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The EDP Briefing
or Suicide Mission at the Fulda Gap

ABOVE: a nuclear capable M110 8-inch howitzer of C Battery, 6th Bn, 40th Artillery, is shown during live fire at Grafenwoehr in 1971. Notice airborne shell at top left. (Photo by Ron Chiste, Executive Officer of C Battery)


From Ron Chiste in 2005:
6th Bn, 40th Field Artillery, 3AD

In July, 1970 I arrived to my first permanent duty station in Hanau, West Germany, 6/40 Field Artillery (8" self-propelled howitzers - nuclear capable), after graduating from Artillery OCS and Paratrooper School. One of the unannounced monthly events to which we became accustomed were the surprise alerts during which we had to follow very detailed loading plans and move the entire battalion to an alert position to await further orders. It was a test of our speed and efficiency in preparing the battalion to move to its war position if "the balloon went up."

I had enlisted in the army at the age of 25 and had a bit of life experience under my belt, so I suppose I wasn't the typical unquestioning new lieutenant. At least once a year the battalion received a secret briefing from a general and his staff regarding war plans for the respective battalions. The briefing was referred to as the EDP (Emergency Deployment Position) Briefing and was held on the kaserne in a large room with armed guards posted and windows blackened. Plans for the transport and possible use of our nuclear rounds, of course, would be part of the discussion.

I was in awe attending my first briefing and listened intently as the general described the little amount of time the battalion would have to get to its position from the time it got the alert. In the time he gave us it would have been impossible to load all TO&E equipment and get to the position within or adjacent the Fulda Gap.

At the end of the briefing the general asked if there were any questions. I raised my hand to the utter disbelief of all the more senior officers in the room. I was a bit naive about the protocol at this point in my career. I was acknowledged and asked the question about the time he was allowing us. His response was amazing to us all, "You will not be taking tents, field kitchens, or anything like that with you. C and B Batteries will be racing across the Fulda River and A battery will be held in reserve."

And even more sobering was the general's next comment, which probably no one at that briefing has ever forgotten, "We don't expect C and B to come back."

There were no more questions and when we left the briefing the joke became, "How do we transfer to A Battery?" I think at that point we all gained a new sense of seriousness about our role in preventing the Soviet block from rolling across the East German and Czech borders to occupy Western Europe.

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