Post 459: 69th Signal Company (Photo)

Between July 2, 1970, and November 30, 1972, I was a motion picture photographer assigned to the 69th Signal Company (Photo), Kleber Kaserne, Kaiserslautern, Germany. All military units seem to have their slogans, expressions of their pride and esprit de corps. The 69th Signal’s was: “If it’s photo, forget it,” and “Our best is none too good”.

Mostly, though, we were seriously good at what we did, and the slogans were satirical commentary on the goofiness of these slogans. We collected them during our travels to other units, and they were a source of a chuckle or two!

The 16mm Arriflex camera in this photo is  like the one I used.

The 16mm Arriflex camera in this photo is like the one I used.

Twice, we motion picture photographers took tours of the Munich factory where Arriflex motion picture cameras are made. That was extremely instructive and fun. We enjoyed the chance to see how our cameras were made, and to let the men responsible know how much we loved to use their cameras! Besides, they served us breakfast…with beer! What gracious hosts! 😉

When we weren’t on assignment, the photographers hid out on the soundstage. If our first sergeant looked like he needed a detail to clean up or buff floors, we made sure we had busy work (finishing captions sheets to include with our exposed film, loading film magazines, unloading film magazines, heading out for the morning or afternoon break at the PX snack bar…) to avoid such nonsense.

Soundstage at the 69th Signal Company (Photo), with "busy" photographer in chair.

Soundstage at the 69th Signal Company (Photo), with “busy” photographer in chair.

Sometimes busy work that was more fun came up, and one tried to be available for that: picking up the mail, abusing the Wednesday afternoon PT requirement by organizing 10 speed tours of the area (and stopping for beer and heavy German meals at different Gasthofs), and escorting fellow company members with bad attitudes and incarceration in their future or past to and from the lock up in Mannheim.That gave us an excuse to sign out a Jeep and wear a 45 in a cool holster, for example…!

Remember, America! You paid for this! On the other hand, the 69th Signal Company (Photo) was disbanded at some time after I was there. Kleber Kaserne (or the buildings) still are there, and the link gives a bit of history on the installation. I lived in the building (shown in the small photo in the link) with the bell tower. There was no clock in it at the time, but it since has been remodelled and a clock reinstalled.

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26 thoughts on “Post 459: 69th Signal Company (Photo)

    • Interesting! We’d switched to 16mm by 1970. I had a 10mm lens that was left over from the35mm days that was my favorite lens on my Arriflex!

      It was an amazing lens that shaped my mopic style, which was handheld (well, on that articulated brace Arri’s used) and deep into the action instead of static, like you get with a trip of. On a 16mm camera, it was a wide angle lens that showed very little unsteadiness, and I got great reviews from the Pentagon people who reviewed my film work.

      We had a civilian supervisor (I guess you’d call him) who came out of Heidelberg and drove an Opel Manta, I think it was.

      He was a “sporty” fellow with white hair, and his primary concern was arranging places for photo teams to go to shoot hometowner films and photos.

      I presume he worked out of the Heidelberg lab, which I never saw.

  1. I enjoy this discussion about 69th Signal(Photo). Brings back so many memories. I was there 62-64 but I don’t remember many names. Capt Peake was our CO. and I had a friend Lt Roy Goodwin from Augusta, Ga. He was married. I tried to locate him in Augusta but was not successful. Frau Flug was a civilian lab tec as well as Inga Bollbuck. I don’t know how long they stayed at the unit after I left. Anyone have any knowledge of them? Note we photo covered “Operation Big Lift” , East Berlin military parade and President Kennedy visit. I have some of the photos from that photographic mission.

    • Neither of those ladies was there (to my knowledge) when I was there in 1970-72, but I didn’t have contact with many civilians working there. The staff people, of course, were different than those you knew, and several changed while I was there (the CO, the 1st Sergeant, others).

    • I was in the 69th during 1961-62 period. We were housed in the barracks shown in the front door picture above. I worked in personnel in the pictorial center. I left there in 1962 and was later working on an AirForce contract in 1966 at Ramstein and went back to Kleber to see how things had changed. During that time frame is when they moved to the tower bldg because they were then when I visited in 1966. Also when I left in 1962 the Kaserne had the guard gates and when I returned in 1966 it was an open post. Just a few memories. Thanks for this blog.

      • eI wondered when the move to the tower building occurred. I saw a picture from the period when you were in another building that I couldn’t place on Kleber Kaserne (I guess….!). Though the kaserne was unguarded most of the time I was there, after the Baader-Meinhof Group robbed a bank in Kaiserslautern, killing at least one person and bombed the headquarters in Heidelberg, among other things, they reinstalled guards at the old entrance. Of course, since the 69th Signal Company (Photo) building was outside the easiest access to the kasserne, we had to go through the business of establishing we were genuine US Army personnel each time we went back to our barracks! The alternative was to take the long way back that was still all inside the kaserne. Good old army! Thank for adding more information to the history of our company! I learned things today, thanks to you, Ted.

    • John Gallagher Was in K-Town when Capt Peake was the CO. I was a Team chief of one of the Special Photo Alert Force (SPAF) There were six Teams of 6 (Motion,sound color,Still -the works). It was formed by DOD and we were dispacthed throughout Europe at a moments notice.

      • While we were dispatched across Europe, occasionally the Near East, things had slowed down by 1970-1972. Most of our jobs were PR work (to justify our existence?!) or filming things like Reforger. The mopic teams sometimes didn’t include still photographers, but mostly we went out with at least one, maybe two, with two or three mopic guys. My team leader was a mopiuc guy, too, so we always were top heavy with mopic assets, which meant we could do a pretty thorough job.

  2. Hi, I am looking for anyone who might have served with my brother Richard Stoll, during maybe 1970 to 1978 ? I think he worked in the Photo Lab in Kaiserlautern. Rich passed away a few years ago and I just wonder about his life over in Germany at that time.
    Thank you all for your Service!
    Nancy

    • I don’t remember him. That doesn’t mean anything, though, because I didn’t have much contact with people who worked at the center. I was out of town on jobs most of the time.

      • Do you know what year they disbanded I was there until March of 73 I knew stoll he was a sergeant and he did work in the photo lab one heck of a nice guy

        • No, I was surprised to find out it no longer existed. I imagine the reduction in forces after the end of the American involvement in Vietnam and similar reductions in Europe contributed to the end of the company. I mean, when your variable re-enlistment variable is 1, there isn’t much indication the military truly valued the work you did in photographic services!

    • So sorry to find out Richard has passed He was a very large influence on my life and was my mentor as well as my friend.lwas in his platoon from April 74 until my reassignment to the Pentagon two years later. We had some great times together, in the field, and even a trip to Amsterdam on Uncle Sam…He could find anything…Write me anytime. lunybill@gmail.com.

      • Nancy Morales, Richard’s sister probably would enjoy contact with you since you remember him fondly and did specific things with him. Unfortunately, I don’t think her name is a link to a blog or source of email address.

        • Hi All,
          I really didn’t think that anyone would reply about my brother Richard Stoll. He was the best to me and I think of him often. Anyone who would like to share any thoughts I would love to hear from you.
          Nancy Stoll

        • Thank you for reaching out about my brother Richard Stoll. I really didn’t think anyone would reply. He was a good brother to me and I miss him still.
          Nancy

          • The company has a short history in Kaiserslautern, and anyone who worked there is of interest to me.

  3. I SERVED IN THE 69TH FROM 8/62 TO 8/64. WHEN I FIRST ARRIVED WE WERE HOUSED IN A FORMER FRENCH BARRACKS THAT WAS PICTURED ON THE FIRST PAGE ON THE 69TH INFO. AT SOME POINT DURING MY STAY WE MOVED TO THE TOWER BLDG. I ALSO LIKE ED WENT TDY FOR PRESIDENT KENNEDY’S VISIT. I WAS ALSO THERE FOR THE CUBAN CRISIS. MOST OF MY TIME I LIVED ON THE ECONOMY AS MY FAMILY WAS THERE. I HAVE MANY FOND MEMORIES OF MY TIME IN K-TOWN

    • I wondered when the move to the tower happened….! Like you, I have many fond memories of my time in the 69th Signal Company (Photo) and the tdy opportunities I had while there. Berlin always was a favorite tdy, though I liked Greece and Italy (of what I experienced….!), too. It also helped to have friends living in Paris. I visited them there and in Strasbourg, and helped with the vintage one day (which was enough!) in the village of Hunawihr.Of course, visits to the Deutsche Weinstrasse were a treat and very doable as a day trip. Heidelberg was fun. I would like to have spent more time in Salzberg than I managed, but the short time there was sufficient to see (if not visit….) Mozart’s home.

  4. I was at 69th signal Co (Photo) in Kaiserslautern from 1962-1964. Frankly, I can’t remember but a couple of soldiers I served with; however, Inga Bollbuck, a civilian lab technician was a friend. I supervised processing labs when our photographers covered the Pres. Kennedy visit to Berlin, etc. Ed

    • That was six years before i got there, and I don’t recall Inga. She must have left by then or was one of those I didn’t have contact with. That must have been an interesting TDY for those covering the president! The most I got to cover was the mayor of Berlin, an under secretary of the US Army, and lots of military big shots none of us remember. I loved TDY to Berlin, though, even when we didn’t film anything particularly exciting. Hometowners (short films showing people doing their military jobs; these were ostensibly sent to a television station nearest where the person came from in the states, though I honestly can’t ever remember seeing any in my life other than the review prints we got of our work!) may not have been the most interesting work I got to do, but they got me to Berlin several times, and that was a treat! I’m still hoping I’ll come across someone whose time overlapped mine a bit. I have regular contact with a few of them, but not all I’d like to catch up with. Regardless, Ed, it’s interesting to find out more about what that company was doing before I got there. I saw some of the films, and became familiar with the styles of several of the historic mopic photographers. That was fun!

  5. I WAS AT THE 69TH FROM 72-73 I WORKED IN THE FILM LIBARY AND I ALSO WAS A COURIER DRIVER GOING TO H BURG TO STRACOM AND ALL OVER. THOSE WERE THE GOOD OLE DAYS I WISH I COULD SEE MORE PHOTOS OF THE COMPANY AREA I AM 62 NOW ID LIKE TO SEE IT AGIAN BEFORE I GET TO OLD TO REMEMBER I WAS A YOUNG KID ENJOYING EVERYTHING FOR THE FRIST TIME IT ALL SEAMS LIKE A DREAM NOW. I LIKE YOUR BOG ALOT THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES

    • I was there until the last day of November 1972. Were you there before then or did we just miss each other? The think I remember most about the film library was the pretty young woman who worked there, Angelika. She had nothing to do with me or any other GIs except one. And he dumped her after promising to take her back to America….!So, it seems her mistruist of GIs was well-placed. His name was Rico and he was an Adonis. I think he had a car and was nice looking, charming, the sorts of things that might appeal to a young woman.

      I also enjoyed my time there. One of my army buddies went back to Kaiserslautern a few years ago, and noted there were many changes. For one thing, the barracks with the clock tower that was the 69th Signal Company (Photos)’s when I was there was turned into offices. The parade ground is a huge parking lot. If you go to Google Earth, you can see Kleber Kaserne from the air. Germany has a privacy law that prohibits the ground-level Google shots that make it fun to “visit” other places where you can take virtual; road trips, seeing exactly what was on the ground at the time the Google car went through.

      I’m glad you like my blog, but I am especially pleased to make your acquaintance shine you and I were part of one of the more interesting US Army operations that no longer exists.

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