TOWER BARRACKS, Germany – U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria recently dedicated a long overdue memorial to Soldiers killed in a training accident, Sept. 2, 1960, at Camp Kasserine.
Just after roll call, Sept. 2, 1960, on a rainy Friday morning an artillery shell was fired during a training exercise of the 3rd Armored Division and missed its target area and landed in Camp Kasserine where Soldiers of the Division's 3rd Reconnaissance Squadron, 12th Cavalry, were staying.
Sixteen Soldiers died and 27 suffered injuries, making it Grafenwoehr’s worst training accident to this day.
“Sixty-three years may have passed, but the impact of that fateful day still resonates within our community,” said Col. Kevin A. Poole, USAG Bavaria Garrison commander. “They were prepared to face the perils of war, to stand strong in the face of adversity but fate had a different plan, and their lives were cut short.” … “As we dedicate this memorial, may this spot be not just about remembrance but also serve as symbol of our gratitude and our respect.”
One of the attendees of the memorial dedication was John Romweber, a teacher at Vilseck High School and son of one of the victims. He moved to Bavaria in 2010, the year of the 50th anniversary of the accident.
“I am very pleased that this memorial is put here today,” said John Romweber. “When I moved here 13 years ago, I looked for this memorial. I thought there would be something going on for the 50th anniversary of this significant tragedy but there was nothing. I think it is appropriate that there is a memorial here.”
The memorial was originally planned for 2020 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
His father, Pfc. George Peter Romweber, was in one of the tents when the impact happened.
“It was early in the morning. My father was in the tent and he had a man on his shoulders because it was raining and they were putting down a rain flap when the explosion happened,” John Romweber recounts. “My father always told me that the man he had on his shoulders is why my dad survived, because that man took all of the impact. This man protected my father. Sadly, I do not know who this man was.”
George Peter Romweber was born in 1940, volunteered for the Army, and was with the 12th Cavalry, 3rd Armored Division as a tank driver.
"When I was a kid, I recall hearing that my father was the only one in his tent to survive the blast, regaining consciousness among severed arms and legs and not knowing if they belonged to him," John Romweber said. “My dad always felt like he was profoundly lucky to survive.”
Pfc. Romweber's recovery took 18 months and eight surgeries. By the time he was healthy, his time in the Army was over.
Sgt. 1st Class (Ret.) Mark Williams, head of the 3rd Squadron 12 Cavalry Association attended the ceremony as well and flew all the way from Alabama to Germany to attend the ceremony.
“We go out and try to get things done to create a place for our history,” Williams said. “And to let other people know about our history because we are a unit that was taken away after the cold war. Now we are trying to make sure our history gets written down.”
Colin Powell, American statesman and retired four-star general, was witness to this tragedy as he experienced the whole accident as a first lieutenant while he was stationed in Grafenwoehr.
In his autobiography Powell describes the event as follows:
"It was a morning after pay-day in the summer of 1960. Our brigade had gone to Grafenwöhr for field training. The troops were to be billeted in over six hundred general-purpose tents. Our company had not yet arrived in force, but a sister unit, the 12th Cavalry, had come in the night before. Its tents were full of troops, still asleep at this early hour. I was returning from a bartering mission with another company's exec, bringing rations I had traded for back to our mess hall. My ears pricked up at an odd, whistling sound overhead. In about a nanosecond, I realized it was an artillery shell that had strayed wildly out of the impact area. I stopped, frozen, and actually saw the 8-inch round come in. It struck a tent pole in the 12th Cavalry's sector, detonating in an air burst. The roar was deafening, followed by a terrifying silence. […] I had seen a hundred war movies, but nothing had prepared me for the sights I saw that day." -- Colin Powell: My American Journey, 1995, p. 49 -- 50.
The memorial can be found at the parade field on Tower Barrac
ks next to Bldg. 621. It displays the names of all Soldiers who lost their live due to the tragedy.
Names of those killed:
- Pfc. Robert E. Barofaldi
- Spc. 4th Class James B. Beckworth
- Sgt. Charles Cochran
- Spc. Jack L. Eastham
- Pfc. Norman D. Harris
- Pfc. Michael J. Higman
- Spc. 4th Class Earl Johnson
- Pfc. David L. Love
- Pfc. Elmo M. Lucas
- Sgt. 1st Class Jack W. Mappin
- Spc. 4th Class William A. Merrill
- Pfc. Charles L. Nelson
- Pfc. J. C. Parker
- Pfc. George Pleshakov
- Sgt. 1st Class Edward Rogers
- Pfc. Augustus J. Saurino