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The Ice Hole.
This happened during the winter of 1978-79 when I was with B Company, 1st Battalion, 33rd Armored, 3rd Armored Division which was stationed at Gelnhausen, FRG. I had volunteered for temporary duty with one of the other platoons in the company for a 'Partnership Shoot' with our partner unit, B Kompanie, 153rd Panzer Battalion. At the time I was kind of a specialist in range cards and long range gunnery.
The 153rd Panzer Battalion was, at the time, normally stationed in Koblenz but we went to Bergen Hohen to shoot. There were also units there from Britain, Canada, and France. I got to see some tanks, in person, that I would not have seen under other circumstances. The 153rd was equipped with Leopard Is at the time and the ones they had were pretty old. I saw a group of tanks on a trail one day, though, that I was told were Leopard IIs.
They looked very capable.
Anyway, it was cold, and I mean COLD. We tried to re-fuel our M-60A1s using the German system of pouring the diesel from 20 liter(?) cans through a rubberized canvas funnel into the fuel tanks but it was so cold that the diesel would not go through the slight kink in the funnel necessary to allow for the smallest turret overhang we could make. The bottom of the turret, at it's thinnest, no matter how we turned it, did not allow the funnel to be properly positioned. The cans of 'Benzine' that the Germans added to their fuel due to the temperature, would go through just fine, but not diesel fuel. We may have damaged a few engines by running that mix but we only needed to refuel once during the trip, (385 gallons, 0.5 miles per gallon across country) so maybe not. Those tanks were sure peppy with the Benzine in them, though.
Anyway, among other adventures and minor catastrophes, I had a very embarrassing moment one morning when it was my turn to go to the tank park and run all five tank's engines for half an hour to make sure that the engine and transmission oil did not freeze.
First I have to say that my grasp of the German language was tenuous at best. It was just after dawn and I was walking back to the tents hoping to get a few more minutes of sleep. I had to cross a large totally empty parking lot larger than a football field and that was un-paved except for several inces of ice. About one third of the way across I noticed a spot where a truck must have stood idling for a while because there was a definite depression a few inches deep and more than two feet in diameter, with standing water in the bottom. I felt no fear because I was wearing my Vibram soled (waffle tread) 'tanker' boots and scurried right along as well as someone 6 feet tall weighing, at the time, probably 225 pounds, could go.
I got too close to the hole.
I must have been three feet away when I started slipping slowly sidways toward it. I still felt no fear. I KNEW that my boots would save me.
They didn't. I ended up standing dead center in the hole. At that time I noticed two guards from the Bundeswehr watching me a little curiously.
I tried to walk out. Wet boot soles on ice are as near to frictionless as we are likely to see in a non-cryogenic situation. After several attempts I finally decided that I would sacrifice a little dignity rather than ask for help, so I tried to crawl out on hands and knees. Hands and knees on wet ice are as near to frictionless . . . You know the rest.
Finally, I was forced to call "Hilf mir!" or some approximation, to the two guards. They came over and extended the butt of one of their rifles to me and pulled me out. I have no idea what they were thinking but they seemed very polite and I had no idea what they said, so I thanked them and then, very cautiously, went on my way. As soon as I got back to Gelnhausen I bought a pair of boots that looked as close as possible to what they had been wearing and I never got stuck that way again.
My thanks again to Rory.
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