Stealth or the Lack Thereof


During a full-scale training operation in Norway, I suffered a badly sprained ankle from an unseen hole I parachuted into. Unlike here in the U.S., Europe does not have the sprawling open areas found on large military bases to facilitate such large-scale practice. So, we jumped into open fields of both public and private land. And like any real-world training, it held some unforeseen dangers, like a hole in the tall grass waiting for the unexpecting Marine paratrooper.

At the end of our training operation, my team was tasked with joining a battalion of Marines on their march back to base to meet up with the ships we had been deployed in. I, however, due to my injury, was not permitted to make the hike with my brothers. I was relegated to riding in one of the jeeps that were returning to the port in Kiel, Germany, where they would be loaded back aboard the Navy ships. So, as my compatriots were off to enjoy a few days seeing the sights and relaxing near Hamburg, I had to stay with the motor pool Marines as they washed and scrubbed every inch of every vehicle that was taken off the ship. This is a necessary task to avoid bringing non-native species back to the U.S.

Although I did not have to participate in the workload, I was nonetheless just as trapped there as the rest of my fellow Marines. And it did not escape me that my brothers were likely having the time of their lives on shore leave. With that in mind, I began to plan my escape.

I pulled together the young Marines assigned to me and fleshed out for them my plan to sneak off the base and make our way into town where we could partake of some good food, cold beverages, and local nightlife. They seemed eager to follow my lead. I had already determined the route and timing of the patrols that occasioned the perimeter fence. And I knew it would be a piece of cake to get off base unseen. I calculated it would take us about an hour to get past the gate and into town. Then a few hours of revelry and we get back before dawn and no one is the wiser. As these mechanics were not as deft at being invisible as a Recon Marine, I gave some last-minute instructions on what was needed for them to make this a successful mission. And they certainly brought with them their Marine “can do” attitude.

We made our way into town without attracting any attention. We chanced upon the first bar we found open and headed in to wet our whistles. We had been in the field for 12 days. We were unshaven, dirty, tired, and still dressed in our fatigues. It is likely we may have smelled a bit too. I made my way to the bar to order us some drinks and the bartender said that he could not take my American money. I had never run into this anywhere I travelled, save this one dive bar in a port town in Germany. I suspected it was our appearance which made us unsuitable to serve and not the color of our money. But undeterred, we made our way to the next bar we could find. There we were met with the same resistance to serve us. And the hundreds of dollars I was flashing seemed to do no good. After trying one more place with the same results, we reluctantly decided to start our way back to base with our bellies empty and our good times thwarted.

Heading out of town, we chanced upon a small restaurant that still had the lights on. I walked up to the door and saw that there was a wedding reception being held. I explained my findings and we all agreed this would not be a welcoming place either. As we were leaving, the owner of the establishment came out the kitchen door in the rear of the restaurant and inquired what we were looking for. I explained to him our plans and how we had been dismissed so readily by the town’s pubs and proprietors. He motioned us into the back door and invited us to sit at a small table next to the door of the kitchen. We sat and he offered us some fine German beer to enjoy while he whipped up something for us to eat. His English was very good, and we spoke at length as he busied himself with some pots and pans. Within short order, we were salivating over freshly made bratwurst, fresh baked bread, and a sauerkraut made in heaven. The meal was washed down with yet another round of the room temperature beer. Although I considered this success for our mission, I was still a little miffed about being turned away at the other establishments. After our meal, and after offering our most sincere thanks to our congenial host, I asked if he could exchange some of my American money for Deutschmarks. He exchanged $300 American for whatever number of Deutschmarks he thought was reasonable. I did not care about the exchange rate. I just needed Deutschmarks in order to go back and prove my point to these other establishments. I offered him a handful of the Marks he had given me in exchange for his hospitality, but he would not hear of it. He smiled and bid us a farewell, as we walked away shouting back our thanks.

We immediately headed back to the first bar we had encountered. I strolled in with purpose and threw a fistful of Marks onto the bar. I asked if this would work in getting some service, and the barkeep seemed trapped by his earlier reasoning. He begrudgingly took our money and served us without further discourse. I was feeling generous and began buying rounds for everyone there. The party really seemed to kick off when the alcohol was coming so freely. My young Marines and I showed our adept skill in the consumption of alcohol. We drank till about four in the morning.

Sunrise was due at 5:23 am. And with it came the light needed to make our sneaking back onto the base unseen near impossible. So, we had a little more than an hour to get back and sneak back onto base. Getting to town in an hour was easy but getting back seemed a much more difficult task. We were drunk, stumbling, slow, and making way too much noise. There was nothing stealthy about us. As with most security, base security was designed to keep people out, not keep them in. Sneaking out was easy. Sneaking back in would test every skill I possessed. These were highly trained, well-armed, serious German soldiers who took pride in their work. Add to that the fact that our appearance painted us as would be infiltrators, and you can see that being caught could have some unwanted circumstances. The least of which for me could be expulsion from the teams. I am still amazed to this day that we were successful in getting through the fence and back to our tents without being discovered.

I am not sure the hangovers we suffered the next day made our mission a wise choice. Much less for the Marines in the sun scrubbing Amtracks and tanks, than the Corporal with the bad ankle sitting in the shade, the pain in his head now overshadowing any pain in his ankle. But, as it is with all things, we survived and learned something along the way. All in all, it was worth it. I mean how many people do you know that can say they successfully infiltrated an active German military base while drunk?


17 Responses to “Stealth or the Lack Thereof”
  1. Ah…those were the days! A fabulous memory that you’ve shared Brad. I know there must be many…

  2. kristianw84 says:

    I always become giddy when I see you’ve shared a story. I love your stories!! I was half expecting something akin to the scene from the movie Stripes, when they snuck off base. Haha! Your story was more impressive! You’re quite the rebel!

  3. beth says:

    wow, what a crazy, funny great adventure. you also taught them to never give up, there is always a way, a great life lesson

  4. Jim Borden says:

    what a great story, thanks for sharing, Brad. I am sure there was a lot of laughing and reminiscing in the days ahead. And I am sure you were feeling no pain in your ankle on your return trip 🙂

  5. K.L. Hale says:

    You’re the first one I’ve met, Brad! What a great story and memory~another example of life’s “successful” missions. I bet you’d still say the headache was worth it!

  6. This is a story from the brother I know. I remember so many times growing up where are you selling a pile of shit and still managed to come out smelling like a rose. I can see you being the leader of this group quite easily. Congrats on a successful mission. Love your stories and Love you!

    • Brad Osborne says:

      I cannot deny your recollections of our youth. I did always seem to avoid consequences of poor behavior. I rack it up to my good looks and charming demeanor…🤣 Love you back, sis!

  7. petespringerauthor says:

    Loved the whole story! Of course, you’ve never forgotten this memory, and to share it with your brothers was probably quite the experience of male bonding, though I suspect that’s not what kind of bonding you were looking for. 😎

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