Connecting the Troopers of Today with the Veterans of Yesterday.
Talking about accidents and cause for disability claims ---
We were at Graf in April '75 when PFC John Schaeffer, one of 1st Platoons grunts, set himself on fire at one of the gunnery ranges. John was a good guy, but a bit of a wild man who drank more than he should have, sometimes on duty. Now, I don't know if he had been drinking in this particular incident, but here's the story: At the range where he was working as a PFC, which means toting stuff, guarding this, cleaning that etc., there were several 152mm rounds that had been damaged in handling - you know, cracked casing and all that. Wasn't hard to do with those rounds. So there were a pile of these lying there, and John grabs a big ole' handful of the power pellets that had spilled out and started to play. With fire.
So, after a couple of trails, he lines up end-to-end about 6 or 7 feet of these pellets, and puts a big pile of them (this is propellant, now) at the end. And he lights it up with his cigarette. It burns and burns but goes out near the finish - well, that's not a good ending so he stands over the pile and drops his cigarette or whatever on it so it'll light up. And light up it did - in his face. Fortunately, he wasn't burned badly on the face at any rate, but his right hand did get 2nd degree burns and it scorched his uniform pretty well. So there he was for a week afterwards or so, sporting a big ole' bandage on his arm. He also got busted down to PVT again since it could have caused the whole stack of rounds to go off. He also got referred to drug & alchohol rehab. Don't know if he succeeded - anyone ever hear of John Schaeffer in the time since?
I tried that same powder trick when I was young (early teens) with some old shotgun shells I found in the attic, with pretty much the same result. Soon as I touched a match to it, the whole thing went up in my face, burning the hell out of my hand and leaving a big scorched mark on the garage floor. Had a Cool Whip tub of powder sitting right there that thankfully didn't ignite!
I remember one night we were somewhere on a two lane levee road I was in the loaders hatch watching the road Alan Ritter was driving our M60 we were as far to the right as we could go and I see these headlights coming down the road right at us and he is not moving over and I continue to watch him drive right into the side of out tank at about the third or fourth road wheel with his drivers side of the car, it was a Opel Record, well we are still moving as he runs into us and the car is stuck in the track the whloe side of the car is ripped open by the drive spocket and buckles our fender the car is thrown up in the air and lands on its roof behind us, I jump down grab the fire extinguisher and am the first one to the car, leaking fuel and still running not knowing what I was going to see in the car I reach in and turn off the ignition and here is a older German man looking at me not knowing what just happend he was unhurt for the most part, turns out after the Polizei show up and do the report they tell us he had just left the Gasthaus and was drunk as a skunk to this day I still can not belive he did not get hurt I bet he never drank and drove again after getting run over by a tank, we fixed our fender and went on our way.
Saw the same thing happen to a tank right in front of mine during REFORGER 82 when I was assigned to 1-37 Armor out of Katterbach. A compact car tore off from a Gasthaus headed in the direction of our convoy, got too close to the left side of Tex's tank and got dragged into the tracks, got spun around once, landed on roof and drunk guy in car walked away without a scratch. The luck of a drunk, I guess. Car was totalled. Polizei cited Konrad for drunk driving and we went on our merry way. This was somewhere near Bad Mergentheim, if I remember correctly.