NIKE AJAX AND HERCULES
ORDNANCE SUPPORT UNIT
SHORT, TALL STORIES
Air Defense Artillery
Neil Armstrong and a trip to Quirnheim
During my first week in Germany, SFG Ringham saw to it that I had a brief orientation which included accompanying seasoned repairmen to the various batteries, spending a day in FMTE and obtaining a European driver's license. Early the following week, he needed someone to travel to Charlie Battery to handle several minor work orders. He selected Walter Roy and myself for the job. Roy and I had been class mates at Redstone, but he had been in country for a couple of weeks or so longer than me and neither of us was certain of how to get to Quirnheim. Accordingly, Ringham, with input from one of the other fellows, wrote out a series of directions and a small map on the back of an envelop.
I jumped behind the wheel of the duce and a half with Roy riding shotgun and off we went, leaving Wackernheim in a cloud of dust. It was mid-morning on a beautiful summer day and the trip would take less than an hour, if all went well. I felt great, no one was more full of himself that day than me. The power of the truck seemed to surge through my veins. The OD chariot carried us to my first repair mission. Since only a few of weeks earlier I'd graduated from jump school at Fort Benning, there was no doubt about it, I would rescue Charlie Battery and keep the free world safe for another day.
I was a man on a mission and nothing would deter me. We rocketed along from village to village, past lush fields and truck farms. Having spent the prior year together in school, Roy and I quickly fell into an analysis of each of the repair problems we would face and dutifully made mental notes of the probable malfunctions. By the time we hit the half way point we were certain we would be able to whip out our shinny new screw drivers and have the repairs completed in record time.
From time to time Roy would consult the directions and issue navigation instructions We had been told that one or two villages were not on the map, but not to worry as we would simply drive straight through them. After an hour had gone by, however, I was certain we were lost. Neither of us recognized any of the surrounding geography. Not to fear though, being trained trouble shooters, we decided to back track and determine where we'd gone wrong.
Turn after turn, road after road, we became more lost. Finally, after going through the little town Ebersheim(?) for the second or third time, we decided to stop and ask directions from the locals. By now, it was noon time so we selected a little gasthaus in the center of town. We pulled up to the front door and asked if anyone spoke English. A well dressed middle aged man was fetched from inside to help us out. He was followed by several onlookers, all of whom offered warm smiles and a friendly greeting.
After we explained the situation, he turned to the crowd and apparently related our need to find Quirnheim. Shortly, they all started laughing uncontrollably. Obviously, they didn't appreciate the seriousness of our predicament. So, to impress upon them the importance of our mission, I explained that it was imperative that we get to the army site there. Again a translation and again great laughter among the locals. Eventually, the man turned around and said "You Americans think you are so smart. You just landed a man on the moon, but you can't find Quirnheim." Without saying another word to us, he and his friends, still laughing uncontrollably, returned inside to their eating and drinking.
By the time we eventually found Quirnheim and Charlie Battery, tails between our legs, we had to call off a search party.