This website is devoted to all soldiers who served and continue to serve with the 299th.

History #2 - Germany 1959-1961 By: William J. Sobolewski

The 299th Engineer Battalion was stationed at McNair Kaserne in Hoechst, Germany from 1954 to 1963.  The town of Hoechst is located west of Frankfurt on the Main River.  In 1960, the Battalion Commander was Lt. Col. Charles V. Pregaldin Jr.  In a July 1960 Organizational Day message, Lt. Col. Pregaldin stated that "the present members of the Battalion have a proud heritage to carry on.  We are here in Europe prepared to defend the peace and preserve the democratic way of life for our nation and or allies."

The 299th provided direct combat engineer support part to the Fifth (V) U.S. Army Corps and Seventh U.S. Army defensive plan.  For the most part, the defensive plan protected West Germany from Communist control East Germany.  This was peak of the Cold War era.  The relationship between USA and Russia were often tense as reflected by the Russian demands in November 1958 to have US troops leave Berlin by May 1959 and the shooting down of the US U2 spy plane over Soviet territory in May 1960.  The specific missions of the 299th were primarily squad size, consisting of bridge demolition, road catering, and small-scale minefields.  The 299th Engineers Battalion had four line companies A through D, and under NATO standardization of the phonetic alphabet, they were known as Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta.  The battalion also had a Headquarters Company.  The line companies each had four platoons and a company headquarters.  Each squad had an authorized strength of twelve, but seldom exceeded eight or nine.  Each squad had its own dump truck, initially 2-ton, but by 1961 they were 5-ton dump trucks.  Each pulled a cargo trailer or pole trailer loaded with explosives and ammunition.  Company commanders rode in jeeps with trailers and platoon leaders/platoon sergeants rode in-ton utility trucks with trailers.

The basic weapon was the .30 cal. Rifle.  The M1 was replaced in 1960 by the M14, which was similar but fired the standard NATO round of 7.62mm, used magazines of 2 rounds rather than the 8 round clip of the M1, and could be fired on full or semi-automatics.  Each squad was equipped with a 3.5-inch rocket launcher (bazooka).  Two of the squads had .30 caliber machine guns and the third had a .50 caliber, all with tripod ground mounts.

At that time, the line company headquarters had two D-6 bulldozers and two front-end loaders.  The battalion's heavy equipment platoon had three additional dozers, several front-end loaders, three road graders, and three truck mounted 20-ton cranes.

In addition to minefield and demolition training directly related to its wartime mission, the battalion trained continuously on combat engineer missions to include bridging of all types, but particularly floating bridges.  It also trained for its secondary mission to fight as infantry when required.  This training occurred in the classrooms at McNair Kaserne and in the field.

Each month, the army underwent military "alerts".  For the most part, these alerts often occurred in the middle of the night.  It required loading trucks and trailers with explosives and ammunition and traveling to a designated combat fighting location in the field until the alert was over.  In May 1959, an actual "alert" was called where the 299th went into the field near the East German border.  This marked the end of a six-month Soviet ultimatum to remove U.S. troops from Berlin and the close Western military access routes to Berlin.  The Soviet threat ended without an attempt to force U.S. troops from Berlin or to close military access routes.

Company-size bridge training typically took place on the Main River near Hanau, Germany.  Panel and floating bridges were built.  In August 1960, the 299th participated in the panel bridge competition on the Main River.  The battalion constructed 280 feet of triple-single panel bridge in 13 hours.  It did not beat the record of 10 hours.  These bridges spanned a 280-foot distance from the shore to an existing bridge pier in the Main River.

Construction of the panel bridge required six men to carry panels weighing 577 lbs. each to the bridge site.  All together, about 160 tons of construction material was handled by hand.  The panels were connected at the bridge site to other panels.  Once the panels were connected, a D-6 bulldozer would push the structure to make the crossing.  The panel, 2 Bailey bridges were built and taken down.  In the case of the floating bridge, the Class 60 steel treadway bridge were used, which required the use of cranes to place its 15 ft long sections.  Companies of the battalion also trained on the M4T6 aluminum bulk bridge, which required that bulk to be hand carried onto the bridge.  Each year, the entire battalion spent an entire week training together to bridge the Rhine River using Class 60-treadway bridge.  The bridge sites used were just south of Oppenheim, Germany.  The spans here are 1,020 feet.  The Rhine River bridging week was in July 1959 and June 1960.  The weather was nice and the bivouacs were generally dry.  It generally took less than four (4) hours to construct the bridge at this location.  The German government permitted full closure of the Rhine River for brief periods for military training.  The battalion tried each year to outdo its previous record, as well as that of its rival battalion the 317th Engineer Battalion also located in McNair Kaserne and other combat engineering battalions in completing the bridge.  All units, including the float bridge companies stayed in the bivouac areas.  At a time given a carefully coordinated convoy moved toward the river.  Timing began when the first powered bridge construction boats hit the water and bridge assembly began.  A few vehicles would make a ceremonial crossing, then the bridge had to be taken apart, the huge rubber pontoons deflated, and all equipment reloaded on to bridge trucks.  In August and September 1959, the 299th build more than 3 miles of the General Paul D. Adams Perimeter Road at Wildflecken, Germany.  In February 1960, the 299th played important support roles during large-scale field training winter exercises in "Winter Shield I" near Grafenwoehr, Germany.  It was the high point of winter training V and VII Corps, and the Bundeswehr.  It marked the first time that major units of the new German Army participated with the United States ground forces in a field exercise.  "Winter Shield" was a test of combat readiness and provided realistic training under simulated combat conditions, with emphasis on the role of the individual soldier and small-unit leader.  These were NATO exercises under harsh winter conditions lasting 30 days.  Temperatures were often below zero.  The 299th built a panel, 2, Bailey bridge near Amberg, Germany to bypass German bridges that were not string enough to carry tanks during the Winter Shield I.  In May 1960, the 299th participated in Operation "Golden Arrow".  The battalion flew in C-130s cargo planes in a training exercise from Frankfurt, Germany to France.  In January 1961, the 299th again participated in winter exercises in Winter Shield II near Grafenwoehr, Germany.

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