MILITARY DEPENDANTS OF T.D. BARNES
Passport Photo During Deployment To Germany During Berlin Wall Crisis
Dog tags issued to Barnes dependants in Germany during Berlin
DEPLOYMENT EXPERIENCE OF A MILITARY FAMILY
By: Doris W. Barnes
Early in 1961, the USSR was flexing its muscles in Berlin
just prior to the construction of the Berlin Wall. The Soviets were also moving
missiles and troops into Cuba. At the time, my husband was stationed at Fort
Bliss, Texas and involved in air defense missile ECM and ECCM with some secret
"Agency" to whom he'd been "loaned." His battalion received
deployment orders with the destination classified secret. According to rumors,
some of the ADA units at Fort Bliss were being deployed to Key West, Florida to
defend the United States from a USSR missile attack originating in Cuba. Other
of the ADA battalions at Fort Bliss were supposedly being deployed to Leghorn,
Italy for the defense of our European allies.
At the time, former President Dwight Eisenhower had restricted military dependants from accompanying service personnel overseas unless they could prove availability of off-post housing. While personnel in my husband's battalion were scrambling to establish living quarters in Italy, my husband had learned from personnel employed by a certain "Agency" with whom he was somehow associated that his unit was being deployed to the Czechoslovakia border in the Wurtzburg/Bamberg region of West Germany. With a bit of "Agency" assistance, my husband established an off-post residence near Bamberg and applied for concurrent dependant travel. Our two daughters and I were the only American military dependants onboard the USS Buckner when it set sail with my husband and his missile battalion.
Upon arrival at Bamberg, we managed to locate a small upstairs apartment in a small German village about 30 kilometers from my husband's missile unit. Though we were able to ship our automobile and household goods on the ship with us, they did not arrive at Bamberg until a couple weeks later. The day following our arrival, we moved into the apartment and my husband left to go to his unit with the intention of arranging for basic needs such as bedding, army cots, pots and pans, etc. until ours arrived. A couple hours later, the mess sergeant arrived with basic Army-issue bowls, serving trays, and some food. That is when I learned that the Soviets were acting up and my husband couldn't leave the missile battery until another battery was online to cover that sector of the world. I didn't see my husband for three weeks during which time our children and I lived in a foreign country, unable to speak the language, with no automobile or means of communicating with my husband except through unit personnel sent by him to check on us. During this time, the only thing I had to read was an international drivers manual that my husband had delivered to me. Needless to say, when I took the driver's test, I maxed that sucker.
FINALLY, I received word that my husband was getting some time off. My joy quickly turned to dismay when he roared in with a couple jeeps loaded with buddies that he'd brought with him for some home cooking. They'd brought chicken and various cooking ingredients from the mess hall, but no cooking utensils. Somehow, I managed to cook a chicken, make mashed potatoes, and gravy for the family and six guests, all of it cooked in a coffee pot on a coal-fired stove and served in OD-colored bowls and serving trays of the U.S. Army. Did I mention that at the time, I was only 21 years old with two children, ages 2 and 5?