Presidential Travel

General Smith tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out the window. Two Spanish fighter jets had come along side our U.S. Army executive jet, and I could see a couple more outside his window across the aisle. It was the spring of 1985, and we were headed for a USEUCOM meeting at 17th Air Force Headquarters on Torrejon Air Base near Madrid.

It had been a quiet flight from the Army Air Base at HqUSAREUR in Heidelberg, so I had been dozing most of the way, as had my boss sitting nearby. We were the only passengers, so had run out of conversation long before we reached the Pyrenees.

General Smith had been informed by the pilot that the Spanish military was conducting a state ceremony rehearsal and had given permission for the jets to practice their escort duties. When we taxied to a stop on the runway at Torrejon, a contingent of military personnel rolled a red carpet to our gangplank and an honor guard flying U.S. and Spanish colors led by a distinguished civilian and a Spanish general out to greet us. They and General Smith exchanged salutes and handshakes, and together the two generals and I, with a Spanish civilian escort, trooped the line of a battalion of infantry soldiers, then paused for a twenty-one howitzer salute and the playing of two national anthems by a military band.

Back at the tarmac, two U.S. State Department limousines drove from behind the line to where we awaited them. A senior member of the U.S. Embassy staff stepped smartly out of the lead car and opened the doors for us to board. He joined us , and the other car followed us to the Air Force Headquarters building. All along the way, I could see security guards – Spanish, American, and civilian. American flags were flying at nearly every intersection.

Four days later, this whole ceremony would be repeated, this time in full-dress uniform and top hat, because President Reagan was making a state visit to Madrid, and Ike and I just happened to be a convenient air-borne arrival to serve as a live rehearsal cast.

Needless to say, for our trip back to the tarmac next afternoon, we rode in an Air Force sedan with a driver, courtesy of the Torrejon Base Commander.  But we both enjoyed our taste of what it’s like to arrive in Presidential style.

–Allen Dale Olson


Nixon’s Alert

By Allen Dale Olson

Active duty personnel underwent some sort of alert almost every month. As a civilian employee, I was mostly unaffected by them.  Only  significant events – such as the death of President Johnson or the attempted assassination of President Reagan – disrupted my life in any meaningful way, attending security briefings or doing phone duty to inform various commands of  proposed actions.  But the most curious one came in 1974, shortly before President Nixon resigned.

I had been at our ranger training installation in Bad Toelz in Bavaria. At breakfast in the German hotel where I had spent the night, I gleaned from a TV newscaster that something was impacting on all U.S. Forces in the world, so I thought I’d better check it out at the Army post before driving back home to Karlsruhe.  I didn’t make it to the post; I was intercepted by military police directing me to return immediately to my duty station. The senior NCO looked at my orders and I.D. and wished me luck on my three-hour drive back home. He had no explanation for the alert.

Nor did my bosses in Karlsruhe and Heidelberg. The alert had been called personally by a very troubled President who had perceived a national threat, apparently unsubstantiated by either military or security agencies. For almost 24 hours, soldiers, sailors, and airmen manned duty stations with absolutely no rational explanation  as to why they were frozen in place.  All we were ever told is that it was “real,” not “practice.”


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Christmas in the Military

Midway Island

An Update from Prof. Dr. Christian Führer, Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg

There will soon be a “Mabel-Grammer-Ring” on  the former Sullivan Barracks. The major thoroughfare through the  installation (soon a new suburb) will be named after the very WII soldier  after whom the barracks had been named in the first place.

After I had started the initiative to name a street after Mabel Grammer,
the City of Mannheim, represented by the municipal archives – asked
me for similarly important German-American personalities, and I
suggested a local blues, swing and jazz icon (Joy Fleming) and Jean
Moore Fasse who ran a Service Club in town for several years.

All three suggestions were approved by the City Council, so Mabel Grammer returns to Mannheim; and this time, for  eternity.
When the municipal archives moved to a new location right
across the Neckar River a while ago, Director Prof Dr Ulrich Nieß had a
great idea: He suggested adorning the scaffolding around the archives’
new home with the eyes of prominent Mannheimers. Among them: Mabel
Grammer. Here’s a report about the art project:

You will easily recognize Mabel Grammer’s eyes, taken from the very
photo I had used in my book. She is joined by German soccer legend Sepp
Herberger, Berta Benz (wife of Carl Benz, the inventor of the automobile
who was the first person to actually drive a car) and others.


Mabel Grammer’s story is documented in the following movie: