Beginning of the end


So, what next to share? No war stories to tell, and really that is just as well as there was no war. I believe I have already mentioned that there were a few deaths of pilots on training missions. We did have some casualties from accidents that can happen anywhere. I heard a rumor about a fight between a couple of airmen that involved a knife, but for me just one of many rumors one hears in the military.

We returned to Luxembourg City on KLM, and then the ride back to the base with the officer who had been gracious enough to share space with us on the trip to America. Good old Phalsbourg Air Base. Back to reality, at least for a while. I was buoyed up by the trip home though and felt that we were in fact on the downward slope toward making that final trip back to the U.S.

My luggage in the duffel bag was still missing. I was able to buy another blue dress shirt as one shirt could not last indefinitely and I didn’t want to smell overly “ripe” especially in the office.The luggage did come in about 3 weeks as I recall. I don’t know who took over my duties in my absence. There were a couple of other guys in the Statistical Services section of lower rank and they did not work in the office, I really have no idea of what they actually did. Both of them had been computer operators as civilians but we had no computers, not even punch card machines. I suppose that someone else in the comptroller’s office was pressed into some extra work while I was gone. Pretty routine anyway.

Spring was almost here and the weather was getting nicer. I can’t remember anything dramatic just some events that took place in the warmer weather. The base did arrange some trips for us and those were a nice break from the usual. We made one trip to a military graveyard. I believe it was in Trier. Quite sobering really and it  made me appreciate that we were involved in being part of the cold war not a hot war as in WWII. One of the airmen who took the trip had a family member buried there and he went over to pay his respects and say a prayer or two. I had acquired a very good Cannon 8 mm movie camera and took some footage of that trip. I still have the films from those days and have had a few made into video DVDs. The cost is about $70 for a half hour of DVD. I believe I will try to convert another reel and see if the process is still viable. The camera is long gone. I do have a projector, but lamps are not available any more and I am afraid that even if they were, the old films might be too fragile to be shown.

I always liked Switzerland and had taken different trips there alone or with a friend. I think it was in May that I took a trip by myself down to Geneva. I had been to Zurich, Basel, and Berne, and Luzerne but not Geneva and I wanted to spend a little time there. I got a room for a couple of nights in a little downtown hotel and did some sightseeing by foot. I remember going to the Geneva University and seeing the huge bas-relief statues of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, early reformers for what was to become the Protestant branch of the Christian faith. Quite impressive. It was a very satisfying trip even if it was short.

I do recall another trip in that time period to the home of Ingrid Roesser, who had kindly invited me there for christmas, 1961. I remember that we went to Essen and had either a picnic, or bought some food and drink from a vendor in the park. Very appropriate, essen in Essen if you studied any German. At their home, I was introduced to white asparagus. To me, all asparagus was green and I was not overly fond of it, though it was OK. The white variety had a more pleasant taste, though I have rarely seen it for sale here. Too bad. I was also introduced to her father’s favorite wine Zeller Schwarze Katz which translates into the Black Cat of Zell. Ingrid’s father bought it by the case. It is available here, but you might have to look around for it. Every now and then I buy a bottle for sentimental reasons and refresh pleasant memories from long ago.

Once the base bus took us to one of the Lorraine villages that was having some sort of spring celebration. Quite a few from the office took that trip. I recall sitting around a table outside, drinking beer with friends and watching a parade and street performers. A pleasant break.

I even went swimming once, I can’t remember the name of the lake but this must have been in June at least. It might not have been a lake, maybe a reservoir or dammed up portion of a river. At any rate, fresh water with a beach. Another excursion on the base bus. I bought a swim suit outfit at the BX for the trip. I recall getting a bit too much sun then, but just a mild sunburn. Well worth a little discomfort to enjoy the sun and water.

I had a friend, Joe Hammel, and we decided one day to take a walking trip around the area to see some of the little crossroad towns in the area. I think we walked about 10 miles that day. Ah yes, well before the arthritis of today. We stopped at a little restaurant when we were getting a bit tired and had Cafe au Late in an outside table. I think we had a pastry too there as well. We returned by rail to Sarrebourg which had a good sized station. The train was a local and it was a bit larger than a trolley of today but very similar, just one passenger car. It had its own electric engine and made very frequent stops to pick people up and let them off. We were in no particular hurry as we were just doing some local sight-seeing and it was another pleasant warm day. I particularly remember the Cafe au Late with the little cups and a pitcher each of coffee and hot cream. Much nicer experience than Starbucks, at least to me.

So, those are some of the memories I have concerning off-base activities that I still remember. Job duties were still the same , not too demanding. I remember reading the popular history “The decline and Fall of the Third Reich” when I didn’t have anything to do. Much better than shuffling papers around trying to look busy, and nobody cared.

Rumors were rampant about when we would be going home. I think rumors are part and parcel of military life anyway and going home was foremost in all our minds. I always looked forward to the mail and Marge’s letters from home. I wish I still had them, but they got lost somewhere in all the moves and all I have is mine, which occasionally refer to something she wrote, or said on one of the tape letters. My letters, I find on re-reading, could have been more expressive about how much I loved and missed her. Oh well.

Eventually we did get the written orders for us to depart early in August. This time we were flying back on Boeing 707 planes which were commercial passenger jets and the latest thing in aircraft design. The flight was much faster than the original flight to the base on the military plane. That was a good thing, although something in the air system triggered my hay fever allergy and that was not pleasant but fortunately it did not last too long,

The European part of my military service with the Air Force was as good as I could make it. At that time in our country’s history military service was a duty and I chose the Guard to fulfill this requirement.  I understood the risks and when my call came, I made the best of it.

I missed Marge terribly, but did get the opportunity to go back home shortly after our Ingrid was born. I took the opportunity to live off base in France and whenever possible travelled to different parts of Germany and Switzerland. I really admired those countries and eventually got back to visit Germany with Marge on a trip, but more of that later. I did not dislike France, but did not then, nor do I have now, a desire to return there. Some of the guys on base never left the base. They worked there, played ball on a base ball field, went to base movies (I did also once in a while) and/or drank beer in the NCO club. For me, I wanted to make the best use of my time on active duty  seeing other lands and cultures. I also made a few friends which I still keep in touch with all these years.

I came, I saw, I remember, to paraphrase good old J. Caesar. I looked forward to going home and re-uniting with my family. I have no regrets and on this note, will bring this episode to a close. Next one will be about my remaining active duty in NY, and re-integrating with my family and job. Stay tuned!








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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