Your favorite military experience story

Maybe this has already been done (hell, SDMB has been in existence since Gore invented the Internet, so it MUST have been done) but I’ve never seen it.

All you grunts, swabbies, squids, jarheads, zoomies and other assorted veterans of the military service, you have loads of stories you tell when the booze starts to flow and the memories start coming back. What’s your absolute favorite? I know we don’t embellish much, but to sort of guage the bullshit quotient in any one story, please specify when in history your story took place [(TD-Y)/10=BSQ] TD=today’s date, Y=Year story took place, BSQ = well, you know. Warning: Some of these will be long-ish. Here’s mine:

It was 1976, Aschaffenburg, Germany, we were making preparations for Change of Command of 3d Brigade, 3d Inf. Div. I don’t recall the name of the outgoing CinC, but the incoming was a Col. John Cottingham. A few week prior to the CoC, two of our brigade units, 1/4 Inf and 1/7 Inf had competed in a “military stakes” competition at division HQ in Wuerzburg. 1/7 had won the brigade competition, and celebrated for weeks afterward by running stomp past the 1/4 barracks an hour before the brigade’s designated PT formation. (Running stomp means “marching” at the double-time, which is an in-step jog, with an extra-hard stomp on every fourth step. When an entire battalion does it in formation, it is a fearsome sound.) The 1/7 also taunted their 1/4 bretheren, implying that they were not quite the warriors they should be.

After a week of this, 1/4 decided enough was enough. We need to know that 1/7 was nicknamed Cottonbalers because it was part of the Seventh Infantry Regiment and traced its lineage to the Battle of New Orleans, in which American infantrymen held off the British invasion during the War of 1812 by defending the city from breastworks made of cotton bales. The Cottonbalers had, as their mascot, an honest-to-god bale of Louisiana cotton, held in a plexiglas display case in the center of its compound, Graves Barracks in Aschaffenburg. One morning, as they prepared for their early-morning run, the Cottonbalers discovered that their precious cotton bale was gone. Later that day the battalion commander received an envelope with cotton ticking in it (it was from a discarded mattress, but the message with clear) with a demand that 1/7 cease its early-morning runs forthwith.

We also need to know that the 1/4 Infantry, nicknamed Warriors, had as its mascot a reconditioned and perfectly serviceable German WWII half-track captured at some point during that great war. It was paraded with the battalion at every pass-in-review, and had been painted with U.S. and 1/4 Inf markings, as if part of the battalion’s TO&E.

After a week of receiving envelopes with mattress ticking in them, the 1/7 commander decided enough was enough, and the Warrior half-track disappeared from its customary spot in the center of Fiori Barracks. It is suspected to this day that quantities of German beer exchanged hands in both “abductions”.

The back-and-forth was enjoyed by everyone and was to have been reconciled in time for the change of command, except that the U.S. Army decided, for reasons no one ever determined, that Col. Cottingham needed to take over 3Bde two weeks early. The missing mascots were forgotten in the rush to get everything ready for the elaborate change of command ceremony.

On the day of the ceremony, I was in my assigned place – taking photos of the VIPs for the post newspaper – when the battle of the missing mascots suddenly unfolded in dramatic fashion. All of the brigade units passed in review’ 4/64 Armor led the way because tanks are always dramatic, and the artillery unit (I cannot remember the unit designation) was second-to-last. 1/7, being the host of the ceremony, was allowed to bring up the rear. All of the units had assembled on the parade ground when 1/7 made its appearance. Heads turned at the sound of something mechanized making its way onto the parade ground. And there, at the end of the 1/7 formation, was the Warrior halftrack, re-painted with 1/7 markings. The halftrack stopped in front of the review stand, the battalion commander dismounted the halftrack, mounted the review stand and, with great ceremony, presented the new brigade commander the “keys” to the halftrack. This done, the halftrack was parked alongside the review stand.

It was almost a week before the halftrack was returned to its rightful place. 1/7 was told to cease its early-morning runs, which it did one day after the order was issued, and peace descended again on Aschaffenburg.

From that day until the day I left Aschaffenburg (three days before Thanksgiving, 1977) 1/7 mounted a 24-hour guard on the cotton bale display. The halftrack was bolted to a concrete pad at Fiori Barracks and, as far as I know, never paraded again.

My dad had a bunch, but he’s dead now, so in a way, its almost like they never happened. :frowning:

Not much point in my here-say contributions.

So many memories, so many stories…
You’ll have to be a bit more specific in what you’re looking for…

Well, there was the time I went into ‘Alarm Red’ during 9/11 in Kuwait. . .

. . . then there was the time I built a bar underneath my Colonel’s nose, and delivered it to a classified area, and got a few of my enlisted troops a few rounds of free drinks. . .

. . . then there was the time that I knowingly walked into a Soviet minefield/bomb dump to site a maintenance pad . . .

. . . then there was the time I watched a goat in another Soviet minefield get blowed up. . .

. . . then there was the time someone launched a Patriot (I think) over my head without warning. . .

. . . etc. Like ChiefScott, do you have any specifics?

Oh, give me another two calendar years–I’ll have plenty more stories. :smiley:

If there’s one that summed up your military experience, one that illustrates the unique bond that forms between comrades at arms, one that tickles your funny bone or brings a tear to your eye every time you tell it – your favorite story.

Gatopescado, I’d encourage you to relate your favorite from among your dad’s tales. It did happen, it happened to him, and even if you were never in the service, you can relate to that. Please, feel free to tell.

Telling it here on Dope will give it some small form of immortality. Tell!

My dad served in the Army in peacetime Germany in the mid-1950s. His favorite stories include:

  • being made the company clerk because he was the only one who had been to college

  • meeting and dating Judi Dench, a young, unknown stage actress at the time, while on leave in the UK (they met again in NYC a few years ago, while she was in a show here, and had a nice visit catching up on old times)

  • scaring his friends around the campfire with a watch that sounded like a rattlesnake if you wound it up a particular way

  • being issued live ammo and knowing he and his unit would be first across the border if Ike decided to intervene in the Czech uprising

  • enjoying a beer-soaked Oktoberfest in Munich

  • his pride in making sergeant and commanding a Patton tank

My father had some interesting stories about heading up the Ruhr River Valley during WW2 … once the shooting had more or less stopped, since he spoke german, they used to send him out to forrage for food because he could just ask for what he wanted. He used to always manage to bring back food, and he always had a few germans following behind to surrender [seems they had dropped leaflets promising food if you surrendered, and the soldiers pretty much were starving because the logistical supply chain had failed for months and supplies were hard to get.] The also had great pictures of the various places they had been including a phenomenal chateau they had spend a month in [we occasionally got cards around christmas from the family, because dad and his unit didnt trash the place or do something obscene with the daughters or farm animals…] and he had brought back writing paper from some SS offices, and a photo album of both the guys in his unit, and the concentration camp that they liberated as proof of why the war was needed.

I always enjoyed when the sub came in - I must have seen at least 3 guys fall into the water on the way in to Norfolk…[USS Spadefish] mrAru tells of an instance when an admiral was on a tiger cruise with them in 85, and they had a soviet AGI following them so he had them put the BBQ up and start bringing out burn bags … and one guy ‘tripped’ dropping the bag into the water. THe AGi was on the bag instantly and fished it out of the water. It was filled with selections from the porn locker and various versions of fuck you ivan in russian courtesy of one of the sonar techs who also spoke russian and the copy machine. They got told after getting back to stop teasing the russians.

Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas in the summer of 1981. My father was in the army and we had just moved into housing on base. Behind the house there was a small road and in the morning soldiers would march down it and their exercise was accompanied by a rather obscene cadence. This went on for a few days until my mother waited on the side of the road for them. When they approached she made it clear to the sergeant that she had no problem with them marching or singing but that the obscene words would have to stop. She didn’t have to threaten to go to the C/O or anything he just apologized and said it wouldn’t happen again. It never did to the best of my knowledge.


My father wouldn’t talk about the Burma theatre much. It seemed to be a very painful and traumatic subject. He never explained his silver or bronze stars either (and now that he’s gone, no one ever will). He did say he was Really Really pissed at some charlatan that wrote travel books in the 30s & 40s though. Let me explain:

Evidently, Dad had bought a few of these travel books and had dreamed of exotic travel before the war. One of the passages he remembered best was where the author claimed to have “climbed the wall swam at midnight in pools behind the Taj Mahal.”

Dad actually made it to India with his unit and at one point managed to get to see the real Taj Mahal. He was supremely disappointed (read ‘pissed’) to find that there was no wall around it at all. He was very proud of saying that it was at that very point in his life that he decided that after the war he would become a lawyer…

Family members can request military records of deceased veterans. You may never get all the details but you should at least be able to read the citations.

Count Blucher this might help.

The story I related in this thread is probably most in line with what you are asking.

So there we were, me and Airman Rivets, loafing, waiting for any transient aircraft that might choose to land at our humble base on a fine Sunday afternoon in 1963. Sergeant Tuner, our boss, he was reading the Sunday paper in between bitchin’ about catching the weekend duty again.

Then this big-assed transport lands, me and Rivets run out to chock the wheels and so forth, and well, by golly, when we roll the portable stairs out to the plane, who should step out but General Curtis LeMay, Commander of the Air Force. (Yep the WHOLE dang Air Force)

General LeMay, he’s got this big see-gar stuck in his mouth and he’s puffing away…

Rivets: “I’m gonna’ jump his ass”.
Me: No, man, he’ll kill us!"
Rivets: “I’m a short timer, out in three weeks anyway.”

Then Rivets went into action: “General, Sir, you can’t smoke that cigar here.”
LeMay: “Why not?”
Rivets: “The aircraft might catch on fire.”
LeMay cast a disparaging glance back at his plane, turned to Rivets and said :“It wouldn’t dare.”

We both shut up after that and the Big General went on somewhere else while Sergeant Turner explained to us, in very clear terms, why airmen didn’t question the actions of generals.

Lots of other cool stuff happened during my four years, but that one kinda’ sticks out.

I always got a kick out of General Curtis LeMay’s nickname; “Iron Pants”.

Two anecdotes:

  1. My brother, a Marine in the intelligence services, loves to tell this story. They were all at the DEfence Language Institute in Monterrey CA, the brightest of the Marines (supposedly) learning to speak foreign languages and being all sneaky in the grass and weeds. They got a new Gunnery Sergeant, fresh from the fleet, who was apparently personally insulted by all the wimp gear (tvs, stereos, etc…) that the Marines had in their barracks rooms. He called a formation, and whilst remonstrating that the Marines should be hard, should be ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, should have nothing in their possession but what was issued to them and could fit into a single sea bag. he went on to say, while strutting up and down the stage in the post theater, that he wanted his men hard, “Like the Spartans. Be like the Spartans, Marines!” When one lone voice piped up way in the back “But Gunny, the Spartans were FAGS!” at which point the whole theater broke into hysterics and the commanding officer of the school had to help the Gunny off the stage.

  2. Whilst ripping off all the spine panels of an F-16, up to our armpits in gun components and grease, a pilot wanders by. He looks at what we’re doing, and curious, comes up to us and asks us what we’re doing. I happened to be on the ground at the time, rather than on the jet, and so got to explain to this young LT (about 2 years older than me, and I was 20 at the time) all about the weapons system on the F-16 that he flew - how it worked, where the bullets came from, how the missile racks worked, etc… At the time it astounded me that someone who flew these jets in combat knew so incredibly little about how they worked, but on reflection I guess it was more important that he knew his job than mine.

A couple of times it got real tense, but those aren’t my favourite stories. Except once when I got to watch an A-10 crash an burn, which was both dangerous and funny :slight_smile:

My grandfather was chief gunnery officer in the Royal Navy on destroyers during WWII. Not sure of the rank, but he retired at Commander.

At one point in the war, his boat’s task for several months was to escort troop ships from Australia to India.

The job was tedious, and no action was seen, and the men were going nearly insane with boredom. So my grandfather and his fellow officers devised a little treat to relieve the tedium: every so often the gunners were ordered to train the entirety of the ship’s multitude of guns and cannons into the air. On the command “fire”, the entire lot was discharged simultaneously, which created an almost unimaginable noise and a spectacular sight, and great hilarity all round.

This practice they dubbed “the porcupine”.

One day an admiral came on board to inspect. “Do you have any special procedures to demonstrate?” he asked my grandfather. Not having prepared anything, he thought for a while, then improvised: “allow us to demonstrate our new anti-aircraft measures, sir”. He then ordered the men to perform “the porcupine”.

Alas, the ship’s communications system was feeble, so when the men were at their weapons, and the chief gunner said “none of you are to fire until I give the order”, all the gunners heard was “fire”, and so the guns went off with no notice, sending the admiral jumping out of his skin. He was, however, rather impressed with the procedure.

Great stuff! I like to tell people that, while in Germany in the 1970s, I “had lunch with” USAREUR CinC Alexander Haig. The general was doing one of his “boots on the ground” tours and happened to walk through where 9th Enginners was bivouaced at about the time we were being fed our one hot meal that day. He stood in line like a “regular troop” while some public affairs types took his picture. The foxhole SP4Sparger and I shared happened to be the first one off the little trail where the kitchen was set up, so Haig sat on the edge of our foxhole and ate a few bites of pork roast and mashed taters, then walked off to rub elbows with the bridge bunnies. Sparger got his face in Stars & Stripes with Haig. Silly bastard went around autographing the stupid picture for anybody who had a copy.

Coincidentally enough, I was also in Aschaffenburg, Germany, in 1976 as an 8-year old Army brat. I remember watching the Bicentennial parade down the big street out in front of our housing area. We lived in a three-story apartment block next to a big hill that was great for sledding–pretty neat for a kid who had only lived in Texas up to that point.

OK, this is just getting weird, now. I was also in Fort Sam in the summer of 1981, as my step-father went to some school for six months.

Small world…

Anyway, I recall that it was hotter than hell that summer in Fort Sam. We lived in some old townhouse. I remember that it was almost impossible to pass inspection when you cleared quarters, and that there was a scam where you would never pass unless you hired one of the designated civilian cleaning crews. My step-father thought that was a bunch of B.S., and was sure that our family could clean quarters as well, especially if he worked us like dogs. We stripped floors, waxed floors, cleaned 50-year old windowsills, etc. After the third failed inspection, he finally accepted the inevitable, and paid off one of the civilian cleaning crews, so we could leave the area. There was no difference whatsoever in the cleanliness before or after, but we finally passed inspection. The non-cleaning cost us $225, though.

Years later, my step-father was a lieutenant colonel stationed in Germany again, and my mother was president of the Officers’ Wives Club. The vice-president was the wife of General Shalikashvili, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR) and Commander-in-Chief, United States European Command. My mother and her were good friends. We were invited to dinner once down in Berchtesgaden. I had just been commissioned as an ensign in the Navy, so it was an interesting cross-section of the military, with a four-star General, a lieutenant colonel, and a Navy ensign at the table. I recall that General Shali was very personable. His aide was a major, who sat at an adjacent table with my sisters.

I remember going back to our car to get a camera. As I left the private room in the restaurant, there was a guy outside the door whispering into a radio. There was another guy downstairs, and more outside. They all wore black SWAT-type uniforms, and appeared to be heavily armed. The first Gulf War had just started, and I guess security for the CinC was pretty tight.

Wuerzbergerstrasse. My wife and I watched the same parade further downtown, on Flechstrasse.

How about that…I wonder if I can find it on Google Earth.

I remember crossing that street at 8 years old with my handful of pfennigs to get to the candy store on the other side.