NIKE AJAX AND HERCULES
ORDNANCE SUPPORT UNIT
SHORT, TALL STORIES
Air Defense Artillery
The following was submitted by the listed author. The owner of this web site, Doyle Piland,
cannot vouch for the accuracy of this article.
196th Ordnance Detachment
The 196th was a Nike missile Ordnance support unit attached to the 1/67th Artillery Battalion with their HQ in Werthheim, about 80 miles away from our home base in Worms. We seemed to be pretty much on our own. Our rank was handed down from Artillery (they weren't all that generous) and the Artillery brass was not enthusiastic about journeying to the boondocks to visit or inspect, so we had only, at most, one annual battalion inspections, typically.
Nike Missile Maintenance and Support
By: Allan W. Swank
The shop was a complete service unit. That is, we serviced Nike internal guidance, auxiliary power, hydraulics, and launcher (mechanical, hydraulic and electronic) sections. Most maintenance was done in-shop, the repaired subsystems/components then ferried to and installed at the site. Site work was mostly to service the several radars and the launchers. In the shop was the orderly room, of course, and tech supply, manned by, usually, 3-5 men and separate areas for the other sections.
The shop, itself, was a stuccoed cement block building about 75' X 150' (give or take) located inside a 6-foot high fence which surrounded the asphalt motor pool which was usually full of APC's, a couple of tanks and one humongous tank retriever. I'm guessing they were armored cavalry. The shop was only a half block out the back gate, away from Taukkunen Barracks, in Worms.
My section had the responsibility of maintaining the personnel heaters in all the instrument vans at each of the 1/67 ADA radar sites. There must have been 3 at each site. Times 4 sites. Those dozen heaters alone kept us busy. But doing that, along with the normal launcher service kept someone from our launcher section almost always at one site or another. Another frequent duty, which kept someone busy on site was the installation of modifications to the equipment. I was sure Western Electric originally designed a good system but then went back and changed some things so that, down the road, they could sell modifications to the Army for a little more cash. One example: the launchers were always exposed to the elements (our surface sites, at least) so it seemed reasonable to expect the several exposed cable connectors to draw moisture, compromising the power, control and communications signals going through them. But it wasn't until years after their deployment that we came to install the weatherproofing, presumably purchased from Western Electric.
The 1/67 ADA included four Nike Ajax/Hercules missile batteries:
"A" Battery was the nearest to home, located in Griesheim (we just said Darmstadt), Germany, only 30 miles away. It was not a really interesting drive. "A" Battery called for very little attention. I'm not sure why. All the batteries had very competent crews who could and did handle 99% of the launcher area maintenance. The 196th was just there to handle what regulations prevented the battery crews from doing.
"B" Battery was altogether different. Bravo was associated with the town of Mainbullau. The ~60 mile trip to Bravo was always an adventure. One took winding roads through the woods and over a mountain. The site was on the top of a mountain (no surprise), which, in good weather was a postcard journey but in deep winter, could be a death-defying challenge. You could always count on a breath-catching vista looking out over a deep valley. There was a German grass airstrip nearby often with gliders in the air. Occasionally I would look DOWN from my truck to see a glider flying below me up the valley. Magnificent! Bravo's officers (especially Lts. Reiley and Adams) were the easiest officers I ever met in the Army to get along with (except for one full bird colonel - but that's another story), even if the enlisted men stationed there wouldn't agree and many didn't.
"Charley" battery was a hoot. Here the NCO's were the high feature. They didn't hesitate to assist or compliment us Ordnance grunts. It was easy to feel like real people at "C" Battery. It sure didn't help their image when it was discovered that one obsolete Ajax missile they had sent back to the states was uncanned with the warhead still in it. Not armed, but still.... This was the longest drive from home (except for the trip to battalion HQ, about 80 miles), about 75 miles. Located near Hardheim (recent aerial view), I always expected to spend the night when I had to go to Charley. Nice drive, though, over much the same route as to Bravo but further.
"D" Battery was unique. These guys were clever and resourceful. They only called us for things they were, by regulation, not permitted to do, and not always promptly then. I delivered replacement cables to them to correct a communications glitch. To avoid having the battery off-line, the maintenance guys crossed unused conductors in the cable (a no no) to stay operational. There was a USAF base somewhere nearby. Once, while working inside a bunkered section of the launcher area, I heard a high-speed bogie approaching. Then, like an explosion, wham!, this jet flew over just above the bunker and gaining altitude AND UP-SIDE-DOWN!. Unaffected, the site cadre guy simply shrugged and said, "oh, yea, they do that all the time. I think they're pissed 'cause somebody reported some pilot's wing number ID for buzzing the site. Now they still buzz us but inverted so we can't copy their ID."
I loved the ~45 mile drive to Delta. From Worms we went south through Heidelberg (past the famous Heidelberg Castle) then wound, again, through the woods, but this time, over and along two rivers, Neckar and Mosel, finally to the town of Dallau. Since this site was so capable and self-reliant, I didn't get to visit there nearly as much as I would have liked.
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