Fort Sill Fire
Excerpt from "Serving The Pieces" by Ed Walsh
FIRE ON THE BASE
One Sunday I was C.Q. (Charge of Quarters). This was a job that a corporal or any non-commissioned officer did about once or twice a month. What you did was stay in the First Sgt's office for a 24 hr period and run errands, answer the phone and see that different work details and guard people got where they should be on time, take care of passes for guys to go to town, etc. Most everybody had a Class "A" pass by this time and could go anywhere anytime without permission. They needed this pass to show to the post gate, or the M.P.'s in town that might be checking passes, but they had to sign out at the First Sgt's office where they were going.
This office was called the Orderly Room or O.R. The C.Q. had to take his bedding and sleep there on a cot. The C.Q.. also met any visitors that came and went, and found out who they wanted to see.
So this Sunday evening, the phone rang. It was Post Hdqtrs and there was a forest fire on the west end of the reservation and they needed 8 men from every battery in camp and to have them at Post Hdqtrs as soon as possible with a vehicle and a licensed driver. Well, there wasn't anybody in the barracks. I finally got seven and found another corporal who would take over my C.Q. job for the rest of the 24 hours. So I went out to the fire.
There was truck after truck leaving hdqtrs. It was dark by now and the western sky was all red. Luckily this area did not have real tall pines, but quite a few small ones and lots of scrub oak and brush. Some of the first guys there with the direction of Forest Rangers had built a back fire, and it was backing up to a road and would be okay if the wind did not change, or if the fire did not jump the road.
Our job was to see that it did not get across the road. The trucks dropped off men with shovels about every 20 to 25 feet for three miles and they started spading the grass under along the road.
There were deer, coyotes, squirrels, skunks, bobcats, possum, coon and everything imaginable coming across that road, also rattlesnakes. The biggest one I saw was a big, old diamondback about 8 feet long, and was he mad, and in a hurry. We just let him go on across the road.
The wind did not change and everything was pretty well under control by morning and we were relieved by another truckload of guys. We went back to the barracks and went to sleep.
The danger of the fire was not over for about a week. The area was kept surrounded by men on guard in shifts day and night for that time. - - - - - -
PARADES FOR THE BRASS
- - - - -The barracks just west of Battery A was where the Field Artillery Band stayed. Many of these men had been in the Army for years and they were all professional musicians. They spent their days practicing music and marching. They did the flag ceremonies morning and evening. We all fell in to stand retreat as they lowered the flag at night. They did all the bugle calls during the day and they also played and marched in all parades and mass marching shows put on Saturday afternoons. It was an honor for any new guy to get assigned to them.
Some of the parades put on, on the parade grounds north of the barracks, were quite a sight. The big ones were usually on a Saturday afternoon when some big brass was visiting the post, like three or four star generals. There would be as many as five thousand men with colors, guidons (banners) and bands pass in review past the reviewing stand.
Some Saturday afternoons there would be mass artillery demonstrations for visiting brass and foreign brass. The impact area was near Signal Mountain. The people watching sat on the side of a mountain about a mile or a mile and a half away. There was usually over one hundred artillery pieces firing. Everything was surveyed in before hand and the shells would all hit in the same spot.
The cannon would be 105mm, 155mm, and 240mm. The minute they started firing on this spot, they would fire 8 to 12 shells for each gun which would be around 1000 rounds hitting in the same place.
This was timed with medium size bombers with hundreds of anti personnel bombs and then other planes with 500 lb bombs. These would get to target just after artillery had hit. They would drop their bombs in the dust and smoke caused by the artillery.
Then fighter planes would come in and strafe the area. As the smoke and dust disappeared, just a few hundred yards from the impact area, infantry would come out of foxholes and advance across the area firing rifles and machine guns and bazookas.
This was really a surprise the first time I saw it because I did not know the infantry was out there. We were usually part of the artillery firing in these demonstrations, but one time we got to sit on the mountain and watch. It was really some sight. You could feel the heat from the bombs and shells and the wind pressure from it that mile and a half away. This had to be real accurate and precise. The infantry out there in the foxholes would have been wiped out if there had been a mistake. - - - - - - -
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