Worst Army Ground Accident - Graf, Germany, 9-2-60

Arnaudville, LA

Military Honor & Remembrance

Jerry Quebedeaux enlisted in the Army on Sept. 29, 1959, at 17, to earn educational benefits for attending college upon separation. He met his wife Marie Prejean the night before leaving for the induction center in New Orleans. After completing basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in 1959 and advanced artillery training at Fort Sill, Okla. In February 1960, he was assigned to Fort Dix, N.J., to await transport to Bremen Harbor, Germany, upon the transport ship USS Darby. From Bremen Harbor, he was transported by train to the 3rd Artillery Battalion, 3rd Armored Division, Battery “C,” located on the Ayers Caserne in Butzbach, Germany.
On his 18th birthday - Sept. 2, 1960 - he experienced the worst U.S. ground training accident of the entire Cold War. Just after roll call on a rainy Friday morning, 16 soldiers were killed and 27 were wounded when a 200-pound artillery shell landed among them at Camp Kasserine, Grafenwoehr, Germany. All of the men were from the 3rd Reconnaissance Squadron, 12th Calvary, 3rd Armored Division. The shell, which had an incorrect charge due to human error, was fired by a V Corps Artillery unit. Soldiers of the 3rd Armored Division - including myself and Colin Powell, a 1st Lt. 48th Infantry, CCB, 3rd Armored - assembled in a hollow with 16 gaps in the ranks before an altar located between two fir trees. See the enclosed photo of the altar displaying the 16 departed soldiers' helmets.
Jerry returned home for Christmas holiday leave from Dec. 15, 1960, to Jan. 15, 1961. On Friday, Jan. 13, Jerry and Marie were married with a brief honeymoon prior to Jerry leaving for Butzbach on Jan. 15. Marie later joined him to continue their honeymoon while living in a German economy apartment located in Bad Nauheim, Germany, about three blocks from the hotel where Elvis Presley and his dad lived while he was serving in the 3rd Armored. It was a ten-mile train commute from Bad Nauheim to Butzbach. About three months later, Jerry and Marie moved to an apartment located about three blocks from the Ayers Caserne Post, where they enjoyed use of the base PX, movies, bowling alley, church chapel and other sites. They later purchased a brand new 1962 Volkswagen Beetle from their landlord who was a VW Dealer, and brought it back home upon Jerry’s separation from the Army.
Due to the commencement of the Berlin Wall Crisis in late spring 1962 and assignment to the military dependent emergency evacuation team, Jerry had Marie return home to wait for him pending his separation from the Army. Upon separation Jerry pursued a career in law enforcementm where he first served with the Houston Police Department and later with the Louisiana State Police where he secured his college diploma in police administration from Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill. Jerry retired with the Louisiana State Police on April 9, 1990, after serving as deputy superintendent, the highest classified position within the Louisiana State Police.
Marie made Jerry the proud father of a son and daughter and many grand and great-grandchildren, with whom they share their military honors and remembrance.

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