Chapter 11


The circumstances surrounding my return to Camp A. P. Hill were told in a previous story. The post commander was the same and so were most of the civilians, but the other officers and enlisted men had gone their way. Pop, the PX manager had retired and there would be no more beer on credit. That didn't matter too much, as we were now paid twice a month and we were able to budget better.

I had set up a well laid out police station and that survived. There were four new MP vehicles in the parking lot. I had required a minimum miles per shift. It had been about 20 to 30 miles average per eight-hour shift. That told me that very little of the 77,000 acres was being patrolled during that shift. If that had continued on the number of vehicles assigned would have been reduced for lack of utilization. That was the reason that they still had four vehicles assigned.

During my previous assignment I had become concerned because of the lack of good emergency lights on the police vehicles. As I mentioned US Rt 301 cut through the camp for approximately 8 miles and the patrols offered assistance to anyone needing it. All we had was a fender-mounted siren with a flashing red light and that couldn't be seen from the rear. I went to the motor pool and asked the civilian in charge if he couldn't wire our turn signals together and have them all flashing (front and rear) together. He did it and all the police vehicles were so modified. This was years before the car manufacturers did it. I always wondered if someone saw it on our vehicles and utilized the idea.

The company commander was a six foot four inch captain. I later figured that the increase in height must have diminished his brain power. My opinion was later confirmed by a sergeant major who served with him later. The NCOM barracks were the same old CCC barracks, but the troops were noisier. I knew I wasn't eligible for quarters allowance, but they could give me ration allowance and with that I could live off post. The captain refused my request. Shortly after the post commander called me in and told me they were happy to have me back and if there was anything he could do for me, he would. I said I'd like to get ration allowance so I could live off post. He said I should request that from the company commander. I told him I had requested it and had been refused. I was given the ration allowance.

I found my quarters off post. It was a cottage in the woods about a mile from camp and it had a small pond along side of it. The owner was the local Chevy dealer. He and his wife lived on a hill overlooking the cottage. They were in their seventies and turned out to be great friends. She had been born in Reading, Pa, so we had some things in common. During the Xmas season I would find a tree and we would decorate it while her husband mixed a hair-raising batch of eggnog.

The first sergeant was new to me and he would leave shortly. The new first sergeant and I got along great, in fact, to cut my share of the cottage rent, he and two of my desk sergeants moved in. (I found out later, when I returned from Korea, through my landlord, that the first sergeant and one of my desk sergeants were booted out for being homosexuals). That was a real shocker as neither had shown any signs of it. The first sergeant had a wife in northern Virginia and he went home on weekends. The desk sergeant was a big strapping, rugged individual. I had tried to get him to go on dates, but he said he had a friend at Ft Meade and would go there on his off duty days. (I guess his friend had been a man).

The first sergeant bought a small Ford from the local dealer and that upset my landlord, the Chevy dealer. I had brought back a VW Beetle and it was a great car, but no one had metric wrenches at that time and I had to go thirty-five miles for an oil change or repairs. My landlord gave me a good deal on a new Convair, so I sold my VW to the mechanic who changed the oil. My landlord was happy again since he had a new Chevy running around the camp, and that balanced the new Ford's presence.

When I was here before, a .45 cal pistol was stolen from the rack in the police station. An investigating officer was appointed and he found two officers and me pecuniarily responsible. In those days that meant twenty-five dollars from each of us. Fortunately, the post commander sent his investigation back and told him to find no one liable. The loss bothered me and on my return I found out that one of my former MPs had left the service and was living in the local area and he had a .45. In the three years all the records of the investigation had been retired and I needed the serial number of the weapon. I found it in my personal records and by that time the guy had moved on and I had to give up.

The hunting season came and we had our additional duties. The hunts and escort duty was good for us as it kept us in good physical shape. We certainly wouldn't have taken the exercise to do so unless it was mandatory. We met lots of old friends and a lot of new ones. General Harris came by from time to time and he was with the continental army commander (CAC). On one of the hunts I was on left flank as a buffer and another sergeant was on his right. We were trusted and they knew if he was shot it wouldn't have been one of us and further, sergeants were expendable. Unfortunately the buck ran in front of me and when I realized the general hadn't seen it I dropped it. It flopped around and couldn't get up as it had a neck shot and the front and rear legs were broken. A colonel walked up to it and shot it. The CAC came up to me and told me it was my deer and he was going to get it for me. I told him to let the colonel have it as there were plenty more around. I have a feeling that the colonel had a time with the general after his selfish demonstration.

There was a major who came from the Pentagon several times a season. He was a Texan and a real sportsman. He went for a grown mature buck and would pass everything else by, even if it meant he went back empty handed. He came by one day and I told him about an area off post that I thought he might like to hunt. The place was Bowling Green Park and it was near the cottage I rented. Another sergeant and I accompanied him. We entered the woods and walked on. I heard a shot, complete quiet for a time, and then someone shouting. I headed in that direction and found the major on the ground with a very much alive buck bull dogged. They had cleared most of the underbrush away in their encounter. I moved in and cut the buck's throat. He told us that he had knocked the deer down, stood his gun against a tree, and moved in to bleed it. It started to get up and he had no choice, but to grab it from the rear, twist its head, and hold on to avoid the hoofs and horns.

Another time we had hunted all day. It was cold for Virginia and I didn't feel like any more hunting for the day. One of the Generals wanted to go out and wait for the deer to feed. I took him to the site of a long abandoned sawmill. I directed him to a hollow, which fell away from the site. I climbed on top of the woodpile composed of tree trimmings. I would have liked to start a fire, but if he didn't see a deer, he would probably blame me. In about fifteen minutes I noticed a movement along the left side of the field. It was seven deer feeding on tree branches. They were at a good distance and were paralleling my spot. I took aim and fired three shots. The noise brought the General, to the scene, asking what the shooting was about. I told him and he asked me if I had hit any. I said I saw one go down, but couldn't see it now. We walked into the woods and the deer lay there. I looked at the General and said, "That was a fine shot you made, sir". He looked at me, smiled, and nodded in agreement.

There was a police lieutenant (Ted) who came down from Washington, DC. He came from time to time and was invited to the cottage. He brought an airline pilot with him this particular day. I left word with the desk sergeant to tell them to come to the cottage when they finished hunting. I had a venison meal prepared, but the pilot apologized and said he didn't eat venison. I told him there was a pound of bologna in the refrigerator and he could eat that. He was a good sport and said he'd try the venison. Try he did, and I thought he was going to eat it all. I'm sure the venison he had eaten before was cooked properly, but the preparation starts when the animal is killed. You can't drive it around in your car all day with the guts still in, and a lot do. It makes a big difference in the taste no matter how well you prepare it. We had venison at the cottage often. Each hunter was allowed two deer for the season, one of which could be a doe. The other three sergeants bought licenses and we kept our ice cream freezer full. That worked until one summer when the old hand-me-down ice cream freezer broke down. Everyone we knew was treated to venison that summer.

I failed to mention the turkey in my hunting stories and we had plenty, but they were elusive. I had clocked one running down the road at 30 mph. He turned off the road into a forest. I stopped the car and looked down the forest, but he had disappeared with out a trace. In my time there, I had fired at two and downed both, but only got one. During a deer hunt one of the standers had fired at one running along the ground, knocked feathers off of it, but it entered a very small area bounded by roads in the shape of a triangle. It hadn't come out of the area. We stomped through there, but we couldn't flush it out and we began to think it had gotten away. I knew the best turkey hunter, in Caroline County, (Roy Loving) was hunting down the road and I went to get him. He brought his dog and in minutes we had the turkey. I had hunted with Loving one time and he had been recovering from a heart attack then. If he hadn't had the heart attack, I don't think I would have been able to keep up with him. He moved behind his dogs faster than I had imagined. The dogs flushed a turkey, I saw it between the tops of two pine trees, then a shot and a puff of feathers as the bird was hit. He was a fast shooter too.

I went hunting alone from time to time. I selected the impact area because I knew there wouldn't be any other hunters there. On one of those days I checked with S-3 and found out that a unit would be firing .30 cal machine guns and since I would enter from the rear there would be sufficient area in front of me, because my location was outside the safety fan designated for that weapon. I took my position and heard the firing instructions being given over the range loud speakers. I heard the order to fire and then the firing started. I had been sitting on a tree, which had been blown down, when I heard bullets whistling overhead. I immediately hit the dirt, puzzled. I heard the cease fire and I got out of there fast. I went back to S-3 and found out they had changed the schedule to .50 cal firing and I was well within their range. Lesson: expect the unexpected and/or don't take chances.

My MP duties were routine, but once again I was moved out of the operations slot and I became an investigator. That was a no promotion slot. I did get to go for a one day FBI seminar at Quantico. Most of the others there were policemen I knew from the VA State Police and Fredericksburg department.

One day a colored CID investigator and I worked together. When we were through, I suggested that we stop for something to eat. I selected a colored restaurant on Rt 2. No problem thinks I, but the owner won't feed us in the same booth. State law says he. I stayed seated but my friend moved into the next booth. We wound up sitting closer as the top of the next booth was only shoulder high. I was glad when that law was stricken from the books.

The company gasoline lawn mower was missing. One of my MPs saw the former supply sergeant's wife using it to cut their lawn in town. He cleared the post, but didn't turn it in when he went overseas. In order to keep the situation uncomplicated, we stole it back.

A WWI vet died and the family wanted a military funeral for him. The post commander agreed. The first sergeant and I got out the military regulations. We looked them over and I said you handle the firing squad and I will take care of the burial. This was unusual for us, so we practiced using a footlocker for the coffin. The day arrived and I took five men with me to handle the casket. It was a hot day and we were standing at parade rest on the porch. I quietly warned them not to lock their knees or they would have a problem. Out the corner of my eye I see one of the men waver and then faint. We called the medics and he was taken away. Once again we are at parade rest when I hear the comment, "Sarge I'm going too", and another one passed out. I'm about the end of my rope, we get the medics again but I'm short people, so I drafted a civilian from a group standing nearby. We get the casket loaded and head to the cemetery. At the cemetery I grabbed the army photographer and he was not happy about it, and didn't know what to do. We lined up to remove the casket and as it comes out on the rollers, the photographer says he can't support any weight on that side because of an injured hand. We hold up the casket and shift him to the other side and get the casket to the grave. What can go wrong now? Nothing, of course. Not so. The preacher says his thing and we start the cocked hat fold of the flag. I get it and pivot to give it to the funeral director, but he is at the other end of the casket. I go back to camp and straight to the club where I relieved my tension. I found out later that the first guy to faint had picked up hepatitis in Viet Nam and wasn't fully recovered yet. The other guy had no problem, except of the mind.

For a while I had the job of finding the old wells that were there when the people moved on. I found an old map and there had been over nine hundred homes in the area. They were mostly hand-dug wells, but some were very deep. They had been covered, but the planking had rotted away and honeysuckle and other weeds covered their location. When I found one, I put a circle of white mine field tape around it, marked the location on a map and the engineers filled it. I discovered a well one day that was shallow and dry. A tree branch had fallen in and was propped up by the side of the well. Wrapped around that branch were three copperhead snakes. What a surprise someone would have had if they had fallen in that one. I radioed the desk sergeant and had them send out a shotgun. I blasted them to pieces.

One day I was assigned to the launching of a rocket, which was designed to carry ammunition, medical supplies, etc to troops who were surrounded by the enemy. The rocket was about as long as a dug up fireplug and was powered by steam. The rocket launch site was in the impact area, just east of US Rt 301. The countdown was reached and the rocket lifted, but in mid-air flopped over and was headed for us and 301. No one was hurt and it didn't get out to 301. Smart ass me, complimented them and said, "A great rocket, we should sell them all to the Russians". Some days I wasn't too diplomatic.

Beaver had entered the camp from the Rappahannock River. They thrived because they weren't disturbed. Every once in a while the post engineers would have a fit because their dams would flood an access road. My state trooper friend (Buchanan) and I fished together whenever we could. He brought a light row boat and we headed to a chain of beaver dams in the impact area. We had seen a bass or two from a narrow bridge there and thought we would give it a try. The dams were small and some were surrounded by undergrowth, but if you could get a line in you caught bass. I remember one time when we had the limit and we kept exchanging those we had caught for a bigger one. When we left the area we had a string of fish to be proud of.

You have probably heard about the Rappahannock River before. John Wilkes Booth had crossed it, after he assassinated President Lincoln, and was found, by Union Troops, in a barn a couple miles south of the river. The site is located on the west-side of US Rt 301 in the northeast corner of the camp. The buildings are long gone, but one of the post commanders had the site marked with a wooden sign.

On the first day of summer 1961, I married Joyce Payne of Fredericksburg. One week end we were visiting my friends at Colonial Beach. While there we received a call from my DC police officer friend (Ted). He was at the Monroe Bay Yacht Club, with his boat, and wanted to take us for a ride. The boat turned out to be a forty-three foot yacht. We boarded and headed across the Potomac River to Popes Creek for a feast of crabs and beer. The yacht was tied up to the end of a long very, very narrow pier. On the end of this pier was a gasoline pump, whose base barely fit the narrow pier. We were enjoying our crabs and beer when someone shouted that the pier gas pump was on fire. The police officer and my friend's son ran out to free the yacht. Everyone was looking out the window, but I kept on eating the crabs. One of the waitresses came over and said, "Is that your yacht out there?" I nodded a,"Yes" and she said, "The pier is on fire." As a yacht owner I had to appear cool, calm, and collective, so I said, "The crew can handle it." She walked away puzzled.

They got the yacht tied in a safer area, we finished eating and headed across the Potomac again. The owner put me on the wheel located in the flying bridge (the upper-most deck area). I looked back up the river toward Washington and saw a mass of black clouds coming down the river. It was a very bad storm. I showed it to Ted. He went below to secure loose items and warn the others. I took a compass reading on the water tower in Colonial Beach and it was good I did because the visibility went to zero moments later. The winds struck and tore the canvas awning away above me. I had picked up a cigar that was there and stuck it unlighted in my mouth, shortly before. I had a difficult time holding my compass course and from time to time the propellers made an awful noise when they were lifted clear of the water. I braced my feet and hung onto the wheel. Several times I thought I was going over the side, but I was able to hang on. Below me they were having problems too, Ted's wife was struck by the TV, when it was shook loose from its mount and he was trying to keep the bilge pumps going. Everyone was frightened. I didn't realize it, I had chewed the cigar I had in my mouth to pieces. The storm broke almost as quickly as it had struck. I had held the compass course very well and with a minor correction we were back on it. Ted came up to see if I was still there and to check for damage. I had eaten some of the cigar and I felt as if I was turning green. I asked Ted to take the wheel and he took us into the slip at the yacht club. As we entered the slip, I was on the deck up-chucking. I lifted my head and was looking in the picture window of the next yacht. They were seated having dinner. I hope they forgave me. I was so bad that we spent an extra night at the beach, so I could recuperate.

During my previous time at the Hill one of my sergeants (Al) applied for and was sent for helicopter training. His wife was a flake. I remember one time when we stopped for a sandwich, near where his trailer was parked. She came running in, crying, and said the trailer was flooded (she forgot to close the drain before she started filling the washer). Being a good matured fellow he told her to take a seat and he would clean it up. He no sooner was gone, when she started acting as if nothing had happened. Another time she had bounced a chili dog off of my forehead.

While I was stationed with the 11th Airborne I received a call from her husband. He was a warrant officer flying helicopters for the division and was stationed in Munich. They had another baby and would I be its Godfather. I said I would and did so. His tour was up and they moved on. A long time later, perhaps a year I received a call from an MP sergeant in Frankfurt. Someone wanted to talk to me. It was Al's wife. She told me her husband had been killed in a helicopter crash and she would be coming through Augsburg and would like to stop by to see me. I said OK and when she arrived I took her for a sandwich and I realized that was not her intentions, so I took her back to her hotel and drove off. Now, I wasn't one to pass up a good opportunity but I knew there was something wrong with this gal. I found out later that her husband was very much alive.

This time around at the Hill I started to get long phone calls from her. She was in Ohio and I tried to cut the calls short, in a polite manner, but when that didn't work, I simply hung up. I later learned that these calls were made when she babysat for someone. The long distance operator called me to find out about the calls because the phone customer complained.

There was a sergeant living in Bowling Green (a RIFed captain) he had been my assistant boss at the Hill during my past assignment there and he and his wife were past friends of Al. He called me one evening and said that Al's wife was in the area and wanted to see me. I said I was going out and wouldn't be able to see her. Shortly after that a car pulled up in front of my cottage. In the car was the company supply sergeant (colored) and out stepped Al's wife. The car drove off and she knocked on the door. My car was parked outside, but I kept quiet thinking she might go away. She came on the side porch and said that if I didn't let her in she would break a window and come in. That she did. She picked up a deer antler, smashed the window and slid in. I went to the phone and told the desk sergeant to send the sheriff. She rambled on and I stayed clear of her. I was afraid that she would start taking clothes off any minute and how would I explain that. The sergeant who had dropped her off and I were not friends, and I thought this might be a scheme on his part to get my ration allowance withdrawn and then I'd have to give up the cottage. I waited for the sheriff, but no one came. I called the desk again and they said they thought I had been kidding. This time the sheriff came and she had her day in court.

She didn't lie, which I thought she might by saying we were lovers or had been intimate. She readily admitted her actions and was fined. She left the area and I knew she wouldn't be back as she left owing the sheriff's brother money she had borrowed from him. My military friends looked down on me for a while and kidded me. They thought I should have given her what she wanted and sent her on her way.

There was no chance for promotion and the President of the United States had said that they weren't going to send dependents overseas in order to save money. I had recently re-enlisted and was surplus, so I wrote to General Harris who was the I Corps commander, in Korea, to see if he had a slot for me. He said he did and I went. You read about that in an earlier story. I was never stationed at the Hill again. My assignment lasted from November 1958 to December 1961. The camp did get up graded and is now Fort A.P Hill.

- RWR -12 June 93, (rev: 17 Feb 01)

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Copyright (C) 2003 by Robert W. Reichard and David F. Abner, All rights reserved except for items already copyrighted by others and credited within.