EXIT THE 99TH RECON

Camp Maxey, Paris, Texas, in November 1943 - An Army Thanksgiving - Maxey and Lamar Roads - Ina Ray Hutton “big name bands” - May Maneuvers - D Day - Barkeley Maneuvers - Pre-overseas swimming lessons - POM training - Gibraltar Hotel - “Supermammy” - SS Excelsior, then Belgium in November 1944. Combat Thanksgiving and the Liege and Verviers roads. No, not a story of love, not a story of European romance, just the plain facts or signposts along the road to “action this day” - the pay-off for a well trained soldier. Truly the names are ominous: Paris, Gibraltar. Some sound romantic: La Marr for Hedy, Ina Ray Hutton for herself, “Supermammy” for a glamorous GI, and Excelsior for meaning “always upward”, the troop motto, “ever forward”. Others downright serious: D-Day, overseas swimming lessons, POM, and the GI traditions of General Maxey, a famous Civil War leader. Only the serious ones counted. Paris, Texas, only served to remind that in Paris, France, still lay the mission - Nazis. The Gibraltar Hotel only served to bring home that victory in Rome on D-Day meant a safe Gibraltar and better sea lanes to Europe. Whatever else seemed like diversion on the way had to be turned into training and ammunition that would some day make a Thanksgiving count in advance for something the Recons would do on the road to Liege and Verviers, but a little later.
Connelly had been replaced again by Maloney, just back from ASTP in Georgia Tech, as armorer. In December ‘43 came a new flurry of rank after Christmas: Sgt Billy R Godwin, Sgt Henry Gettman, Sgt Duane M Grier, Sgt Gerald D Eickmeier. Also Cpl Ramiro M Avila and Sgt Samuel A Steele joined the troop as veterans of the Pacific war from the 32nd Cavalry at Maxey, and all of them about the same time. S/Sgt Robert Williams fresh from the paratroopers replaced Sgt Melvin E Roberts, who went to the second platoon. Williams took a break to private and moved on. (He next turned up in the ETO as an Infantry Officer.) Sgt Gerald D Eickmeier took over at Headquarters. Halstead in the third platoon was replaced by Ritter while Godwin was section sergeant and Steele was car commander. Roberts became the extra platoon sergeant in the second while Sgt John A Shoemaker was the section sergeant, and Sgt Grier was the car commander in the same platoon. After Suggs, Sgt Gettman and Sgt “Pop” Williams lined up as section sergeant and car commander respectively in the first platoon. Each platoon had the able assistance of squad leaders, Cargile and Miller in the first, Avila and Stringfellow in the second, and Barry and Brunner in the third.
Camp Maxey, Paris, Texas, in November 1943 - An Army Thanksgiving - Maxey and Lamar Roads - Ina Ray Hutton “big name bands” - May Maneuvers - D Day - Barkeley Maneuvers - Pre-overseas swimming lessons - POM training - Gibraltar Hotel - “Supermammy” - SS Excelsior, then Belgium in November 1944. Combat Thanksgiving and the Liege and Verviers roads. No, not a story of love, not a story of European romance, just the plain facts or signposts along the road to “action this day” - the pay-off for a well trained soldier. Truly the names are ominous: Paris, Gibraltar. Some sound romantic: La Marr for Hedy, Ina Ray Hutton for herself, “Supermammy” for a glamorous GI, and Excelsior for meaning “always upward”, the troop motto, “ever forward”. Others downright serious: D-Day, overseas swimming lessons, POM, and the GI traditions of General Maxey, a famous Civil War leader. Only the serious ones counted. Paris, Texas, only served to remind that in Paris, France, still lay the mission - Nazis. The Gibraltar Hotel only served to bring home that victory in Rome on D-Day meant a safe Gibraltar and better sea lanes to Europe. Whatever else seemed like diversion on the way had to be turned into training and ammunition that would some day make a Thanksgiving count in advance for something the Recons would do on the road to Liege and Verviers, but a little later.
Connelly had been replaced again by Maloney, just back from ASTP in Georgia Tech, as armorer. In December ‘43 came a new flurry of rank after Christmas: Sgt Billy R Godwin, Sgt Henry Gettman, Sgt Duane M Grier, Sgt Gerald D Eickmeier. Also Cpl Ramiro M Avila and Sgt Samuel A Steele joined the troop as veterans of the Pacific war from the 32nd Cavalry at Maxey, and all of them about the same time. S/Sgt Robert Williams fresh from the paratroopers replaced Sgt Melvin E Roberts, who went to the second platoon. Williams took a break to private and moved on. (He next turned up in the ETO as an Infantry Officer.) Sgt Gerald D Eickmeier took over at Headquarters. Halstead in the third platoon was replaced by Ritter while Godwin was section sergeant and Steele was car commander. Roberts became the extra platoon sergeant in the second while Sgt John A Shoemaker was the section sergeant, and Sgt Grier was the car commander in the same platoon. After Suggs, Sgt Gettman and Sgt “Pop” Williams lined up as section sergeant and car commander respectively in the first platoon. Each platoon had the able assistance of squad leaders, Cargile and Miller in the first, Avila and Stringfellow in the second, and Barry and Brunner in the third.
Camp Maxey, Paris, Texas, in November 1943 - An Army Thanksgiving - Maxey and Lamar Roads - Ina Ray Hutton “big name bands” - May Maneuvers - D Day - Barkeley Maneuvers - Pre-overseas swimming lessons - POM training - Gibraltar Hotel - “Supermammy” - SS Excelsior, then Belgium in November 1944. Combat Thanksgiving and the Liege and Verviers roads. No, not a story of love, not a story of European romance, just the plain facts or signposts along the road to “action this day” - the pay-off for a well trained soldier. Truly the names are ominous: Paris, Gibraltar. Some sound romantic: La Marr for Hedy, Ina Ray Hutton for herself, “Supermammy” for a glamorous GI, and Excelsior for meaning “always upward”, the troop motto, “ever forward”. Others downright serious: D-Day, overseas swimming lessons, POM, and the GI traditions of General Maxey, a famous Civil War leader. Only the serious ones counted. Paris, Texas, only served to remind that in Paris, France, still lay the mission - Nazis. The Gibraltar Hotel only served to bring home that victory in Rome on D-Day meant a safe Gibraltar and better sea lanes to Europe. Whatever else seemed like diversion on the way had to be turned into training and ammunition that would some day make a Thanksgiving count in advance for something the Recons would do on the road to Liege and Verviers, but a little later.
Connelly had been replaced again by Maloney, just back from ASTP in Georgia Tech, as armorer. In December ‘43 came a new flurry of rank after Christmas: Sgt Billy R Godwin, Sgt Henry Gettman, Sgt Duane M Grier, Sgt Gerald D Eickmeier. Also Cpl Ramiro M Avila and Sgt Samuel A Steele joined the troop as veterans of the Pacific war from the 32nd Cavalry at Maxey, and all of them about the same time. S/Sgt Robert Williams fresh from the paratroopers replaced Sgt Melvin E Roberts, who went to the second platoon. Williams took a break to private and moved on. (He next turned up in the ETO as an Infantry Officer.) Sgt Gerald D Eickmeier took over at Headquarters. Halstead in the third platoon was replaced by Ritter while Godwin was section sergeant and Steele was car commander. Roberts became the extra platoon sergeant in the second while Sgt John A Shoemaker was the section sergeant, and Sgt Grier was the car commander in the same platoon. After Suggs, Sgt Gettman and Sgt “Pop” Williams lined up as section sergeant and car commander respectively in the first platoon. Each platoon had the able assistance of squad leaders, Cargile and Miller in the first, Avila and Stringfellow in the second, and Barry and Brunner in the third.
Sick call began to be a vital thing. Pfc Carl Morth and Pfc Paul A “Blackie” Gainfort had been keeping a constant watch on the Dispensary to the extent that when Morth went up hand-over-hand one day on a hitherto unsurmountable obstacle on the obstacle course, the fellows in the troop began to wonder what kind of treatments they were giving out down there at the infirmary besides cough medicine and cc’s. Section “8" had become a mysterious topic of conservation and smart GI’s were equally prone to being accused of bucking for a section “8" as for an extra stripe. If a guy bucked according to the standard GI custom, he was just “stripe happy”. If he refused to buck with his superior officers according to the prevalent tradition, he was throwing in a subtle buck to the medics for a section 8. Already several new ailments had just started to appear: fellows started getting trouble with their legs from “gangplank knees”, others were getting sporadic attacks of “salt sea fever”, and a few complained of “POE-itis”. Among still a few others it took an opposite turn, they got an inferiority complex and a “fixation” that some invisible power was holding them back from overseas duty which was their call. At almost any bull session or at any bar with appropriate martial chest-beating, they would announce their frustration and desire to have been in the thick of it.
The M-8's replaced the scout cars and showed an even greater propensity for getting stuck. In March on the six day problem, Whitehead also proved the tactical ability of an M-8 for bridge-busting. Kopan, not to be daunted, in May Maneuvers during the Division tests took a more active part this time in a radio comedy. Recon was operating in coordination with the air force on an air to ground liaison net with P-38's. Captain Lueders called up Kopan’s M-8 for some rush information: the reply came back “ I don’t know my position or what’s going on - out”. As bad as this sounds, it was entirely possible for things moved just that fast. This serves not only to show how speeded up things had become but also how far they had progressed toward the final stages of blitz. Cpl Hawkins and Sgt Steele were giving pre-overseas swimming lessons and it is said that the same Kopan redoubled his efforts to become a proficient self-server when, around May Maneuvers he saw a jeep sink below the surface of Lake La Mar when it’s canvas float collapsed and in exactly the same spot where only a short while ago he had been vociferously signaling for a place aboard.
All these “tuning-up problems”, laughs and maneuvers had begun officially in January as the intensive nine months of POM training got under way. The troop ran it’s own problems in early spring in which Lt Deyo astounded the field with his headquarters provisional platoon, introducing for the first time the cooks as superlative combat men, in which tradition Cpl Allie Smith, Cpl “Shorty” Savage, Sgt Henry Brown, Pfc George Akins, were to continue in the Bulge as did Mess Sergeant Lawrence who won a Bronze Star. Other recipients of the Bronze Star were Sgt James A Sublett, T/Sgt Milton R Knowles, Cpl Joseph W Golla, Sergeant Bryant; and others who now wear the Purple Heart, plus Cpl Wilbur J Osterkamp, who was to be awarded the Certificate of Merit, also participated in this big tactical headquarters upset. It was without a doubt this same tradition that kept the troop kitchen and rear echelon men all through the action in Germany on the alert and always a surprise as PW chasers. Because in order to sweep the field in the intra-troop problems a man had to be able to fight with “tongue and tongs”.
D-Day on June 6th found the troop taking the first half of the seven hundred mile round trip to Camp Barkeley, Texas, to engage the 12th Armored Division in maneuvers. The troop was attached to the 395th Infantry Regiment with the 924th Field Artillery Battalion, the 99th Signal Company and other special Troops. (Not unlike the shadow of things that were to be.) The 99th Recon Troop opened the problem as a Task Force fighting a delaying action in advance of their outpost line. For six days across the sun-scorched, breeze swept, cattle hills of Texas the Recon was instrumental in preventing the bulk of the 12th Armored from getting through it’s objective. In another three day period the 99th went into attack and swept the opposing armor off it’s feet. The result: complete victory for the 99th. A high measure of success went again to the Recon and the scheduled three week maneuvers ended over a week early as the 99th blitzed all expectations of time and victory.
Then on July 16th a three day combat team problem with the 395th Infantry and the snakes at the Choctaw Indian Reservation thirty miles deep into Oklahoma. “Sleeper posts” were set up with the 510 radios used as battery sets. It was a communications field day. Hardly anything went amiss. Crowley was routed by a lone snake on a self defense patrol. Wurzel bayoneted another with a pen knife after staring it down with nearsighted vigilance. Not even the helio-monsters or tarantulas fazed Recon. It was “ever forward”!
One day early in September, or rather it was the night at ten o’clock, we fell out in troop formation to load the 500 TAT (take aboard transport) boxes. Some swayed a little in the warm breeze. A slight smell of beer was in the wind. No one had been exactly “drowning their sorrows” it was true, but when Lt Worley said if any of you are too tired you may fall out, some took him literally and just fell in their tracks. The rest, two to a box, threw them around like old stevedores. And that was the way it was always going to be with Recon. A very few would never make it, could not make it. The rest were good for all that and plenty more, too. After that the squares in the Checkerboard seemed to leave in small groups. A lot of train whistles at night and another troop train would rattle it’s way through the Texas night. Pretty soon Paris, Texas, felt like a deserted village. Now and then the 99th patch would show up on some belated recuperate in the hospital, but the Checkerboard Division had left. As fellows swept northwest they rode by their homes, sometimes got a look inside, but like unseen ghosts they had to keep going. Hitler would some day soon know what it meant to be haunted by these same ghosts.
Scolley Square, the Old Howard, the pigeons in the Boston Commons, the China Clipper, the first cigar Sgt Bryant ever smoked, POE bound, the Bosox and the Braves, Fall River, Providence, those hangover “calisthumpics”, three days riding the rails, two weeks on tacks and nails, Miles Standish, Taunton, Mass., then retracing the route out to Boston Harbor that brought freedom to the United States a century and a half ago. Captain Lueders saw his men join the other throngs already bent on the grim pilgrimage of death to bring freedom back again to Europe.
Time was no matter now. Death was getting too companiable. Looking out over the rolling Atlantic prairies of water, manning a three or five inch gun, “thinking” between life boat drills, one could not escape the fact of a big adventure of mass humanity on the move, of something ominous and total ahead. There were laughs, too. Avila, not being any kin to the “Ancient Mariner” told Stringfellow to go upstairs and take a look at the ducks, meaning all the white seagulls ($50.00 fine if you shoot one - so get it straight, civilians). Stringfellow was laying down bemoaning any other thought but that of Columbus’ “Gimme land, lots of land”. He thought Avila had said “docks”. He bolted out and spent some time upstairs running around the floor “from wall to wall” looking for the aforesaid “docks”. All the time the seagulls were circling around and looking at him as a man gone mad. Anyhow they both could tell William Shakespeare when they finally reached Merrie Olde Englande “What’s in a name - docks, ducks, or seagulls. Nonetheless an important change in plans was made on the boat. Unbeknown to the Recon boys they were not to land at Cherbourg. Their platoon assignments, first, second, third, to the 393rd, 394th, and 395th Infantry respectively, were changed and they were once again a troop and slated to live and die together as a troop. That was important. Nor was it odd that when their Liberty ship pulled into Liverpool, England, and they had debarked someone noticed once again riding high to her stern, that name “Excelsior” - “Ever Forward”, the Motto of the troop.
Camp Walditch, England, produced quonset huts, Bridport, a troop dance, a beer party for the exclusive second platoon given by Lt Von Burg and Cpl Hawkins, in-law troubles for some, perambulator pneumatic problems for others, “red head” and gate crashing difficulties for others even higher up, and a contest of cider versus Lil Abner (Pfc Lloyd Abner) in an alien land. During those three brief weeks many of the boys had the pleasure of spending two days in London as well.
Then LTC’s, across the Channel, Le Havre, a robot bomb, that famous “yoo hoo, boo hoo” ride toward the front to Ste Jean Mart, then there: rain, hogs, mud, snow, the famous Siegfried Line, and you have it - COMBAT.

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