James Donald Rodgers, Sgt.
Service - Nov. 5, 1952 to Sept 10, 1955
Basic training at Camp Breckenridge, KY
Morse Intercept School at Ft. Devens, MA
Assignment - Army Security Agency, 8606 Field Station, Herzo Base, Herzogenaurach Germany
My experiences in the Army during the Korean War were much more pleasant than most veterans of that era. Herzo Base was a former German Luftwaffe Base for fighter aircraft assigned to protect Nurnberg, about 20 km distance. The only war damage to the base was the destruction of one of the motor pool
garages by a British bomber lost in bad weather.
Herzo Base was very small -- about 240 Army Security Agency personnel and 60 men of a mortar company.
In 1953, the town of Herzogenaurach was also small; about the size of Emmitsburg, and you could easily walk the mile from Herzo Base to town and take the train into Nurnberg, the largest nearby city. Now, when I look on the internet at pictures of Herzogenaurach, it looks like a metropolis. This is due
to the fact that it is the headquarters for both Adidas and Puma footwear and athletic equipment.
Old Herzo Base - Now Adidas Headquarters - 2000
My old Army billet is dead center, closest of the four gray roofed buildings.
During my tour of duty in Germany, I was able to take leave and see many of the European capitals but my only harrowing experience was the flight home -- We had to go to Frankfurt to catch a MATS flight home but, due to hurricanes off the coast of the U.S., many GI's were waiting for flights. After
five days, we were assigned a flight and we took off about 10:30 AM in a C-54 Skymaster. The crew had been awake too long to fly directly to the U.S. so we headed for the Azores. We landed in the Azores, had a good dinner and good nights sleep, got back on the plane and taxied to the end of the runway.
The flight engineer came back and kept looking out of the windows at the engines. After several minutes he announced that three out of the four engines were missing to badly and we would have to return to the terminal. I don't know what the mechanics did but, after about two hours, we got back on the
plane and took off. In a short while it started getting very hot in the plane and we then found out the heating system could not be shut off. The pilot said we should remove the plastic inserts in the porthole type windows he would fly at about 500 ft to get fresh air and that we should keep an eye out
for a reported downed aircraft. We never saw a downed aircraft and I sometimes think that the pilot was just trying to give us something to do to ease the tension among us.
Again, since we were so late taking off, the crew had been awake too long so we headed for Gander Newfoundland, landed, had a nice dinner and a good nights sleep. We boarded the plane the next morning but the pilot could only start one out of the four engines. Mechanics climbed onto the wings, did
something and finally got all the engines started. As we pulled away from the terminal the mechanics were shouting, "I hope you make it in that bucket of bolts!!!!"
Finally, we landed at McGuire AFB in New Jersey. As we were getting off the pilot said, "I am going to Charleston if anyone wants to go along !!" Needless to say, no one took him up on the offer.
We were bussed to Fort Dix arriving about 7PM Thursday evening and, immediately, saw that the guys we had left in Frankfurt had arrived at Dix two days before. Anyhow, after signing in, the Sgt. said that we had 72 hour passes and that we would be discharged Monday morning. That was great news as we
still had two months to serve on the enlistment.
After discharge, I used my GI Bill to get a degree at night while working for Johns Hopkins Radiation Lab during the day.
In 1958, I married M. Dolores Topper from Emmitsburg and we have four children; Michael, Dennis, Michele and Curtis.
Editors note: Don is also one of our more frequent contributors to the Emmitsburg.net humor section
Revolutionary War Honor
Civil War Honor Roll
World War I Honor Roll
World War II Honor Roll