Cold Warrior A1C Bob

The Berlin Recall was part of the Cold War. A war of words and national actions and reactions, but not shooting, at least for the US. I was a part of that, a very small part. I volunteered for the Guard, took my chance on activation and did what my job called for.

My military job title was “Statistical Specialist” which sounds rather nerdy, but really was clerical. An important piece of knowledge for us, and I imagine all military, is to have up to date information in some degree of detail concerning its strength of the officers and enlisted men. For us, and I believe all the US military, this information was contained in a daily report. That was a long time ago, but I believe it was named the Morning Report (the MR).

In our case, this report was prepared by the First Sergeant of the 13 Squadrons in our base. It was basically an 8.5″ by 11″ piece of paper in tabular form with the staffing statistics for that squadron, as well as notations of the orders issued explaining any changes from the prior day. As the name suggests, it was prepared in the morning.

My job was really a sort of quality control function. After I got to my desk in the comptrollers office I did a few odds and ends of work and then, when the MR reports were due, I went to the squadrons to pick them up. This was nice as I was not tied to my desk indoors, and got to walk around the base picking up the documents and then returning to my desk.

Then my office work began. My job was to look for mistakes in arithmetic, typing or anything else that did not look right. The requirements for preparation were quite precise. They were prepared on typewriters and with all the paperwork the squadron office had to generate, there were many opportunities for mistakes. For example, no erasures were allowed at all. If one occurred, the whole thing had to be redone, or the error could be struck over and the correct number or letter had to be typed in. If you ever used a manual typewriter, you may recall that you had to manually fool with the platen (?) so the adjustment was legible and did not interfere with its neighbor. This happened frequently.

My review completed, I took the offending reports back to the originating squadron for them to correct and resubmit. I was not exactly welcome. The dialog between me and the first sergeant was something like this:

FS: Get out!! We’re swamped, don’t have time for petty things like that!!
Me: Hey, you know the rules as well as I do. See that your typists to the job right the
first time and I won’t come back.

If there were no errors, this was about a 4 hour job. A typical day though ran about 6 hours at most. At first, I just fooled around my desk, shuffled papers, and attempted to look busy. Later I realized I could read a book if I had nothing to do as long as I was at my desk ready for whatever might come up. And once in a while, our Colonel would want some special report for his own use and I was glad to get that done as it provided some variety to my job.

There were some additional variations such as supervising some sort of work detail, being posted as part of a perimeter guard for the sake of looking military and little things like that.

One personal part of the day was getting and posting mail. As I recall, there was a small post office on the base and I always looked forward to receiving mail, especially from Marge, and of course sending mail to her. I have found all of my letters to her, but with one exception, none of her letters to me. I have her letters when we were separated at SU, and when I was taking basic training. I have no idea what happened to the rest of hers, I would never have consciously thrown them away, but there have been a lot of moves and things can get lost. At that time, it was possible to buy small 3″ tapes for tape recording that were designed for sending voice mails, and small recorders/players were easily obtained. I have a few of those, but have yet to try to play them.

Our base did have a movie theater that played free current movies in the evening, and there was a bus that we could get on to travel to and from out off-base quarters and I utilized that. Also, it was an easy walk to Sarreburg for a restaurant meal, local movie and things like that in town. A local movie ticket cost about the equivalent of 40 cents and even if they were in French or German, you could kind of get the feel of what was going on. I had learned some basic German and could understand a word here and there which helped. At least it was something different to do.

Three day passes were on occasion available and I would use that opportunity to visit Germany or Switzerland which were not very far by rail, or even renting a car if someone else was interested so we could split the charge. I really had no desire to visit more of France and Paris was about 400 miles away so I never went there.

Margery had a German friend, Ingrid Roesser, who had spent a school year in Cornwall with her. Ingrid had come there to practice her English and become acquainted with idiomatic English, not just textbook English. She and her family invited me to spend Christmas 1961 with them which I gladly accepted. They lived in a pleasant house in the Industrial City of Herten in the general vicinity of Essen and Dortmund. Her parents did not speak English very much nor I German so Ingrid was the translator as needed. It was most pleasant to spend the holiday with them, especially as Ingrid and Marge were such good friends. Ingrid and her fiancee Theo, were students at Wurzburg University and I visited them a couple of times and also visited the Roesser family in the spring. I have fond memories of all these visits.

The base organized bus rides to different locations on weekends and I went on several of these. One place we went to different times was a Royal Canadian Air Force base not too far away. The principal reason was that they had a much larger Base Exchange than we did and was a good place to shop that accepted American money at whatever was the exchange ratio at the time. Other trips were to one or two military graveyards where an occasional fellow airman had a relative buried. Also, if a nearby city or village was having some sort of a celebration, we would go there so we could enjoy the occasion, often by sitting outside at a table with buddies enjoying a few beers.

All in all, I made the most of my time there and it was not unpleasant. Of course, I would rather have been back home with Marge. I was able to go to a few parenting classes with her until I left, but it would have been nice to be with her as our first child grew in size inside Marge. As I re-read all my letters to her, I believe I could have done a better job of expressing both how much I loved and missed her and maybe more about what I was doing and thinking. There was a pattern in these letters of minor complaints about the military, having a cold, and the damp and chilly weather. At times, I was able to be a bit eloquent in saying mow much I missed her, but mostly it was something like “I love and miss you so much Marge, and can’t wait until we are back together again.” All true of course, but not as fully expressed as I really felt then and still do.




About R. F.

I am a retired Professional Engineer who spent my working life in the electric utility industry. I am now a volunteer instructor at the University Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV).
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