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649th Engineer Battalion (Topo)
18th Engineer Brigade

Looking for more information from military/civilian personnel assigned to or associated with the U.S. Army in Germany from 1945 to 1989. If you have any stories or thoughts on the subject, please contact me.


Battalion History ()

MILCOM newspaper articles

517th Engr Det (TA)

526th Engr Det (TA)




 
Battalion History
649th Engr Topo Bn (WWII)
1945
(Source: Email from Arthur A. Hart)
In August, 1945, I was transferred from Easy Company, 275th Infantry to the 649th Engineer Battalion at Waiblingen-bei-Stuttgart. I had been classified as "cartographer, skilled," when I took the Army General Classification test at Fort Lewis, Washington, in July, 1942, and now, more than three years later they discovered there was a need for my talents!

At Waiblingen we had the task, as I understood it at the time, of sorting and classifying hundreds of thousands of captured German military maps. We were told that our allies would get a copy of each, we'd keep what the U.S. might need, and that all the rest would be destroyed "to inhibit the Germans from making war in the future."

We were housed in a very attractive residential neighborhood, where some of us pulled guard duty at night. I remember that once we were trucked into Stuttgart to a theater where an American company performed the play Night Must Fall. I think the actors were all GIs, but it was good show.

I spent only a couple of weeks in Waiblingen when three of us were accepted to go to Biarritz American University in the southwest corner of France where we could continue college educations interrupted by the war. On the proverbial "dark and stormy night" we set out for Frankfurt-am-Main to catch a train for Biarritz. We had a driver and a jeep -- open, of course, and despite being wrapped to the eyes in blankets, we got soaked in a long drive on the Autobahn, punctuated by frequent detours around blown bridges.

Bill Glaeser and Victor Wigleswoth became good friends and we have kept in touch ever since. We had a wonderful semester in Biarritz in the heart of the French Basque country. In October we returned to the 649th, then stationed at Fontainbleau, Southeast of Paris, awaiting shipment home. My buddies had enough points to go, but I, as a replacement, didn't, so they transferred me to the 1262nd Combat Engineers at Enghien-les-Bains, north of Paris.

I boarded a Victory Ship for New York in March (1946), and was discharged at Fort Lewis on Saint Patrick's Day. There isn't a lot of 649th history here, but it is a tiny piece that may connect with the experience of others who were at Waiblingen and Fontainebleau.
Arthur A. Hart

649th Engr Bn (TOPO)
1975
(Source: Emaill from Al Shimizu)
I too had been assigned to the 649th Engr. Bn. With several tours, and many assignments within.

My first assignment 1975 to 1978
Names:
CW2 Harry Mazza
SFC Ralph Gordon
SSG Pete Karibian
Floyd "Bean" Weaver
Glenn "Hooker" O'Neal
Robert "Bob" Tompkins
Dave Bowden
Leroy Cressy
Ron "Bunny" Altenberg
Losa
Ignore Huryk
Loar S4
Schmelling

There were many other names that comes to mind as I continue on with this.

After several months working in the S3, I came in contact with Cpt. Robert H. Nelson, who was with the 517th Terrain Detachment, and a SCUBA diver as well. This is how we first met.

The 517th Det. Commander at the time was Maj Hillman, and NCOIC, was SFC Diaz.
other names were;
Schroeder
Mullen
Fred Passaro

and many more.

Cpt.. Nelson learned that I had a vast experience in projects of "City Mapping" and he was the OIC, of a mapping team called "Classified Mapping Facility" (CMF). At the H-Building. That was at USAREUR, Campbell Barracks.
Names at "CMF"
Berry Bitters
Kathy Monroe

Other names at 649th
Maj Kotch S3
CW Gibson BMO

There were a female Cpt.. that drove a green mustang. Don't remember her name.
Mrs. Verdugo, and Mr. Cabalong, (civilians) who worked in the basement of the Bn. HQ building.

At that period in my career I had no dealings with the BC. Can not remember their names.

Spent many hours at the Tompkins Rec' Center. Playing cards where we met a few who where assigned to PERSCOM.
Names:
Joe Luke
Bev Barns

649th:
Bob Wall
Scott Radkey
SSG Verdugo

Than soon after, we PCS'ed to Hawaii.


1985
(Source: Emaill from Al Shimizu)
My second assignment was from Mar. 1985 to Jul 1990. This assignment was a "Whirl Wind" Had so much different assignment within the 649th.

506th terrain 8th ID... 1985 1987
Ed Hugh
Tompkins
Doctor
Jones

Had a very great time serving with the 8ID.

Was appointed as Commander, as Ed Hugh, PCS'ed, and there were no replacement for him. I even got orders of appointment as Detachment Commander.
Than, it was about that period of PCS' s.

New commander, Floyd Weaver. Then I got reassigned to 630th Engineer Company, 649th Bn. As NCOIC, production control.
There I met.
1sg Heat
SFCMayor
SFC Phil Lane

Stayed there for about a year.

Then was TDY to Kornwestheim. With the 7th Corps terrain team as they were in need of an NCOIC. Stayed there for about 3 months (Nov-Jan).

Than returned to Tompkins Barracks, as the Battalion's S2. At the time there were no S2, officer, and we were about to undergo our units security inspection, and soon after, our ARTEP.
Names@S2
Anthony
Auskane (Gossock)

Anthony and I, called her 220. Just because she kept her hair like she had her finger in the 220 socket☺.

After S2, I was named to be the 1SG to replace 1SG Heath, at A Co. (Huge Boots to fill) Along with commander, Cpt. Kaycee Carlson.
Names
Manzano
Busey
Knoll
Conner
Escobar
Crum
Sanaya (last name escapes me) worked in Co. Supply

There are many more faces in my mind, but can not recall names.

Than after a year, (1990) I PCS'ed to Hawaii,
Bn Cdr's;
Richard G. Johnson
Author Osgood

These are the only ones comes to mind.

I can picture the commander before Osgood, hHe was a very small fellow.


Commander's Coin
  Units listed on this coin (prob 1980s):

SUBORDINATE UNIT
SUPPORTED COMD
HHC, 649th Engr Bn
 
24th Engr Pltn (Map Distribution)
 
60th Engr Det (Terrain Analysis)
3rd Armd Div
506th Engr Det (Terrain Analysis)
 
510th Engr Det (Terrain Analysis)
3rd Inf Div?
517th Engr Det (Terrain Analysis)
V Corps
518th Engr Det (Terrain Analysis)
1st Armd Div
526th Engr Det (Terrain Analysis)
VII Corps
579th Engr Det (Survey)
 
585th Engr Co (Cartographic)
VII Corps
630th Engr Co (Cartographic)
V Corps
TTO
 
If you have more information on the history or organization of the 649th Engr Bn (TOPO), please contact me.

 
517th Engineer Detachment (Terrain Analysis)
 
(Source: Email from John Jens)
Just a few things: the current topo – now geospatial – system was stood up on/about 17 July 1979 – that was the day I PCS’d from Germany. The morning was a quiet sunny day with the Rhein Valley mist still hanging in the air and dew on the parade field behind the Tompkins Barracks kaserne headquarters.

I was team leader for the terrain analysis team which supported V Corps, as part of the 517th Engineer Detachment (Terrain).

The 517th reactivated to support V Corps & then 526th was activated to support VII Corps & other numbered smaller units were activated to support the divisions and the carto companies to support the corps.

Before the July 1979 date, the detachment was in general support to the theatre, much as the battalion was a theatre level asset. With the post Viet Nam renewed interest in terrain analysis, we got more visibility by task organizing and actually going out & supporting the corps & divisions in their FTX's & CPX's - one officer, an NCO, & a handful of soldiers.

 
(Source: Email from Brian W. Haren, 517th Engr Det, 1983-85)
Hello again (I'm the guy who identified the strange antenna atop the I.G. Farben building a few weeks ago - Mystery Photo #7).

Anyway, I managed to find your page concerning the 649th Engineer Battalion (Topo) under the 18th Engineer Brigade.
 
I commanded one of the listed units, the 517th Engineer Detachment, from 1983 to 1985 and was with the unit when it restationed from Thompkins Barracks in Schwetzingen (near Heidelberg) to Frankfurt.  The early 1980's were a time of big shifts in USAREUR as the command was moving units around within theater to better focus combat power.  Our restationing was done so we could co-locate with our supported headquarters at V Corps.  Although we remained part of the 649th Engineer Battalion, in Frankfurt we supported the V Corps G2 and were attached to the Corps MI Battalion. 

Our job was to provide terrain analysis (military geography) support and we focused on vehicle trafficability studies and transportation studies of the Fulda Gap and the Hunfeld-Schlitz-Lauterbach approach into West Germany.  It was fascinating work and I had some truly great soldiers working for me, many of whom I've remained friends with down throught the years.
 
The 649th was a great unit, and an unheralded one.  The battalion was a 'full service' topographic unit that provided topographic and geodetic surveying, map compilation, map printing, map distribution and terrain analysis support to V & VII Corps, USAREUR HQ and EUCOM.  We were the only US unit of it's type in Europe and we stayed very, very busy. 
 
(BTW, the 18th Engineer Brigade shoulder patch you show on the page is upside down.  The sword should be pointing up, not down. (Webmaster Note: The error has been corrected!)

 
526th Engineer Detachment (Terrain Analysis)
 
(Source: Email from Jeff Chriss)
Interesting info on the 649th Engineer Battalion. My wife and I both were stationed in Kornwestheim, Germany with the 526th Engineering Detachment from August of 1984 to February of 1987.  We went into the Army together in February of 1984 and after basic training in Fort Dix, NJ, we went to MOS training in Ft Belvoir, VA at the Defense Mapping School attending class with members of the Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Our MOS was 81Q – Terrain Analyst, I don’t think the MOS exists anymore. 

We got to Germany in mid-August of 1984 and after arriving at Headquarters, 649th Battalion in Heidelberg we were sent by bus to the 526th. Major Kotch was one of our unit commanders during the time we were with the 526th. He was the second commander we had. We had three others but their names I don’t remember. 

Unit members at the time included: (the ones I can remember)
First Sergeant Thomas Small
SFC George Domeico
SSG Kenneth Klopp
SSG GibsonSGT Williams
SPC Pete Thompson
SPC Ann Bremer
SPC Mitzi Chriss
SPC Jeff Chriss
SPC William Arena
PFC Osborne

We had a Chief Warrant Officer, a Second Lieutenant, another Staff Sergeant, and a couple of other Sergeants and Privates, but I don’t remember their names either. 

Our unit worked out of the basement of one of the old German Army barracks. We had a couple of SCIF’s with bank vault type doors we locked at night and jail type bars we used during work hours. Combination locks were used for all doors in the facility. Our major efforts included creating map overlays for East Germany, Poland,
Czechoslovakia, and west Russia. Our overlays provided information on avenues of approach, cover and concealment, street and bridge classifications, and targeting zones for ICBM’s. We used standard lithographs, aerial and satellite photos, and topographic information to create the overlays needed. All was done by hand with pen and ink drafting skills, this was before the advent of CAD systems. 

We probably had over 20,000 maps on site and access to whatever else we needed through the 649th. In mid-1986 we got our first computerized mapping system. It consisted of an IBM machine with a 12 inch laser disk for reading digitized maps. It was hi-tech at the time but today’s hand held GPS units have more power and information than our unit had. The laser disk would take about 2 minutes to go from one scale to another and the digitized info was very limited. The system was for reading information only it did not have the capability to modify or store information. If we had access to Google Earth back then we would have been the classified Super Top Secret.  

While there, I was selected as a Unit rep to go on a tour of the Czech border. I have a picture somewhere of me sitting beside the barbed-wire fence and a Czech guard in a tower across the river looking at us with binoculars. This was before the fall of the Berlin wall. Another cool trip had me flying with members from the Defense Mapping Agency in a helicopter taking pictures of new bridges in West Germany. We flew with the side doors open and the bench seats faced out from the center. As we circled a bridge location the pilot tipped the helicopter side ways so we were facing straight down, with only our harnesses holding us in place, to allow us to get the best picture of the bridge. 

Since we were a married couple the Army allowed us to live out on the economy while stationed in Germany. We lived in Asperg about 12 miles from the Post and most of the time took the S-Bahn (train) into work. This job was pretty much a 7-4:30 Monday – Friday schedule with an occasional CQ duty thrown in. This schedule allowed my wife and
me to travel some on the week-ends and we got to visit Paris, France; the Black Forest, the German Alps, Munich, and numerous other places. One experience I’ll never forget is glacier skiing in the German Alps in the middle of July with short sleeves and vest on, it was great.  

We got out of the Army after our first tour of duty but all-in-all my wife and I enjoyed the time in Germany and hope to visit again someday. We had our daughter over there, our friends said you either got a coo-coo clock or a baby while stationed in Germany. We never got the clock but we looked at several, I guess we decided the baby was the better choice. 

A lot of time has passed since then but we still have fond memories of being in Germany.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
My wife and I talked and remembered a couple of the missing names serving during our time of duty. 
PFC Gina Hum
SPC Dave Dolifka
SSG Mayfield 

We are going to look around and see if we can find some pictures.

 
 
MILCOM Newspaper Articles
 
649th Engineer Battalion - Mapping the way for USAREUR units, By Ken Blackburn, April 2, 1987
The 649th Engineer Bn. (Topographic) can be best described as the Rand-McNally for U.S. Army, Europe. But the atlases they provide aren't just roadmaps, they're tools which help everybody from the mudslogging infantryman to the high flying Blackhawk pilot complete their mission.

The unit, located at Tompkins Barracks, is the only topographic engineer battalion in Europe and one of only three in the Army, according to Maj. Joseph A. Kotch Jr., operations officer.

"The other two are located at Fort Belvoir, Va., and Fort Shafter, Hawaii, and are responsible for CONUS and the PACOM-Pacific area, respectively. We're responsible for supporting USAREUR tactical and non-tactical commanders with topographic products to help them better visualize the terrain," Kotch said.

"To do this, we're organized to perform five functions or missions which all tie into mapmaking or cartography. These are terrain anaIysis, surveying, photo mapping, reproduction and theater map distribution.

"Terrain analysis is probably becoming our most important function. Our terrain analysts compile information on an area, make determinations and answer questions or offer recommendations to commanders and staff officers," he added.

There are seven terrain anaIysis detachments assigned to the 649th, one of which is located at Tompkins Barracks and provides theater support, one in each corps, and four with divisions, according to Kotch. The units located elsewhere keep in daily touch with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 649th here, but live and work at their division or corps.

"We also do geodetic surveying, which is much more precise than normal construction surveying," Kotch said. "The surveying isn't really done in support of our mapping mission, however. It's done in support of weapons systems or airfield safety surveys.

"The photomapping and reproduction are the traditional mapping skills, although we don't concentrate on the standard products such as those used by tankers or grunts. We can reprint those maps, but they're provided by the Germans. We make special maps or non-standard products at the request of the units we support.

"For instance, say somebody wanted a map showing all the bridges and river crossings in a certain area. We'd get the information through terrain anaylsis, then overprint it on an existing map," said Kotch.

The 649th elements located at Tompkins include HHC, the 585th Engineer Company (Cartographic) which supports 7th Corps, the 630th Engineer Company (Cartographic) which supports 5th Corps, the 579th Survey Detachment, and the 24th Map Distribution Platoon.
  HHC runs the base plant, where maps are designed, printed and edited. The other units have various missions.

The 24th Map Distribution Platoon is the USAREUR Map Depot. The platoon has 15 million maps stored in its warehouse sized stockroom, according to platoon sergeant SFC James Davis.

"We're responsible for storage and distribution of maps for USAREUR," Davis said.

"When a request comes in for maps we have on hand, we pull them off the shelf, pack them, and distribute them. We also handle the war reserve stockpile, and are tasked with transporting old maps to Seckenheim for recycling," he said.

The 579th Survey Detachment provides geodetic surveying support for all USAREUR units. Survey technician CW03 William Smith said geodetic survey is establishing where a point is in relation to every other point on the face of the earth. "We can tell you within millimeters how far you are from any other point on earth, and our surveys can determine longitude and latitude, elevations, degrees, anything a commander requires.

"Our skills are used in support of airfield safety surveys, artillery units, military intelligence, signal commands, anyone who needs it," Smith said.

"We use a variety of precise and semi-precise instruments to accomplish this, including equipment which uses infrared, light impulse and microwaves to measure distance, and satellites," he added.

The 630th Engineer (Cartographic) is a self-contained version of the HHC base plant, according to 1st Sgt. Claude M. Heath. "We support 5th Corps with overlays, printed maps, map related products, and anything they need in the topographic arena," he said.

"Although we're located here, we belong to 5th Corps, and move out on exercises with them. All our equipment and work space is located in large trailers which we can hook up to truck and drive to field sites. We're completely mobile, and at the same time can do anything required from quick response to multi-color maps.

"We're responsible for supplying more than 200 units with map products, and issued 123,000 maps last month," Heath added.

The 585th Engineer Company (Cartographic) is also self-contained in trailers, and does the same type of things the 630th does. But its activities are in support of 7th Corps, to whom it belongs, although like the 630th, it's located at Tompkins rather than its corps.

"We provide our 7th Corps customers with anything cartographic they need, to include taking updated intelligence and printing it over maps used by field commanders," said 1st Sgt. Herbert C. Schmeling. Currently, the 585th's vans are in Stuttgart, demonstrating their capabilities for their users, he said.

 
Engineers manage maps averaging 500,000 monthly for USAREUR missions
By Neil Taylor II 24th Eng. Plt., June 26, 1987
Have you ever wondered what class of supply maps is? Have you ever tried to guess how a map is made, upgraded, revised, or reproduced? Better yet, have you ever asked yourself who stocks the vast quantities of maps to support the European Theater?

First, a map is a class Ila item. Second, maps are no longer made by the Army, but they are upgraded and reproduced quite extensively by the assets assigned to the 649th Engineer Battalion. Third, after they are reproduced, they eventually end up at the doors and on the shelves of the USAREUR MAP DEPOT (UMD), for stockage and distribution.

The UMD is operated by the 24th Engineer Platoon in conjunction with an augmented TDA, The Theater Topographic Map Inventory Control Point (TTMICP). As engineers, not much unlike the combat arms, we have a definite need for maps in whatever operation we are involved in.

Acquiring the required quantities of maps in a timely manner is important as well as ensuring the products are up to date. To use a map that is outdated can be most disastrous in any operation as any engineer can attest.

The distinct mission of acquiring, stocking, and distributing the latest up to date maps to all Army units stationed in Europe has been delegated to those quartermaster soldiers assigned to the 649th Engineer Battalion. The 24th Platoon is assisted to get the units of the V and VII Corps their maps by the two corps cartographic company's map distribution platoons. Therefore, the UMD is in genera support of the V and VII Corps but is in direct support of all non-corps Army units.

The depot currently is required to stock approximately 20,000 separate map sheets consisting of approximately 45,000,000 maps or map related products of various sizes, shapes and scales. This quantity increases whenever support is required for special exercises such as REFORGER. As a matter of fact, the upcoming REFORGER exercise has increased the stockage by approximately 2,000,000 maps. The larger quantity mentioned above is spread out and stocked in one of nine separate stockage sites.

The 24th maintains three theater war reserve sites, a war contingency site, three classified vaults, an operational stock area for those never-ending daily requisitions that must be filled and, the USAREUR Map Library. All this labor intensive management is done with a MTOE presently at full strength of 35 personnel augmented with a TDA of five personnel, including three civilians.

On an average the depot distributes approximately 500,000 maps a month. Whenever there is a major exercise, this amount usually triples. Although the unit does issue the majority of the maps to a needy customer, it must dispose of outdated maps once replacements have arrived. The priority for new editions is to issue them to units that require those particular map sheets as part of their basic load. All units require a basic load, and each unit should have enrolled in the Automatic Initial Distribution System (AIDS). This system tells which unit requires which map sheet and the quantities needed. Once a revised map sheet has arrived in the UMD and is processed, it is automatically sent out expeditiously to update the customer's basic load.

The UMD and the soldiers of the 24th in this regard have a daily real world mission akin to the postal soldiers. These map products must get to their destination in a timely manner. To ensure this quality of service there are soldiers to assist customers in developing basic loads. They also assist in getting customers enrolled in AIDS, ordering maps, and tracking down requisitions through the complex maze.

Don't hesitate to call for assistance, the phone number is: 379-7617/6258 or write to, Commander, 24th Engineer Platoon, 649th Engineer Battalion (T), APO NY 09081.