Old Time SF Characters
.
We had several ex-Special Forces sergeants in the Airborne
Brigade in Mainz when I was there from early 1959 to late
1960.  We had Master Sergeant Talamine, Sergeant First Class
William “Big Bill” Vukovich, Staff Sergeant Kamalu from
Hawaii, Staff Sergeant Bill “Flannel Mouth” Collins, Master
Sergeant William O. Fields, Sergeant First Class Clifford
“Whiskey Mac” McElveen, who was also a World War II veteran
of the 1st Special Service Force, Staff Sergeant Joseph S.
“Bud” Budzinsky, who was also a World War II DP [Displaced
Person] from Poland, Sergeant First Class James C. “Charlie”
Brown from Kentucky, who was as mean as a damn striped snake
and Master Sergeant Fafek, just to name a few.  And these
were just the ones that I knew.  Fields, Bud, and Brown
joined our company before we left Fort Bragg.  [Most of
these guys ended up back in SF during the SF buildup in the
60s.  Brown was my Section Sergeant, Fields was my Platoon
Sergeant, and Budzinsky was a Squad Leader in the Mortar
Section of our platoon and also my roommate for a year.]
Our Ex-Sf guys were real characters and some of them were
always just one step away from disaster.  Regardless, they
were a ready source of entertainment.

For example, one night Fafek and Talamine were at the NCO
Club on our post in Mainz when Fafek passed out and fell
face-first into the steak dinner that he had just ordered,
but had not yet touched.  Talamine finished his own steak
dinner, then he picked Fafek’s head up out of his plate,
replaced Fafek’s plate with his empty plate, stuck a
toothpick in Fafek’s mouth, laid Fafek’s head back down on
the empty plate and promptly proceeded to eat Fafek’s steak
dinner also.  He then awoke Fafek and asked, “Did you like
your steak?”  Fafek, with gravy all over his face, sat up
and started picking his teeth and said, “Yeah.  It was
great, just the way I like it.”

Flannel Mouth Collin’s favorite thing was using his knife to
relieve an over-dressed sergeant of the bottom-half of his
necktie should that poor soul enter the NCO Club Stag Bar
wearing a tie.  Apparently, Flannel Mouth considered any NCO
in the NCO Club who was in civvies and wearing a tie to be
overdressed.  One wall of the Stag Bar had twenty or thirty
severed ties tacked all over it.

Eventually the Post Commander, assigned Flannel Mouth to
Charlie Company which was billeted across the Rhine River
from the rest of the Battle Group and ordered Flannel Mouth,
“Do not enter this kaserne again.  Don’t even cross the
Rhine River before you transfer stateside.”  One day while I
was enroute to the PX, I passed the main gate to our camp
and heard a loud ruckus at the main gate so I stopped to see
what was going on.  There was the entire guard detail lined
up with their rifles pointed at this one drunk rowdy idiot
in civilian clothes.  The idiot in civilian clothes was
Flannel Mouth and he was armed with two pearl handled
revolvers that were strapped to his waist.  Flannel Mouth
was determined that he was going to come on post and go to
his favorite watering hole, the NCO Club Stag Bar, and the
guards, per their commander’s orders, were just as
determined that he wasn’t.  How this incident ended I don’t
know because I went on about my business.  [About a year
later, I saw Flannel Mouth at Fort Bragg and he was still a
Staff Sergeant, but not back in SF.  How he kept that rank,
I do not know.  Flannel Mouth was later assigned to an
airborne infantry unit in Vietnam, I think it was the 173d.
His unit and the North Vietnamese Army [NVA] swapped off on
a hill several times and the last time Flannel Mouth’s
outfit took that hill and lost it, he was really pissed and
said that he wasn’t moving off that damned hill again for
anybody.  I heard that the last troops to see him alive said
that he was blasting away with those two pearl-handled
revolvers.]

Sergeant First Class James C. Brown was one of those that
returned to Special Forces during the Vietnam War.  We had
nicknamed him, “Charlie Brown” after the cartoon character
and also “JC” because of his initials and his atheism.

JC turned out to be a very chickenshit and hypocritical
section leader.  Our section’s living quarters became the
showplace of the company.  Instead of using GI floor wax, we
had to buy red-colored paste wax for our wooden floors from
a civilian store in downtown Mainz.  The wooden floor in the
106 section room was the only room in the barracks that was
red.  We practiced out-loading for alerts until we did it
fast enough to satisfy JC.  We finally satisfied JC when we
had the driver bring the gun jeeps and trailers into the
yard under our windows so we could throw our gear out the
window and jump out behind it.

The enlisted men sometimes got a pass to go to town and the
normal pass expired prior to bedcheck.  Only a certain
percentage of the troops could have a pass of any kind.
Some enlisted men could get an overnight pass during the
week or weekend and sometimes a three day pass over the
weekend.  Only about ten percent of the troops could be on
an overnight pass.

JC was very demanding of his section, but he went off post
almost every night whether he had a pass or not.  The first
time that JC jumped the fence was our first night in Mainz.
The enlisted men referred to that as “jumping the fence” and
it was a violation of our unit’s regulations.  Technically,
JC was AWOL.  JC was quick to have a man “busted” for the
least infraction of orders or regulations, if he considered
him to be an eight ball.

JC’s chickenshit and hypocrisy became too much for some of
the guys in the section and one night they got revenge.
That also happened to be the one and only night, that I ever
brought any booze into the barracks which I had bought at
the Class Six store [package store].  That was strictly
against regulations and it was the first time that I had
done it.  After I got drunk out of my mind, I went next door
to visit my buddy, Sergeant Budzynski, but Bud wasn’t there.
A “Life” magazine lay on Bud’s bed so I sat down to read it
and fell asleep or perhaps passed out would be more correct.
A loud banging and yelling at the door awoke me.  It was the
Company Supply Sergeant, Sam Arnold.  Sam had poked his head
into the room and was yelling for me to come with him.  Up I
jumped and followed him into the room that JC and I shared.
All of JC’s gear was missing, but mine was still there.
They had thrown all of JC’s gear, boots, bed, bedding, foot
locker, the large, wooden double wall locker, clothes,
everything, out the window into the yard in a huge pile.
Knowing JC, I knew there would be hell to pay when he
returned.  Then I rushed into the section room and awoke
everyone and got them to help put everything back in the
room.  Several of the 106 guys smelled of alcohol.  JC’s
gear was a mess, but at least it was all back in the room.
Just as I had suspected, all hell broke loose when JC
returned from overnight pass the next morning.

JC and the platoon leader, Lieutenant Gilmore, questioned
everyone.  Naturally, they strongly suspected that I had
taken part in throwing JC’s gear out the window because my
gear wasn’t touched and I was next door when it happened and
didn’t hear anything.  Sam Arnold, slept in his supply room
in the basement and JC’s gear hit the ground right outside
his window which jolted Sam awake.

When questioned, I told the truth, admitting to having had
liquor in the barracks and to being drunk and passed out
next door when Charlie’s gear went out the window, but I
strongly denied being involved.  “They’re going to bust me
or at least give me company punishment for drinking booze in
the barracks,” I thought, but they didn’t.  Apparently,
Lieutenant Gilmore was satisfied that I hadn’t had anything
to do with throwing JC’s gear out the window.  JC was a
different matter entirely, he was positive that I was
guilty.  JC ordered me out of his room and that’s when I
moved into Bud’s room.  That afternoon JC told me, “Sergeant
Valentine, fall out the troops in full field gear wearing
their gas masks for dismounted gun drill on the 106s in the
yard out back.”  After I donned my gear, JC saw me and said,
“You don’t have to wear the damn full-field gear, just those
fucking troops.”  I replied, “By God, you think that I am
guilty and if I’m going to make the troops wear that gear
and haul those damn big guns around, I’m going to do it
also.”  “Suit yourself, you fucking rockhead,”  JC replied.

We moved those heavy guns across the yard after every fire
command and set up again and ran another fire command.  This
was on a Sunday and we continued that all damn day and I,
for one, was glad to see Monday and the regular training
schedule again.  JC gave our section hell for about a month
because of that incident and then the problem just seemed to
disappear.

JC had a lot of faults, but he was good in some ways.  For
instance, when the 505th went to Baumholder for training, he
went out on his own and arranged with the local tank unit to
lend us their indoor firing range for a day.  That was the
best training that we got as long as I was in the anti-tank
section.  We used our sub-caliber device instead of our
cannon.  The sub-caliber device fitted inside of our cannon
chamber and barrel and fired 30 caliber rounds instead of
the big 106 millimeter rounds.  We fired at moving
silhouette targets that resembled tanks.  Some of the
targets traveled across in front of us horizontally from
right to left and vice-versa while others traveled at two or
three different angles up or down as they crossed to our
front.  We fired at those damn moving targets until even our
drivers were considered to be experts.

We went to Baumholder several times for training, but during
this trip I discovered that there was a section of the
garrison set aside for the French troops in NATO to live
while training there also.  We also learned that every
payday, the French troops could buy a sex chit book, which
someone nicknamed, “Pussy Chitbook.”  Periodically, the
french also set aside one of the barracks to be used by
local prostitutes for “entertaining” the troops.  They could
pay cash or use their chitbooks.  If they bought the
chitbook, I think they got a discount.  Some of our guys
went to the French enlisted club and won some pussy chits at
poker and tried to participate in the next Hooker Day only
to discover that only the French troops were allowed in the
pussy line.  They sold their pussy chits to the French
troops at a discount.

While we were roommates, Bud and I became great friends.
Bud was born in Poland but he was uprooted during World War
II when both the Russians and the Germans ravaged his
country.  The Nazis put Bud in a labor battalion and shipped
him out to work for their army in France.  After the war,
Bud joined the US Army and volunteered for Special Forces.
Bud, like many other DPs that joined SF, originally hoped
that he would be sent back into his native country to help
free them from the communists, but of course that never
happened.

While Bud and I were rooming together, our NCO Club had slot
machines installed and Bud took to them like a duck takes to
water.  Playing those machines became addictive to Bud.
Each payday, poor Bud would pay me what he owed me and then
he would send a certain amount of money to his wife to save
in addition to her regular allotment.  Then Bud would head
for the NCO Club where he would play those damn slot
machines every night until closing time or until he ran out
of money.  Some nights he would bring home a wad of money
that he had won and he would be absolutely giddy he was so
pleased with himself.  However, about three to five days
after payday, just like clockwork, Bud would come home broke
and then he would borrow money from me to live on until the
next payday when the process would start all over again.  I
told him, “Bud, when a one arm bandit puts his back against
a wall and challenges the whole damn world, you best not
mess with him.”  Trying to reason with that hard-headed
Pollock was like talking to a fence post.  Bud kept this up
until I was shipped back to the states.  [Bud retired and
lived in the Fayetteville area where he and his son invested
in real estate until Bud died in the mid-80s from heart
problems.]

I’m not sure, but I believe that JC Brown’s escapades
downtown got him transferred out of our company shortly
after the guys threw his gear out the window.  Anyway, one
day he disappeared and Sergeant First Class Lumpkins took
his place.  We had a much easier time of it after that.

I didn’t see JC again until many years later.  JC and I met
in front of the Main Post NCO Club at Fort Bragg in 1972 or
1973.  I did not recognize him at first, but when he got
close I recognized that evil twinkle in his eyes and his
evil giggle.  JC looked awful; he told me what happened over
a beer:

JC had been assigned to the Fifth Special Forces Group in
Vietnam and he was on an operation with his indigenous
troops when a VC sniper pinned them down.  JC decided to
sneak through the brush and flank the sniper which he did
and he came up behind the VC.  Instead of shooting the guy
in the back, like any sane soldier would have done, JC
decided to drop a Willie Peter [White Phosporous] grenade on
his back and watch him burn.  [Did I mention that JC was as
mean as a stiped snake?]  So JC pulled the pin on a Willie
Peter grenade, but as he stepped around from behind the tree
where he had been hiding, he stepped on a dry twig and it
“snapped.”  The VC wheeled around and shot JC three times
through the torso with his AK-47.  The bullets knocked JC
back against the tree and he dropped the grenade between his
own feet where it exploded.  The VC got away.  JC lost an
ear along with half of his face, one arm, one leg, and I
believe his penis.  JC was also burned over most of his
body, but he never fell.  JC was braced back against that
tree the whole time and just stood there looking down at his
body watching himself go up in smoke instead of watching the
VC burn as he had planned.

JC really was a mess, but he stayed on active duty until he
had enough time to retire.  The army loved to use guys like
that as instructors in mines, booby traps, demolitions or
grenade training.  The troops always paid close attention to
every thing they said.  The last time that I heard from JC,
he was retired, living in California, working for the
federal government, and considering accepting a transfer to
somewhere in the Northeast.

Some of the ex-SF guys had been transferred from the 10th
Special Forces Group that was stationed in Bad Tolz as
punishment for flunking an inspection by the IG [Inspector
General].  That IG inspection was legendary in SF and it is
well worth relating here.

Of all places for an SF unit to be stationed, Bad Tolz,
which is in Bavaria, Germany about forty miles south of
Munich, was probably the worst.  The Tenth Group and the 7th
Army NCO [Non-commissioned Officer] Academy were both
stationed there.  In fact, those two units were the only
major units on that tiny kaserne.

The 7th Army NCO Academy was infamous for its chickenshit.
The NCO Academy had their members and students carry swagger
sticks or inspiration sticks whichever you prefer to call
them, everywhere they went.  The new SF commander thought
that this was very sharp and informed his SF troops that
they too should carry swagger sticks so they would look as
sharp as their soldierly neighbors.

One Friday at Retreat, the Tenth Group Commander informed
his troops, “The IG Inspection is scheduled for Tuesday
morning.  You had damn well better show up sober and with
swagger sticks.  So you better get all of your damn partying
done over the weekend.”  The troops took that as the
commander’s blessing to get “plastered” over the weekend and
not wanting to let their commander down, they followed
orders.  [Since then, I have learned that SF doesn’t need
much encouragement to “party.”  Some outfits reportedly
tried to host “coming out” parties every time somebody
opened a fresh pack of cigarettes.]

The IG Inspection team showed up early on Monday morning
instead of Tuesday as planned. This is referred to in the
army as a SNAFU [Situation Normal, All Fucked Up!].  The IG
Inspection Team had the Tenth Group formed outside for
inspection in ranks.  Many of the SF guys were still roaring
drunk but, each and every one, being dedicated professional
soldiers, carried something that he considered to be a
“swagger stick,” such as a ball bat, a stick, a piece of 2 x
4 lumber, a rifle cleaning rod [that really seemed to be the
favorite], and one ingenious fellow even proudly carried a
12” life-like battery-operated rubber dildo.  I bet that guy
won the door prize.  At any rate, real swagger sticks were
few and far between.  As you might expect, this went over
like a fart in church with the IG team.

During the IG Inspection in ranks, the Tenth Group men wore
their Class A winter uniforms, the World War II Olive Drab
woolens, with Ike Jackets and bloused jump boots.  The
inspector noticed that the collar on Staff Sergeant Bill
“Flannel Mouth” Collins’ Ike Jacket was frayed.  He told
Flannel Mouth, “Sergeant, your jacket is frayed.”  Flannel
Mouth was a lanky former moonshiner and bootlegger from
North Carolina, who was black haired, spoke out of the side
of his mouth, always in a growl, and stood about 6’2.”
Flannel Mouth had wide shoulders, a large chest, a very
nasty, pugnacious disposition, and was frequently armed with
a knife or gun, sometimes two guns.  Well, Flannel Mouth,
who was obviously still drunk from the weekend, swayed back
and forth, turned beet red, leaned forward, stuck his
beet-red nose and foul whiskey breath right in the inspector
’s face, and growled, “Sir, my God-damned jacket ain’t
afraid of nuttin!”

As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, another fun loving SF
sergeant awaited the inspectors inside the barracks.  Each
time they opened a door to one of the team rooms, there
stood the sergeant.  The SF sergeant would point his finger
at them and say, “Bang! Bang!  You’re dead.”  How the drunk
SF sergeant got from one room to another, no one seemed to
know.  Needless to say, the unit flunked that IG inspection
and several troops, including the commander, were
transferred out of SF.

Also in the 1950s, one of the SF officers in the Berlin
Detachment had a huge red firing range flag that he proudly
flew 24 hours a day for some unknown reason.  The flagpole
was atop a tall hill near a soccer stadium.  One day during
a soccer game when almost everyone was concentrating on
watching the game, two or three SF sergeants stole the flag.
A soldier was guarding the stairs leading up the hill to the
flag at the time, but one of the sergeants bullshited the
guard while the others went right on by him.  Unfortunately
the one person who happened to be looking to the rear
instead of watching the game, was a chickenshit officer and
he squealed on the adventurous sergeants.  A few days later
our brave heroes became not quite so proud new members of
the Airborne Brigade of the 8th Infantry Division in Mainz,
Germany.

[I do not know which of our Ex-SF guys came to the 8th
Infantry Division’s Airborne Brigade as a result of the IG
Inspection, which ones came to us as a result of the flag
caper and which ones just transferred out of SF for
reasons.]

Now, most “outsiders” refer to SF and SF soldiers as “Green
Berets” which ticks many old SF men off, me included.
Before members of Special Forces were authorized to wear a
beret, members of the operational detachments wore it only
when on maneuvers and SF was commonly referred to by
outsiders as “Sneaky Petes.”  Back then, special forces
soldiers referred to themselves as “SF” or “Group.”  Some
people thought that SF were called Sneaky Petes because they
were so secretive and they were always sneaking around in
the woods during FTXs [Field Training Exercise] and
disrupting things in general.  Some people thought SF was
called Sneaky Petes because so many of them cheated on their
wives or dated married women.

It was not unusual for SF to be pulled out of a stateside
FTX because they had caused so much confusion it was
impossible to continue with them still participating in it.
FTXs are sometimes referred to as “maneuvers.”  One of SF’s
favorite tricks on maneuvers was impersonating MPs, so they
could misdirect convoys, and another was raiding the main
command posts.  When you bring the war directly to the
generals and colonels, things tend to become even more
confused than normal.

Don "Val"  Valentine

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