Bantam and Willys-Overland. Ford would later join the small club of jeep producers. As it turned out, Willys was the low-bidder, but the company requested additional time on its prototype so it was penalized by the War Department. Meanwhile, Bantam had enlisted the talents of notable Detroit vehicle designer Karl Probst.

   Though Bantam was in the race to develop the jeep, it did not have the production capabilities of either Willys or Ford. So, Willys created the “Quad” and Ford made the “Pygmy.” Bantam would go on to produce the BRC-60. The vehicles were so similar, though, that all three of the prototypes were declared acceptable and 1500 units were ordered by the government from each company. And, though all of the vehicles purchased by the government would go on to be called “jeeps,” it is lost to history about how that name came to characterize the ¼-ton truck.
The M422 "Mighty Mite" jeep

   However, there is some speculation that the word “jeep” came about from the phrase “General Purpose” or “GP,” which is often used in military circles.


   The contribution of the jeep in World War II was everything that the War Department and its producers hoped it would be. In fact, Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall called the new truck “America’s greatest contribution to modern warfare.”

   It is widely believed that the creation of the jeep was the spark that later led to civilian jeeps and even contemporary sports utility vehicles.

U.S. Gen. George Marshall 
   In 1950, the first post-World War II jeep was produced for the military, dubbed the M38 by the uniform services. This was followed up by the M38A1. It even came in an ambulance version, known as the M170.  The jeep would later be modified into the M606A2 and M606A3, with the CJ-5 developed for governments friendly to the United States.

By the Vietnam War, the jeep was christened the M151, which had unibody construction. The Marines had their own version of the jeep constructed, the M422 “Mighty Mite,” which was made smaller and more portable.

   Though the jeep was replaced in the military’s inventory beginning in 1981, by the High-Mobility, Multi-Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), the length of service the jeep rendered to the U.S. military could be counted in decades.

   Jeeps can still be found in militaries throughout the world. These vehicles have earned a special place in the history of warfare, and are a unique contribution for the world by the United States.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The History of America’s ‘Old Glory’


The American Flag means different things to different people. But, the history of Old Glory is that it has been the unifying symbol of all of those who call themselves ‘Americans’ in the United States since June 14, 1777. It was then that the Continental Congress adopted an act establishing the official flag for this new nation, which was still fighting for its independence during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783).
The American Flag Today

   Though Congress officially recognized an “American Flag” in 1777, that does not mean it was the first one that Americans used to represent their new country.
Well before Congress finally decided upon a flag, Americans were fighting a daunting war with the British during the Revolution. And, in those days of warfare, flags of nations were not decoration. They were standards that soldiers, sailors and civilians rallied around. Many Americans came up with their own flags before Congress decided upon one. However, that made things confusing for soldiers and sailors especially, who could possibly get confused by some of the many standards being flown on ships at sea or on battlefields across the 13 colonies.


   One of the earliest American Flags was a standard with a white field, a green liberty tree and the phrase “Appeal to Heaven” running along the top of the flag. American ship in New England waters flew this standard as early as 1775.  
U.S. Continental Navy ships flew this flag in 1775

   In 1775, the fledgling Continental Navy flew a flag of warning, which boldly featured a snake on a field of white and red stripes, with the phrase “Don’t Tread On Me” on it. Meanwhile, the famed Sons of Liberty, in Massachusetts, flew their own flag, which featured a flag comprised of red and white stripes, also during 1775.

   Many variations of these flags were flown, representing this new idea of America, until it was officially designated by the Congress. And, many of these prototype American Flags featured combinations of aspects incorporated into other American Flags. One version, called “The Grand Union Flag, which was part of the Continental Colors of the Army in 1776, even incorporated Great Britain’s Union Jack into its field where, normally, stars would reside in a blue field.
The 'Betsy Ross' Flag established in 1776

   The story of how the first Congressionally recognized American Flag was created is not well-documented. The winning design did turn out to be the “Betsy Ross” Flag, originally created in 1776.

   It is widely believed that Philadelphia, Pennsylvania resident Betsy Ross createdAmerica’s first standard. One account has the idea of the flag coming from General of the Continental Army George Washington. 

   Meanwhile, another origin of the American Flag, while still noting the contributions of Betsy Ross, credited the original idea to New Jersey Continental Congress Representative Francis Hopkinson

   Whenever I pass the American Flag, whether it is at home or somewhere in public, I don’t think about how the flag has changed over the years, or how the idea of what the flag is has changed since 1777.
The Guilford Flag from North Carolina

   There have been exceptions to the rule when it came to officially sanctioned flags. During 1779, Scottish-born Continental Navy Captain John Paul Jones raised what he called the “Serapis Flag” on the captured-British frigate Serapis

   There was also the Guilford Courthouse Flag, which was raised by the North Carolina militia in March 1781 in Greensboro. 

   After the Revolutionary War’s end, with the addition of Vermont and Kentucky, a 15-star flag was authorized by Congress. Later, in 1803, the U.S. even recognized an “Indian Peace Flag.”

    During September 1804, two things happened of importance to the United States. The first was that composer Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the second was that the Easton Flag was recognized by the U.S. Congress. Though it would not be until 1931 that Key’s ode to his nation was officially recognized, the Easton Flag was retired by 1818. 

   Beyond 1818, the U.S. Flag largely remained in the style of the traditional Betsy Ross Flag. Afterward, the flag would change with the addition of more states. By 1865, at the conclusion of the American Civil War, the U.S. Flag sported 36 stars in its blue field, with each star recognizing a state.
The US Indian Peace Flag

   During World War I and II, there were 48 stars on the flag that flew over U.S. troops. And, following the admission of Hawaii as a U.S. state, the flag was altered its last time (so far) with the inclusion of its 50th star.


   There are any number of ways to view the American Flag. For me, it is far more than just a standard or a decorative national statement. The American Flag, inherently, represents the struggles and sacrifices of all those people through the course of this nation’s history, who contributed to the American cause.

   Certainly, the United States has not been a perfect union, as it had to faces the terrible reality of slavery, wars of injustice against Native Americans, and many things that prove America, as a nation, is not unblemished.
The Sepias Flag flown by U.S. Navy Capt. John Paul Jones

   However, the American system of government, though also not perfect, allows people to change their fates, albeit sometimes it takes a while. This is impossible in many nations across the globe. In America, someone can still have nothing one day and the next find their fortune. Governmental laws are sometimes challenges, for the better and worse. 

   Yet, in the final account, the United States remains the freest nation offering the most possibilities for those who were born here or who come here from other places.

Blue- and Gold-Star Flags Represent Service, Sacrifice


Every now and again, you might see a service banner in the window of a home. It will be white with a bold red border, and in the center of the white field will be blue stars or gold stars, or some combination of them. One might even see a silver star in that white field, now and again.
Blue Star Banners note how many family members currently serve

   It is a tradition that spans a century in the United States that such banners are displayed to represent family members who are serving in the military (blue), have paid the ultimate price for that service (gold), or were disabled due to their military service (silver). If a family member died during a military operation, the gold star would be accompanied by a blue wedge on the bottom of the banner, within the white field.

   Service flags became a tradition in 1917, when U.S. Army Captain Robert L. Queisser created a service flag in honor of his two sons who were serving in World War I. This practice was quickly adopted locally and, after being endorsed by an Ohio congressional representative, it was endorsed by the United States Congress. 
Gold Stars connote fallen family members

   Though these are only flags showing family members’ service, there are official rules about the display of these by the U.S. Armed Forces. Though the Silver Star Banner can be found, it is not officially recognized by the Armed Forces.

   Blue stars should only be displayed for family members who are currently serving in one of the uniformed services. Gold stars can be displayed for any family member who died in any military operation from World War I or II, or any subsequent period of armed hostilities the U.S. took part in.

Gold Star family eligibility includes criteria for those who have died in the service. This criteria stipulates that the fallen service member have died while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States. It further includes that the service member must have fallen in an action against a foreign force. This also includes when U.S. service members are killed while serving with allied forces in conflict with an enemy of the United States.

As time went on, the qualifying criteria for fallen service members’ families was expanded. Today, Gold Star families are also those who have lost their service member during an international terrorist attack, recognized by the secretary of defense, and in military operations as part of a peacekeeping force.

There is a national organization for Gold Star Mothers, which can be found online at:

Monday, May 21, 2018

The MRE Continues To Be Improved Over The Years


The Meal-Ready-To-Eat (MRE) was under development beginning in 1963, by the Department of Defense. It would not be until 1981, though, that the ration would become standard field rations for the uniform services. In fact, it was during the development of the MRE that the Department of Defense came up with the Long-Range Patrol (LRP) ration, in 1966, for use by some units during the Vietnam War (1955-1975).

   Each MRE contains about 1200 calories. One of the big advantages of the MRE over its predecessor, which was the canned MCIs, Meal, Combat, Individual Rations (a.k.a. C-Rations), was that the military was getting away from using cans. By moving away from cans, soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines were able to carry more food while in the field, due to the lightweight packaging of the MREs. Every MRE was designed to weigh between 18 and 26 ounces. And, they have a shelf life of at least three years.

   In 1990, MREs incorporated a flameless ration heater, a water-activated exothermic reaction that emits heat and allowed for servicemen and women to have hot meals in the field. Then, in 1994, commercial graphics were included into MRE rations, to make packets more user-friendly and appealing. Biodegradable packaging was also incorporated at that time. Throughout this process, surveys were taken to identify popular and unpopular meal selections among the services. So, in 1981, there was a menu of 12 entrees; by 1996, there were 16 entrees; by 1997, there were 20 entrees; and, by 1998, there were 24 selections for entrees. That number remains the same today, though there are 150 additional items within MREs that make them more palatable.
MREs replaced C-Rations

   Some things worked with MREs and some did not. Case in point: during 2009, 6300 dairy shake packets were recalled because of the presence of Salmonella contamination. Meanwhile, the HOOAH! Bar was developed for specialized units and it has proved to be quite popular.

   Work on dehydrated meals stored in a retort pouch took place during 1975. And, it was so successful that the scientist associated with that work, Dr. Abdul Rahman, would receive a Meritorious Civilian Service Award for his efforts.

   These days, MREs include: an entrée; side dish; dessert or snack; crackers or bread; cheese, peanut butter or jelly spread; powdered beverage mix; utensils; a flameless ration heater; beverage mixing bag; and an accessory pack, which contains chewing gum, a matchbook, napkins, toilet paper, moist towelette, seasonings and dried coffee powder.

   My experience with MREs began in 1983, on a weapons qualification range at Ft. Dix, New Jersey. Usually, C-Rations were handed out when the unit was going to have a long day at the range. This time, though, first-generation MREs were handed out. I happened to draw Chicken-Ala-King and the result was violent illness. Some entrees were better than others.
Rations used during World War I

   Fast-forward four years, though, when I was in an infantry battalion in Germany, and the Meatballs in Barbecue Sauce entrée had become a prized acquisition for any soldier seeking a meal.

   Don’t get me wrong, after sampling French field rations, it became very apparent that their entrees just tasted better. While MREs have been designed for an expressed purpose and are good at what they do, there are European countries whose rations are far more palatable than MREs. Still, MREs can go anywhere and feed anyone in any situation. They provide nutrition for many thousands of servicemen and women that keep them healthy and active.


   The first ration ever established for use by the military was authorized by Congress during the Revolutionary War. It consisted of enough food to sustain one man for one day and was largely comprised of beef, peas and rice. It was not until the Civil War (1861-1865), though, that the U.S. military would begin its long love affair with canned rations. But, Civil War rations were very basic and were comprised of meat, bread, coffee, sugar and salt.

   During World War I, the latest innovation was the use of salted or dried meats. This made the rations lighter than previously. But, it was during World War II that the world of military rations opened up to a broad spectrum. Not only were foods incorporated into C-Rations, but so was toilet paper and cigarettes.

   In addition, during World War II, Mountain and Jungle rations were also developed for units that were operating in those regions.


   Through the years, some urban legends have surrounded MREs. One of those myths was that the gum in MREs is, in fact, a laxative. It is not. Some people are under the impression that the MRE is diet food….it is not. MREs contain 1200 calories, which is intended to be consumed by persons in a physical environment, who burn a great deal of calories every day.

   One true myth is that MREs contain high dietary fiber, and this could lead to constipation: That is true.

   Since the introduction of the MRE, variants of MREs have been created, among them the Aircrew Build to Order Meal Module (ABOMM). Vegetarian meals, Kosher meals and other changes have been included in MREs also.

   With a substantive history of success behind it, the MRE continues to serve the uniform services. And, there has even been a secondary market, in the civilian world, that has been created for MREs.

   The MRE is an evolution of rations for the U.S. military that has been carefully developed for decades, and continues to be updated and improved for soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines throughout the world.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Top Secret History and Celebrated Life of Julia Child


To the world, master French chef Julia Child (1912-2004) was a television personality with an amazing cooking show. In addition, she was an author who penned a slew of best-selling books about cooking. She brought the mysteries of fine cuisine right into the homes and living rooms of millions and millions of people for decades.

   However, before Julia Child was a celebrity chef, before the television shows and the book deals...even before she was Julia Child...she was an intelligence professional with theOffice of Strategic Services (OSS). Indeed, at 28 years old, the single Child was known by her maiden name of Julia McWilliams.

   Julia Child was born in Pasadena, California, the daughter of a land manager and a paper-company heiress. An athletic young woman who measured 6’2” tall, Child played tennis, golf and basketball at Smith College, Massachusetts. She graduated with a history degree from the prestigious university in 1934.

   Before joining the OSS, where she would later meet her future husband, Paul Cushing Child, Child worked for a New York City advertising company. After she left the advertising job, Child’s big question was what came next for her. Well, she looked into joining the Women’s Army Corps (WACS) and the Navy’s WAVES, only to discover that she was “too tall” to enlist in those services. Still, she wanted to contribute to the coming war effort.

Wartime Service With the OSS

   In 1940, when she signed on with the OSS, many Americans believed looming war clouds in Europe and Asia would grow large enough to involve the United States. By 1945, President Harry S. Truman would disband the OSS in favor of the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency, but it was the OSS that operated throughout World War II.

   The OSS, which was aspy agency, was led by legendary General William “Wild Bill” Donovan. At the OSS, Child began her intelligence career as a research assistant, in Washington DC.

   In recent years, details of the service of Child and 24,000 other OSS employees have been revealed in 750,000 documents released to the public. Through these documents, it is revealed that several celebrities of the day had strong OSS ties during the war, including: actor Sterling Hayden, future Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, Major League Baseball catcher Moe Berg and even historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

   For a year, Child worked at the OSS Emergency Rescue Equipment Section (ERES). Child went from being an office assistant to becoming an assistant to developers of a shark repellent used to make sure sharks didn’t explode ordnance that targeted German U-boats.

   As part of her work with shark repellent, Child decided to experiment with cooking ingredients that might be effective against the underwater predators. At this she was successful, as she found a concoction that could be sprinkled atop the water near the ordnance and sharks would, indeed, avert that area. For this, Child received a citation from the OSS noting her contribution in solving this formerly chronic problem. Reportedly, Child’s remedy for shark repellent is still in use today.
Julia Child during her service with the OSS

   During 1944, Child was posted to Kandy, Ceylon, which is now Sri Lanka, an island country in Southern Asia. There, the future celebrity chef’s duties changed. At that time, she was given the task of “registering, cataloging and channeling a great volume of highly classified communications” for the OSS’s clandestine stations in Asia.

   After her assignment in Ceylon, Child was posted to Kunming, China. Her work in China was exemplary and, for her efforts, Child received the “Emblem of Meritorious Civilian Service” award from the OSS. Perhaps more importantly, it was in China that Child met and fell in love with her future husband, Paul Cushing Child, a fellow OSS employee.

   As the war wound down, and the OSS was disbanded, Child and Paul Cushing Child returned to the United States. And, on September 1, 1946, the two former spy agency employees were married in Lumberville, Pennsylvania and began a new life together.
Full-Color OSS Patch

   While the Childs would share a lasting love story for the remainder of their lives, the union would produce no children.

Beyond The OSS

   Initially, Paul Cushing Child worked as an artist and poet in Paris, France with his new wife. In 1948, he joined the U.S. Foreign Service and was assigned to Paris, where the U.S. State Department posted Peter to the United States Information Agency.

   While in Paris, that is when Child attended the celebrated Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, where she began her life as a chef. Following her graduation from Le Cordon Bleu, Child went on to study with famous chef Max Bugnard.

   After Child was finished with her studies in the culinary arts, then came her very first book, which essentially launched her career.

   Child’s first book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” was co-authored by Child and fellow chefs Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle in 1961. All three had met in a cooking club that Child had joined called “Le Cercle des Gourmettes,”
Julia Child and her beloved husband, Paul Cushing Child

   For 10 years before their book was published, the three chefs -- Child, Beck and Bertholle -- began teaching American women how to cook French food from Child’s kitchen. The three called their school L’ecole des trois gourmandes (The school of three food lovers).

   After the book was published, it was Child who translated it into English and introduced it into the American literary market. In the United States the three chefs signed a contract with New York book publisher Alfred A. Knopf. Naturally, the book was a great success.

   Based on the success of the book, Child embarked on her well-known and celebrated career in the media and she authored several more books about cooking.

   On television, she began hosting a show on Boston’s WGBH-TV called “The French Chef,” in February 1963. And so, a legend was born.

   Julia Child passed on Aug. 12, 2004, at the age of 91 in Montecito, California. Meanwhile, the love of her life, Paul Cushing Child, had passed on 10 years earlier, on May 12, 1994. At the time of his death, Peter was 92 years old.

   Child lived an extraordinary life that had many wonderful chapter. Her story is one of wartime, clandestine service. Yet, it is also a love story and a tale about a woman creating her own career in print and on television at a time when this was the exception to the rule. In all, Child left this world far better than she found it thanks to her many lasting contributions.

(Jim Purcell is a retired print journalist, editor and publisher. He resides in Western North Carolina with his wife, Lita.)

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Navy Chaplain Makes Ultimate Sacrifice For Shipmate

Rentz Is Only Chaplain To Win The Navy Cross During World War II


In the Book of John (15:13), we are taught, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Commander George Rentz
   On March 1, 1942, U.S. Navy (Chaplain) Commander George S. Rentz gave evidence of his love for his shipmates. Rentz was in the waters of the Pacific Ocean with other sailors, holding onto a float from a destroyed airplane for their very lives.

   Rentz’s ship, the USS Houston, was sunk by a Japanese Navy convoy. The USS Houston and the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth had just lost the Battle of SundaStrait while the two ships were en route on a mission to Ceylon.

   The battle took place between the islands of Java and Sumatra. After a fierce exchange of fire between the Houston and Perth with superior Japanese forces, the Houston and Perth were responsible for sinking five Japanese ships.

   Rentz was among those wearing a lifejacket. And, the float provided some safety as survivors of the Houston waited for rescue. However, a pontoon for the float was being swamped by overcrowding of survivors.

   Rentz estimated the situation and said, “You men are young. I have lived the major part of my life and I am willing to go.” Ultimately, Rentz gave his lifejacket to Seaman First Class Walter L. Beeson. Beeson would not, initially, take the lifejacket from the chaplain. But, Rentz told Beeson that his heart was failing and he could not last much longer. He then kicked away from the float, into the night, never to be seen again.

   For his actions, Rentz was awarded the Navy Cross Medal, albeit posthumously. Rentz was the only chaplain to win the Navy Cross during World War II.

Rentz Was A Career Naval Officer

   Rentz had served as a naval officer in both World War I and II. He was born in Lebanon, Pennsylvania on July 25, 1882. Like his father before him and his son after him, Rentz graduated from Gettysburg College, with the Class of 1903. He then went on to earn his Master’s of Divinity degree from the PrincetonTheological Seminary, in New Jersey.

   With his classroom education complete, Rentz was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1909. Subsequently, he went on to serve in the Presbytery of Northumberland. He also ministered churches in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

   Rentz married in 1911 and the couple had at least two children.
The USS Houston
   However, with the advent of World War I, Rentz felt the call to service. So, in 1917, Rentz was commissioned with the rank of lieutenant junior grade and assigned to the 11th Marine Regiment, which served in France.

   With the conclusion of hostilities, in November, 1918, Rentz remained in the Navy. He went on to serve aboard the USS Florida, USS Wright, USS West Virginia and, finally, the USS Houston. He also served at the Marine Barracks in Port Royal, South Carolina; Naval Air Station Pensacola, in Florida; and Naval Air Station, San Diego, California.
The Navy Cross Medal
   Rentz was transferred from the USS Augusta to the USS Houston in 1940, when the Houston became the flagship for the U.S. Asiatic Fleet. By all accounts, Rentz was popular among the crew.

   The USS Houston was a Northampton class cruiser commissioned in 1930. Its armament included: nine 8-inch guns, eight 5-inch guns, two 47mm guns, six quad 40mm guns and twenty 20mm guns. The USS Houston also carried four floatplanes used for observation and reconnaissance. It carried a crew of 109 officers and 676 enlisted.

   At the time of its sinking, the ship’s captain was Captain Albert H. Rooks. Of the crew of the USS Houston, only 368 Navy and Marine personnel survived the sinking, only to be taken prisoner by the Japanese Navy. Sadly, 77 of those POWs died during captivity.

   During the Battle of Makassar Strait in February, 1942, the chaplain moved from position to position on the ship, which was taking fire from the Japanese Navy, encouraging gun crews defending the ship.

   To honor the memory of this fearless man of God, the U.S. Navy commissioned an Oliver Perry class frigate named the USS Rentz (FFG-46). The ship was built and christened during the early 1980s. After 22 years of service, the USS Rentz was decommissioned by the Navy.
The USS Rentz
   In his final address as the captain of the USS Rentz, Commander Lance Lantier said, “There is a requirement for ever CO, XO and CMC that comes into a ship to do the absolute best by the ship and by the crew that they can.”

At Gettysburg College

   Another place the memory of George Rentz is remembered fondly is at Gettysburg College, his Alma Mater. During his student days at Gettysburg, he was an Alpha Tau Omega brother, as well as the business manager for The Gettysburgian. In addition, he was the assistant business manager for another college publication, called The Spectrum. Rentz was also on the college’s debate team and was a member of the Philosophy Club.

   Rentz and other graduates of the college who made the ultimate sacrifice are remembered annually in Memorial Day services at the school.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Simon Served In Northern Germany During the 1980s


John Simon is an Army veteran who served on active duty during the Cold War, from 1985 to 1988. He was born in Southbridge, Massachusetts but raised in Worcester, Massachusetts.
The M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle
  Like a lot of young people, John joined the Army right after high school. So, after he collected his diploma at Doherty Memorial High School, he went straight to the Army recruiter’s office.

   “I wanted to join the Army since I was kid,” John said.

   John’s first step in becoming a soldier brought him to the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he trained to be an infantryman and Bradley crewman. The Bradley was still new to soldiers, with the M2 and M3 entering service in 1981.

   Named for the late General Omar Bradley, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle included a crew of three: a commander, driver and gunner. Its weaponry included an M242, 25mm chain gun, a TOW anti-tank weapon and a 7.62mm, M240 machine gun. In addition, the Bradley could carry six fully equipped soldiers.
Lucius D. Clay Kaserne, in Garlstedt, FRG

   The Bradley replaced the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier, which was basically an aluminum-armored rolling box equipped with an M2, .50-caliber machine gun. While the APC was replaced by the Bradley in infantry line units, they were still used by support units.

   “What I liked most about my job was driving the Bradley,” John said.

   He got a chance to join a unit that was equipped relatively early with the Bradley when he arrived to his first duty station, Lucius D. Clay Kaserne, in Garlstedt, Federal Republic of Germany; the home of the 2nd Armored Division (Forward). Once there, he was assigned to Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment.
41st Infantry Regiment Crest

   Clay Kaserne was named for the former European Commander Gen. Lucius D. Clay (1898-1978). Clay had served during World War II in Europe and stayed on after the German surrender, in 1945, to serve as deputy governor of Germany during the Allied Military Government that was in place immediately following the end of the war. 

   At the time, the Division (Forward) was comprised of three maneuver battalions: the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry; the 4th Battalion, 41st Infantry; and the 2nd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, equipped with the still relatively new M1 tanks. Rounding out the Division (Forward) was the 4th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment and a support battalion.

   The 2nd Armored Division (Forward) was situated in Northern Germany, so when PFC Simon joined his unit in January, 1986 he got the opportunity to experience icy blasts off the North Sea firsthand.

   “I think the things the Army taught me were to trust your brothers and, if need be, be ready to kick ass,” John said.
Army Overseas Service Ribbon

   The battalion was in the field regularly, whether it was cold weather training in Denmark; gunnery or training evaluations in Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels, in Southern Germany; or taking part in REFORGER (Return Forces to Germany) exercises. Still, John made the time to enjoy Northern Germany’s night-life some, frequently clubbing in Bremerhaven. In fact, it was there that John met his future wife.

   During May, 1988, John’s battalion was rotated back to Fort Hood, in Texas, where it was placed in the 2nd (St. Lo) Brigade of the 2nd Armored Division (Main). The 4th Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment was replaced in Garlstedt by the 3rd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment.

   By the time he left the active Army, in October, 1988, John had earned a promotion to the rank of specialist and went on to serve an additional three years in the U.S. Army Reserve.

   Today, he recalls his time in the Army fondly and enjoys his memories of serving with the Iron Deuce in Europe and the United States.