- Dear Vic and Al:
I have some info as to the beginnings of the HAWK/AW era of the
4/517. Prior to the summer of 1960, 4/517 had two 90 mm gun
batteries and two AW M42 batteries. I do not know which were which
nor where they were located prior to Sept 1960.
In July 1960, I was ordered from the AAA& GM school Staff &
Faculty to attend the Hawk Off Qualification Course at that school.
This was to prepare me (and others) to staff the two Hawk batteries
destined for the Canal Zone. We were accompanied by the officers who
were destined for the battalion to be trained and deployed to Korea.
We and that battalion were the first Hawk units to deploy.
On 28 May 1960, I took command of Battery F 55 th Arty. At the same
time Charles "Bud" Kindick took command of another Battery
F. I believe it was 67th Arty. Shortly afterward Bud and I went on a
recon & coordination trip to Panama to see where we would be
located, meet the 4/517 gang and advise on what we might need in the
way of special support. At that time. The battalion was commanded by
Ltc Robert H. Johnston the Bn S3 was Sam Basile and MG T. F. Bogart
was the CG USARCARIB.
The two "F" batteries trained in tandem within the 1st GM
Brigade and the cooperation between them was great. Since most of
the command emphasis was being placed upon getting the Korea bound
battalion deployed, We pretty well trained ourselves. We got a lot
of help from old friends I had at the school plus the tech reps
assigned to us. We finally fired out our last rounds and packed up.
When we left Fort Bliss, our batteries each had about 70 people
including 4 officers and a warrant officer. We shipped our mission
peculiar equipment, accompanied by 2 NCI's, in late August 1960 and
put all others on leave to join me (with their authorized family
members) at Charleston AFB o/a 8 Sep 1960 for airlift to the CZ.
Believe it or not, every last trooper arrived at the appointed time
and place after a two week leave.
We arrived in the CZ o/a 8 Sep and were met by Gen Bogart. By then,
our equipment had arrived at Balboa and we immediately off-loaded
and moved to our new homes. My unit went to become Battery D at Fort
Sherman and Kindicks to Battery C at Flamenco Island, Fort Amadore.
Battery A at Fort Davis, commanded by Jesse Lant was our host and a
fine job they did. The barracks, mess, etc., were all set up and
ready. We were to share the post with the Jungle Warfare Training
Center commanded by Ltc John Goldoni.
On the next day we started to emplace the battery in the old
officers family quarters area for Fort Sherman. Used the old
streets, parking areas and some building foundations for hard stand.
The engineers had already built us a missile assembly building and
an alert crew ready building. We became operational with at least
one launcher of prepared missiles four days later. We were a couple
of days ahead of Battery C and, as we learned later, several weeks
ahead of the Battalion in Korea. We therefore declared ourselves to
be the "First Operational Hawk Battery in the World."
After challenges of the rainy season, mud slides in the position
area, etc., we learned that the battalion would be prime in putting
on a multi weapon firing demonstration sponsored by the JCS for
Latin American ministers of defense. Our battery felt the brunt
since the event was to be at old Fort San Lorenzo. The viewing
stands were to be at the old fort and the firing point was to be on
the beach, across and west of the Chagress River mouth. We were the
closest, so much of the effort fell on our back. The firing point
was, except for the immediate beach, solid jungle so, engineer heavy
equipment was required to clear enough ground to put in our two Hawk
batteries plus a large contingent of weapons from Aberdeen and Fort
Sill. The demonstration took place in late February 1961. Narration
was by Lt. Gene Jamison, a fluent Spanish speaker and a Battery D
platoon leader. At the insistence of MG O'Connor, C/S. CINCARIB, we
intercepted an RP 76 drone with a Hawk quite close to Fort San
Lorenzo. That emptied the stands and we had to delay the rest of the
program to get the spectators back. After the demonstration, we
continued use of the "Pena Beach Range" for both Hawk and
AW service practice.
I continued as Try Cdr. until April 1961 at which time I became S3
and Sam Basile was Bn Exec. Ltc Charles W. Reeves became Bn CO in
January of that year. 1stLt Edward S. Gregory replaced me as Btry
CO. A short time later. Bud Kindick became assistant S3. He did not
stay long however since his replacement as Btry, CO did not pan out
and Bud went back to the battery for a time. In early 1962 Ltc Jack
S. Bailey replaced Ltc Reeves. We then proceeded into a time of
hyper activity called the "Cuban Crisis." We put in a lot
alert time and the AW units kept going back and forth to their
defense positions, loading and unloading their ammunition Jack
Bailey and I departed the CZ at about the same time, Mid 1963 He was
replaced by Ltc John deCamp and I by Bud Kindick who, by that time
had resolved the problems of C Battery and was promoted to Maj. I
went to C&GSC and then ARADCOM staff, White Sands, NIKE Bn
command, MACV Staff, back to ARADCOM, Safeguard System Development,
NORAD staff and retirement. Last saw Jack Bailey at Redstone where
he was a Col. assigned to BMDSCOM. During my time, M42's did not tow
Hawk equipment. We did not train at Rio Hato but did at one time
consider displacement of D. Battery to Rio Hatto by LST. The Cuban
Crisis eliminated that exercise. I did displace Battery D on several
occasions to keep our mobility capability alive to some extent. I
believe Bud Kindick did the same. I did get a lot out of the Panama
experience, both professionally and personally. On Jan 17, 1962, I
met a lovely Panamanian named Catalina at a birthday party for Bud
Kindick's wife Anita. We were married in Panama on May 12 and moved
into quarters at Fort Clayton. In June 1963 I sailed on the
Cristobal with Catalina and a baby daughter, destination
This has been long and perhaps, too verbose. However, it was fun to
paw through the old papers and bring back old adventures.