Last update: 7/11/06
United States Constabulary
The Circle "C" Cowboys
Army of Occupation
Germany and Austria
14th A/C US CON
his Constabulary Buddy Trooper Gilbert Matherne's
Phil Sandoval and his
wife Lala visits
Phil and his wife Lala were married almost 61 years.
Lala passed away 12/05/2014 surrounded by her family.
Those who knew Lala are invited to visit the webpage created by her family at:
Visits Trooper Gilbert J. Matherne's Grave
French Settlement, La
Left to Right:
Lala Sandoval, wife of Phil Sandoval,
Irene Moore, daughter of deceased Gilbert Matherne
Phil Sandoval, a Circle "C" Cowboy
Friendship that last even beyond the grave.
Phil and Gilbert had been in the 14th A/C U.S. Constabulary stationed in Fritzlar, Germany in 1948 and 1949.
Gilbert's family was excited to have Lala and Phil down south Louisiana for a visit.
Phil enjoys the Cajun cooking in La.
Phil writes of the Court Martial that almost happened!
We were in Vilseck, Germany right after we had finished the April Showers exercise that the regiment had been conducting in the field. We were in the field for a couple of weeks or so and then the company went to Vilseck so that the tankers and weapons platoon guys could get extra training.
We were there for a couple more weeks. The town of Vilseck was "off limits" so the Company Commander decided that beer could be sold in the Mess Hall during duty hours because only the guys in training were working. The rest of the company just lounged around the base with nothing to do. So after the Captain allowed beer during duty hours most off duty guys played horse shoes, played cards, drank beer or played catch and stuff like that.
The Radio Operators and Message center still worked our regular hours. So one Friday evening, Neil Aikin and Gilbert Matherne asked me if I would take their shifts for the weekend so that they could go to Fritzlar and Kassel to visit their girlfriends ("Fishy" and Elisabeth"). I agreed to do it. I was only 18 years old and the idea of missing a couple of nights sleep didn't bother me and I was indebted to Neil for guiding me into the radio section to become a radio operator.
They left for Fritzlar on Friday night and they got caught during bedcheck. Normally the CQ (Charge of Quarters, usually a CPL. or a SGT.) would overlook missing guys and they would have gotten away with it. But to their bad luck, an officer decided to accompany the CQ that night and of course he reported them AWOL.
When they showed up for roll call on Monday morning, they were charged with being AWOL and both were Court Martialed. The Regimental Executive Officer, a Lt. Col., conducted the trial and I was called in to testify. Gil and Neil were Cpl's, I was a private. I, of course, was put under oath to "tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God". Then I proceeded to lie like hell.
"I didn't know they went AWOL, how would I know that? I just thought that they wanted some time off so I agreed to take their shifts". The Col. asked a few more questions and then dismissed me. Gil was the one in the office when I was questioned and when I left, he told Gil that he knew I was lying and that I would also be Court Martialed for lying under oath. I thought that by not admitting that I knew they had gone AWOL they would drop the charges. Dumb me.
When Gil came out he told me what the Col. had said and I was scared but I figured, I'm already a Private so what can they do to me? Well, charges against me were not filed. I think that the Col. only said it to scare me and he did. But the two Cpl's didn't escape, they were busted to Private.
I don't remember if they recovered their rank before they left Germany. I was busted myself from Staff Sgt. a couple of years later when Truman extended our enlistment and I went berserk because I only had about a month to go to rotate back to the States and I hadn't been home in almost three years. So I went AWOL for 3 days. I didn't get a Court Martial but I was told to sign a letter requesting to be reduced to the lowest enlisted rank. It was either sign the letter or get a special Court Martial which called for "a fine, a bust to Private and maybe Stockade time". I signed. This way I was only busted and I was going to get busted anyway. I made it back to Sgt. and a promise to get the rank of Staff Sgt. if I re-enlisted. I declined the offer and came home.
Web Editors note: Gilbert and Neil reunites after 50 years.
Phil Sandoval and James
Lizyness crashes into the ditch - Fritzlar, Germany.
Written by Phil Sandoval
It was near
Fritzlar in 1950 or 1951. Most of the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment was out in
the field and the 1st Battalion, which normally pulled base guard duty, was out
in the field too. I very seldom was called to do guard duty because as a radio
operator we were exempt from that because of our duty hours and later as a
radio repairman, I was on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, when the
1st battalion was out, they called on as many people as were needed to guard
the base. I got called for guard duty and I was assigned as a guard in a town
near Fritzlar. Our job was to be on call if American dependents in the town
needed help. We would report for duty at 6:00 PM at the German police station
in town, remain there overnight, and get off duty at 6:00 AM. This morning
after we got off duty we started back to the base in Fritzlar. As we were going
down the road, it started to drizzle and the driver, PFC James Lizyness, was
driving a bit too fast for the road conditions. Many roads in Germany are cobblestone
and this one was one of them. I told Lizyness to slow down because the road was
too slick. He didn’t slow down and as we got to the top of the small hill we
were climbing, I told him to slow down again and before he could do it, he slid
out of control and we slid to the side of the road. We hit the ditch sideways
and we rolled over. The last thing I remember was starting to roll over and the
next moment, I was on the ground face down. When I was coming to, I could hear
far off in the distance a voice calling, “Sandy, Sandy!” It was Lizyness. I
opened my eyes but I couldn’t see and my first thought was, “I’m blind!” I
touched my face and it felt like hamburger and I thought I tore my face all up!
It didn’t hurt so I brushed my face again and then “I could see!”. I looked at
my hand and expected to see a bloody mess. It wasn’t, it was just mud from
where my face had been jammed into the ground. Then I felt this crushing weight
and I twisted my head and saw the jeep lying on top of me. The jeep had rolled
360 degrees and the left rear wheel had landed on my lower back and was pinning
me down. I yelled to Lizyness “to get this damned jeep off of me!” He tried to
lift it up by hand and he couldn’t budge it so he then got in the jeep, started
the engine and tried to drive it off. However, because the rear wheels were in
the muddy ditch, the wheel started spinning on top of me. I screamed for him to
stop and he did. He then put it in 4-wheel drive and was able to drive it off.
I got up from the mud and started picking up the radio that had fallen off the
radio mount and had to look for my “45 caliber” weapon that got out of the
holster and was buried in the mud. Once I found everything I told Lizyness to
get the jeep out of the field so we could go home. He was crying and said he
couldn’t because he was very nervous. He later told me that he was scared
because he thought that I was dead because I wasn’t responding when he was
calling me. I climbed in the driver’s seat and got the jeep back on the road
and we drove to Fritzlar. I was mad at him for driving too fast so I didn’t
even stop at the gate when we arrived at the base. I drove straight to our
company area but the guard had phone our orderly room to report that one of our
vehicles had just gone through the gate without stopping and that the top was
damaged. When we got to the company area, the 1st Sgt. and some other people
were waiting for us. The Sgt. asked us what had happened and I told him about
our accident and when I tried to get out of the jeep, an excruciating pain hit
me in the back and I couldn’t get out. I told the Sgt. to call the medics
because I was driving over there and tell them to help me get off the jeep.
When I arrived, they had several medics waiting outside and they lifted me out.
It hurt like hell and I kept yelling for them to give me a shot for the pain.
They ignored me and put me on a gurney and wheeled me inside to take an x-ray.
They found out that my back wasn’t broken so they finally gave me a shot and
some pain killer. They put me under a heat lamp where I stayed for several
hours. They told me I was badly bruised but that no bones had been broken. I
was given light duty for several weeks. I limped around for a while but being a
young enough kid I recovered eventually. I recovered enough to not feel any
pain for long periods of time but over the years I would have recurring bouts
of back pain and they would last from a few days to several weeks. Sometimes I
had to miss work because of the severe back pain. But I believe that I’m a
lucky man. I recovered from the accidents I had in the Army and am very proud
to have served in the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment of the United States
was in Vilseck (near Grafenwohr) Germany in the Spring of 1949.
Written by Phil Sandoval
The 14th Armored
Cavalry Regiment had been on field exercises before we went to Vilseck. We went
to there so that the Tankers and Weapons Platoon guys could receive extra
training. Since the training was only for them, the rest of the company was basically
off duty. However, the Radio Operators and the Message Center guys still worked
our normal shifts. The town of Vilseck was “off limits” for the troops, so the
company commander allowed beer to be sold in the mess hall during duty hours.
We played horseshoes and ball during the day to pass the hours. Beer was only
ten cents a canteen cup. After the completion of the training, we left the camp
and were on our way to Fritzlar. We stopped outside the base in a bivouac area
for an overnight stay and the Colonel, the regimental commander, parked his
jeep under a high tension line and ordered the rest of the Hq. Company to park
in line beside his jeep. We should not have parked there because communication
radios do not work well under electric wires but you don’t argue with a Colonel
so we did as we were ordered. Neil Aikin was in the back of a 2 ½ ton truck in
the HO17. (Radio hut that slides into the bed of the truck). We were pulling a
PE 95 power generator in a trailer behind us. Before we left camp, the operator
on duty, maybe Neil, noticed that the generator was missing and so when we
stopped outside in the bivouac area, Sgt. Harry Robbins, our radio chief,
noticed that the sediment bowl on the fuel line was filled with sediment. He
told me to remove it and to clean it and blow on the fuel line to unplug the
line. We both worked on it, he was on top of the generator and I was on the
ground. As I put the sediment bowl back in place, we turned on the generator
and noticed that the bowl was leaking. I couldn’t tighten it with my hand so I
grabbed a pair of pliers and started to tighten the knurled nut on the sediment
bowl to stop the leaking gas. While I was doing that, Sgt. Robbins told the
operator on duty to get back on the air so one guy jumped on top of the HO17 to
raise the three whip antennas that had been tied down during our trip. When one
of the released antennas hit the high voltage line (they told me later that it
carried 18,000 volts), the high voltage arced across the antenna insulator and
went through the trailer hitch and through me as I was standing on the ground
and leaning on the trailer fender. The pliers I had in my hand caused a spark
and the leaking gas caught on fire. I felt as if I were flying through the air
and 50 years later, Neil Aikin confirmed that I did indeed was thrown through
the air and did a ground loop and landed on my stomach. I knew I had been hit
with high voltage and as I went flying, I told Sgt. Robbins, “Help me Robby”
and that’s all I remember as I passed out. When the guys checked me, they found
that I was not breathing. Sgt. Robbins started artificial respiration on me.
Another guy, I think it may have been Sgt. Robert Bauer, the Platoon Sgt.,
grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out the fire at the sediment bowl. I
received a burn on my leg where I was leaning on the fender of the PE95 trailer
(the high voltage shock burned a hole in my pants‘ leg). I got another burn on
my hand where I held the pliers and another on my arm where it was resting on
the trailer side. As a bunch of the fellows continued to performed artificial
respiration because I still was not breathing, I remember starting to come to
my senses and it seemed to me as if I was in a glass of green milk. It was
springtime and there was a lot of green grass growing all around and all I
could see was a green milky fog swirling around me. But I still wasn’t
breathing on my own and as I struggled to breath in air and I could hear the
guys working on me say that I still wasn’t breathing and to keep pumping but I
struggled so much trying to suck in air that they couldn’t hold me down. As I
stood up, I finally was able to start breathing air on my own and they were
still holding on to me until I said, “You can let me go, I’m alright now.” But
when they released me, I fell to the ground because I was so weak that I
couldn’t stand up on my own. An Ambulance came and whisked me off to a field
hospital and the medics carried me into a tent where a doctor treated me. The
skin and flesh on my leg was gone all the way to the bone by my right knee
where I was burned and it hurt like hell. I could see the shiny bare white bone
when the Doctor raised my pant’s leg and he asked me if it hurt. I was hurting
so much that I didn’t think when I answered, “Of course it hurts, you dumb son
of a bitch.” He grinned and got up and got an icy cold cream and put it on my
wound and it almost immediately got rid of the pain. After he dressed it, I
apologized when I realized I had called a Captain, an SOB. He smiled and said
that he should have realized it was hurting and there was no need to apologize.
He was going to send me to a hospital but I didn’t want to go so he finally
released me back to my unit and he put me on light duty. However, the next
morning I was so stiff I couldn't move anything but my eyes without hurting all
over. I was one lucky fellow!! It did seem to affect me though, I spent a lot
of time just sitting in the sun - not talking - just sitting and thinking that
I was one lucky son of a gun. Days later after we were in Fritzlar, Sgt. Joe
Babineau told me that I owed him a bottle of cognac. I asked him why and he
said that when I had the accident, that he had just opened a new bottle of
cognac and was about to take the first drink when someone came running and told
him, “Sandy just got killed!” He was so shocked that he dropped the bottle and
it broke. I gladly bought the new bottle. I sure was glad that I could because
I was able to drink it with them and not have them drink it in memory of me.
They deserved a lot more, they saved my life.