Accidents at Det A Aviano/Ravenna 75th/600th ASA Company, Italy
Accidents? Of course there were accidents. Combine young American soldiers with the often chaotic traffic mix of cars, trucks with drivers on the right of the vehicle, bicycles, scooters, farm wagons of all sorts sometimes horse driven, people, dogs and other creatures on the narrow, congested Italian roads of the fifties and sixties--of course there were accidents.
All that said, I (TomH) was involved in three accidents during my tour in Italy and only one of them involved any of the above (bicycle) and being truthful one involved a good amount of beer. So to get started I will begin with:
Part II of McFadden's Jeep
Or, How to become the longest in-grade PFC in the 75th/600th ASA Company
(Part I is here on the 75/600th ASA Co pages) Aviano AFB, September 1960. At the time the detachment (Photo Is Not McFadden's Jeep but is the same model) was working one-man rotating shifts and I was working the mid shift when I destroyed McFadden's Jeep. Merle Houdek relieved me on time on a Sunday morning and I got in the Jeep to return to the barracks for breakfast and bed. Being semi-STRAC in those days I put the newly spit-shined pair of extra boots on the right passenger seat; which of course proved to be a major error.
(Image drawing is Aviano AFB Italy layout in 1960.) The air base primeter road edge was about 4-feet from the base cyclone security fence (typical single apron, 8/10 feet high, triple strand barbed-wire on top) with sand/hard and loose gravel between fence and road edge. Was I speeding? OF COURSE NOT! As things will happen, spit-shined boot fell off passenger seat, I leaned to right to recover boot, Jeep drifted right off edge of road, happened to hit sand patch instead of hard pack gravel, could not get back on road, went through security fence, fence wrapped around right front wheel, pulled as much fence down as possible (approximated 150 feet), resulting in a right forward snap-roll into the air, bounced off windshield to frame (windshield up and top attached), back into the air and landed flat on all four wheels, everything underneath broke, windshield glass only cracked.
Me? Well I somehow managed to twist around and lay between the two front seats and held on the the seat frame of the rear seat. Other than some scratches and bruises, a cut in the head that ended up with five or six stitches, cut in the back of the right hand needed two stitches. The head cut bled like the devil as they tend to do, but actually everything clotted up pretty quickly.
Anyway, crawled out of the Jeep and sat down on the ground. If you look at the full size image above the Red Arrow shows where the accident happened. Since I was only above two-three hundred yards from the airbase tower I figured they must have heard and seen it. Waved now and then. Nothing happened, nobody showed up. Said the hell with it and walked back to the DF site. Scared hell out of Merle when he opened the door. He called our barracks and Charlie Gladfelter came in our 3/4 ton Carryall and took me to the Airbase Medical Clinic. We more or less sped through the Air Base Ops Main Gate and Charlie just yelled at the AP that there had been an accident and kept on going.
As things go in the Army there had to be an investigation. The accident investigation office was then 2nd Lieutenant Mel Erman (now a good friend -- BUT Not Then!) The interview portion of the investigation did not go particularily well (Benny Sutton - then Det A Site Chief cringed at almost every one of my semi-smartass answers).
However, Benny still insisted that the fix was in, take the Article 15 and pay a minimum fine do extra driver training. So, in October Charlie (Gladfelter) drove me to the Company Hqs in Vicenza for my Article 15 meeting with Major McFadden. However, unknown to me at least, there had been a change of command the day before and the new company commander was Major Shellace T. Calhaun. Whether the fix was in or not, I don't know. Maybe there was and McFadden did pass on his recommendation or maybe not. Or, Calhaun just wanted to make sure to start out with a strong statement. Result was maximum fine and reduction to Private E2 for misconduct.
Other results: I, along with John Morrow of the det, was scheduled to be promoted to SP4 the first of November. (I was promoted back to PFC 7 November -- Air Force guys in the barracks could not believe I was busted and then promoted again in three weeks -- never did anything like that happen in the Air Force in those days.) I was a PFC in the company for 15 more months before finally making SP4.
Article 15 Fine:
Report of Survey found Jeep total wreck and was sold for scrap for around $12 dollars. Fortunately for me the Army depreciated vehicles and the value after deducting the scrap price and depreciation was just a bit over $284 dollars. Which they deducted from the PFC pay in 6 easy payments!
By the way: The Air Force - Aviano Airbase portion - just repaired/replaced the fence and never said a word - at least not any that got to me or cost me any money out of pocket. GO AIR FORCE!
84 Year Old on Bicycle
The picture to the left is of my 1962 FIAT 1200 Spyder, the first of several FIAT Spyders purchased by detachment members, although to my knowledge they all got the 1500 model in the same body style by Pinafarina. Anyway, I half totaled and rebuilt (twice) this car that is featured in both of the following stories. (Took the car to Homestead AFB in Florida and finally sold it in 1965 to a ASA Student Brigade member at Fort Devens. When visiting one of the student companies at Devens in 1973 spotted my old FIAT in the parking lot -- looking much worse for wear but apparently still running as it was tagged and had a Devens decal on it.)
Now on with the story of the 84-Year-Old-Farmer-On-A-Bicycle, Mike Mulich, and myself. Later
All By Myself