David Warren served in several US Army units from 1982 to 2001 beginning as a forward observer and ending in Airborne Civil Affairs.
The Height of the Cold War
- I was only seventeen when I arrived in Neu Ulm, Germany. Fresh out of basic training from Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I learned a lot, much of it the hard way.
- As was customary for newbies’ I remember crawling back onto the base in Neu Ulm after being introduced to German beer. It’s no wonder that German people had reservations about us G.I.s’. There were often crowds outside our post protesting our Pershing missiles.
- I was amazed when I opened my first checking account. Let me get this straight, I just fill out this piece of paper, write whatever amount of money I want on it, and I get it? This was awesome, for three weeks anyway. This led to my first visit to the commander’s office. If I hadn’t been such a great soldier in the field, I never would have made it in the army.
- As I had always thrived on learning I loved the first few months of duty. They had classes for new soldiers, we learned some basic language skills, cultural differences, and I got my German driver’s license. The Autobahn, that brings back some memories, but I'll save that for another hub.
- As there were no speed limits the German Polizei were accustomed to yelling, “Slow down G.I.” through handheld megaphones.
- I am amazed at how well we were treated considering the rampant lack of maturity amongst our ranks. I took several classes via the University of Maryland while in Neu Ulm. The most memorable was American History, taught by a professor who held some highly opposing views of U.S. politics. It was interesting to get a different perspective of American government from a foreign professor.
- Learning was great but letter writing didn’t interest me much back then. That led to my next trip to the commander’s office, as my mother had not heard from me for several months she contacted the U.S. Army as to my whereabouts and the commander let me know in no uncertain terms how unacceptable this was. Thus began my somewhat regular letter writing.
- As an amateur photographer I was broke most of the time. I recall spending as much as I made in a month on film and processing on more than a few occasions. I have to laugh as I can take digital pics all day without spending a dime, certainly has made photography more affordable.
- A few lessons I learned in Germany could have had serious repercussions’. Our post was regularly locked down due to German citizens protesting our Pershing missiles. As it wasn’t personal I would fulfill my guard shifts with my loaded M-16 blocking the protesters then I would climb over the fence behind the mess hall and go out drinking with those same protesters while off duty. Although I considered this relatively harmless I’m sure that Uncle Sam would not have approved. Luckily I was never held accountable for that or perhaps it was merely overlooked. Then there was the time that I returned quite late from my first leave back to the states. This could have been a very serious offense but fortunately for me it was also overlooked. We spent a lot of the time out in the field and I knew that I had better get back prior to our unit shipping out. I made it back with barely enough time to get my gear together and get to our train. The commander walked by while on the train and told me he was glad I could make it and that was all that ever came of it. I had a reputation as the best forward observer which saved me from trouble on many occasions.
- We spent an extraordinary amount of time out in the field on live fire exercises. Cold war veterans deserve more recognition for the conditions, missions, often dangerous, that they endured. It was indeed a thankless job.
- The Pershing protests provided me a new job for a while. Rather than working as a forward observer I was introduced to counter-terrorism long before the term became common dinner table conversation.
- I am looking forward to returning to Germany one day not as a soldier but as a tourist. Germany has much to offer as a vacation destination.
Questions & Answers
Question: What street were Nelson barracks on?
Answer: Unfortunately, I can not recall the street name and as the base has been closed for decades it is difficult to determine from Google Maps.
Question: Do you have any information concerning any soldiers that were stationed there in New Ulm dung the early 1980's and late 1970's, that were killed in accidents while on base in training exercises? Did the government, our government, restrict access to that information?
Answer: Not during the 1970s, before my time there, but during the early 1980s training accidents and fatalities were not uncommon. The early 1980s were at the height of the cold war era and the US government had major restrictions on divulging and accessing almost all troop information.