52 Ancestors – #21 – Scott W. Holman, PFC Army – 1971- 1974

May 28, 2018, is significant for two reasons. One: It is our 35th wedding anniversary. Two: It is Memorial Day. So, it seems very appropriate to write about my husband, Scott, a Vietnam Era veteran. I will warn you: This is a very long post. I wanted to capture his story, much of it in his own words, for our children and grandchildren. Scott is a man of few words. I really enjoyed the morning we spent as Scott relived his experience. As we chatted and I learned more about his “escapades”, one thing became clear. It’s a good thing we met after he left the Army. There might not have been a marriage had I met him earlier!

PFC Scott Winchester Holman 1971
In May 1971, the Vietnam War was winding down but being drafted was still a concern. Scott decided to enlist rather than wait to be drafted. That way he could at least choose the career he desired. He dropped out of high school and enlisted in May 1971, with the intention of being trained as a mechanic. His parents supported that decision. While in the Army, Scott earned his GED.
Scott’s brother John was out of Vietnam by the time of his enlistment, but brother Gerry continued to serve as an officer in the Navy.
Scott spent six months completing boot camp at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina. Scott reported, “Basic training was miserable. You learned how to shoot, how to do hand-to-hand combat. You learned what it was like to be exposed to tear-gas. We were told the day before not to shave because the gas would get into our pores. After the gassing, we ran out of the room – guys were throwing up. We got washed off by hoses but it didn’t help.”
The first two weeks in Basic were spent running. “You ran everywhere – weren’t allowed to walk. If you got caught walking, you were told to “drop and give me 20” (push-ups.) It was very disciplined. Some of these [expletive] kids today should have mandatory 2-year service.”
Scott “roomed” with 50 or so guys, sleeping in one room full of bunks. “You did whatever the drill sergeant tells you. They would say, “Don’t call me ‘Sir’. ‘Sir’ is for officers, I’m a drill sergeant. They pretty much just tried to break you. Some guys went AWOL – couldn’t handle the pressure.” A couple of times, Scott thought enlisting was a “bad idea”, but he persevered.
Life in the Army was a real learning experience. “You were meeting kids from all walks of life, from all over. Like from the hills of Kentucky. Some didn’t know what toothbrush was. Their teeth were green.” Scott participated in what was called a “GI Shower.”  “You would take one kid – we planned it ahead of time. Everyone gets out of their bunk and throws a blanket over the chosen kid. We’d take him to the shower and use Comet and a big scrub brush to brush his teeth. The next morning the sergeant would notice and say “Got a shower last night? Your teeth look a lot better.”
Basic training was followed by six weeks of Advanced Individual Training (AIT) to learn his specialized trade. “There were maybe 200 guys in our mechanic AIT school. Never saw any of them or any of the guys from Basic again.”
At one point, Scott got a week off and went back home to Tarrytown, NY to visit. He flew to JFK then planned to hitchhike back home. A man stopped his car and asked Scott where he was going. When Scott replied, “Tarrytown.”, the gentleman suggested he might want to get on the other side of the road – he was hitchhiking back into the airport!
After completing his AIT, Scott received his order to report to Germany, He flew from South Carolina to Bangor, Maine before boarding the plane for the international flight. “The pilot must have been a helicopter pilot from ‘Nam. [Vietnam] He brought the plane straight down! Wings were bouncing up and down –  busted all kinds of oil pressure gauges.”
After arriving in Frankfurt, Germany, the 200 GIs were bussed to their different units. Only 2 were sent to Vietnam. Scott ended up in Ulm, a city in the south German state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Scott was assigned to the Mechanics Unit for the 5th and 32nd Field Artillery Unit. “We were told we were mechanics that know nothing”, as we were the new kids on the block.”
In February, Scott volunteered to train with Special Forces in the mountains of southern Germany. They were scheduled to do some cross-country skiing, but the weather was too warm. Scott was able to do some mountain repelling and he learned how to break the ice in a lake so you could enter the lake wearing a wetsuit. He also learned how to jump off a high dive board wearing a mask and fins. Perhaps that is where his interest in scuba diving came from.
Scott felt pretty safe in Germany. Moments of danger were quite rare, but he does remember being on alert for about one week. “No one could come in or leave the base. The Middle East situation was starting to fire up.”
Being stationed in Germany allowed Scott the ability to travel around Europe. He went to Austria and Paris. His unit got free tickets to the Olympics in Munich, where he was able to view the swimming events. (Scott was a swimmer in his younger days!) Luckily, he was there before a horrible incident occurred. During the second week of the Olympics, eleven Israeli athletes and coaches and a West German police officer at Olympic village were killed by Black September Palestinian terrorists.
Skiing in Innsbruck, Austria
Enjoying a BeerFest

Scott’s barracks looked more like a dorm room than the barren room one might imagine. The four guys divided the room into two sections with two beds each by hanging a sheet down the middle of the room. The room reflected the mood of the times, with political posters and banners hung throughout. Scott was especially proud of his stereo. 

Scott’s stereo

“Monty” Montgomery and Scott in the barracks.
Barracks with curtain divider.

On the shelf above the door were the soldiers’ duffel bags, packed with the necessary items in case they needed to evacuate in a hurry. One outfit, an all-white coverall, was included, in the event camouflage was needed in the snow.  

Scott received the occasional care packages of brownies and cookies, but he wasn’t too homesick – he was “having too much fun.” What the “fun” was won’t be divulged here but it was the 70s after all – readers can draw their own conclusions!

You can see the tanks in the background of this photo.

Scott spent some time doing guard duty. His assignment was to monitor nuclear ammo dumps on a NATO site. Despite the rule against having cameras, Scott took some good pictures there. He also wasn’t supposed to fall asleep but tells of one time when he woke up and called in to report some M60 tanks surrounding the ammo dump. He was told, “Yeah. They’ve been there for 20 minutes.” Oops.

Scott also described the boredom of guard duty. “If you were lucky, you’d hear an explosion once in a while – maybe deer stepping on a mine from WWII.”

Another memory was that of the Reforger exercise. Basically, a war game, the purpose was to ensure that NATO had the ability to quickly deploy forces to West Germany in the event of a conflict with the Warsaw Pact. During that week, troops pretty much lived in the woods, sleeping in tents. Scott remembers having to move locations four times.

Field kitchen
The cans had pipes with hot water running through
to rinse off trays and silverware.

In the tents during reforger.

How we lived during reforger.

Mr. D, the Chief Warrant Officer, checking map during reforger.

There were several names, Scott recalls easily. “Smitty”, whose last name was Smith, Dylan Reville (Whose name may be misspelled – but not as badly as his mother spelled it – once Dylan received a letter from his mother, addressed to Dylan E. Dylan. Amazingly, he got the letter!), and Monty. “Monty was a great guy. A little guy – he’d get under a vehicle on a creeper. Within 5 minutes, you’d hear snoring. You’d go by, kick him, and yell, Monty! Wake up!”

5th and 32nd Field Artillery Unit
Major Magee

“I had an easy life. But they would always break our stones. Your sideburns were too long… your mustache is below your lip… you could get in trouble if you got a really bad sunburn. One time, 5 or 6 of us got Mohawk haircuts. We all got written up for ‘destruction of government property.”

By the end of his commitment, Scott had managed to rack up thirteen disciplinary reports (Article 15.) These were given for transgressions such as going off-base and coming back so late you miss the morning formation. As a punishment, the soldier would be restricted to base for 30 days and fined. He was making maybe $300 a month, so the fines could really hurt financially. Especially when he hadn’t saved a penny!

Mr. D – Chief Warrant Officer. 

After two Article 15s, a soldier risked a dishonorable discharge. “Mr. D. was a big help. He was like a father figure to us.” Mr. D. was the chief warrant officer for maintenance, who was good friends with the Major. Scott had the good fortune to be Mr. D.’s driver. His good friend, Dylan was the Major’s driver. “Mr. D. would go to the Captain’s office and ask him to tear up the reports.” 

Scott and the Jeep he drove.

Scott’s unit was deactivated early because the Honest John missile they were responsible for was obsolete. Despite his paperwork listing May 13, 1974, as his date of separation, Scott actually left Germany in April.

The “Honest John” missle being fired.

A tradition
in Scott’s unit was to present the soldier who was “getting short” (leaving in 60 days or less) with a clip from the barracks curtain. The soldier would wear the clip so everyone would know he was a “short-timer.” Before being allowed to leave, the soldier was given a checklist. He would go to every department and get the items on the list checked off to show he didn’t owe anything. “From there, you’d go to the reenlistment office where they’d talk to you about re-upping. I walked in, handed them the paperwork. There was no discussion. I didn’t want to reenlist!”

Separation Checklist

Scott left the building and signed out. He had his duffel bag over his shoulder and as he was walking down the stairs to go to the train station he heard, “Leaving us Holman?” It was the 2nd Lieutenant wearing civilian clothing. This man was particularly disliked by the men in Scott’s unit. “Let me ask you one question. Are you the one who smashed my windshield?”  At some point, earlier on, his windshield had been smashed. According to Scott, “A Howitzer shell was thrown out the window at the Lieutenant’s vehicle, but it missed. So, it was picked up off the ground and thrown into the window.” The Lieutenant suspected Scott but was unable to get the necessary signatures against him. “Sir, I have no idea,” Scott replied. “He got so pissed!”

Deactivation of Scott’s unit.

While Scott was in Germany, his parents moved from Tarrytown to New Haven, Connecticut. Scott’s father had taken a teaching position at the Yale Divinity School. His parents didn’t come to New York to pick him up when he arrived back stateside. He flew from Germany into Fort Dix, New Jersey. After spending a week there to debrief, he was bussed to the Port Authority in New York. “You were on your own from there.” Scott has no recollection of how he got to New Haven but he remembers taking a taxi to his parents’ apartment on Canner Street. “Sam (Scott’s stepmother) answered the door and welcomed me home.”

It took Scott a couple of months to find work. He applied for a mechanic’s job at Partyka Chevrolet in Hamden and was hired. Since he hadn’t saved any money and had no car, Scott took the bus every day from Canner Street to his new job on Skiff Street. He quickly became friends with the receptionist, Renee Croog. In October, Renee introduced Scott to her childhood friend, Debbie Samuel. And, the rest, as they say, is history!!


Scott and I want to take this opportunity to thank all our servicemen and women for their service – past and present. On this Memorial Day, we are especially thinking of our friends and family who gave their lives for our country. (Please help me add to this list. I know I have missed several people.)

Alan E. Samuel – Lt.jg. – Navy – Korean War
Alfonse Falcone – Army – WWII
John Winchester Holman – Army – Vietnam
Gilbert “Gerry” Goodgion – Navy – Vietnam
Dario “Doc” Bernabucci – Army – WWII

and to those in our family who served:

Scott W. Holman – PFC – Army – Vietnam
Katharine A. Samuel Lynch – Air Force
Jeanne C. Samuel – Navy

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