The VII Army Corps of the United States Army was one of the two principal corps of the army in Europe during the Cold War, along with V Corps. It was subordinate to the Seventh Army, or USAREUR, throughout most of its existence and based outside of Stuttgart, West Germany.
In the mid 1950’s and into the 1960’s, the "Cold War" between the West and the Soviets was heating up. If war were to break out, the US Military didn’t have any units that could provide extended long-range 24 hour all weather target acquisition and intelligence from deep behind enemy lines.
THE LRRP COMPANIES AND DETACHMENTS
As early as 1958, the Seventh Army in Europe published a Training Circular 20-1 that directed that each Division maintain Long Range Patrols. In February 1958, the first Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol evaluation tests using Provisional Units were conducted in FTX "SABRE HAWK".
They assembled a group of personnel. They were given two or three weeks training and were then sent to the field. There was one problem with all the Provisional Units, they failed to establish satisfactory communications! Major Hunt
After initial testing using Provisional Units, a Table of Distribution was approved and issued on 15 July 1961 and under TOE 7-157 the Corps LRRP Companies in the Seventh Army were activated. With DOA approval, Major Maltese proceeded to set up the VII Corps LRRP Company (ABN), APO 46. Major Maltese became, at his request, the first Commanding Officer and Paddy Flynn was selected to be the company’s 1SGT. The new company’s designation would be "USA LRRP Co (ABN) 3780".
A search of the VII Corps area for suitable quarters for the new company was found at Nellingen Barracks located southeast of Stuttgart, Germany. SP/4 Louis Durnavich, of the 558th ORD Company, recalls the day in 1961 when Major Maltese and 1Sgt Flynn walked in with orders to take over their barracks.
With the takeover of these barracks, the pre-WWII building was now the new home of the VII Corps LRRP Company. Major Maltese and 1Sgt Flynn now began the search for suitable personnel, and a call went out for volunteers. Many of those who responded were veterans of WWII and/or the Korean conflict. Some had already served in the Army’s Special Forces. Others were American or German Ranger qualified. Still others were veterans of other US armed forces; a few had served in foreign armies or had been born and raised overseas and were fluent in other languages. Many of these men were former Army Paratroopers who saw an opportunity to get back on jump status by volunteering for the new company of LRRPs. The Assignments NCO at VII Corps would give Major Maltese a call once a month and say, "I’ve got a list of people you might be interested in." Major Maltese would go over the list and pick out the ones he wanted. “We had a full company - it really filled up well. We got permission to recruit - most of them came from the "505". I remember old Herb something from B Co 505, he tried to discourage them, called us a bunch of candy-asses, so I went up there - hell, I'm about forty-one years old, but in pretty good shape, and I said, "I'll take you out and we'll see who comes back." That was the end of that discussion. Col. Maltese
Included in this new group of LRRPs were military personnel who had already been awarded our Country’s highest military decorations. Others would later distinguish themselves and receive recognition for their service in Vietnam. One former VII Corps LRRP, Glenn H. English, Jr., would posthumously be awarded our country’s highest recognition for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his personal actions while serving in the Republic of South Vietnam.
Three other LRRP Companies were also formed in Europe. USA LRRP Co (ABN) 3779, was attached to V Corps, commanded by Major Reese Jones, with Gilberto M. Martinez as 1SGT. V Corps LRRP Co. was located in Wildflecken, near the "Fulda Gap" invasion route. In Northern Italy, the SETAF LRRP Company was established with Major James Stamper commanding. The 3rd Inf. Division formed a LRRP Detachment under the command of 1Lt. Edward Jentz (Col. ret.) with SFC Gerald M. Tardiff acting 1SGT.
To conduct combat surveillance and target acquisition operations behind enemy lines in the VII Corps area of influence. Company.
The LRRPs (LRP after 1965 and Army Rangers after 1969) must not be confused with the well-recognized reconnaissance patrol that normally proceeds to an objective area to acquire certain information and then returns upon the accomplishment of the specific mission. Patrols are to see but not be seen. Their movements are restricted to periods of limited visibility or hours of darkness. During these periods they can expect to receive instructions to move and check suspected areas for command posts or large supply installations in their vicinity and to report on possible obstacles for future offensive plans along a route in their area of operation. Major Hunt
The primary mission of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol Company was to enter patrols into specified areas within enemy held territory to observe and report enemy dispositions, installations, and activities. Col Bingham
An infantry Long Range Patrol is a specially trained military unit organized and equipped for the specific purpose of functioning as an all weather information-gathering agency responsive to the intelligence requirements of the tactical commander. These patrols consist of specially trained personnel capable of performing reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition within the dispatching unit’s area of interest. Normally the LRRP (patrol) is placed in a position (within enemy held territory) to maintain surveillance over routes, areas, or specific locations for extended periods, reporting all sightings of enemy activity (along with strengths and weaknesses) within the area of observation. A LRRP patrol must be self-sufficient, operate effectively, and accomplish their assigned information gathering mission for extended periods with minimal or no outside support or re-supply.
LRRPs originally operated in four-man patrols increasing to five-men after the LRP TOE was issued in mid-1965. SETAF used six-man patrols in Italy, as did the later LRRP units in Vietnam. Twelve-man combat or heavy patrols were put together for specific tasks. Robert Murphy, V Corps LRRP
Insertion methods varied. Patrols could be committed in planned locations behind enemy lines by stay-behind methods (A means of emplacement where a patrol would dig in and allow an overrun by enemy forces.) or delivered by land, water, or air, to include parachute. Night parachute insertion from large fixed wing aircraft such as C-124s and C-130s was considered normal. Small fixed wing aircraft such as L-20s or U1A Otters and CH-34 or CH-37 helicopters were also used.
THE CZECH BORDER
In 1963, the company was given the mission to provide foot patrols along the Czech Border, along with the 2nd ACR. The LRRP patrols were able to get closer to the border than the vehicle-bound 2nd ACR. VII Corps G-2 confirmed that the border intelligence provided by the LRRP patrols was of strategic value to the US military and NATO. In a similar exercise, the employed LRRP patrols were pitted against the Army’s new airborne Side Looking Radar (SLR) system. The outcome: LRRP patrols averaged getting the information back to the VII Corps’ TOC twenty minutes to one hour before the SLR information was received. This record made a believer of the Corps’ G-2 Section and General Bonesteel, who was already an avid supporter of the LRRP concept . Col Bingham
Several of the LRRPs who were involved in foot patrols along the heavily guarded West German Czech border have come forward with special memories. Pat Smith, a former Marine, recalls one border patrol in the early 60’s where he and Joe Chetwynd, VII Corps LRRP Assn. founder and first Assn. President, found that they were both on the Czech side. Before they could get back, a Czech two-man patrol with a dog came between them and the West German border. With the need to get back to the "West," Joe decided that the best way to get out of this situation was to just walk over to the guards and ask for a match to light a cigarette. Needless to say, Pat thought it wasn’t a good idea but Joe, with the typical LRRP confidence, walked right up to the guards, and with their dog going nuts, asked for the match. A situation solved with a bit of LRRP bravado.
John Wood , B Co 75 th Ranger and decorated Vietnam Veteran, provided another bit of information regarding patrols along the Czech border in the late 60’s and early 70’s. John’s comments were "However, as LRRPs/Rangers we did do some really hairy things. I wish you could get a hold of Sp/4 James, from Michigan somewhere. He had photographs of Russian guards looking through the fence at the West. Only thing was he was behind them when he took the photo, and the photograph was taken from the ground looking up. Sp/4 James had crawled up behind them and taken their photo. Not to mention how he got on the 'Commie' side. But that picture will be in my memory forever. I knew I was with the right guys after that."
Photographs of the LRRPs on patrol along the Czech border can be found in the LRRP CD. For additional information regarding the "LRRP Organization and Employment Concept" check the LRRP CD for Major Hunt’s personal notes and Briefing.
THE SECRET MISSION
In the event of hostilities, NATO forces would need time to mobilize before confronting invading Soviet Armor. A 10:1 advantage in tanks ensured an initial Soviet advance. To slow the Soviet Armor, Corps devised a "top-secret" plan to use LRRP patrols to emplace small tactical nuclear weapons. These early large suitcase-sized nuclear devices were known as T-4 Small Atomic Demolition Munitions (SADM). An SADM would be placed by LRRPs at important bridges and other choke points for the specific purpose of slowing the advance of invading Soviet Armor. Robert Murphy, V Corps LRRP
The atomic targeting mission was the reason the unit was a double volunteer organization. To minimize this threat to the patrols, the location of all known caves was maintained in Corps G-2 and LRRP Operations. Col. Ellis D. Bingham
Selected patrols received specialized training for missions requiring emplacement of tactical nuclear weapons. For these missions, a former LRRP Officer, LTC Ed Mitchell (ret), then a 1LT who had come over from 3 rd Inf. Div LRRP, provided the following comment that "It was his job to select LRRP personnel who could do the job, but who were considered expendable". He also remembers, "We were testing drops and jumps with ADMs and SADMs in the summer of ‘62 around Crailsheim and flying out of Schwabisch Hall in CH-21s and Otters."SGM Rowe Attaway (ret) also added that "Patrols would be provided with seven days LRRP rations, expected to perform their assigned mission, and would then be written off the books."
Only those with a "need to know" were aware of this mission and the special training required. Those who did know would not discuss or confirm the mission until almost forty years later.
In 1970, the following units:
Corps Headquarters Stuttgart
3rd Infantry Division (Mech) Würzburg
4th Armored Division Göppingen
35th Field Artillery Group Bamberg
72nd Field Artillery Group Wertheim
210th Field Artillery Group Herzogenaurach
2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment Nürnberg
34th Signal Battalion Ludwigsburg
16th Aviation Battalion Nellingen
7th Engineer Brigade Kornwestheim
VII Corps Support Command Nellingen
The past year saw the 24th Infantry Division (Forward) redesignated as the forward element of the 1st Infantry Division.
VII Corps Artillery
(Source: USAREUR/Seventh Army STATION LIST, 1 June 1976)
VII CORPS ARTY ORGANIZATION - 1 JUNE 1976
HHB, VII Corps Arty Kelley Bks, Möhringen
72nd FA Gp
HHB, 72nd FA Gp Peden Bks, Wertheim
6th Bn, 10th FA (175mm) Warner Bks, Bamberg
3rd Bn, 35th FA (8in) Peden Bks, Wertheim
2nd Bn, 42nd FA (LANCE) McKee Bks, Crailsheim
1st Bn, 75th FA (8in) Warner Bks, Bamberg
1st Bn, 80th FA (LANCE) Fiori Bks, Aschaffenburg
Btry C (TAB), 25th FA Peden Bks, Wertheim
210th FA Gp
HHB, 210th FA Gp Herzo Base, Herzogenaurach
3rd Bn, 17th FA (8in) Merrell Bks, Nürnberg
2nd Bn, 28th FA (175mm) Bleidorn Ksn, Ansbach
1st Bn, 36th FA (8in) Reese Bks, Augsburg
3rd Bn, 37th FA (8in) Herzo Base, Herzogenaurach
2nd Bn, 377th FA (LANCE) Herzo Base, Herzogenaurach
Btry A (TAB), 25th FA Herzo Base, Herzogenaurach
2nd Bn, 34th FA (155mm) Ft. Knox, KY REFORGER unit
2nd Bn, 37th FA (155mm) Ft. Sill, OK REFORGER unit
VII Corps Special Troops Battalion
The VII Corps Special Troops Bn is commanded by Lt Col Julian H. Smith, who replaced Lt Col Ernest M. Breuer in July.
The Battalion participated in a reduced-distance Command Post Exercise at Kelley Barracks prior to Exercise Front Centre '70 to identify and eliminate problem areas. During the exercise, the battalion was responsible for the movement of Corps Headquarters to and from the exercise area, arrangement of Corps Headquarters elements and logistical support.
Subordinate units are:
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, VII Corps
Co C, 35th Supply and Service Bn 82nd Army Band 527th Transportation Co 207th Military Intelligence Det 110th Military Police (Pltn)
Throughout the Cold War, the corps guarded part of NATO's front with the Warsaw Pact. After Saddam Hussein's troops invaded Kuwait in 1990, the corps was deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of the second major wave of deployments of American forces. Its presence took US forces in theatre from a force capable of defending Saudi Arabia to a force capable of ejecting Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
In the Gulf War, VII Corps was probably the most powerful formation of its type ever to take to the battlefield. Normally, a corps commands three divisions when at full strength, along with other units such as artillery of various types, corps-level engineers and support units. However, VII Corps had far more firepower under its command.
Its principal full strength fighting formations were U.S. 1st Armored Division, U.S. 3rd Infantry Division and U.S. 1st Infantry Division. In addition, the Corps had U.S. 2d Cavalry Regiment to act as a scouting force, and two further heavy divisions; US 1st Cavalry Division and British 1st Armoured Division, as well as the 11th Aviation Regiment. Although both 1st Cavalry Division and 1st Armoured Division both had only two maneuver brigades, they were still immensely powerful formations in their own right.
VII Corps cut a swathe through Iraqi forces. It advanced with XVIII Airborne Corps on its left wing and Arab forces on its right wing. It pulverized all Iraqi forces that tried to stand and fight and destroyed a good proportion of Iraq's Republican Guard divisions. A ceasefire was called before the destruction of the Republican Guard units could be completed.
After the fighting was over, VII Corps returned to Germany. It was disbanded as part of the post-Cold War American defense spending cuts.