You Will No Longer Be Alive!
Winter Shield Graffenfer, by Loyal Vincent, “A” Co, 2nd Battle Group, 2nd Infantry, 24th Division
Each Army must be prepared for the worst possible situation.
Thus those of us with the 24th Infantry Division in Germany had the pleasure of experiencing Winter Shield, an exercise to better prepare us for the reality of war.
Winter Shield was held in the mid of winter in the dark, cold, snowy and windy forests of Bavaria.
I was assigned to Personnel and of course was not as exposed to the cold and many hours of armed movement through the forests as was the infantry soldier.
Winter Shield began for me and my fellow troops when we packed up all the Personnel records onto duce and half trucks.
We also packed all our duffle bags with items we thought we’d need for a four week trip out in the forests of Bavaria.
While the foot soldiers spent the entire time in pup tents and sleeping bags and any other type of shelters that they could find, we were housed in a very large tent at the Battle Group Command Post where all the paperwork kept coming and going as if we were still back on the post.
We slept, ate, typed records, filed records, took baths, and lived in this tent for the duration of the Winter Shield operation.
About 30 of us shared this tent, along with all the records and equipment. But at least we were inside with a small space heater.
Winter Shield was not all fun and games; the Battle Group had several fatalities. Company D had a small truck with seven men aboard overturn on a mountain road. Several were killed, including a special friend who had graduated from a university and taught school before being drafted.
Three other men were killed when they were run over by a tank in the dead of night; they had cast their sleeping quarters outside the timbered area and tank drivers did not see them in the dark.
In the Command tent where we operated, we carried on as if we were back at the post matriculating new men directly from the States.
One new soldier said he had heard that things in Germany were primitive, but this was much worse than he had expected. We never told him this was just a 30 day exercise.
We also processed men that had been marked as wounded or killed to make the actions seem more realistic. But when one of our clerks had a real appendicitis attack the hospital didn’t know what to do with him as they were busy processing fake sick and wounded. He finally got to a hospital and was treated properly.
The Group’s mess tent was about three-fourths mile away and we were supposed to get our meals there. The Germans locals exploited this situation by selling us large long cured smoked venison sausages, dark rye bread, beer and wine. Many of us substituted these for some of our meals rather than walking to the mess tent. But a good hot meal by our famous cooks was a real treat too.
Personnel clerks were not exempt from guard duty during Winter Shield. I pulled night duty a couple of times.
One night I had watch from 11:00 PM until 1:00 AM out in cold with no light other than what moon light filtered through the trees.
About thirty minutes into my watch, I thought I saw a movement in the trees. We had been told to be alert to possible East German or Russian infiltrators.
Moments later I was sure I saw a shadow that moved from one tree to another about 50 yards away. I continued to focus on the area and this time I definitely saw a person moving slowing from tree to tree.
The claims of guards being clubbed or killed on guard duty crept into my mind and this was getting to be a bit scary. I shouted “Come forward, be recognized and give the password.”
There was no response. Time seemed to stand still in the dark, cold, snow covered forest. This seemed to have gone on for hours, but it was only a few short minutes.
Finally the shadowy figure moved again and this time I rammed a round into my rifle allowing it to close loudly in the still cold air. The shadow then came out with his hands up. He yelled that he was an American soldier from Company C, who was on his way to a Gashouse down the road a bit. Apparently there were a bunch of guys having a party. It was warm and they had plenty of beer, bread and brats to eat, and perhaps more.
I let him go; he said he would be coming back this direction to his company area in about 3-4 hours, and that he would stay out in the open so he would be seen.
I told him I would tell the next guys on guard duty. He was very appreciative, and said that probably a few more would be using this route. One of the other guards said that several fellows came back through the lines from the Gashouse and that they appeared to not notice the cold at all.
We all griped and groaned about how bad we had it out in the cold, but since most of our duty was inside it of course was not bad at all. Not at all like the ground pounder infantry soldiers who were doing the nasty work to protect the German and European people and our American liberties and our way of life, from the true enemy in the Cold War!
I remember a lecture series and being told that the 24th Division was the forward guard that would need to hold the Eastern Block countries at bay until additional troops and equipment would arrive from the United States.
Someone then asked: “What will we do when the replacements arrive, will we be attached to the new units or what?”
The answer he received was short and simple; “You will no longer be alive!”
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The Taro Leaf, Vol 63(2) Spring 2009, pg. 44-45