509th AFA Personal Diary

Personal Diaries

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Marvin Meyerhoffer, Survey Section, 1955-1958

As a surveyor with B Battery of the 509th I had a lot of boring as well as unusual experiences. Some of the memories I am most proud of are those of surveys I turned angles for with one of the best survey sections in the Army. With Pop Moffett driving the M59 APC we would head out across Graf to our starting point for the survey. Moffett could spin his M59 on a dime, and he could take it anywhere, and anywhere often meant to the fartherest corner of Graf's artillery range. When we went out from our bivouac area to the trig marker for our first angle we sometimes rode in jeeps. One thing I hated about setting up my transit near roads and trails,  as often was the case. After leveling the instrument, a tank, APC, or SP going by would shake the ground enough to throw the bubble off. Then, sometimes with an angle turned at that position, you'd have to re-level and start all over. Not a good thing for an instrument operator who prided himself  in losing very few seconds on a survey that could be several thousand meters long. It also wasn't good for fingers that were freezing in sub-zero temperatures that were normal for Graf during some of the winter months. 

One summer afternoon, in 1958 I believe, Spec. 4 Norman Lane (my recorder) and I were getting ready to 'swing and angle' when Lane pointed down a muddy trail to a long line of M48's led by a jeep. The trail was a quagmire, with mud about a foot deep from armor traffic. The only spots a wheeled vehicle could get good traction was on either side of the trail. Lane said we should wait until the tanks passed before we turned the angle. As we waited I turned the scope of the transit in the direction of the approaching column, zeroing in on the jeep. The passenger was an officer, and the driver looked a lot like Elvis Presley. Keeping the scope on the jeep, I saw the driver reach over and tap the Captain on the shoulder just before he gunned the vehicle and shot through a very muddy section of the road. As the column came near our position the officer raised his right hand, signalling the tanks to stop. Lane and I saluted the officer and shook hands with his driver, the Rocker himself. We had been hearing that Elvis would be coming to the 3rd. Armored from Fort Hood, and here he was, grinning and cool even though he and his Captain and a column of tanks were lost. I saw Elvis one time after that first meeting. It was near Hanau, a few clicks from Pioneer Kaserne. We were demonstrating armor and other gear of the Spearhead Division to a group of NATO officers. At the demonstration the Division brought out tanks, APC's and SP howitzers. In the middle of this flat area (located near the ammo dump) was a small lake. After the armor was brought into position  the Engineers brought out one of their mobile bridges and put it in place at one end of the lake. After that demonstration and a parade past the grandstands, the troops were told to fall out for a bit of competition between the units. Several small boats that were part  of the Engineer's inventory were positioned at the far side of the lake, and four or five troops with paddles jumped into each. An officer gave a signal and the race across the lake was on. I and several men in my battery were watching the race on the far bank. Someone said they spotted Elvis in one of the boats, and he was right. As the boats neared the shore Spec. 4 George McClellan handed me an eight millimeter movie camera and asked me to get some shots of EP as his boat came in, "You're good at photography", he said. So the film was rolling as Elvis' boat came to shore in about third place. Several Spearheaders gathered around Elvis as he jumped out of the boat in ankle deep water.. He had a few choice words for his pals for not winning the race. All the time the film was rolling. With the troops knotted around  EP it was hard to get a 'tight' shot of him, so I yelled: "Hey Elvis! Look over here! This will get you the Academy Award."  Grinning, he approached me with his hand extended. Two Spearheaders from the South shook hands. It was a hand shake that I'll never forget, nor will I forget what Elvis said to me. "Well", he said, "that's the only ——- way I'd get it!" Lord, I'd like to know what happened to that piece of film.