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79th Engineer Construction Battalion
39th Engineer Group

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.

406th Engr Bn 

79th Engr Bn

406th Engineer Battalion History
406th Engineer Bn DUI
(Source: Email from Richard Dolan)
I was in the 406th Engr. Bn. from Sept 1953 until Feb. 1955, at which time the 406th became the 79th Engr. Bn. We were stationed at Neureut Kaserne. We were under the 39th Gp.

I think that the 406th arrived at Neureut in 1952 as all colored unit at which time it was slowly integrated.

I rotated back to the States in Apr. 1955
If you have more information on the history or organization of the 406th Engr Bn, please contact me.

79th Engineer Battalion History

Group photo of A Company, 79th Engineer Construction Battalion (Richard Martin)
79th Engineer Bn DUI
(Source: Email from Richard Martin, A Co, 79th Engr Bn and HHC, 39th Engr Gp)
I was with the 79th Engr Const Bn at Neureut Kaserne, Karlsruhe (and Pirmasens; Toul, France; Wildflecken; and all the places we had been) then Hq. Co 39th Engr Gp. Worked at Group Hq.

Was wondering if Donald Steffanus, Bruce DeLassus, Willie Sparkman, the Red Head Thomas who dated a fräulein in the village, and a lot of the others from that period are still around. We used to work out together at the gym. Don and his wife Brigitte visited me in Md in 2000. Still married to the fräulein from Rastatt.

I'm now in Western MD and still kicking at 77 years young. Lot of changes made since that era. Ich habe doch heimweh dazu. Schön war die zeit. If my Deutsch is still correct..

Miss that era and the guys and of course the German atmosphere which of course has changed

If you have more information on the history or organization of the 79th Engr Bn, please contact me.

Martin Koop at his desk in Pirmasens, early 1960s (Martin Koop)

"Blazing Sun Award" presented to Martin Koop, 1963 (Martin Koop)

Letter of appreciation, 1963 (Martin Koop)
(Source: Email from Martin Koop, B Co, 79th Engr Bn)
  E-5 Martin Koop, Company B.

I served with the 79th Engineer Battalion
in Pirmasens, Germany, from 25 December 1960 to 6 July 1963.

It has been a long time ago, but one thing I do know - I liked the Army and still do. I had a good 2 1/2 years in Pirmasens.

I remember we stayed in a big, long, rounded, yellow building that housed Company A, B, C, & D.

Across the street from us was the U.S.O. and the A.P.O. 189.

A couple days before I departed Germany l received a Blazing Sun Award from the Post Commander.)

Company sign in front of "A" Company, 79th Engineer Construction Bn, Wiley Ksn, around 1967

Some of "C" Company's heavy construction equipment, Wiley Ksn, around 1967
(Source: Unit History of 79th Engr Construction Bn on Norm Snowdon's website (see link below))
The 79th Engr Bn moved from Husterhoeh Kaserne, Pirmasens to Wiley Kaserne in March 1966. At this time the Battalion fell under the control of the 39th Engineer Construction Group.

"D" Company was reduced to a skeleton status due to engineer troops being levied for the war in Vietnam. This left the 79th with only two functioning construction companies.

79th Engr Bn
Wiley Ksn, Neu Ulm


1. "A" Company barracks
2. Shop truck

3. Motor pool

4. POL station

(Source: Email from Mark "Jeff" Furber, Hq Company, 79th Engr Bn, 1966-68)
Just happened to look at some of the pictures of Wiley Barracks. I was stationed there from mid 1966 to Dec of 1968. Our outfit, the 79th Eng Bn, moved down there from Pirmasens sometime in the spring or summer of 1966.

I worked in the orderly room of the HQ Co, 79th Eng. under CW3 Klahn...and SSGT(E7) Booker who was a great guy and a terrific office manager. I was wondering if you had any records that went back to that time? Or do you know anyone who has compiled those records.

I cannot remember our CO but I do remember a Capt Robert G. Tames, who was our Adj and he got promoted to Major and seemed to be moving up in the system.

Those pictures of Wiley area brought a lot of memories back. The 79th Eng was a Construction Engineer unit and often had many of the line company's TDY to many countries and even the old Wheelus AB in Libya.
In 1967, if I remember correctly, they had the 7 Days War and Wheelus AB was attacked. Our B Co. had put machine guns in the back of the construction trucks and helped the AP patrol the base. I remember they inoculated every one in the 79th for Africa when the alert came in, just in case they needed to ship personnel to Africa. We were all sick for the next week...it was a tense time.

I do remember some of those things, particularly those pictures of around the parade ground (what we called the quadrangle) where they held morning formations.

The picture of building #203 looks very familiar and it might have been where our A, B and C companies were housed. As A Company was closest to the Mess Hall, pictured in the early 1950's photo by Chuck Charnquist, the building to the right of the flags would be 39th Eng Group (which was our higher headquarters) and that would be the one with the blue door, I think. The 79th HQ was either the latter part of the building (perhaps the next door). It would help if we could find a over head shot of the parade ground, that was a bit closer in prospective.

When we moved from Pirmasens in the summer or spring of 1966, everyone was very happy, including myself, as Pirmasens was up in the mountains and down right terrible weather. Bavaria, of course was terrific most of the year.

I also remember that there was a small exit gate for personnel behind the Mess Hall, as we all had guard duty and one of the posts we had to walk was there. Pretty barren at 3am, and they did come around and check to see if we were awake!

As I remember guard duty was posted about 4pm and some 2nd Lt would read us the riot act during inspection. After a while you knew what was needed to get by so it all worked out.

There was a restaurant not far from the small Wiley gate and guys would be always running over to get sandwiches and beer, late at night so they would always pick you up a sandwich if you got hungry. It must have been a gold mine for the owner.

From what I remember the barracks we were in, I was told that they were storm trooper barracks and were quite nice. There were some single rooms, some doubles and many 4 person rooms. Down below (underneath) the quadrangle parking lot and the barracks were the steam plants that provided heat and water for our end of the Kaserne.

As I remember, we had our barracks on the top two floors of HQ company. The administrative offices, along with the Co.Commander (I am still working on his name), the Adjutant, Capt Robert G. Tames, then CWO F.C. Klahn, SSGT Booker, a Spec 5 who was being groomed for the personal Sgt position. a finance clerk, an orders clerk and about 4 other clerks. We would process enlisted men and officers into the 79th system. You had to be a fairly good typist to survive those old typwriters and trying to learn the Army system.

We often had many jobs depending what was on tap for the day. We had to publish the morning report and trying to figure out where every one was in the company. We also cut orders, Art 15's and court martials. There was a msg center across the hall from our working quarters. Below us and at the end of the building was the medical dispensary and down the hall was the crypto room, which was staffed by at least one officer and I cannot tell you how many men were in there, as we often brought paper work down there but were never allowed in.

I believe the intelligence officer was just down the hall from the Adjutant. I remember him, he was a Major Bittle, and we didn't often see him but when we did it was not fun. Perhaps he spend a lot of time in the crypto room?

The big event was pay day. They would choose a payroll officer and he would pick an individual to escort him to the American Express office out side the Kaserne.

I was chosen to do this every now and then. The 1st LT I went with was from Tenn., and he was a crypto officer. He was a decent guy who did not care much for the Army but did his job, all the time.

One summer day we had to go down and get the payroll, for HQ company. I was issued a .45 (loaded), a briefcase for the $$. Once in the American Ex office we met about a dozen other Lt's and their enlisted men , the AMEX guy had every payroll slip set out and he counted each and every one, I counted likewise and the Lt did so too. When we all agreed with the count and the number of employee's being paid, it went into two brief cases and we walked back to the Kaserne about a 15min walk.

On our way out I asked the Lt. what we were supposed to do if there was a robbery, did he want me to shoot the person. He about flipped his wig. "Jesus," he said, "do not under any circumstances shoot a German National, let them have the money". Of course there was never a problem and I did the payroll run about 3 times a year. It was great if the officer was human but if you got a nut case it was not always pleasant.

(Source: Information originally provided by Thomas Waddell to Bruce Christman, webmaster of the now inactive website "79th Engineer Battalion History")

I arrived in Neu-Ulm in April of 1967. I had been schooled in Ft Leonard Wood as a 62 A10. Operators assistant-mechanics helper. I definitely did not want to be a grease monkey.

The day I got there the Motor Officer who was a Warrent Officer saw me, knew I was new to the company and was looking at my orders. He decided then and there he needed me as a mechanic. I was sent a couple of days later to a Wheeled Maintenance schook in Murnau. That was for two weeks.

When I came back from school I just moved into theThird Platoon which was the earth moving platoon. About two weeks later I was walking out of operations and he saw me, and as I had no name tag on my fatigues he wasn't sure it was me. He asked me if I knew Waddell. I said yes and got away as quickly as possible. He saw me a few days later and gave me hell. It was too late for him (Thank God). I was on my way learning how to operate equipment.

I do not recall the dates but at the time I got there, D Company was resurfacing an airstrip somewhere within a hundred miles of Ulm. I was shipped there TDY for a convoy escort for them to return home. Rode there in a jeep with a man named Fox.

The name of the kaserne (that the company was stationed at) was Old Wiley Barracks (formerly known as Ludendorff Kaserne). There was an artillery unit on the other end of the post. On our end we had a theatre near D Co barracks, which was rather close to the ammo dump. We also had a bowling alley on our end of the post. There was a sign near our rear motor pool for a Signal Unit. It was near the post laundry, which always cost too much.

When you came in the first gate (nearest town), turning right there were two german military barracks on your right hand side. A & B companies were in the first building and C & D were in the second. Across the parking lot there were two identical. Facing them from the front of the others, across the parking lot, Battalion HQ and HQ Co were in that building. The one on the left was Hq for the 39th (Engineer Construction) Group, which we were a part of at the time. The Mess Hall was between those buildings on the left end of the parking lot. Half the year we ate upstairs and the other half downstairs. At one time there was a place in the mess hall to buy firearms. I should have bought them!

Our Co. consisted of Hq Platoon, First and Second Construction Platoons and 3rd Platoon which was the EM Platoon.

At a point in the spring of 1968 we were sent to Fliegerhorst Kaserne, Hanau Germany, just a few miles from Frankfurt. We were there, meaning the company, for 2 years. The first year we did a lot of labor around the airstrip and resurfaced it, with the aid of A Co. and their black top knowledge and tools.

The airstrip was used by the 18th Aviation and others. It was just short of a mile long. Some of the aircraft that used the strip usually were UH1's and Mohawk fixed wing multi-engine prop jets. Along with a huge rotocraft named Mohave.

While we were doing the airstrip they took off and landed on the taxiway. Of course lots of the Huey pilots liked to see how close they could get to us, if you know what I mean. They were some fantastic pilots. Got to hand lots of guts and glory to the Huey pilot.

I was removed from that job to another in a place called Fulda. It was near the Czech border. Nice old city. I was there to aid construction platoons with my experience of standing on a water truck and filling their cement mixer. They were pouring tank turning pads. Lots of concrete mixed with a 3/4 yard mixer and delivered with single wheeled trucks with handles.

At that time I am pretty sure we still were in Libya working on or building Wheelus Air Force Base.

As I somehow ended up with a 5-ton tractor. I was doing a lot of hauling. Wherever we went I hauled. Since I was required to have a license to operate or load some equipment, I somehow managed to get lots of check outs on lots of vehicles. That is how I happened to get a chance at the E/5 board. BS!

In 1969 I made Sp/5 and was immediately drafted to a school in Vilseck called the Seventh Army Training Center Combined Arms School. This is where I completed the CBR NCO Course. Just to prove to the rest of the world how intelligent we were, the Sarge in charge rather suggested that ALL of us have a little touch of mustard gas (a liquid) dabbed on the inside of our left forearm. They told us the scar would go away in about 7 years. Mine is still there 35 years later. If you see one you can always tell. I finished there on August 15th 1969.

My First Sgt., Peter G. VanSteenberg, also had one of these scars. I was forced to work on this crap most of the time until I got things straightened out. I hated it most of the time. Had to give courses to the rest of the Battalion and Group and other Units. YUK!

I would sneak out of the arms room which was in the basement of our barracks and get a coffee in operations office. The First Shirt would come in and ask me about a question in the CBR category. I had to find the answer before I could have the coffee. He did this every day. At least every time he caught me in operations. Finally I could answer them and ask him some. When it got to the point where he couldn't answer my questions he would just give me free hand.

Our CBR equipment didn't exist. I didn't have any field manuals or any tools or equipment. I headed for supply several times a day until the supply Sgt finally got the hint that I was coming back until I got what I needed. I did. During a GI inspection and a CMMI inspection, I managed to organize all the companies for the equipment. We got all we had and gave it to A then B then C then me. That is to say all the TM's and Geiger counters and other stuff. We sent what we needed from Co to Co until they had inspected all of us. Some Full Bull Colonel made me come to the critique and give me a great big ATTA BOY. That was a close one. I was the only one to stand the inspection in fatigues. Looked a little out of place.

In the spring of 1970 we were sent to Hohenfels, a LARGE US Army training center. This was a great project. When I got there and I was to be there 2 weeks, my pal Robert Muese from southern Cal. drove his 175 Michigan loader, into this area were there were old bladder fuel tanks. They were like a rubberized canvass. He was going to pull them out. Of course he dropped right to the belly pan of that thing. I went to pull him out and I went down with my old D8-9A. I never saw such a nightmare in my life. My Platoon leader told me he had to leave but for me to scratch off the gooey stuff and when I hit hard ground scrape it all off. Three hours later all you could see was exhaust coming up from the hole I had dug to find something dry. What a nightmare. It was a mess. That two weeks took all year. The first two weeks I was stuck every half hour. They were still working on that project when I left there in Nov 70 to come home.

The ground was just super saturated with fuel oil and it was really mucky. We pushed most of it out in a field to dry. Hah! As the Battalion thought the project was going too slow (actually it was one of the things that was really getting done correctly) so when it was camping time - field problem, they brought the battalion there and mad a fast finish, which got ripped out and took twice as long as it would have if they left us alone. Where the fuel bladders had been were replaced with concrete and railroad rails. On these rails sat tanker cars. It was just a marshaling area those cars are probably still there. I saw them in 1978. It was the first time I had seen it since completion in what I believe to be 1971. It was a good project and I have lots of fond memories and pictures of it.

On August 3 of 1970 I was railroaded into going to Turkey to work on the Konya Range Project. Project #72-AF-70-39A Konya Range Road accomplished for the US Air Force Europe. During the period 3 August 1970 to 13 Nov 1970.

It was a terrible place. Our shower point was an artesian well and boy was that cold. It was complete desolation. It was also 300 miles to Incirlic Air Base. There wasn't much traffic going that way either. The only thing the cook knew that was in a cow was roast beef 3 times a day. We would push dirt for 15 minutes and have to quit for half an hour so people didn't get run over. It was so damned dusty you couldn't see a thing. Push up a road from the highway to a big old plateau filled with old airplane frames and lots of unexploded ordnance.

We were at Fliegerhorst Kaserne in 1968 and 1969 doing that project. In 1968 it was a good project for me. In 1969 I wasn't there all that much. Although in 1969 we were living in the gymnasium. I had gone TDY again from there and was not there when they made the guys move from one end of the gym to the other. We had spent a lot of time getting the rooms on one end of it cleaned up and moved about a million bunks that were there in storage, to of course, the other end of the gym. Then Sammy Davis Jr. and his Gold Dancers showed up and the guys had to do it again. Move the junk bunks that is. And move in there.

In 1968 when I got back to garrison I wanted a piece of equipment real bad. Since I didn't know shit about equipment I couldn't get anything. There was an old 5-ton tractor that nobody wanted. It was so old it still had Yellow headlights, from France. It was a wreck. I took quite a bit of time to get it ship shaped. One day one of the squad leaders asked me if I could haul a tanker. I said sure. I had never hauled anything other than hay wagons in my life. I took the tractor over to Nelson Barracks to the fuel depot, it was also in Neu-Ulm, and hooked onto a full gas tanker. On the way out, thank God there was nobody there, I took a huge gate with me. Whoops!
That was the last time I ever had that problem. I learned real fast.

As I look back on it I often wonder how I put on all those miles and still ran equipment after I learned how.

I have the name of my battalion finance clerk and if he is still alive he lives near me or used to. His name is Tom Gray. Great guy. He always helped me out with cash. Meaning, we were getting paid $1.00 a day TDY pay He would make my pay come out better than that. Somehow when I got out he had all my leave time still coming to me. I had already taken it but he made sure it wasn't on the books.

Tom and the XO's secretary and the guy who printed the orders made orders for themselves to go TDY on a project that didn't exist, for 30 days.They took a 3/4-ton and gas ration stamps and meal tickets and got 18.75 a day per diem. They worked it great. Tom got out the next month. The other two and another battalion finance clerk tried it a few months later and got caught. Too bad for them. Tom got out a couple of months before I did. Haven't seen him since.

I know we had a Lieutenant Colonel from New Castle Pa. about 25 miles from here. His name was Henry J. Thayer. A very good man. If guys in our outfit had problems with the Army and they had a really good reason for not being there, within a week or so he would do his best to get them out of His ARMY. he didn't want people that were not interested in trying to be a good soldier. He was more of a "wave and say Hello guys what's up" rather than a salute.

Graf, Yes sir I have been there several times. That was where they first trusted me with a D8. Had me working in an old German motorpool. Tearing it out. There was an old drive on rack, made of concrete. They told me to dig it up push it over just remove it. It is probably still there. I tried to dig it up, not a chance must have been 6 feet of concrete below ground. So I tried to shove it over, that didn't work, so I rammed it, WOW! Big mistake. The only thing that moved was the dozer recoiling and me flying up on the hood. Glad I always had my hand on the master clutch. You have to remember the D8 9A and D8 2U were cable operated dozers.

Later they sent me to some old motorpool type garages. The (vegetation had) really grown up around them and they wanted to save the structures and get rid of the mess. After about 2 hours of pushing trees and weeds and old piles of whatever I saw something shiny near the corner of the blade. I backed up and got down and kicked around and found a LIVE 88 round. WWII vintage. I had just barely brushed the tarnish off where I touched it. Had to have it disarmed and they gave it back to me. I used it for a door stop in Ulm. Too heavy to bring home though.

I was in Graf a few times but the gray matter isn't working right just now. So will have to think a while about it.

As I had said in earlier correspondence I got out in Nov 1970. I was drafted Nov 14, 1967. I fooled them though. I enlisted on the 13th. They waited the bus for me on the 14th for 3 hours. Ha. I had been to Pittsburgh taking battery tests before that and one day I went up the elevator in the Federal bldg, with about 20 other guys. I wasn't with them. When they got out I was told to stand away. I did. They touched every other guy on the shoulder and said go to the other side of the hallway. Then they told the ones on the left You just joined the Army. On the right You just joined the Marine Corps. Not me. That is why I enlisted.

In 1978 I joined the local Reserve unit. They were going to Germany for summer camp. Prior service only had to enlist for a year. I did and I went. We were sent to Giessen just outside Frankfurt. I made it back to Hohenfels where I had the most memorable experiences of my Army career. Went to the old quarry where I worked a lot and to the petroleum site I had mentioned earlier. There was a little Gasthaus in the village called the Schwartze Katz. The woman who owned it in the early 1970's had a daughter that I had a thing for. You know she was still there only she now owned it. We had some really fantastic times there that summer of 1970. The girls from that gasthaus had a birthday party for me down at the river at Kalmoontz (spelling). I have a stein they had made for me. Believe it or not I still have it and it has no damage.

I have spoken with an old friend who had been in Neu Ulm before me and he was in Wiley Barracks but on the artillery end of post. He had mentioned a name of a place and it got my attention. It was Schwabisch Hall. That is where the 79th was resurfacing the airstrip when I first got there. I just spoke with a retiree this last weekend who was stationed there. He told me a few years ago they were re-doing the ramp on the runway and were forced to stop work several times. I asked him why and he said because of the unexploded allied ammo that had been dropped there and never exploded. Apparently in WWII they had dropped a lot of cluster bombs that didn't work.

Something I did want to say. When I first got to ULM there were 3 engineer construction battalions. The 79th, the 83rd and the one that incorporated us. The 83rd was on their way out and were gone before 1970. I had heard rotated back to the States.

Related Links:
  79th Engineer Battalion History - a revamped unit website created by Bruce Christman for fellow veterans and friends who are interested in the history of the 79th Engineer Battalion - from the unit's initial activation in 1942 to 1992. Lots of history and photos!  
  79th Engineer Battalion (Const) - Norm Snowdon's website that covers his father's service with the 79th in Germany between 1959-1962.  
  Gerszewski Barracks Yahoo Group - a place for discussing the "old days" at the now-closed and torn down Gerszewski Kaserne located in Karlsruhe.