there are documentaries aired relating to events of U.S. involvement preceding,
during, and following the Cuban Blockade. Much has been said on “taking down the
wall” and the subsequent opening of borders in Berlin. One rarely hears of the
Berlin Wall Crisis, a critical time in history in which I was personally involved.
One afternoon in September, 1961, I was en route to my home from work,
listening and enjoying programming on the car radio, when an announcer broke in
with these words: “The 49th Armored Division, Texas National Guard, has been activated;
members report to your Armory for further instructions”. That was a shock to hear!
I was a Radio-Teletype Team Chief with Headquarters Company, Combat Command
C, 49th Armored Division, Texas Army Reserve National Guard, 4th Army, based in
Houston. (That was a mouthful…) Our
Armory was located at the Ellington Air Force Base off I-45 towards Galveston.
Upon arrival, we were told that we had fifteen days to “clear our calendars” and
be prepared to convoy to Ft. Polk, LA.
Star 49th Armored Division 1962|
A side-note of
irony is that when we were at summer camp in Ft. Hood only two months earlier,
the rumors were that we would be activated due to the Cuban Missile Crisis. We
“escaped” that rumor and chuckled to ourselves that the 36th Infantry Unit, following
us at Summer Camp, would be the ones activated.
Ft. Polk base had been closed and inactive for five years, with only a small portion
still open for summer camp use by the Louisiana National Guard. When we arrived,
a lot was in disrepair; barracks windows were broken, heating boilers were not
fully functional – and here we are approaching the winter months. The first couple
of weeks were hectic, to say the least. Supplies had not yet arrived. We went
to the local hardware and building supply stores to buy tools, equipment, and
materials in order to perform repairs to buildings and the grounds.
“settled in”, training began to improve readiness in our respective Military Occupational
Specialties. Much time was also spent “in the field” on bivouac maneuvers, putting
into practice lessons of training.
I am sure occurs with many in numerous military experiences, over time there were
humorous moments. In the field, everyone ate from mess kits; and, going down the
chow line, meat was the first served, with vegetables ladled second, and the dessert
was last and wound on top of the stack. It was not unusual to eat peaches, potatoes,
and meat – in that order. On one occasion, the cooks forgot to pack flour among
the provisions and fried chicken was on the menu to be served. The only thing
from which a batter could be made was cake mix, Hey, that contains flour; improvise!
The pieces of chicken cooked to a golden brown, a great looking crust. But, the
meat itself was still raw, because of the crust browning sooner than a normal
another field exercise, units loaded their equipment on the trucks and proceeded
to their designated locations. Upon arrival, our company unloaded everything,
set up the command center, hooked up all the equipment and was operational around
11:00 PM. By that time, it was really too late to set up their pup tents, so everyone
simply blew up their air mattresses, crawled into their sleeping bags, and hoped
for a good nights’ sleep. Apparently, someone didn’t check the weather forecast!
It began to rain, and it rained, and it rained. Everyone seemingly planned to
weather the storm, cocooned up in their sleeping bags. By daybreak, it had rained
to the point that air mattresses had floated quite a ways from their original
placements on the rolling terrain.
serious moment occurred in the spring of 1962. After the evening meal, an alert
was sounded that all Units of the Division were to pack up the base and make-ready
for point of debarkation at the Port of New Orleans. By 11:00 PM, all Units had
loaded their gear and were in convoy formation, ready to drive out the gates.
At that time, the command was given to stand-down and return to quarters. We have
no certainty to this day whether it was a “Readiness Alert”; or, whether something
ominous was eminent.
The 1st Armored Division was already stationed in
Germany; the 2nd Armored stationed at Ft. Hood would have been deployed as a second
line of defense; and, the 49th would have been the third source of personnel and
equipment for replacements during conflict.
various Units were comprised of Guardsmen from across the State and maintained
as homogenous hometown personnel. The Unit adjacent to ours was from the Rio Grande
region with a large number of members being Mexican-American. Mexican food was
not on the Army menu schedule; so, our cooks and theirs schemed to trade foodstuffs
in order for them to prepare ethnic meals on occasion. Mexican-Americans in our
Unit were often invited as guests to join; and, the “gringos” in their Unit would
be our guests. In this black-market exchange, we often got extra servings of steaks!
In civilian life, one of our cooks worked in a bakery. He would often spend extra
hours at night cooking pastries, cakes, and pies above and beyond the menu schedule.
A cloudy issue during the beginning of service was the recall of “regular”
Army personnel, with recent discharges, to fill voids in our ranks. The “Why Me”
personnel were understandably bitter. Their backgrounds, though, were helpful
toward our transition of duties. Over time, these “regulars” and our “weekend
warriors” blended; and, some meaningful friendships emerged.
Much of the
remainder of our tour of duty was rather routine. One of my assignments was to
monitor radio and wire service transmissions. In evenings and over weekends, we
in the Communications Section could become “hams” over the MARS network.
1, No 20
Friday, April 13, 1962
Published by Beauregard News, Inc
in the interest of the Personnel and their Dependents, Ft. Polk, LA"
on picture for large image
early July, President Kennedy issued orders that our Division, as well as the
one called up in Washington State, be returned to inactive status. By mid-August,
we were homeward bound. No parades, but it was good to be back home, return to
jobs, and restore family and community relationships.
Upon our departure,
Ft. Polk was converted into a training base and personnel from Ft. Carson in Colorado
Springs, Colorado were transferred as its initial troops who were eventually deployed
to Viet Nam duty.
on picture for large image|
|HATS OFF FOR THE
GUARD The National Guard came back from Ft. Polk Tuesday, yelling.
Yelling with relief and happiness, at being back home. For the 78 members of Co.
C, 949th Ordinance Battalion, 250 McCarty, and thousands of Texans, this week
means return to families, friends, and jobs. They are pictured shortly after their
convoy rolled up to the armory. But the four Guard and army reserve units in the
Houston area, which began their active duty 11 months ago when a man named Khrushchev
built a wall in Berlin, aren't quite through. They have to wait until Thursday
at 7:30 p.m. in Colt Stadium for a Houston
"thank you" for a job well done. |
Chronicle - Wednesday, August 08, 1962
Return from Active Duty August 1962
Letter from Fort Polk, LA Commander, 1962|
R - Letter from Texas Governor Price
on letter to for large images
from US War Office|
Cyrus Vance, Secretary of the Army
on letter for large image
"Faithful Service, Texas National Guard" |
R - "National Defense"
Bruce A. Martin, TexARNG (1958-1963)
Shoe Horses, Don't They?
March 23 , 2012, updated June 9, 2013
Subject: "Berlin Wall Crisis 1961"
Martin, It was with great interest that I read your article on TexasEscapes.com
on the activation of the 49 AD (Texas) Guardsmen during the Berlin Wall Crises.
My dad was one of the Guardsmen who served at Ft. Polk during that time... Thank
you for your service to our country! - Tracy P. Teems, USAF & TxANG Vet - 1983-95,
June 08, 2013
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