Bob Tade worked construction for a couple of years following graduation from Lancaster High School in 1960. When he discovered he was sixth in line for the draft in Schuyler County, Mo., he decided it was time to enlist in the Army.
“I wanted to give myself a choice,” he said. “I was allowed to make a choice, but I got what the Army gave me.”
What the Army gave Tade was a 34-month assignment in Germany, but not until he had completed 10 weeks of basic training at Fort Chaffee, Ark.
“I did a lot of growing up after going to Germany near the Czech border,” he said. “I learned you better take this world seriously.
“As we sat there at night, we could hear the Russian and Czech tank engines fire up. They were just across the border from us. We would do the same thing. There was a lot of yelling and carrying on — a lot of scare tactics that kept you awake at night.”
Tade related a coincidence that his son, Gavin — who is in the Air Force — discovered recently. “Gavin has a friend who is a pilot and he told him about my experience on the Czech border,” Tade said.
“The friend replied that his father served on the Czech border at the same time,” Tade said, “but his father was on the Czech side.”
Tade served in the Air Cavalry with many incoming young pilots and crew chiefs, who were later sent to Vietnam.
“The Air Cavalry was just being built up. We were quite the attraction,” he said.
Tade was not a pilot. He was the company clerk, but enjoyed flying in helicopters.
Tade said the Air Cavalry served as a scouting unit for armored divisions. “We were in the Hof Corridor on the shoulder of the gap where you come into Germany,” he said.
This was near a valley off the Fulda Gap, where it was anticipated the Russians might come through that area to hit Frankfurt. “Once they would have hit Frankfurt, they would have had Europe,” Tade said. “That was the main gateway into Germany from eastern Europe.”
Tade said his unit had 33 officers and one clerk. “The clerk’s job got to be too much,” he said, “but I could type and they put me where they wanted.”
Eventually, Tade said he was moved to supply, where he “tried to make everybody happy and get what they needed.”
Tade said he worked five days a week, and sometimes on weekends.
While some of the duties may have been mundane, there were times that were intense, Tade said.
“We heard a big crash one day,” he said. “An H34 helicopter had been in maintenance. A test pilot took it up 50 feet, when a rotor blade hit the ground. There was lots of smoke but not much fire. The metal burned, but we did manage to get the pilot out.”
Tade also recalls moving a big gun from Schwabach (about 20 miles from Nuremburg) to an old German airfield that still had swastikas on one building. There were two trucks — one on each end — of the gun with a nuclear shell that could have done a lot of damage.
“There were plugged up tunnels under the airfield with big signs on steel doors that said, ‘Keep out!’ The tunnels under that area led to Konserns (satellite bases).
“They told us our life expectancy was three minutes if the Russians would have struck. That made us think. You grow up fast under these circumstances,” he said.
Tade recalls Dutch pilots coming to the base to see American helicopters. “Our pilot brought in an American helicopter too hard and it mashed the skids out flat underneath. The Dutch thought it was supposed to do that,” he laughed.
Tade also recalls one circumstance that could have cost him and a buddy their lives. “We were out on a field exercise when someone parked a Jeep and left it running so the company commander’s radios would be on for constant contact. The exhaust pipe was aimed at our tent. A medic walked past and noticed I was ‘out of it’ and so were two guys in the tent.
“They took us to the hospital and put us in the shower. It felt like we were being stuck with 10,000 needles.
“It could have been just a short time before we succumbed,” he said.
“After that, they had a policy of parking the Jeep in the open.”
Part of the soldiers’ training in Germany was rappelling out of helicopters. “You had to step out of the helicopter with a harness on, hang on to the rope, and go down 30 feet or so,” Tade said. “Everyone had to do it.”
These exercises prepared the soldiers who were sent on to Vietnam for “roping” into the jungles.
Another vivid memory of Tade’s was Nov. 22, 1963 — the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. “Soldiers all over Europe were on high alert,” he said.
Tade did appreciate the sightseeing opportunities they were afforded while in Germany.
“We got to see Dachau (concentration camp), which they were still cleaning up, and we visited Nuremburg where a lot of damage from World War II was still evident.”
Tade also enjoyed seeing the many castles and said, “Oktoberfest over there is super. Everyone should experience this at least once.”
When Tade returned to the U.S. in 1964, he first worked for Caterpillar, then John Deere. He and wife Carol were married in 1965 after a long-distance courtship. She had her degree in education, and convinced Tade to go to school on the GI bill.
He enrolled in Northeast Missouri State University and received his industrial arts degree in education.
“I gave the military three years, and they gave me an education,” he said.
After teaching in Lancaster for a year and a half, Tade came to Davis County and taught for 29 years.
“There was never a year that I didn’t have to say, ‘I can’t take any more students in building and trades’” he said. “There were always kids wanting into that class.
“I always told them, ‘I’ve got the best job at DCHS.’ I could watch them as their houses progressed and say, ‘We did that!’”
Looking back on his experience in the service, Tade said, “I think every child that comes out of school should have a two-year commitment of some kind, two years of serve to the military, Peace Corps, or mission work, especially if they don’t know what they want to do.”