Deuce and a Half Adventure
Posted: 20 September 2008 01:13 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Reported by Jim Menzie.

It was the great winter of ‘69/‘70 and all was quite on the hill as it should be on mids. The snow was sitting about 150 cm and it was very cold indeed. We woke up rubbing the Pilsner out of our eyes; carefully put away our favorite burn bag pillows so they would not be incinerated and made things look orderly for the day shift.

The road was iced over, the hand-pushed snow plow was useless, and no one really wanted to drive the 2½. In fact, everyone refused at least once. When the day shift arrived, everyone was convinced that Newman, who drove the day shift up the hill, should drive again (Newman was considered the best driver). So Newman drove. Three up front, the rest of us frozen turkeys in the back along with a pile of sand and a bunch of windows and frames. Someone was doing a private job and or what!

It was give and take to get off the site. We slid past the German entrance and, hopefully, Newman was reminded that it was very slippery. A few uuhh-aaahhs later, and we had arrived at the most dangerous part of the trip — the 19%. A full stop nearly at the top and a slow start down. After the first curve or during it, the rear end fished out a bit, and swearing could be heard. A few seconds later, one last scream — “Here we go.” That’s exactly what happened — a flying 2½-tonner went off the mountain.

Roughly 30 feet out and 50 feet down we were finally stopped by a very big tree. The front-end was rather bent and the right wheel missing. The truck stayed upright but just barely and leaned over toward the next drop which would certainly been our end. One severe back injury, cuts on window glass and certain parts between my legs were close to my throat after landing on a diesel can. Well, we crawled out and took account, and our shivers were not just from the cold. I guess this spot was about 3 to 4 clicks from the farm house where there was a field phone. Someone had to do it, so off I went jogging down the hill.

I don’t know how long it took, but by the time I arrived I could hardly speak due to a frozen throat and to many previously smoked cigarettes. At the farm house (I could be mistaken ), I believe Pivo was at a table breakfasting while I raised the alarm wheezing out my story. Well, with a flash here and there, action started. Rimbach woke up. Herzo Base woke up. The Kaserne in Kötzting woke up. The evac helicopters in Amberg took flight, and I think I fell over as I don’t remember much until the next day.

The ambulance from Kötzting got stuck in the snow, so they sent another. Everyone got treatment soon enough. Then the Keystone Cops took over. Just how do you retrieve a 2½-ton hanging precariously on the side of a mountain? Ha!

ASA genius took over — a tow truck is needed. I guess before any survey was done by the down-to-earth Army in Amberg (who drove tanks and big trucks), a tow truck was ordered. Needless to say, with slippery roads and well under-strength machinery, a second call was made to get a tow truck for the tow truck and a tank retriever for the other truck.

I did not witness the action on the hill but it was apparently a real circus. Yes, the tank retriever broke down. Who was in the truck besides Newman and myself? At least eight others. A blur of faces, but names are not appearing. Who actually saw what happened that day and subsequent truck rescue?

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6913th Security Squadron USAF
Rimbach, West Germany
1974-1975

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Posted: 15 June 2010 09:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The Flying Deuce by Tim Newman

  Alas for human memory!  My recollections of that weird day at Det K are blurry and spotty, but I’ll do what I can.  Perhaps some of you who were there that day can fill in a few blanks.

  The truck, a 2 ½  ton (deuce-and-a-half),  already had a bad reputation as an unreliable piece of crap, and the faulty governor on it only added to the problem.  When I was told I was to drive it down the hill, I was already unhappy.  When I looked in the back, I saw building materials, including several windows stacked in a pile.  Why they were brought up the hill (for the guard shack? The generator shed?) and then had to go back down, I don’t know. (There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way!)

    It started snowing, wet, heavy, and slushy.  The tires had Army-standard chains on, but I certainly had my doubts about the truck itself, and the steep grade ahead.  Tandem-axle vehicles do not perform well in mud, snow, or ice.  I normally relished the thought of driving those big trucks, but this time, I was on edge.

  I don’t remember how things went from the time we left the site ‘til we got to the 19% grade.  As we came up on the lip of the grade, I think I looked at the two guys up front with me with that “Well, are we gonna make it?” look.  We were all apprehensive.  Did we need to say anything?  I doubt it, but we might have.  Everyone was tired and pissed off.

  The wet snow had accumulated a bit.  We were just a short way into the steep grade when I heard the engine RPM’s slow to an idle.  My first thought was that the goofy governor had pulled another fast-one on us (The Det mechanic, whose name I can’t remember, figured that the simple cross-tread chains filled with slush, rendering them useless).  Then the ass-end of the truck began trying to pass the front.  I tried mightily to counter the slide, but the steering on a big tactical truck is not quite as responsive as a VW or BMW.  First to one side, then to the other, the truck careened down the slightly curving grade.  I had some hope, at first, of getting past the shallow curves and on to the straightaway at the end of the grade, but spinning that big steering wheel as fast as I could, wasn’t enough on that one lane road.  About halfway or more down the grade, we headed for the outer edge of the road.

  I snapped a look at the guys in the cab again and said something like “Here we go!!”, and over we went.  We must have been airborne for a bit, ‘cause I don’t remember jouncing our way down – maybe someone else remembers it differently.  I was pretty well resigned to dying. I saw trees coming at us.  Did we fly through their tops?  I don’t know.  I was too busy feeling helpless and/or awestruck, and probably hoping that death would be mercifully quick.


  When we came to a stop, I sat there for a moment in disbelief.  We were still alive.  Markiewicz, in the middle seat, had managed to jam his fingers under the canvas top where it wraps around the frame of the windshield— there was no other handhold for him to grab.  (several guys tried it, after the accident, to see how he did it.  It can’t be done, without adrenaline.)  I came out of my torpor and realized that the motor was still on.  I shut it off and took stock.  I hollered out to the guys in back to see how they’d fared.  One guy had slid forward on impact and smashed his back.  I think no-one had been cut by flying glass (I don’t remember if those windows broke apart or what.)  The right front wheel assembly, including the spindle, had been sheared off. It looked like the whole truck frame was twisted.  Two or three of us crawled up the hill to the road and flagged down a Bundeswehr truck (equipped with excellent “X” pattern tire chains; no tandem axle – they learned their lessons in Russian mud and snow in WWII).  They went for help.

  It took a tank retriever to get that wreck out of the woods.

  Anyone who wants to add to, or correct this is welcome.  My memory is as fallible as anyone’s.  Have at it.

Tim

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Chad Rat
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Posted: 15 June 2010 09:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Great stuff Tim and many thanks for an additional name - Markiewicz wasn’t he the trick chief?

So we now have Tim Newman, Gene Markiewicz, Prof. Brothereu and myself. Still a few missing

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Posted: 12 July 2010 06:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Did any one take pictures? Would be nice to see one if there were any!

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Joe Greene
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Posted: 13 July 2010 07:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Unknown if pictures were taken during the clean up operations. Nothing has shown up ....

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Posted: 14 July 2010 05:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The LFV guys did not need duece and a halves.. since we were only six, but I do have a picture of the wrecked VW microbus in Army green in the ditch. Reports were he swerved to avoid a deer. In Hill talk that meant he he had one too many beer! grin

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Joe Greene
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