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Operation Longhorn
The Time
Lampasas was Liberated

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox

A ruthless foreign power bent on subjugating the U.S. invaded Texas in 1952.

That spring, as the U.S. military continued to battle North Koreans in Southeast Asia, Americans back home tended to see a Communist behind every bush. And in the Lone Star State the Cold War suddenly turned hot -- at least on paper.

World events unfolded rapidly, but with television in its infancy and the internet decades away, news spread slower than it does today. That being the case, the screaming bold type spread across the front page of the April 3, 1952 edition of the Lampasas Dispatch surely startled many local residents.

“Texas Made A Nation: Aggressor Win Ends Bondage,” read the banner headline.

In an era when the Soviet Union and Red China seemed bent on taking over the world, and nuclear war appeared all but inevitable, the first paragraph of the weekly newspaper’s lead story bore chilling news:

“An Aggressor Military Government Group assumed control of Lampasas today when the 56th Militia Governmento Sekcio commanded by Regimentestro (Colonel) Alton M. Schiepstock, raised the Aggressor Flag at the County Court House at 9 a.m.”

The next paragraph quoted the new leader offering “the helping hand of friendship” after his government had finally broken “the bonds by which the filthy, capitalistic, Wall Street, war mongers have enslaved you since 1845….Long live the Texas Peoples Republic and the glorious Aggressor Nation.”

In other words, another nation had invaded the U.S., taken control of Texas, and made it an “independent” country. Actually, the Dispatch article noted that the U.S. had been under attack since 1950, with the Carolinas and California already under Aggressor control.

Of course, the helping hand of friendship extended by the new Aggressor official came veiled in an iron glove. The regimentestro wanted the people of Lampasas to know that the military mission he oversaw included restoring order, eradicating “the few remaining traces of decadent U.S. influence…and to insure that civilians do not mistakenly interfere with the Aggressor military effort.”

Anyone who bothered to look more closely would see that the newspaper’s front page bore the bogus date of “Juvember 33, 1969” along with a caution that the issue was “For Maneuver Purposes Only…This Publication Created for Operation Longhorn…Not Intended For General Distribution.” Fortunately, a few people saved copies of this unusual publication for posterity’s sake.

Publisher-editor Ward Lowe explained the fake stories in his “Around Town” column, concluding: “ Remember that this article [and others in that issue] has described a mythical country and enemy. If, however, you happen to notice a remarkable resemblance to any past or potential enemies of our country it is not purely coincidental.”

Not much has been written about Operation Longhorn, but the exercise ranked as one of the largest in U.S. history. It involved more than 115,000 troops, thousands of military vehicles from tanks to transport trucks, hundreds of aircraft and cost taxpayers roughly $3.5 million or about $30.3 million in 2013 dollars.

The maneuver unfolded across a 60 by 30 mile area generally west of Waco. Fort Hood hosted the large-scale war game, with much of the air traffic using Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo.

Soldiers and airmen trained in the use of chemical and nuclear weapons, the basic scenario being that U.S. forces were fighting to recapture Central Texas from the heretofore successful Aggressor nation’s military. The fighting was not for real, but there were casualties. Tragically, 10 men died in the exercise, and others suffered injuries.

Reading between the lines of the written artifacts associated with the maneuver – the phony newspaper page, brochures, flyers, posters and signs – the exercise was as much a U.S. propaganda campaign as military readiness training.

For instance, the Dispatch also featured a page-one story listing 18 new laws local residents had to obey now that the Aggressor nation had “freed” Texas from its capitalistic oppressors.

The edicts included a 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew; confiscation of all government property and all privately owned vehicles; government control of local news media; closure of all schools pending the appointment of “Valid Centralist Party Members” as teachers; churches closed until pastors could be “screened;” and on and on in that totalitarian vein. And just to rub it in, the list of rules noted, “It is customary for all civilians to remove their hats and bow when passing an Aggressor Soldier.”

Basically, freedom as it had been enjoyed prior to the invasion was over, even though the new rules were touted as affording even more freedom. Penalties for violations ranged up to death.

Fortunately for the good people of Lampasas County, the U.S. Army – primarily the troops based at Fort Hood – defeated the Aggressor forces (played by the venerable 82nd Airborne Division) and liberated occupied Texas.

© Mike Cox - June 18, 2013 column
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