MORE PHOTO FROM NEVIN R WILLIAMS OF CAMP FUJI NEAR GOTEMBA SHI SHIZOKA KEN
ON A TROOP TRAIN TRAINS WITH A COT TO SLEEP WERE RARE IN THOSE DAYS
2LT WILLIAMS, Platoon Leader, 2nd Platoon, Co E. Williams retired from the Army Reserve with over 40 years service, including 15 years active duty and two tours in Vietnam. Retired as a full Colonel.
NEVIN ROGER WILLIAMS AS A 2ND LT DUTIES
EDUCATING THE TROOPS
In 1956-57 I was in the Army, a Second Lieutenant, and on my first unit assignment at Camp Otsu, Japan. I was assigned to the 7th Cavalry Regiment as a Platoon Leader. I had had my car (a 1955 Ford) shipped to me, so I was “mobile.”
One night I am driving down the main street in Kyoto, Japan (which was about 10 miles from Camp Otsu.) I am following a taxi cab. All of a sudden, the cab swerves over into the next lane. Right in front of me, is an area of my lane that has been blocked off for construction. It is too late for me to swerve and miss it, so I plough right into it. (That was, I am sure, the intent of the cab driver. Most likely he knew I was an American and decided to “get even.” ). Well, he succeeded!
I was able to remove the car from the area, but it was difficult to drive as I could not keep it straight on the street. I learned later that a control arm and other guidance stuff had been crushed. So, I was able to get the car to a parking area. I parked, and locked the car, and hailed a cab, and returned to Camp Otsu.
Once at Camp Otsu, I went to the BOQ and I called the Regimental Staff Duty Officer. I told him I needed the 24 hour wrecker service that was offered by the Camp Otsu PX Garage. The SDO had no idea what I was talking about. Having once or twice been the SDO, I told him in what book and what section to find the information. He did as I instructed and he then called the PX Duty Officer on Call and ordered the wrecker. I had the wrecker pick me up at the BOQ and I went with him to Kyoto to get my car. We did, and car was towed to the PX Garage for repair. End of story? Not quite!
The next day, the fact that I had wrecked my car and used the PX Wrecker Service was all over the Base. Nobody seemed to be concerned that I had a wreck. The news was that the PX had a 24 hour on-call wrecker service. Apparently, I was the only person that knew about this service. Why?
All lieutenants performed Staff Duty Officer. As the SDO, the Lieutenant was the representative of the Regimental Commander/Post commander during off duty hours. It could be a very important job—especially during emergencies such as deaths, arrests, etc. Unfortunately, many SDO’s did not take the job seriously and left the work to the Staff Duty NCO. That was not my approach. I read everything that was made available to me. I did not want to be “caught short” in an emergency. As I recall, there was one (maybe more) books that were crammed full of procedures to follow in case of emergencies. I read them all—including the one about getting a wrecker in an emergency. Apparently, I was the only SDO to read that. Senior Officers did not perform SDO, so they had an excuse for not knowing about the service; junior officers had no valid excuse.
My point is that one should always take advantage of any opportunity that is available to acquire knowledge. Maybe you will never need such knowledge, and then again, maybe you will.
Just think, if I had not known about the wrecker, what were my options? Return to Camp, leave my auto overnight in Kyoto where it might have been towed? We had no cell phones in those days. If I wanted to make a phone call (to whom?) I would have had to use the Japanese phone system. I did not speak Japanese.
Well, nobody was ever concerned about LT Williams wrecking his car—that was OK. Soon, most folks knew about the PX Emergency Towing Service. I have no idea if it was ever used. At least by my actions, I educated a lot of folks!
THE PLATOON ATT*
Colonel (Ret) Nevin R. Williams
(First written in 2007)
In August of 1955 I was commissioned a second lieutenant, infantry, U. S. Army Reserve at Ohio University. In September of that year, I entered active duty at Fort Benning Georgia, as a student in the Basic Infantry Officers Course, conducted by the U. S. Army Infantry School.
BIOC taught us everything (hopefully) that a second lieutenant needed to know to lead an infantry platoon. We received training in weapons, tactics, leadership principles, administration, supply. etc. Much of the training was “hands on” training in the field.
In the Platoon Tactics phase we first learned that the mission of the rifle platoon in offensive action is to close with and kill or capture the enemy by means of fire, maneuver, and shock action. We were then instructed on the requirements of the Platoon Army Training Test, an annual field exercise that was required of all infantry rifle platoons. The test consisted primarily of an exercise of the rifle platoon in the attack with evaluations made on the issuance of the attack order by the Platoon Leader, movement to contact, attack of the objective, and reorganization once the objective was seized. Apparently the Infantry School had made a recent change to platoon tactics by deciding that at the platoon level, there was no requirement to maintain a reserve force in the attack. Prior to this decision, the policy was that an objective would be attacked with two rifle squads, and the third rifle squad would be designated the reserve squad, and would be held in reserve during the attack. The Platoon Leader would only commit this reserve squad if it were needed in order to take the objective. The new doctrine stated that what used to be called a reserve squad would now be called the support squad. The support squad would follow the two leading squads until the platoon reached the attack position. At that time the platoon leader would commit the support squad to the front, to join the other two squads in the actual attack. The purpose of this was to place maximum firepower on the objective. The theory was that if overwhelming resistance was encountered, it would be overcome by committing the reserve platoon held at company level—hence no need for a reserve squad at the platoon level.
I had no reason to question the tactics being taught at the Infantry School! I also assumed that what was being taught at the Infantry School was official U. S. Army doctrine (it was) and that it was being followed by all tactical units in the Army (it was not).
In the Spring of 1956, I reported to the 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division at Camp Otsu, Japan. I was assigned to Company C, commanded by 1st Lieutenant Claude Benjamin Sutton. Lt Sutton assigned me to the Second Platoon which was currently being lead by the Platoon Sergeant, SFC Rankin. The rifle platoons were training for the Platoon ATT which was to be administered in a few weeks. LT Sutton told me to observe the platoon in training for a couple of days and then to take over and run the practice exercises, which I did. The platoon was well trained by SFC Rankin. I was able to make a contribution in that I could prepare and issue a 5 paragraph field order (attack order) that was clear, concise, complete, and understood by all of my squad leaders. I immediately noticed that during the exercise, SFC Rankin was employing a reserve squad, not a support squad. He was not committing this squad in the attack during the training exercises. I told LT Sutton
*Army Training Test
that this was contrary to the doctrine being taught at the Infantry School. He then told me to change the
exercise so that it was in accordance with what I had learned. He also had the other platoons change the way they were conducting the exercise.
My platoon was good—damn good! It was good for two reasons: First, the training that it had received by SFC Rankin before my arrival, and second because of the way I issued the 5 paragraph field order. For some reason, other Platoon Leaders (both NCO and officers) had a problem with this requirement. I did not. It was generally believed (at least within the 1st Battalion) that my platoon would score first in the regimental competition which consisted of 18 rifle platoons (the Regiment had only two battalions). Both myself and my platoon arrived at the training site with high morale and high hopes. On the day of the exercise, everything went like clockwork. I received my attack order from the Umpire (acting as company commander), and then scouted the objective and terrain, prepared and issued the attack order. We crossed the Line of Departure on time and moved to the attack position. Upon arrival at the attack position, I called up my support squad and deployed it with the other two squads, three squads on line so that maximum firepower could be placed on the objective. I should mention that this was a live fire exercise. No sooner had I deployed my squads when a several whistles blew and one of the Umpires yelled: “Stop the exercise, and clear all weapons.” This we did immediately. I had no idea what had happened but I obviously was extremely upset that my ATT had been stopped right at the critical moment, the beginning of the actual attack of the objective. I looked up and there was the Regimental Commander, Colonel Roy L. Inman, looking directly at me, obviously in a high state of agitation. It soon became apparent that he was angry at me. “Lieutenant, why did you commit your reserve squad to the attack?” I replied, “Sir, there is no reserve squad at the platoon level, I committed my support squad to achieve maximum firepower on the objective.” Colonel Inman directed that the exercise was over. We packed up and returned to Camp Otsu that afternoon. Obviously my morale and that of my platoon was shot. That night in my BOQ room I went through all of my instruction sheets that I had brought with me from Fort Benning. (I am the kind of guy who saves stuff.) I located the instruction sheets regarding the Rifle Platoon in the Attack and these sheets confirmed that I was deploying my platoon properly. The next morning I took the material to LT Sutton. He read them, and said “Well, this confirms that you were right (which I already knew), what do you want to do with this?” I replied that I wanted the sheets forwarded through channels, from me to the Regimental Commander. He asked: “Are you sure?” and I replied, “Yes, Sir, I am sure.” (At that point, I was ready to take on the entire U. S. Army.) He said OK and sent them forward. We soon learned that of the 18 platoons taking the ATT, my platoon was rated next to last. I assume that soon after the exercise I must have talked to my troops about what had happened, although I am sure that I was too inexperienced at that stage of my career to handle such a leadership problem properly. I do not recall that any of the members blamed me for the debacle but that was a long time ago and possibly they did. Several weeks later the Regimental Commander had an Officers Call. Colonel Inman addressed all of the regimental officers and the gist of his address was this: “It has been brought to my attention that the Infantry School has decided that there is no need to maintain a reserve squad within a rifle platoon when it is attacking an objective. I am a combat veteran of WWII and I know from experience that a reserve force is essential at the platoon level. I do not give one hoot what the Infantry School says—as long as I command this regiment we will maintain a reserve squad at the platoon level in all tactical exercises.” Well, that was that! Soon after, the 1st Battalion was inactivated, and it became apparent that we were not to receive any replacements and the regiment (and 1st Cavalry Division) was soon to be inactivated. I moved to the 2nd Battalion but we did not conduct any more platoon ATT’s. Many months later, Colonel Inman received his orders to return to the United States. One day just prior to his departure, I was sitting at the bar in the Officers Club and Colonel Inman walked in. He sat down at the bar and started a conversation. Although I was by then a 1st Lieutenant, I certainly was not comfortable conversing with field grade officers, and especially with a full colonel that was my commander. My part of the conversation was limited to mostly “Yes, Sir” and “No, Sir.” There was no mention of the Platoon ATT debacle. After several minutes, Colonel Inman got up to leave. As he departed he said to me: “Lieutenant Williams, as long as you continue to stand up for what you believe is right, you will have no problem in the Army. There was no doubt in my mind that he was referring to the Platoon ATT debacle and my actions soon thereafter. Almost fifty years later, considering the ups and downs of my military career, I can only conclude that Col Inman’s advice to me that day was the worst advice that he could have given to any young lieutenant.
Revised 27Jan 07, 5 Jun 18