534th Field Artillery Bn History
During the mid 1950's, the US Army activated the "Gyroscope" program which saw complete CONUS based units rotate to Germany for usually a three year period and then return stateside. The Blackhorse Regiment saw its first tour on the border through this plan, serving in southern Germany near the Czech border from 1957 until 1964.
At Daley Barracks in 1956, the 2/14th ACR went about the normal routine of border surveillance and standard training cycles while the personnel of the other major unit on post, the 290th Field Artillery battalion, were alerted that they would rotate stateside. As told by Mr. Ray Grafflin and Mr. Glenn McGinnis, both of Alpha Battery. Here is the story of Gyroscope deployment of his unit to Bad Kissingen.
534th Field Artillery Battalion: A Lucky Unit
Ray Grafflin: During the mid 1950's the Department of the Army launched a new concept, "Operation Gyroscope". The reasoning was to improve morale of married Officers and Non Coms, instill greater Esprit de Corps, generate higher reenlistments and exercise the deployment mechanisims. Under the Gyroscope concept anything from a Battalion, on up to a Division, would be posted abroad as a complete entity, less its major equipment, and be returned to its original location. Several units, most notably the 3rd Armored and the 4th Infantry Divisions, and less noticeably, the 534th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 155mm (Self Propelled) were sent to Germany through this program.
The project was deemed to be "somewhat successful", but was terminated during 1958-59.
My story is about how the 534th arrived at Daley, as a part of the Border Defense Force (whatever that really meant!) and found itself as a neighbor of the 2/14 Armored Calvary, and then midway through it's tour was reflagged as the 1st Battalion, 92nd Artillery Regiment.
I remember being in the NCO Club one winter evening and an off duty MP came in for a drink. He started telling us about a report that had come in while he had been on duty, that some naked guy was running around the town. They had sent a patrol out to check out the report but without success. The next morning I went in, checked with the CQ to be sure all was well overnight. We were stood there chatting when an NCO walked in and said that when he woke up, he couldn't find his uniform, and could he report it as stolen! We hushed him up, and retraced his steps finally arriving att Charlie's Gasthaus, and in the gents room urinal, lo and behold, a uniform! Never did find out what had led to his nude romp!
One of our gun crew chiefs was going with our Firing Battery Officers' maid, and finally decided to marry the girl. She was a local girl, and wanted to do it in style, so she asked to be marriedd in the big church in the town square. In the meantime, he asked me to be the Best Man, so we pulled our all the stops and went for a uniform wedding with all the extras. His gun crew decorated the gun carriage with flowers and ribbon and mounted two silver chairs on the front deck. This being an old artillery custom to parade the bride and groom around on a gun caisson. We also had the lads wrap rammer staffs in silver foil, and we made an arch of rammers for the happy couple. The photo shows us all comming out after the service. All went pretty well after the service, but a memorable event was made even more memorable before the ceremony when the gun carriage managed to run over and mash flat a VW beetle on the way to the church! Fortunately, someone at Corps had a sense of humor and signed off on a reparations order, so at least we didn't have to shell out of our pockets. Once again, our luck held.
Ray: Our lives were very ordered, seldon was there any deviation from standing orders. This could certanly be a blessing in that planning for your family and private life was fairly easy - but there were some days truly out of the ordinary. Among unusual happenings: one of our observation aircraft crashed during one excerise and a full scale search and rescue effort began. We found the pilot unharmed but the plane was a total write-off. On another occasion, two of our gate guards were fooling around with their .45 caliber pistols when a shot fired and one man was wounded in the stomach. He was evacuated, patched up and eventually returned to duty; it was a very close call.
The most stiking memory of that sort of incident occurred at Grafenwoehr. The entire battalion was pulled on to one, huge firing point and we were observing the action from an adjacent hill. An armor unit was on a near by range when suddenly we heard a tank gun fire and watched as the training round went skipping through the battalion position. As everyone ran, the round ricocheted and finally bounced through the camouflage netting of one of the howitzers. When we reached the gun, we found the fuse setter frozen to his spot, projo in the cradle and fuse wrench in hand. The tank round had buried itself within two feet of his position. Like I said, I think we were a lucky unit.
Glenn McGinnis: I remember the pilot story, it was in the middle of winter and it rook a few days to find the guy in the woods. He survived by wrapping himself in his parachute. I also clearly recall the incident at Grafenwoehr. I think that round bounced through a couple of sets of camo netting on the gun line before it finally stopped. Everyone agreed that it was a very close call.
Ray: On a day to day military basis, there was little contact between the two units sharing Daley Barracks. We were either out in the field practicing or in barracks peforming all echelons of maintenance. We had no actual role up on the border, rather we were tasked to provide support fire for the 14th front-line units. I know that all of the unit surveyors spent a lot of time on independent surveys up and down the border area (about 3-5 kilometers back) adjusting the firing lists and survey coordinates in case the East decided to come romping across. That was fairly good duty, we booked into either Gasthaus or a Pensione every night and had a good dinner, and a few liters of Pilsener too! I like to think that all that would have made a difference if the flag had gone up, but I imagine that the reality would have beeen more a short, noisy interlude. I am glad we never had to find out.
Like all peace time soldiers, the troops trained incessently, and mostly boringly, but played very hard and enthusiastically! Unusually, few serious incidents seem to have marred our tours. Certainly there were no murders, rapes, assaults or burglaries during our time there. Many of the troops involved themselves in GYA and local sports activities and undoubtably kept the local bbars, clubs and restaurants busy and profitable! I fondly remember the Franziskaner in town - a most magnificent Weiner Schnitzel, home fries and salat were to be had there. From a window in our apartment we could see the valley where the Saale River was. I remember the glider being launched from there and soaring up and around for hours. Always meant to have a go, but never got around to it.
Glenn: Yes, I recall the Germans as being friendly, I was only a junior enlisted man so there wasn't much money for going down town but on post we had movies, the EM Club and the USO Center. Also, remember that our duty week ran to a half day on Saturday afternoon so, we all had an interest in "looking good" for inspections. You needed to get a "pass" to leave Daley, the CQ was authorized to give them out but bed check was 2400 hrs so you couldn't wander too far. I recall the barracks as OK, the heat worked but there were problems with enough hot water for showers. Some guys showered late at night and others would wait unitl the next morning. That worked.
Ray: The 534th finally came to an end officially on the 14th of July 1958 and in a ceremony on the parade ground, was re-flagged as the 1st Battalion, 92nd Artillery. The officers of the battalion had an official photograph to mark the occasion, it is odd to see the "old style" uniforms in the photo. I'll try and get a clear scan produced. During this period, my brother in law, a tanker in the British Army (webaster note: the following seems out of context but written as sent) in Bad Kissingen that they were being rotated back to Fort Sill and replaced by the 534th. At this point, the 534th consisted of a very tiny cadre tasked with processing all the rest into the unit, and also to prepare enormous quantities of paperwork in support of artillery training at Sill. During the next few months, culminating on 6 Feb 57, the unit went through a hectic period of intnesive training and 'bonding'. I re-trained from an administrative MOS to an Artillery Survey Specialist. (I never managed better than a 'C' in High School!) it was with an enormous sense of relief we boarded a train with troops, Officiers and NCO's plus our accompanied dependents and took off through Canada to Brooklyn Army Terminal, Embarking onto the USNS General Patch. Seven days brought us to Bremerhaven and onto yet another train to Bad Kissengen, arriving on station on the 15th of February. The 534th was once again a combat unit with a real mission, exactly what we needed.
Glenn McGinnis: I joined the unit right out of mechanic school at Fort Sill, I guess this was as they were rebuilding the battalion to go to Germany. I recall the train and ship rides, big adventures for a nineteen year old from south Texas!
Ray: Arrival at Bad Kissingen was quite an event; the rear party of he 290th and our advance party had transferred ownership of the TO & E and ordinance prior to our arrival. My memories of the first ten days are a mix of rushing to get up to speed on a lot of unfamilar equipment, learning geography and topography - keeping a couple of young 2nd LT's (straight out of ROTC and OCS respecively) happy and out from under foot (thankfully with the connivance of the Bn CO) and assuring my wife that she had some time coming to help her as well! Even now I recall with heartfelt thanks SFC Jim Bosworth and his wife Mary from the 2/14th who were on the ground floor of our apartment house at 6 Pfalzstrasse whose generous and unstinting help to my wife and myself will never be forgotten. I know that my colleagues also received the same treatment from other members of the 2/14th.
Glenn: I was a mechanic and we were trained to work on all the vehicles in the battalion. Once we got to Daley Barracks, all I saw for the first three weeks were the motor shop, my room and the mess hall. LTC Braxton, the Bn Commander and CPT Powell, the Btry Commander, thought the "hand off" equipment was in pretty sorry shape. So, we worked six days a week until it was acceptable.
Ray: It was shortly after this that our draftee troops completed their two years and rotated home. We received a new draft of around 400 young troops, and the next few months were pretty hectic with training, orientation and generally getting our people squared away for duty in Bad Kissengen. What did help a lot was the higher than average number of reenlistments we experienced. Several of my team re-upped, so it did help to keep a family atmosphere. In truth though, the Battalion never really seemed quite the same again.
Glenn: I really don't recall that period very well but in my last year there, I was the Records Clerk for the Motor Pool and I enjoyed the attention to detail kind of work. I left the unit priot to the official return to the USA and left the Army at the end of my enlistment. It was all a big adventure for me and I got to take leave and see the World's Fair at Brussels as welll as Amsterdam and Copenhagen. I remember those days fondly.
Ray: We were in Europe to support the Armored Calvary, and I guess we served that purpose to the best of our ability. We finallly folded our tents and stole away from Germany on the 17th of October 1959 aboard a sister ship to the General Patch, arriving in New York on the 26th of October, this was the end of our German Adventure.
As a post script to the story, the 1/92nd went on to Fort Bragg, and then served with distinction in Vietnam and in Desert Storm. The battalion and batteries received valor awards and a number of soldiers wee highly decorated. Yes, there were casualties and Vietnam was a tough period for all involved but on the whole, we were a lucky unit.