The sirens screech in the dead of the West German night. In
dozens of barracks and off-base housing units, thousands of U.S.
men and officers snap awake and dive for field uniforms and equipment.
One by one, the diesel engines of the squat, 52-ton M-60 tanks
cough and rumble to life. In quick order, the assembled units
roar down serpentine German roads toward fighting positions that
have long since been plotted for protective cover and fields
of fire. Within two hours of the first cry of the sirens, the
14,6l7-man 3rd Armored Division of the U.S. Seventh Army is braced
in battle deployment against any Communist thrust through the
"Hessian Corridor'' - a stretch of gentle, rolling country
that invites invasion from East Germany.
Even on such practice alerts, which take place at least once
a month, the 3rd Armored had better be ready, or it will soon
hear from its commanding officer, one of the toughest soldiers
in a tough U.S. Army. Says Major General Creighton ("Abe")
Arams, 47: ''Our mission is to be prepared to fight. We are ready
to fight." If war comes in Germany, it will smash against
the U.S. Seventh Army, which guards more than 300 miles of the
East German and Czechoslovakian border and anchors the NATO defense
line that stretches 650 miles from Austria to the North Sea.
The most vital mission in the five-division Seventh Army belongs
to the 3rd Armored, which must plug the Hessian Corridor, a historic
route of conquest. Says Lieut. General Garrison ("Gar")
Davidson, 57, commander of the Seventh Army: "The 3rd Armored
will give he Reds their first bloody nose."
Wider Choice. Behind the preparations being made by
Abe Arams and his U.S. Army fighting comrades, lies the decision
made by President John Kennedy last spring to increase the flexibility
of the nation's defenses. The main shield of the U.S. remains
the thermonuclear deterrent-the strategic missiles and bombers
meant to discourage Nikola Khrushchev. But Kennedy holds that
the Army must also be ready to fight with gunpowder or with tactical
nuclear weapons anywhere from the plains of Europe to the rain
forests of Asia. "We intend to have a wider choice than
humiliation or all-out nuclear action." he said in his July
report to the nation.
Kennedy's personal military adviser is General Maxwell Taylor,
a leading exponent of flexible warfare. Last month the Defense
Department merged Stateside Army units and Air Force fighter-bomber
squadrons to increase vital air-ground coordination on the battlefield.
In appropriations, the Army got an extra $1.4 billion with instructions
to spend it mainly on the men and materiel of limited war. Around
the world, Army units are getting a badly needed transfusion
of modern equipment: the fully automatic M-14 rifle (which finally
is replacing the famed M-1 of World War II), the lightweight
M-60 machine gun, a lighter and livelier Jeep, the M-60 tank,
and enough M-113 armored personnel carriers to give a lift to
every foot slogging infantryman in the Seventh Army.
Smothering Brush fires. By the end of the year, the
Army will have increased from 856,000 to 1,080,000 men. Three
Stateside training divisions are being elevated to combat readiness.
Two National Guard divisions - the 32nd Infantry from Wisconsin
and the 49th Armored from Texas - have been called up, and two
more are on alert status. A total of 40,000 men will flesh out
the five divisions and supporting units of the Seventh Army,
which may also be reinforced by the 4th Infantry and the 2nd
Armored by December. In all, the buildup this year will increase
the number of Army combat divisions from 11 to 16.
The minimum aim of the Army is to be able to fight two limited
wars simultaneously in such distant corners of the world as Southeast
Asia and the Middle East. Each of these wars would be fought
by a corps of two or three divisions. Even now, the U.S. can
drop a battle group (1,800 men) of the combat-ready, U.S.-based
101st Airborne Division into action some 8,500 miles away in
80 hours, and put the rest of the division on the line in two
weeks. Under present plans, reinforcing divisions would travel
by sea; the standard infantry division has far too much heavy
equipment to be airlifted.
Another Layer. The Kennedy Administration's defense
policies plainly put a life-or-death premium on Army abilities.
Just how good is that Army? How ready is it to meet the critical
responsibilities assigned to it?
Judged on the Washington level, there seem to be several flaws.
"Attacking the Army's problems is like uncovering Troy,"
says one Army officer, "You always find another layer."
Says a top Defense Department official: "I look at the whole
mess more in sorrow than in anger." In part, the Army's
troubles stem from the Elsenhower Administration's "new
look" decision to get a bigger bang for a buck by curtailing
the weapons of conventional war and concentrating on the massive
nuclear deterrent. From a peak strength of 1,668,579 men and
a budget of $21.6 billion during the Korean war, the Army slumped
in peacetime to 856,000 men and $9.5 billion in 1961.
But Army leadership also was to blame, as it groped for a
new mission in the age of the missile and the atom. With what
money it had, the Army joined the inter-service scramble for
space and developed the Jupiter-C that launched the first satellite
in 1953. Army Research and Development spent millions perfecting
the intermediate-range, nuclear-tipped Jupiter missile (no kin
to Jupiter-C), only to have it taken away by the Department of
Defense and given to the Air Force. Other sorely needed Army
funds were spent on such Buck Rogers gimmicks as the one-man
helicopter and back-pack rockets that would turn an infantryman
into a fly-boy capable of clearing a building.
As a result, the Army was slow in developing the weapons for
its historic mission fighting on the ground. Item: the Army needed
only three years to create the Jupiter missile, but required
twelve years to develop the M-14 rifle. Item: the Army needed
nine years to develop the M-60 machine gun, which only now is
beginning to replace World War II models. Item: the Army, after
seven years of work, is just now beginning to get the M-60 tank,
the answer to the Russians' T-54, which appeared in 1952. But
Army tank experts fully expect that the Russians will soon produce
a new generation of tanks that can outclass the M-60.
As the Army's Chief of Staff from 1953 to 1955, General Matthew
Ridgway fought publicly for a bigger budget for conventional
warfare - and was eased out of the Pentagon. General Taylor,
Ridway's successor, waged a behind-the-scenes battle - and resigned
in 1959 in frustration. Next came two men who have been criticized
for their lack of drive. General Lyman ("Lem") Lemnitzer,
62, a military staff officer with little combat experience, served
as Army Chief of Staff from 1959 to 1960, then moved up to chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara
and President Kennedy have made little secret of the fact that
they feel Lemnitzer does not have the forceful personality to
fit the job. Lemnitzer's successor, General George Decker, 59,
is a first-rate controller, a crack golfer and a man who has
been described as being "as colorless as a bushel basket
full of fog." Army Secretary Elvis J. Stahr, on leave from
his job as president of the University of West Virginia, has
yet to learn his job, recently admitted publicly that he did
not know the difference between a battalion and a battle group.
"Mother!" But the farther from the Pentagon
the Army gets, the better it looks. Since 1957, the Army has
shucked off nearly 100,000 of its dead beat "professional
privates'' that once cluttered up the ranks. A startling 83%
of the enlisted men are in the Army for a career. Roughly one-third
of all active-duty first lieutenants have had either ranger or
paratrooper training. In the Seventh Army, nearly 75% of the
officers above the rank of first lieutenant have had combat experience.
"The Russian soldier is not nine feet tall to us."
says General Bruce Clarke, commander in chief of the U.S. Army
in Europe (USAREUR) and NATO'S Central Army Group (CENTAG). Says
Davidson: "The Soviet and Czech soldiers may have more rural
ruggedness than our kids, but there's no mental comparison. Man
for man and weapon for weapon, I'll take our people any time."
Army training methods are excellent. At Fort Jackson, S.C.,
last week, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 1st Training Regiment fidgeted
in new, stiff fatigues and listened a Sergeant Delia Stanfill
bark out the basic facts about a gas mask. At the end of the
drill, after they had practiced donning the mask, another sergeant
tested them by dropping smoke and tear as grenades near by. About
20 of the basic trainees bolted in terror for the woods. In the
past, trainees havee cried for their mothers. But, after this
first day of panic, most of the trainees complete the tough.
eight-week course with flying colors and move on for further
instruction to the three training divisions of the Strategic
Army Force: the 1st and 2nd Infantry and the 2nd Armored division.
The elite of the Stateside divisions are the 4th Infantry and
the all-volunteer 2nd and 101st Airborne, which make up the Strategic
Army Corps, the combat-ready reserve that would be thrown into
battle wherever it might break out around the world.
"Jump Again." At the 82nd Airborne's jump
school at Fort Bragg, N.C., last week. a trainee leaped from
a 35-ft. tower and was jerked up like a marionette by the wire
attached to his shoulder harness. When he reached the ground,
the trainee's lips were flecked with blood. The instructor ignored
it. "Your exit was too quick and you didn't keep your elbows
in,'' he snapped, "Jump again." Nearby, a captain walking
behind a row of trainees suddenly barked: "Hit it!"
The men bowed seemingly in unison and shouted: "Airborne!"
But four who had been slow to react by a flicker were set to
doing pushups. Explained the captain: "We teach them to
respond instantly to stimuli, such as a command." Under
pressure of this sort, morale is sky-high in the 82nd. Enlisted
men call out "All the way, sir!" when they salute an
officer, get the reply: "Airborne!" One 82nd sergeant
trained men while encased in a crotch-to-neck cast that protected
three broken vertebrae. After a recent training jump, the 82nd
marched 85 miles back to Fort Bragg. Major General Theodore J.
Conway, division commander, jumped with his men and hiked all
At Fort Campbell, Ky., the l01st Airborne is as ready to go
as a sprinter braced on the starting blocks. Everything the division
owns can be carried by air except the barracks: 25-ton M-41 tanks,
antitank guns, Jeeps, the "mechanical mule" (a kind
of flatbed wagon), field kitchens, ground radar, and the 150-mile
Honest John rocket, which can be fitted with a nuclear warhead.
One company (300 men) is always ready to move out within an hour;
an entire battle group (1,800 men) can be on its way in four.
Every morning, every man on alert assumes he will be headed for
combat before nightfall. He gets his bedding ready to lie turned
in. Private cars are parked in a special lot. A folder containing
each man's personal papers - including his will - is kept up
Sharpened Knives. Around the world, other Army units
are on the picket line. G.I.'s muffled in cold-weather gear patrol
the white wastes of the Arctic. In the jungles of South Viet
Nam, guerrilla-fighting experts of the Army's newly formed Special
Forces teach villagers how to fire the M-1, then lead them on
forays against the Communist raiders that are filtering across
the border in increasing numbers. In Hawaii, the 25th Infantry
Division is trained in the stealthy art of jungle warfare. During
maneuvers, men of the 25th drill on techniques of getting along
with native tribes, eat roots and insects served up by their
buddies masquerading as witch doctors and chiefs. Dug in on the
hillsides of Korea, the 1st Cavalry and 7th Infantry divisions
guard the battle-torn border.
If the Communists decide to touch off a brush fire in Southeast
Asia. the first Army troops to swing into action would be the
2,000 paratroopers of the 503rd Battle Group, which is stationed
on Okinawa, 1,500 miles from South Viet Nam. Despite the knowledge
that they are expendable troops, the spirit of the 503rd men
is so high that many were genuinely disappointed that they did
not get into action earlier this year during the Laotian crisis.
Says Captain Jere Hickman: "We were sharpening our knives.
I felt sorry for the enemy." The paratroopers share Okinawa
with the rugged 3rd Marine Division, which also would be thrown
into a fight in Southeast Asia. "We can go into any landlocked
country anywhere." says one 503rd officer. "Every single
bit of our equipment is parachutable. Every man jumps even our
chaplains. They don't carry guns, but they can pass the ammunition."
Atomic Backstop. But of all the U.S. Army troops, the
men most under the Communist gun are those of the Seventh Army
in Germany. NATO Supreme Allied Commander Lauris Norstad calls
the Seventh "the best-equipped, best-led and best-trained
Army the U.S. has ever fielded in peacetime.'' Says Seventh Army
Commander Gar Davidson: "I'm confident we can handle whatever
the Soviets throw at us, and you can be damned sure there'll
be a lot less Russians around if they do."
But if the Seventh Army is strong, NATO as a whole has real
problems. The U.S. is the only major power to come close to fulfilling
its troop commitments to NATO. As a result, instead of having
the agreed-upon number of 28 divisions, NATO has but 22, and
many of these are so undermanned that NATO'S fighting strength
is equal only to 16 or 17 divisions. Against these, the Soviet
Union has 20 Russian and six German divisions poised in East
Germany, and could throw another 20 or more divisions into action
within a week's time. NATO is especially weak on the northern
flank of the Seventh Army where under-strength British, Dutch
and Belgian units guard the invasion routes across the flat plains.
Were the Russians to attack and keep rolling, NATO would unhesitatingly
resort to its tremendous nuclear fire power. The Seventh Army
alone can can lay down a simultaneous barrage of some 200 nuclear
explosions with its 280-mm. gun, 8-in. howitzers, and such missiles
as the Honest John, the 75-mile Corporal, the 200-mile Redstone
and the 25-mile Lacrosse. In addition, NATO'S tactical air forces,
built around U.S. fighter-bombers, could unleash an overwhelming
nuclear bombardment. Fighting with the atom, NATO has calculated
that it could stop the Russians even if they threw 40 divisions
into the attack and supported them with their own tactical and
The Razor's Edge. But the Seventh Army must also be
prepared to fight with conventional weapons, and no one knows
it better than the 3rd Armored's General Abrams. "We're
combat-ready in 'atomics.' " he says, "but a lot of
things could happen without having to use them. If I thought
only in terms of 'atomics,' and I couldn't use them for ten days
or so, then, by God, I couldn't get the job done right."
To get the Job done right, with what ever it takes, General
Abrams is honig his 3rd Armored to a razor's edge. Each man spends
some 135 days a year on field maneuvers. The division's tanks
and combat vehicles are kept stocked with a full supply of ammunition.
Since taking command of the division a year ago, Abrams has weeded
out some 200 officers and men who did not shape up to his standards.
Abrams tries every day to get away from the paperwork at his
headquarters in Frankfurt, climb aboard his personal Bell helicopter,
and whirl off to inspect everyone in a unit from bird colonel
to buck private. "No one is more deliberate in planning
for war," says General Bruce Clarke of Abrams. "No
one is more violent in execution."
At the Bottom. Abe Abrams has spent years living down
a family nickname of "Tootsie," a fond reference to
his cherubic babyhood back home in Springfield, Mass. Abrams
was the oldest of three children born to Creighton Abrams, Sr.,
a railroad hand on the Boston & Albany, and the former Nellie
Randall, the daughter of an estate caretaker. When Abrams was
a boy, the family settled in the rural area of nearby Feeding
Hills. There Abrams raised baby beef., ran a trap line for skunk
and muskrat, patched together a wheezing Model T. and learned
to shoot by drilling holes with his .22 through tin cans tossed
up by his father.
In high school Abrams won nearly every academic and extracurricular
honor in sight. As captain and center of the football team, he
led his school to an undefeated, untied and unscored-upon season
and the championship of Western Massachusetts. One day a West
Point graduate lectured at school and enraptured Abe with tales
of the Academy and its spirit.
As a cocky plebe, Abrams had problems at West Point. "The
hazing was degrading," says Abrams today, "I gladly
would have resigned at any time. but I didn't see how I could
go home to face my friends and family." Abrams swiped food
from the mess hall, anointed an upper-classman's radiator with
Limburger cheese, kept a contraband radio in a hollowed-out corner
of his mattress, and plinked away at the hindquarters of upperclassmen
with an air rifle. Recalls Abrams: "The only thing in which
I was outstanding was discipline. I was at the bottom of the
class." What with his guerrilla warfare against the Point,
Abrams stood a mediocre 185th in his class of 276 upon graduation
in 1936. That year Abrams married an athletic, auburn-haired
Vassar graduate named Julia Harvey, who regularly drove him to
distraction by trouncing him in tennis, and began his Army career
on horseback in the 1st Cavalry stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas.
Born to Battle. With the 1st Cavalry, Abrams earned
the reputation of being the worst polo player in the U.S. Army
and mastered the day's standard tactics of how to attack an enemy
tank: circle it at 15 yds. with five troopers like Indians closing
in on a wagon train. Not until Hitler's Panzer divisions blitzkrieged
France out of World War II in 1940 did the Army really begin
its own tank program. Assigned to the brand-new 4th Armored Division,
Abrams rose to command the 37th Battalion with the rank of major
and drilled his tankers incessantly in marksmanship - particularly
on getting in the second shot. Says Abrams: "We really shot
much too much, but God it paid off later."
The 37th Battalion was a fearsome weapon of destruction from
the moment it wheeled into action in Normandy in July 1944. From
the start, Ahrams showed the feel and flair of the born cornbat
man. As General George Patton's Third Army led the conquering
sweep across Europe, the 4th Armored Division led the Third Army.
The 37th Tank Battalion led the 4th Armored - and Abe Abrams
led the 37th. Leaning out of his Sherman tank, he chomped on
a huge cigar and rallied his tankers with his war cry: "Attack!
Attack' Attack!" Said Abrams: "I like to be out on
the point where there's nothing but me and the goddam Germans
and we can fight by ourselves." When the 101st Airborne
was surrounded at the Battle of the Bulge, Abrams led the relief
column into Bastogne with an attack that was watched with unabashed
professional admiration by Panzer Commander Fritz Bayerlein.
Later, Abrams led the dash to the Rhine, moved so fast that he
captured an astonished lieutenant general and his staff at their
desks. Fighting far out in front of the Third Army, Abrains was
frequently cut off. "They've got us surrounded again,"
he once said, "those poor bastards." Said General George
Patton of his aggressive tank commander: "I'm supposed to
be the best tank commander in the Army, but I have one peer -
Abe Abrams. He's the world champion."
Because Abrams worked in close tandem with an infantry major
named Harold Cohen, the Nazis assumed they were both Jewish and
took to calling them "Roosevelt's Butchers." In fact
Abrams is not Jewish - he is a Methodist and his ancestors were
English - but he often fought as though he was waging a personal
crusade against the Germans. Said Abrams at the time: "There's
too much stress on taking prisoners. Our job is to annihilate
Job to Be Done. After the war, to the surprise of colleagues,
Abrams calmed down enough to become a fine staff officer. He
rewrote the book on armored tactics - putting the stress on the
shock value of the mass attack. He served with distinction as
chief of staff of three successive corps during the Korean war,
and weathered the Pentagon on a tour spent working with the reserves.
When he took the command of the 3rd Armored, Abrams moved into
a big house outside of Frankfurt with his wife and the four youngest
of their six children. The general takes his two little girls
out for Sunday ice-cream treats, wrestles shoes onto the plump
feet of Brucie, and cheers with his bull-toned bellow for 15-year-oid
John, who plays tackle on the high school team.
But in thought or action, Abrams is never far away from his
3rd Armored Division. Last week he was busily checking with his
troops as they worked to master the new equipment that was flooding
in. He approved of the M-60 machine gun with the cold, matter-of-fact
terms of the professional soldier: ''Now my platoons can kill
more men." He listened intently as his men talked about
the M-60 tank and its 105-mm. gun. "Someone who makes tanks
finally started taking suggestions from the people who use them,"
said Sergeant Reuben Hawes. "I can shoot a country mile
with this tank."
Abrams nodded. ''The Hessian Corridor is a playground for
tanks," he said later, and for a moment the old light of
battle flamed in the eyes of the combat soldier. Abrams makes
no bones about his pride in commanding U.S. soldiers at a critical
point in Western defenses. "If there's going to be trouble,"
says Abrams, "I prefer to be right here and right in this
division. This is the job I want."
It is also a job that has to be done - and last week at induction
depots, in training camps, and on the frontiers of the cold war,
the growing, improving Army was preparing for it.