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Former driver tells all!

Here are some stories Richard Garcia sent in. Richard served from 58/61 with the 501st armored medical company in Fulda, Germany as an ambulance driver.  During the Cold War they were active not only serving the military but also their families. The drive from Fulda, to the 97th General Hospital in Frankfurt was  only sixty miles but it was a two hour trip over bad winding roads. they didn't have a hospital so for emergengies they took that trip.  Very rarely did a person have to go by chopper.  If they were carrying a woman that was about to deliver a child chance were she would have the child in the ambulance! See the story below! Click here for a photo of Richard.


My best buddy was "Porky" Mansfield and one night they received a call that a women in labor needed to go to the 97th General Hospital, in Frankfurt.  From Fulda to Frankfurt was only a 60 trip, but over some very bad roads, the trip took two hours.  With the doctor in the back and Porky as the assistant driver, they took off for the hospital.  The first forty minutes were uneventful but then all hell broke loose.  The doctor, Captain Oppenheimer asked for Porky to come to the back to assist him.  Very nervously he crawled into the back ands was shocked to see the women with a childs head coming out.  It was an easy birth with no complications but Porky's first experience.  After the ordeal was over Porky could do nothing but brag about being part of such a wonderful experience.  "There was the head coming out and the doctor working with her then PLOP, , ,  there was the baby."  It was really something to watch him talk about that experence, you would have thought that he was the daddy. 


Captain Charles Bacon was the doctor on call late one night when we had an emergency.  The patient was in need of medical attention that we were not able to give him at our small dispensary.  It was around 1am in the morning and with the captain, the patient, and myself we started on our long trip to Frankfurt.  I was still tired from being awaken from a sound sleep but I thought that I would be able to make the trip.  The two hour trip was tiring and long but we arrived at about 3 in the morning.  We got rid of the patient and I was getting ready to sleep in the back of the "meat wagon" when the captain told me that he had some early morning patient to see and asked it I would be able to drive back at once.  I said OK and we started off with the captain sleeping in the seat next to me.  The entire two hour trip was a fog to me and to this very day I still cannot remember how I was able to make that ride back.  I believe that God was driving me on.  Years later through my regiments web sight I found the captain, who is now a teaching professor at a medical college back east, and wrote him about the trip.  He wrote back that he remembered the incident, but not the ride for he had fell asleep, but he thanked me for getting us home safe.  Had he been awake he would have taken the wheel away from me. 

Beer run

Three or four times a year we were sent out into the field to simulate combat conditions, in most of these counterfeit wars were performed away from the cities.  We would find ourselves living in the same clothes, without benefit of a shower, for several days. One of the advantages of being an ambulance driver was instead of sleeping in a pup tent we were able to sleep in the comfort on a litter in the back of the "meat wagon."  The 501st was a M*A*S*H type of unit and like that famous TV show we had our share of characters, once such person was a fellow Joe Malone, from Alabama.  Joe was a real country boy, a draftee and a good soldier.  During one of these simulated wars Joe was driving the "crackerbox" and I was the assistance driver.  We had been out in the field for several days so we decided that we were in need of some beer that Germany was so famous for.  He had been caring pretend patients in the back all morning and at the same time going past Erika's bar.  Now Erika was sweet on our platoon sergeant, Brian and he had a running tab at her place.  Joe parked the ambulance about a quarter of a mile for the bar lifted the hood of the ambulance pretending to be doing some repairs.  I ran over to the bar and told Erika that the sergeant had sent me for a case of beer and to put it on his tab.  Returning we stored the beer in one of the compartments in back taking out the medical supplys and replacing them with the beer.  Needless to say that during the evening, by the light of the moon, several members of our platoon sat around enjoying the brew, including the good sergeant.  Little did Brian know that he was going to pay for that beer.  We had been back from the field for several weeks and had all but forgotten about the beer incident but on payday we were called out to formation by sergeant Brian and in his best imitation of a diplomat he asked, "who in the hell purchased a case of beer at Erika's and put it on my tab."  Everyone fell silent.  Joe and I were the only one that knew.

Five dead on the road to the castle.

Insanity! It was sheer insanity to drive through that kind of weather.  The storm swept across the countryside and the first hours of the night were filled with monstrous eruptions of lighting.  From the dispensary you could see the storm was building up miles away.  The two drivers, Kelly Arena and Joe DeLaney, launched into the night under bright stars, with the storm still raging to the east.  Their destination was the castle, Schloss Adoftsekt, where they had received a report from the German police of a serious automobile accident.  The roads leading to Schloss Adoftsekt were narrow and tree lined with many twist and curves.  The ugly weather and wet roads was going to make the driving, over the cobblestone roads, very difficult.  There was going to be no way of avoiding the storm so they started out weaving their way toward their destination.  Suddenly, water started gushing in through the half opened window of the ambulance as the skies opened up.  The night now was totally black, broken only by flashes of lighting.  There were no street lights to guide their way, they were totally alone.  There was no one else on the roads as they drove on virtually following the white line.   The normally crazy German drivers had the good sense to stay indoors on that night.  Suddenly, they were out of the storm.  There was just a heavy overcast above with the moon glowing through the freshly washed skies.  For a while it looks as if the weather had lifted.  As they turned the ambulance down the tree lined road leading to the castle the gloom gave way to the probing lights of several German police cars and a civilian ambulance.  This was to be a night that both driver would never forget.  Wrapped around a tree was what appeared to have once been a 1955 Ford.  If anyone was alive through that meeting with the tree if would be a miracle.  Bodies were all over the ground covered with sheets that had been provided by the civilian ambulance drivers.  As the two ambulance drivers fearfully exited their ambulance the German police approached saying that they had six victims, all were dead, four American soldiers one dependent wife and a German lady.  All dead.  Suddenly one of the German medics yelled out, "De driver has still living in him."  With the help of the German medics and the German police they were able to remove that victim and put him in the "crackerbox."  With the police for an escort they headed back to the dispensary.  The patient was alive, but in very bad condition and the crew did all that they possibly could to keep in alive.  The first bolt of lighting spit across the windshield and lit the meat wagon enough so that the driver was able see the road a little clearly for a moment.  The speedometer still read only 45 miles an hour.  The tried pushing it but she only groaned.  As the engine stopped in front of the dispensary medical people began buzzing out to give the crew a hand.  The German police had notified ahead that the crew was arriving with a seriously injured patient. Later on Kelly and DeLaney were finally able to relax.  As if they were being hunted, the wind moaned at the roof and banged at the door of the dispensary, , , but they weren't out there anymore.  The accident victim had long since been airlifted to the 97th General with nearly every bone in his body broken and internal injuries.  He was lucky to be alive, much more fortunate than his friends.  I remember this insident as clearly as if it were yesterday. The two drivers talked about if for months.

Helicopter rescue

It was Saturday, it was chilly, it was overcast and it was spoiling for rain or maybe even snow.  The cloud cover was still just a smack too white, the kind that made the countryside look well lit up.  The ground and trees were all covered with a new coating of snow from the night before and they had a strange rich glow, as in a painting. Marvin Rash was comforted by the threatening weather, hoping it would mean that fewer soldiers than normal would show up in town at the local bars.  Which would mean there would be more of an opportunity to score some women."The car is warmed up and ready to go," Marvin told me.  Marvin was one of the very few enlisted men that had his own car in our company, a nice 1956 two tone green Mercury two door.  It was the best looking car on the post and Marv kept it in tip top condition. I was wear a brown suit, and Marv was in shirt and tie also.  I finished combing my hair and with overcoat, gloves, and long johns on we left the barracks. Marvin eased the car out into the street cautiously because of the snowy conditions.  As we approached the dispensary, we noticed a stirring of excitement.  Porky had just pulled the ambulance to the front of the dispensary and was talking to the doctor, Captain Charles Webb.  We pulled along side and asked Porky what was going on.  "There has been an accident on the border and I am taking the doctor over to the helicopter pad so he can get to the scene," Porky said.  "They're asking for a couple more people and the Captain said I should get some men from the company, and in a hurry," Porky continued."No need for that," I volunteered.  "We're your men."  I looked at Marvin who had a puzzled look on his face.  "No we are not your men,, I'm dressed for women and tonight that is what I want," he cursed. Captain Webb looked over at us, looking Marv in the eyes said, "You just volunteered, meet us at the helicopter pad," the Captain motioned Porky to move on.  We followed with Marvin bitching all the way.As we pulled into the chopper area, two helicopters were sitting on the pad, one small and one larger, both with their blades rotating at high speed.This was to be my first time in a helicopter and the feeling was wonderful, the sight below was beautiful with the white of the snow everywhere. Twenty minutes later we were coming down in a field near a quaint farm town.  A  jeep pulled up and a second lieutenant jumped out.  He saluted both Marvin and me, not realizing that we were not officers.  Our civilian dress had fooled him.  He explained the situation to us both and then drove us to the scene of the accident.  The captains chopper had already landed and he had been shuttled over to the town where there was a jeep on the side of the road with the grease side pointing toward the sky. I was told that two other men were in the gasthaus and in need of attention.  While Marv and the Captain attended to the more seriously injured soldier, I entered the old gasthaus.  A soldier, not much older than myself was sitting on a hard wooden chair drinking beer while the other was being fussed over by a beautiful young fraulein.  Boy, was he milking it for all that it was worth.The beer drinker had a few scratches and bruises, but the other had a broken arm, bruises and scratches.  I bandaged his arm to his body, treated the wounds of the two and had them carried out on a litter to the waiting helicopter by some of their comrades.In the meantime, Marvin and the Captain had been kept busy with the other fellow who had a broken leg which they splinted.  To make matters worse, he weighed about 280 pounds.  It took a small army of his buddies to carry him to the helicopter. After loading the patients onto the chopper, the Captain, Marvin, myself and the crew aboard but it couldn't get off the ground.  We were to heavy.  Somebody had to stay back and wait for the return of the chopper.  I, along with one  of  the crew  members, stayed back.  We would have to wait.  While waiting we enjoyed the company of the same maiden and a friend at the little gasthaus.  She never once asked about the injured soldier.  An hour later the helicopter returned for us. A few weeks later, at an evening formation, Captain Webb read a commendation, acknowledging Marvin Rash and Richard Garcia for the work we had done that day.  Marvin received a promotion, with an increase in his pay, I received a piece of paper

Can't get rid of a the body

Late one evening the door of the dispensary burst open and a frantic member of the 87th Army Band came running in shouting something about someone shooting themselves.  We quitted him down and found out that a band member had shot himself in the company's shower room.  Charles "Hawkeye" Hawkins and I were on duty this night so we jumped into the ambulance and drove the short distance to the army band's barracks.  We were directed to the shower room by band members and as we rounded the doorway there was a sergeant, deck out in his class A dress uniform and spit shine shoes.  He was as neat as a pin except for a small puddle of blood behind his head.  There was a long barreled, non military pistol lying next to him.  He was still breathing and blood began bubbling from out of his mouth.  The shower room was much to narrow for our litter so Hawkeye and I pick him up and carried him out to the ambulance.  It was a short trip back to the dispensary and in less than a minute the on call doctor had pronounced him dead. He had stuck the long barrel of his pistol into him mouth and pulled the trigger leaving a small neat exit hole in the back of his head.  The sergeant was due to be discharged and he had wanted to stay in the Army.  However, due to a medical condition he was being medically discharged.  I guess that he had no family and the army was his home and he could not stand to be without it so rather than submit to retirement he died in the army.
    The body was wrapped up and that night Joe DeLaney and Augustus Cooley took him on the long trip to the 97th General Hospital for disposal.  Joe had a fear of death and bodies and was hoping to get to Frankfurt and drop the body off there and get back to Fulda as soon as possible. Wrong.  First the 97th General said that their cold storage units were not operating and that they would have to take the body over to the hospital's supply warehouse which had a meat storage locker that was being temporarily used.  When the got to the warehouse it was closed for the night and they could not find anyone that would take the body off of their hands.  Joe and Augie tried breaking into the warehouse but it was liking trying to crack a safe.  Around midnight they were told by military police that they would just have to wait until morning for the warehouse to open. Joe and Augie curled up in the front of the ambulance but try as they may they  could not get to sleep.  Just thinking of the dead sergeant in the back of the ambulance made it uncomfortable for the two.  Suddenly the body gave a last gasp.  Ahhh... Joe and Cooley slept outside the ambulance for the rest of the night.

Golden memories

There were so many friends that I associated with while I was attending school, many of them are still my good friends today.  There are many more that I have come to know since,  but the most memorable people,  the ones that I think of most often, were the people that I met in 1958 to 1961.  My army buddies, the men that I soldiered with. 
    My last emergency as an ambulance driver, I viewed with sadness, if such an emotion can be expressed.  It would be a big let down never having to climb into the driver seat of an army ambulance, with the knowledge that I was going out to help someone in need of medical attention.  It would be ever so nice not having to worry whether or not what I would be doing was the time that someone's life depended on the out come.
    The odds were against me if I elected to stay on; the weather, road conditions and the notoriously bad drivers would all be against me.  If I believed that I was invincible, then my chances of survival were going to get even slimmer.
    After the two years that I survived I began to get bolder, often taking wild and unnecessary chances well beyond what was necessary.  The decision to pack up and go home, and not re-enlist, was probably the wisest decision I could make.  It was also a bittersweet decision as well.
    The going away party at the barrack was a mixture of happy expression, and nostalgic reflections.  While I was laughing at some of my exploits, I was also recalling the memory of the people that I had come in contact over the years. All  those people and those experience where going to be left behind.  I would not be driving my big olive green ambulance again with the red lights flashing and the siren blasting out for all to hear.
    The feelings that I was experiencing, the happiness of the birth of a child, the sadness of picking up five dead bodies, this now was going to be left to others.  I was going to be passing history and times was going to keep marching on, but without me. It was time for a new group of old timers.
    As I stood by my fellow soldiers, that was a moment of real sadness for me.  It was something I did not want to end.  It was an instance in which I felt the love I had for these men, the camaraderie, and this beautiful place.
    Suddenly I found myself clenched in a bear hug with some of my long time friends. There was also the memory of the friends that I could not hug on that day.  It was the most honest expression of love I could have ever imagined.
    There was nothing left to say, words being ineffective at that point.  The greatest statement were made with glances, smiles, handshakes and arms around the shoulders embracing one another.  Then, because if was late, I came home.
    I had wanted a life that was wider and deeper than my pacific shores could ever offer me.  I wanted to make my way in a big world, to see more, to learn more and to be more.  It was not just a dream, it became reality.  As with so many other young men of my generation, my years in the military service were a special kind of schooling, studies beyond textbooks in the world of reality.
    I matured from a young childish eighteen year old boy to a mature man with a unique knowledge of my world outside my family and my school friends.
    I left behind a lot in Fulda, Germany, friends I would never see again, but in my heart I would always remember, wonderful times, terrible ordeals, but most of all I left behind my youth.