Aberdeen Proving Ground ……. From the point of view of its weapons, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is generally known as the nerve center of the United States Army. For it is here that the work of developing and testing the majority of the Army’s weapons is carried on, together with that other all-important job, the training of Ordnance soldiers who will maintain and repair them on the field of battle.
The men who command this greatest of all Ordnance Posts were chosen for their keen foresight and vast experience in the development of arms and ammunition and the handling and training of men. At their head is Major General Charles T. Harris, Jr., holder of the Distinguished Service Medal, and Commanding General of Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Under General Harris are four large divisions; Ordnance Replacement Training Center, Ordnance School, Bomb Disposal School, Ordnance Research Center. A brief discussion of each of these components, will clearly show the vital role APG plays in the world of today.
The Ordnance Replacement Training Center ranks with the largest of the four divisions. It is commanded by Brig. Gen. Donald Armstrong. His Executive Officer is Col. M. E. Wilson. Here the fresh recruits from civil life go through the early hardening process known as “basic training.” Drill, classes on Ordnance materiel, obstacle courses, combat courses and mental conditioning in which trainees are under fire of live ammunition, are all part of this primary step in becoming Ordnance soldiers.
After they have had their ^basic training, these trainees if they prove ready for more specialized training, are graduated to “technical training.” Here they become specialized Ordnance men, learning in detail about ammunition, small arms, artillery and other Ordnance materiel in both classrooms and shops.
After they have finished their technical courses, they are often graduated into the famed Ordnance School. The commandant is West Point graduate Col. Willis R. Slaughter, whose assistant is Lt. Col. Edgar H. Kibler. This enterprising school covers many acres of the Training Center, and the graduates are recognized as some of the most efficient and well-trained troops in the field.
One of the most important components of the Ordnance School is the Ordnance Officer Candidate School, which has trained thousands of enlisted men to lead their fellows as officers in the field. In addition, they also instruct other thousands of commissioned Ordnance officers in special courses designed to keep them abreast of the ever-increasing improvements in our weapons.
In the training of enlisted men, their graduates are the most highly trained specialists of the Ordnance Department. These soldiers, in their own fields, can perform such delicate operations as repairing damaged field glasses or such ponderous ones as transporting a tank from the battlefield, dismantling it and repairing it for re-use.
One more important part of Aberdeen is the Bomb Disposal School, commanded by Col. Thomas J. Kane. Assistant Commandant is Major Martin L. Ehrman. This Bomb Disposal school of the Ordnance Dept. is composed entirely of volunteer officers and men because of its nature. Their job is to remove “UXB’s,” or unexploded bombs and booby traps, from neighborhoods where they endanger life and valuable property.
After the Germans dropped their eggs on England in the early days of the war, many heroic Britons died to give to the world a knowledge of how Nazi time bombs could be rendered harmless. In every one of the rapidly increasing retreats of the Germans, our soldiers find a large wake of booby traps and deadly mines. At Aberdeen, Ordnance Bomb Disposal men learn the methods of sapping every known type.
These three divisions go into making up the Training Center. It is here that the human element of Ordnance is found. Men who will be the expert mechanics and technicians to service our weapons on the battlefield,”doctors of Ordnance”, “the Mechanical Doctors”, are made here. They are trained to battle the same as any combat soldiers, in addition to their technical knowledge.
The fourth and most vital component, the Ordnance Research Center, is directed by Col. G. G. Eddy. His Executive Officer is Lt. Col. August Schomburg. Under his orders are varied departments and units. These may be grouped into three major divisions.
First is the Arms and Ammunition Division under Lt. Col. John W. Cave. Here also is a vital testing laboratory in which a large number of the secret weapons of the Army first materialize. Many others, designs of independent inventors, are brought to this department for development and perfection. From the Army’s streamlined, lightweight .30 caliber carbine to the huge 16-inch monsters, this division achieves mechanical perfection of performance and design.
Another important part of their job is the testing of all these guns before they are shipped to the soldiers in the field. It is Aberdeen’s task to verify the quality and performance of the big and little guns manufactured in the arsenals of America.
Second is the Automotive Test and Research Division, which is headed by Lt. Col. Edward Gray. In this huge array of shops, test roads and laboratories, every vehicle used by the Army is examined with a fine tooth comb. Tanks, half-tracks, armored scout cars, jeeps and amphibious vehicles are all carefully scrutinized for performance, quality and endurance. In the Automotive Research Laboratory the component parts of our Army’s vehicles, wheels, treads, pistons, radiators and all, are broken down and analyzed. This division develops many improvements over accepted transportation and conducts exhaustive tests of new and untried experimental vehicles.
In the third division are some of the most acute scientific minds of the world. Physicists, astronomers, mathematicians and engineers have been mustered from all branches of industry and education to staff the Ordnance Department’s great Ballistic Research Laboratory, Director of which is Col. Leslie E. Simon.
Here the vital statistics of what happens to projectiles in both the interior of the gun and in flight are studied and tabulated. With these statistics, accurate firing tables are worked out for Army gunners and automatic firing devices are set to send shells and bullets unerringly to their targets.
This is a brief synopsis of the tamed Aberdeen Proving Ground, and why it is known as the “nerve center” of the United States Army. Here are fired the “shots heard ’round the world” !