NIKE AJAX AND HERCULES
ORDNANCE SUPPORT UNIT
SHORT, TALL STORIES
Air Defense Artillery
By: Jim Corbett
I have two somewhat related stories to tell about that infamous object that was loved by all. For those of you reading this that have no experience with living in a Quonset hut during a Korean winter, I will describe it for you.
The G.I. Stove is about twenty inches in diameter and about three feet high. It uses diesel fuel from a “jerry can” which hangs on the side of the stove. Fuel is siphoned via a trombone-like device into a control mechanism which meters the fuel into the bottom of the stove. Don’t over think this; there is no technology involved whatsoever. The diesel fuel runs into a puddle in the bottom of the stove and you light it, while the control mechanism keeps adding fuel to the puddle. On a low setting, the stove would burn for quite some time if it didn’t go out. On a high setting it would glow red and roast your butt if you were too close.
My first story relates to the general use of the stove in the old Quonset huts that were the barracks for the Nike direct support platoon of the 65th Ordnance Company at Camp Ames. Quonset huts, like a lot of buildings of that era were poorly insulated; although they were fairly weather tight. In mid-winter the stoves would last about 4 hours on high throttle. This meant that approximately 2:30 to 3:00 am every night, the stove would go out. For safety reasons, a spare can of fuel was not allowed in the barracks. I never really understood the reasoning, as diesel fuel is pretty tame stuff, and besides you always have five gallons of it hanging right on the side of the source of ignition. So, “someone” would not only have to get out of bed, they would have to get fully dressed and go out into the brisk winter night and fill the fuel cans.
Everyone tried not to be that someone. I would wake up from the cold and lay very quietly in my bed, sensing that half of the barracks was also awake. Soon you would hear cot springs start to vibrate from shivering soldiers playing the waiting game. Then the whispering and joking would start. “Hey Zeke, you awake?” “No!” It usually wasn’t too long until our “someone” burst from their bed cursing and slamming locker doors and generally trying to make sure that everyone was awake. I don’t know why we never made up a roster to take care of this little housekeeping chore, guess it just wouldn’t have been as much fun as testing everyone’s cold endurance.
My second story refers to a particular night, but first I’ll set the scene.
After the Pueblo crisis, and being on alert for a period of time, the Army made a few changes. Post security was reinforced with additional Infantry types, including a heavy mortar platoon. Our barracks were next door to the post security elements, and it only made sense to give them our barracks, and find a new place for us.
The place they found for us was in our maintenance shop. A corner was cleared, and the Post Engineers quickly built some partitions. We were back in business.
The building was structural steel framed with concrete block walls, and a roof that was about twenty five feet above the floor. The Engineers didn’t want to cut a hole in the roof for our GI stove, so they removed a pane of translucent glass from one of the high windows and put in a sheet of asbestos board with a hole for the stove pipe. The stove pipe ran horizontally about 18 feet and was suspended by a trapeze of baling wires from the structure above. This worked for about three weeks as I recall.
The horizontal portion of the stove pipe was slowly filling up with diesel fuel soot. One night with the barracks asleep, the whole mess came crashing down with a huge cloud of black greasy soot. It would have been funny if it was happening to someone else. Everyone looked like they were auditioning for a minstrel show. It’s safe to say there wasn’t much Missile Maintenance going on the next day. It took one entire day to clean everyone and everything in the whole place. This was the only time I can remember in my short Army career when I actually wanted an inspection. Bring it on US Army, we are ready. This is the cleanest this place has ever been.