NIKE AJAX AND HERCULES
ORDNANCE SUPPORT UNIT
SHORT, TALL STORIES
Air Defense Artillery
It was the end of summer 1957, Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. The 162nd Ordnance Detachment (GMDS) had just successfully completed its qualification training and was now ready for deployment overseas to Germany. This would be the beginning of a long 22 plus-years, memorable and rewarding time of my life. It also would be my introduction to the Army's' "hurry up and wait" way of doing things.
We departed Redstone early in the morning I believe the 22nd of September 1957. Before leaving we were provided a sack lunch with a l/2-pint of milk. That was to hold us until we were aboard our train that was to take us to New York. There was about 20 enlisted men and a small amount of Detachment property that was to accompany the unit to Germany. We arrived at the Huntsville train station before daylight. Because we were dressed in Khaki uniform we made an effort to at least stay somewhat presentable. However, as time dragged on more and more people started finding a place to sit down which meant either on your duffel bag, which was uncomfortable, or on the ground, which was more comfortable but dusty. Not sure now, but I don't seem to recall many going into the train station to find a place to rest and wait. It may have been full of civilian travelers. The sun came up and as most of you know, in Huntsville at that time of year, it gets warm real fast. We would wait some 5 or 6 hours before the train arrived. For those of you that wore Khaki, you must remember that you couldn't take them out of your wall locker and put them on without wrinkling them. We were not "inspection ready" I'm sure, but then again I don't remember anyone being all that bad either. We had some very good people and all did whatever was needed to make the trip easier for everyone else. I'm sure that whoever planned and executed this move, felt we arrived at the station just in time.
Most of us probably ate our lunch long before the train arrived. By the way lunch consisted of two pre-cooked cold hot dogs split down the center, unfolded and placed between two dry slices of bread. No mustard, no ketchup, no anything. And I think we had a cookie. No matter, we were glad to have it. The milk did not stay very cool in that paper sack and probably most of that was thrown away. By the time I got to Korea in 1964/65 the sack lunches got much better. The train finely arrived and as some said their last sad farewells to family/friends the rest of us loaded the equipment and boarded. We were all assigned to one Coleman (?) Sleeper style car that was quite comfortable. A few of us made our way to the dinning car where, I had my first meal aboard a train. I remember it well, a BLT w/soft drink, that cost over $5.00. I couldn't believe one sandwich would cost that much. It was a long way from my hometown in Maine. This would be the first time most of us had slept in a sleeper car while traveling and it was quite an experience. It was amazing how fast the Conductors converted, a sitting car to sleeping quarters. I don't believe many got much sleep that night. It would be a long time, at least we thought, for most of us before seeing family again.
We had a layover, that evening, in Washington DC. If I remember correctly it was three or four hours. Most of us took turns watching the equipment and then touring the local area. I don't think many went further than the station, which had a nice USO station with soft drinks, coffee and TV, but most important we all made it back to the train safely and on time. We arrived in New York the following day, where we would marry up with all the other detachment members and board the troopship USS Gen. G. M. Randall, for Germany. I believe that the 162nd Ordnance Detachment was the first Guided Missile Support Unit in Germany. If it wasn't, I'm sure someone will let me know.
Today, our travel is done by air and I guess that is good. Time doesn't allow for the slow and easy pace we once knew. But as I look back, almost a half century ago, I remember those as the good old days and all in all a most enjoyable trip.
A few months ago (summer of 99) I went to a model train show that was held in the old Huntsville train depot. It has now been turned into a museum. It had been a long time since I'd been there but I could still see in my mind's eye - us waiting patiently for the train. I had taken some pictures on that departure day but the only one that came out was a detachment member named Dutton with his wife/girl friend. Unfortunately, that one is a double exposure but I've included here anyway. The main body of troops is behind him. I have attached a group picture of the unit taken at Redstone. Not all the people in the picture ended up going to Germany. If anyone out there made this trip with me - thanks for some good memories.
The following was received on 13 December
It pertains to the "Dutton" photo memtioned above.
I am so excited to find this web site. My husband is Johnny H. DUTTON and this is me, Gwen, and his mother, Leenoma Dutton, in the picture mentioned. This has been a long time ago. Johnny and I had been dating for a while before he left for Germany and, when he returned, we were married almost 44 years ago.
Johnny read this article submitted by Richard C. McGee and, to the best of his memory, is accurate. Johnny has a good memory of those days.
The way we found out about this page was Jim Dailey from Plymouth, MA. His wife and I correspond and she had sent the information to me. Someone had sent the info to Jim.
Johnny was on the USS Gen. G. M. Randall on the way to Germany. He has a picture of the group that you made in Huntsville and knows most of the men. We have seen some of them at different times. Johnny thinks that Richard C. McGee in the man behind the 162nd in the picture and that a man by the name of Cannup is beside him. The Cannup man lives in Decatur, AL near us in Athens, AL. We live only 30 minutes from Huntsville, AL. Johnny grew up here and was very fortunate to have been stationed at Redstone Arsenal during part of his tour of duty.
We would certainly like to hear from you.