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403rd Engineer Group (M&S)
Seventh Army

Looking for more information from military/civilian personnel assigned to or associated with the U.S. Army in Germany from 1945 to 1989. If you have any stories or thoughts on the subject, please contact me.


Group History (1951-1953)

533rd Engr Co

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Group History
1951 - 1953
(Source: 403rd Engineer Group. 1 February 1955)
On the morning of 9 September 1951, dawn broke sharp and clear as the General (illegible) (with the 403rd Engineer Base Depot on board) came to rest at a dock in the Port of Bremerhaven. An entire day was spent waiting for our turn to debark. It was dusk when we finally came down the gangway and straight on board a waiting train. We were met at shipside by an escort officer who informed us that our destination was Kaiserslautern after a short stopover in Baumholder.

Twenty-four hours after leaving Bremerhaven we were met by the 2nd Armored Division Band at Baumholder. On the tenth of September 1951, Baumholder lacked almost everything except showers and beds on a solid foundation. After having been on the move since 28 August, we all welcomed, and needed, a good shower and a good night's sleep. Needless to say, we all had a considerable amount of curiosity concerning our new, though temporary, home. Everyone wanted to ample the wine, beer and Wienerschnitzel. Since Idar-Oberstein was the nearest town that could offer these things, the 403rd moved out in force. Many ended up with more beer than Schnitzel and thereby discovered the difference between German beer and its milder stateside counterpart.

Baumholder and vicinity had grown a little old to the already restless 403rd when, on September 21st, we moved to out permanent station at Kaiserslautern. Although we were somewhat confused as to our exact status, we knew upon arrival at Kaiserslautern that we were assigned to Seventh Army and "loaded" to Headquarters, EUCOM for a period of 120 days for duty at Rhine Engineer Depot. RED was not much more than a plan on the drawing board when we moved in. All supplies and equipment were being evacuated from Hanau Engineer Depot and the need for speed gave us all a job. Personnel from the 403rd held most of the key positions at RED during the ache of initial growing pains. The training was valuable, though at times, the hours long.

During our stay at RED we more or less lost our identity as a unit and were simply Headquarters Rhine Engineer Depot. We discontinued Daily Bulletins, Special Orders, etc. for the unit and used the RED publications for all appointments, details, etc. Lt Col Logan was operating in a dual capacity as Commanding Officer, 403rd Engr Gp and Executive Officer of RED. Few are here who remember those first days in Kleber Kaserne after leaving RED on 20 January 1952. We moved into the cold, drafty clock tower building on Kleber. The only heating facilities available were small, smoky coal stoves. Office space was so critical that, in one case, nineteen desks were placed in a room that should have accommodated only five. It was not only a crowded situation, but the men nearest the stove almost roasted while those on the opposite side of the room were freezing.

It was during the end of January 1952 that Seventh Army attached several units to us for operations and administration. These units were well spread throughout Germany. The attached units included:

UNIT DESIGNATION

LOCATION COMMENTS
587th Engr Field Maint Co Hanau
511th Engr Panel Bridge Co Darmstadt
966th Engr Field Maint Co Ludwigsburg
7795th Labor Supervision Det Schwetzingen
738th Engr Co (Sup Pt) Schwetzingen
This meant trips for inspections, policies to be formulated and a great increase in the overall work load of the unit. The attachments of these units started the 403rd on its way to the accomplishment of its mission.

When the sun began to cut through the haze and the days warmed up, and when we had discontinued the fires in our coal stoves, we moved from the Clock Tower building onto another building that had ample facilities. Lt Col Logan was scheduled for rotation in June 1952. Lt Col Bertel H. Grundborg came from the Supply Section, Office of the Engineer, Headquarters Seventh Army, as replacement and assumed command of the 403rd in June 1952. With the departure of Lt Col Logan an era of the unit came to an end. He was among the last of the original members to depart; therefore, we had almost an entirely new unit, personnel wise. The only two reservists (excluding the category Warrant Officers) to remain with the unit were Major Milton E. Frank, who started a three year category, and M/Sgt Richard K. Gage, who ventured a three-year enlistment.

It was only a short time after the assumption of command by Lt Col Grundborg that we realized that the personnel was not the only change in the unit. His experiences at Army headquarters had given him a good picture of the entire Seventh Army supply structure; therefore, he plunged the 403rd into a full scale operation. New shop space was secured for the Maintenance companies. Supply Points were planned and made operational and the TO & E was modified to meet our needs. Each division within the 403rd was given specific duties and the full responsibility of efficient accomplishment of any and all jobs given. For the first time since reactivation on 11 September 1950, the 403rd was engaged in its intended mission - that of engineer logistic support. We were charged with full responsibility of Engineer Maintenance and Engineer Supply for all Seventh Army elements.

Fall of 1952 found the unit moved from the steam-heated building back to the old Clock Tower building with the coal stoves. It seemed we were destined to spend another winter in misery. Lt Col Grundborg was promoted to Colonel in September 1952. This made us feel that we were a real big unit, because we had never before had a full colonel commanding. Operations within the unit had become fairly stable by this time and almost was running smoothly. On 1 December 1952, the 355th Engineer Company returned from Chinon, France, for duty and attachment to the 403rd. Their job was to operate the Seventh Army Issue Section, RED, under direction of then 403rd.

Another spring, another move; we moved into another fairly comfortable building. Another spring and another commander returning to the United States. Colonel Grundborg was replaced by Col William R. Smith who came from French Morocco to assume command. Col Smith, a West Point graduate, assumed command on 8 June 1953.

The 403rd Engineer Base Depot was redesignated the 403rd Engineer Group (Maintenance & Supply) effective 5 June 1953 per General Order Number 37, Headquarters Seventh Army. This was a long-awaited change that streamlined the TO & E both in personnel and equipment. The new TO & E was 5-262, dated 25 September 1952. Although the mission was not changed, the sections were given different names, grades and ratings were shuffled and, in general, the unit was reorganized.

Major Milton E. Frank, the last remaining original member of the old reserve unit, was killed in an automobile accident on 14 September 1953. This was a great loss to the personnel and to the unit.

During the (past) three years of active duty, the 403rd has had its share of work, worry and travel. We have had other units attached, the 53rd Engineer Supply Point Company, the 24th Engineer Platoon (Map Depot) and the newly activated 964th Engineer Field Maintenance Company. Our mission is clear and we are trained to the point of readiness that will insure successful and efficient fulfillment of the job that has been given to us.

We have traveled far both in miles and accomplishments. Your historian believes, as I think most of us do, that there are no superiors and very few equls ("Superior Nemo Pauci Pares").


Attached to the above history, I found a "Roster of Attached Units" that describes the organization of the 403rd Engineer Group (Maintenance & Supply) as of 1 February 1955:

UNIT DESIGNATION

LOCATION COMMENTS
Hq Co, 403rd Engr Gp (M&S) Kaiserslautern, APO 227
511th Engr Co (Pnl Brg) Kaiserslautern, APO 227
24th Engr Plt (Map Depot) Kaiserslautern, APO 227
27th Engr Co (Depot) Kaiserslautern, APO 227
587th Engr Co (Fld Maint) Hanau, APO 165
964th Engr Co (Fld Maint) Heidelberg, APO 403
24th Engr Co (Fld Maint) Stuttgart, APO 154 Former 966th Engr Co
738th Engr Co (Sup Pt) Hanau, APO 165
53rd Engr Co (Sup Pt) Stuttgart, APO 154
7th Army Air Recon Spt Co, 7677th AU Kaiserslautern, APO 227 Former 533rd Engr Aerial Photo Reproduction Co

 
533rd Engineer Co
1952-53
(Source: Email from David T. Russell, 533rd Engr Co, 1952-..)
533rd Engineer Aerial Photo Reproduction Company

Not long after college graduation and marriage to Penny, I was drafted into the US Army in 1951 from my home town of Indiana, Pennsylvania. Upon induction at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, on October 11 1951, they soon decided where to send me. My Bucknell degree was in Commerce & Finance but because I had several summers' highway-drafting experience with the Pennsylvania Department of Highways they sent me to Fort Belvoir VA for Engineer basic training. Then in the spring of 1952 came the Engineer School at Fort Belvoir where seven of us (including two Italian Air Force officers) completed the course in Map Compiling, resulting in a 3003 MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) for me.

On July 4 1952 I found myself at a Replacement Depot in Sonthofen, in southern Bavaria, from which I was then assigned to the 533rd Engineer Aerial Photo Reproduction Company, then based at Camp Pieri, Wiesbaden.

Camp Pieri was a small Army base in Dotzheim, on the outskirts of Wiesbaden. Wiesbaden was the Headquarters of the US Twelfth Air Force, and Army units in that area received their logistical support from the Air Force. Camp Pieri was a former German Wehrmacht Kaserne, consisting of about a dozen buildings . . . mostly occupied by a US Army Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion. The 533rd occupied one barracks building as well as a nearby building used as a motor pool for the company's vehicles. Our barracks was unique in that about half of its roof had been replaced with a flat roof . . . necessitated, we were told, by an RAF raid during World War II.

Arriving at Camp Pieri, I was assigned to the Operations Section of the 533rd, under Master Sgt. Charles Foster, from California, and Sgt. Leroy Bovey, also California, and Sgt. Hugh Moore, from Illinois. I was the only private and draftee in Operations. The first part of our job in Operations was to pick up exposed film at regional air bases following Air Force photo reconnaissance sorties, record where the sorties had been made, and then deliver the film to the 533rd's production section, often referred to as 'the plant.'

Most of the personnel in the 533rd were assigned to the Production Section where the exposed film was developed, enlarged in some cases, and printed in varying quantities. The company operated in three round-the-clock shifts, with a regular production line. In addition to the 'in-house' production, the company also was able to duplicate the entire operation 'in-the-field' from the backs of our specially-equipped trucks. When traveling to-and-from-the-field, my job was to drive the Operations truck, a WW II vintage GMC with a complete photographic darkroom in back.

After a print-order had been completed, it was our job, in Operations, to identify just where the sortie had been flown, using military map-coordinates, as well as pinpointing intelligence information yielded by the photographs. The 533rd was directly responsible to 7th Army Intelligence as was a Photo Interpretation unit that we shared space with at Camp Pieri. Once the photos had been analyzed for intelligence purposes, it was our job in Operations to then distribute them to various commands in Europe. And how we marveled at those photos of Soviet MIG fighters on the ground at East European bases.

Though never confirmed officially, rumor had it back in 1952 that the 533rd, as a unit, had the highest average IQ in the US Army's European Command. Because of the nature of our work during the 'hot years' of the 'Cold War' probably everyone in the company had to have a high-level security-clearance . . . in Operations it was 'Secret.' In addition to Camp Pieri security, the 533rd was within its own fence and employed former East European 'Displaced Persons' as security guards. Our company commander was a First Lieutenant and in one well-recalled incident he denied the new commandant of the local AAA Battalion, a Colonel, access to the 533rd compound on the grounds that he lacked the appropriate security-clearance.


My wife, Penny, having graduated from college in 1952, made plans to join me in Germany. Since by this time I had attained the rank of Private-First-Class, she had to come over as a tourist rather than an authorized military dependent. We resided with the wonderful German family of Engelbert and Lisle Behringer, and daughter, Ria, at Lanzstrasse 8 in Wiesbaden. We rented one room and shared the kitchen and bath of their first-floor apartment in an old house . . . with no central heat or hot water. And into this home we brought our daughter, Cheryl, born on the 6th of January in 1953 at the great Air Force Hospital in Wiesbaden. Our costs in this matter came to $14 for mom's meals in the hospital!

Herr Behringer and 'Mutti' helped us with learning to parent. Since Penny was an unauthorized military dependent, she could shop only for infant-care products at the local US Commissary, accompanied, of course, by a German guard to make sure she didn't try to purchase any ordinary American goods which we then had to obtain at the local PX (Post-exchange). Married guys in the company with wives in Germany were allowed to spend off-duty times off-base but as time went on, company strength diminished and sometimes we had to give up some of our time in order for the single guys to get a chance to 'go to town.' And in spite of everything we managed to thoroughly enjoy it.

In 1953 the Army decided to move the 533rd west of the Rhine River, considered more secure for non-combat units. So we moved, lock, stock, and barrel, to Kaiserslautern, in the French Zone of Occupation, where we occupied brand new facilities in Vogelweh Cantonment, under construction by German contractors as a part of their WW II reparations. And some of the American wives and children moved into a new German residential neighborhood also called Vogelweh, sometimes referred to as 'Little America.' And there we were on the second floor (bedroom, our kitchen, our bath!) of Werner & Ruth Heil's home at 22 Auf dem Bannjerruck, along with Ruth's elderly parents, a cat named 'Fritz,' and a dachshund, 'Zeppel.' Werner worked at a local butcher-shop while Ruth was employed by Pfaff, a Kaiserslautern-based sewing-machine manufacturer. During the German invasion of Norway in 1940, Werner had became a prisoner-of-war
after his troopship was run-aground by British torpedo boats. He spent the rest of the war in a POW camp in Scotland where he learned quite a few curse-words in English as well as, "Time is Money." In both Wiesbaden and Kaiserslautern we could not have been with nicer families.

Not long after relocating to Vogelweh part of our company was sent to Coleman Barracks in Mannheim for several days. There we were one of several demonstration units set up for visiting NATO staff officers. Faced with linguistic differences, we made large posters depicting various stages of our production and placed them accordingly.

Our little American family was planning to rent a car and spend ten days leave in July, visiting France, Italy, and Switzerland. When Sgt. Bovey learned of this, he immediately offered us the use of his brand-new Morris Minor convertible. So, thanks to him, there we were, top-down, cruising around Paris, the Italian Riviera, and the Swiss Alps, with baby Cheryl in the back seat and a trunk loaded with a case of canned milk and a couple of jerry-cans filled with petrol.

We even managed to play the part of the 'Ugly Americans' in the last Italian village before the Swiss frontier. Painted on the street in the town square was a large hammerand-sickle and a crowd of young men watched from the sidewalks as we came to the stoplight . . . undoubtedly noticing our 'U.S. Forces - Germany' license plate. As the light changed, I opened the door and spat in the center of the hammer-and-sickle and made a beeline for the Swiss border. Ah . . . the wonderful days of the Cold War, when life was so much simpler .

In September 1953 Corporal Russell was ordered back to the 'ZI' (Zone of the Interior = USA) or, as we often referred to it, 'The Land of the Big PX.' Departing Bremerhaven aboard the Alexander M. Patch, our troopship, traversed a rough North Sea storm and we welcomed a calmer overnight at Portsmouth, England where cargo was exchanged, then on to New York. Somewhere in the Atlantic my wife and daughter passed over us on their way to New York and Pittsburgh via TWA. I then revisited Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, where I was separated from the Army of the United States on the 19th of September, twenty-two days short of a two-year stint. And to think that fifty-two years later I would be receiving my medical prescriptions from the Veterans' Administration for a co-pay of only seven dollars.

Our experience in Germany was truly wonderful and certainly helped shape our lives. In 1987 our family traveled to Wiesbaden where I mentioned to the hotel desk clerk that our daughter, Cheryl, then 34, had been born there. He soon informed us that we had a 'command appearance' the next afternoon at the office of the Burgermeister. And there she was welcomed as a returning daughter to Wiesbaden. Our family of six was simply astounded by the wonderful treatment we received. The Behringer family was no longer in Wiesbaden but the Heils were in Kaiserslautern and we had a great visit with them but did not meet their son, age thirty-three, as he was summering in the United Kingdom.

Ruth Heil, of Kaiserslautern, had been pregnant when we left in 1953, having given her our baby crib, baby bottles, a baby-bottle-sterilizer, and a mail-order portable washing machine from Sears-Roebuck. Klaus-Peter Heil was born in 1954 and now teaches English to German public-school students. One textbook which he authored utilized geographic concepts already known to German students in order to facilitate learning English vocabulary. And eventually Klaus-Peter attended a teacher conference in Lansing, Michigan . . . and came to visit us in Pennsylvania. It was the first time we had ever met yet it seemed as if we had been close friends all along. He had heard about Frank Lloyd Wright and it didn't take us long to schedule tours of Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob. He informed us that indeed he had used the baby crib we left in Kaiserslautern, as had his two daughters, and he still had it!


In recent years I used the internet to try and contact people with whom we had shared 533rd experiences. A Yahoo People Search yielded an e-mail for a Lee Bovey in, of all places, Inchon in South Korea. My e-mail query to that one went unanswered so then I remembered that he had once been a student at Colorado School of Mines. I then contacted their Alumni Affairs Office and simply asked them to forward my name, address, and telephone number to a Lee Bovey if indeed he was on their alumni list. Imagine my surprise one day early in 2001 when the telephone rang and Sergeant Bovey gave me the `At Ease!" order. He and his wife, Della, were then living in Maryland, and he had indeed been in Inchon some time back. A few months later they moved to, of all places, the Pittsburgh area' And there we visited with them in October of 2001 . They have since relocated to North Fort Myers, Florida and we have exchanged visits and reminiscences several times since then . . . and the flame of over fifty years ago in Germany continues to enlighten our lives.

 
For a continuation of the history of the aerial photo reproduction mission within USAREUR, see the segment on the 7th Army Air Recon Spt Co, 7677th AU (Seventh Army Page)
If you have more information on the history or organziation of the 403rd Engr Gp, please contact me.