64th Ordnance Company

Area One Secure Site (courtesy of Trott Wiebke)
Area One Secure Site (courtesy of Trott Wiebke)

I arrived at the 64th in Fischbach in January of 1990, and assigned to the M&A (maintenance and assembly) platoon. This platoon consisted of around 20 people, including three warrant officers, all of whom were 55Gs (Nuclear Weapon Technicians) and worked in Area 1.

Most Germans believed we had chemical weapons stored at the depot. The Greens used to protest at the gates, but there were no protests between 1990-1992 that I can remember, though we did hear rumors of an RAF (Red Army Faktion) member being apprehended in a nearby town.

The Fischbach Army Depot was small, with maybe a few hundred soldiers there. This included the 64th Ordnance Company, 165th MP Company, and the 41st Ordnance Company Detachment. There was a club, a very small PX, and a barber on site. The old movie theater was used as an assembly hall. There was also a bowling alley on site.

The depot was protected from air assault with a Hawk missile detachment located a few miles away on “Thunder Road”, in the forest outside of the town of Salzwoog. Thunder Road was a twisting, turning road that hugged the sides of the hills from Fischbach to almost Hinterweidenthal.

As a 55G, we spent time training inside the M&A building during the week on the weapon systems that we had at the depot, which included the M422 (8” shell), the M454 (155mm) both of which were nuclear artillery pieces, and the Lance and Pershing II systems, which were intermediate range nuclear missiles. We would train on assembly/disassembly of the systems on mock pieces which were kept in the building.

Area 1 consisted of bunkers spread out in an almost complete oval, surrounded by MP guard towers at intervals around the semi-oval, and a main MP building at the entrance to the semi-oval. The perimeter of Area was surrounded by a high chain link fence, topped with razor wire. Motion detectors also surrounded the perimeter, which would sound an alarm if anything tried to breach the area.

The roadway entrance into Area 1 had “tank-stoppers”; large, hollow steel poles that were inserted into the concrete at a 45 degree angle facing outwards. We would have to remove the poles to be able to drive into the area.

We were issued “black-border” passes to be able to enter Area 1. You would have to enter the area through a devious looking turnstile which was controlled by the MPs, showing your pass, emptying your pockets, and walking through the turnstile. The MPs would then return your possessions. If you happened to be the “number of the day”, the MPs would call you inside for a more thorough pat-down and search before you entered.

The bunkers which housed the live nuclear weapons had a large, heave metal gate as the first entrance. We operated on the “two-man rule”. The first gates used regular teeth-type keys to open. After the first gate was opened, the large, steel vault doors would need to opened. For security reasons, the doors needed two keys to unlock them, and there must always be an MP escort. The keys were thin, aluminum bars, about 3 inches long, and a quarter inch wide. They had holes randomly punched through them. One soldier would insert his key into a black box on the door, which would release some of the air locks. Then the next soldier would insert his, which disengaged the remaining locks (think of a bank’s vault door, with steel bars that slide horizontally when disengaged). After the doors were unlocked, we would have to use a small jack to lift the door off the ground and swing it out. The bunker was then accessible.

The inside of the bunkers were secured with the WADS system, which visibly included razorwire hanging from the ceiling. In the event of a security breach, the razorwire would fall from the ceiling to trap the intruders, with no chance of escape.

The 55G’s also performed staff duty in the admin building. At 5pm, we had to phone battalion over the STU-3 secured line to report troop strength. In the same room the commo tech watched the TACSAT. Every 15 minutes a message was sent through the TACSAT to the commo person. They would have to respond. This was SOP at every army nuclear base in the world. The room we sat in also contained the solid-steel cabinets which contained the EAM (emergency action message) packets. If an EAM was received over the TACSAT, the two staff duty personel would have to unlock the cabinet, retrieve the EAM, then decode it. This happened only once during my time there, and that was at the beginning of hostilities of the Persian Gulf War.

As 55Gs, we went TDY about once a month to various artillery units in Germany; Wertheim, Wuerzburg, Nuremberg and other places. We would clean up their trainer nukes, remark them, and re-finish the storage containers. We also were on a N.A.I.R.A. (Nuclear Accident Response/Assistance) exercise, which was training on how to respond, test and clean up after an accidental nuclear explosion.

The middle of 1991 was when we began disassembling the warheads in accordance with the INF treaty. There were inspectors from both the U.S. and Soviet Union present. After the warheads were dismantled, they were transported out of Area 1 by Chinook. I remember waiting for the signal to move the warheads out of the bunkers, because Soviet satellites were passing overhead. We would then a 15 minute window to move out in the open. When Fischbach was empty of warheads, we TDY’d to Miesau to help with their stock, then to Rammstein and Hahn Air Force bases to disassemble more warheads there.

With the nuclear arsenal gone from Fischbach, there was no need for the mission there anymore. I was the last 55G there, during which time in April of 1992 I was transferred to the barracks in Muenchweiler. There was really nothing left to do, and we would go to Pirmasens most of the time. I ETS’ed in July, 1992, and the MOS 55G was phased out of the Army.