Oral History of Robert Edmunds

At the end of World War II, America was fighting the USSR for control over Germany. In 1956 members of NATO met to determine the fate of West Germany. They voted to have NATO troops still stationed in West Germany. They are allowed to become a member of NATO.

Robert Edmunds was born February 24, 1934 in Waltham, Massachusetts. His family resided in Framingham, Mass until he was the age of thirteen. He then lived in Harwichport and South Dennis until he headed off to college at the University of Massachusetts in 1951. Growing up in Cape Cod, Edmunds was always at the beach. Ever since he was young he has been an avid lover of the outdoors. He enjoys camping, hiking, swimming and mostly Scouting. Bob started in the Boy Scouts at a very young age and stayed active in the program until he was to college. He was the first Eagle Scout in his troop as well as an Order of Arrow Lodge Chief for two years.

After completing college at the University of Massachusetts, Bob, joined the Air Force ROTC, and intend to go into that branch as a jet pilot. In the preparatory courses he had done very well. He attended the training program at Donaldson AFB in South Carolina, but because of eye complications and his eye sight deteriorating he was unable to complete the training to become a pilot. Moreover because he only wanted to complete the two year commitment the Army required he decided not to continue on and become a navigator. Once he left for Fort Hood, Bob was assigned to the 32nd Armed Tank Battalion, which is part of the 3rd Army. He was awarded the rank of Specialist Third Class, and was assigned as a wheeled vehicle mechanic based on aptitude tests. After spending six months training in Fort Hood, Texas, he left for Friedberg, Germany.

Bob had many experiences serving in the military. After being caught napping on field maneuvers while at Fort Hood he was assigned a couple weeks of KP as punishment. KP is pretty much kitchen working, cooking, cleaning, the dirty work. This was probably his least favorite experiences, but one of his favorite experiences was being able to road test the vehicles they had been worked on. Driving around the beautiful German countryside was unforgettable. Also another great experience would be meeting his wife of nearly 50 years and the mother of his 5 children, Gerda in Germany. Interestingly, when Bob was leaving to return to the United States, he got word his replacement was none other than Mr. Elvis Presley. Even to this day he wishes he was given the opportunity to meet him.

While serving in the military, Edmunds had a very harsh and tyrannical Company Commander. As a result, Edmunds wrote letters about his behavior, citing these incidents and sent them to the Senators from Massachusetts. The first letter he received back told him to toughen it up and get over it. However, the second letter he received was from Senator, who happened to be John F. Kennedy, who took action immediately and ordered an investigation of the unit and its circumstances. Although the military was able to cover up most of the allegations, the most serious of them stuck. After this incident, Bob was given the cold shoulder from pretty much everyone and felt very unwelcome. Yet, the “brass” left him alone afterwards.

After these experiences, he was ready for his two years to end. To this day he doesn’t talk much about his military involvement and thinks of it as something every man has to go through and he was just taking his turn. To him, joining the military was a coming of age experience all boys were expected to go through.

After returning from the military Bob came home and married the love of his life, Gerda, whom he met while in the service. He lived in Massachusetts with his wife and family for over 40 years. After his time in the Army, Bob married Gerda, who he met in Germany and had five children. One of his claims to fame is living on a farm for nearly 30 years in Duxbury, Mass, right next door to Aerosmith member, Joe Perry. This year he and Gerda will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. He is an active member of the Mormon Church and was a member of the Boston Temple building planning committee. He was asked to be a member of the Temple Presidency, which he did for 2 years. He currently resides in Utah with his wife, living only blocks from his kids and grandkids.

Researched by Annie Precourt
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum
Cosby High School

Sources:

Edmunds, Robert. E-Mail interview. 13 Apr. 2008. “Germany”. Infoplease. May 22, 2008 . “Milestones in History.” Germany.Info. 21 May 2008 . The Cold War Museum

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