Book Review
REFORGER 1979-1985
REFORGER 1979-1985 Vehicles of the U.S. Army during Exercises
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by: DJ Judge [ 210CAV ]

In 1967, the United States announced plans to withdraw 28,000 troops, roughly two divisions, from Europe in 1968. To demonstrate its continued commitment to NATO, the US agreed to a large scale force deployment of not less than three brigades of a single division to Europe in an annual exercise. Thus was born Return of Forces to Germany (REFORGER), which tested both the ability of conventional forces to fight in a conventional war scenario and demonstrated American determination. The first REFORGER began on 6 January 1969. This latest Tankograd Publication addresses the politics, background and nature of the exercises and includes detailed summaries of exercises 11-17, FTX 'Certain Sentinel' in 1979 through FTX 'Central Guardian' in 1985.
The author, Walter Böhm, presents us an interesting 64 page book illustrated with 130 color photos on the deployment and employment of NATO forces during the REFORGER exercises. The German/English text is well written and contains interesting notes on the specific units engaged in the exercises from 1979 to 1985. As a veteran of seven REFORGER exercises, I found the text a welcome refresher course on this arduous annual event. Whether stationed in Germany or deploying into it for REFORGER, the two weeks spent in the field during a German winter were a memorable event.

Forces within Germany went on numerous command post exercises (CPX) in preparation for participation. A large exercise controller group spent weeks in preparation. Prior to the exercise, deploying units came to Europe to perform ground reconnaissance of their tactical assembly areas and to view the equipment they would draw for the exercise. Once in Germany, the deploying unit drew equipment from sites located along the Franco-German Border, deployed units then rail loaded to assembly areas located close to the East German Border. Visits by the Soviet Military Liaison Mission (SMLM) to the exercise area were closely monitored. Böhm recounts several interesting incidents between NATO troops and their Soviet visitors.

I was particularly drawn to the photos selected for this volume. They are a superb collection of vehicles types and color schemes. Additionally the troop photos are impressive. As you look at these color photos recall that the exercises were conducted during the coldest months of the European winter. The frozen ground ensured that there was minimal damage to farmlands. At least, this was the intent. But, as you see from numerous photos, the ground was torn, bridges were destroyed, houses were banged into, street ripped up and tree knocked down as the force maneuvered through quaint German towns and villages. The cost of repair was borne by the American taxpayer in the form of maneuver damage claims.

In addition to the executive summaries provided on each exercise from 1979 to 1985, Bohm presents an outstanding photo collection of Cold War American and NATO equipment. One can view make shift white camouflage applied to numerous types of vehicles, Sheridan tanks in there OD best and the first issued M-1 Abrams in the possession of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. Additionally, there are numerous photos of artillery pieces wearing their winter covers, engineer equipment and wheeled vehicles. There is also an interesting photo of a 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment M-113 in “dual – tex” camouflage with an unusual tactical marking on the ramp door. Additionally, one can also view photos of bridging equipment and river crossing operations. I was particularly drawn to the photo of a disabled M-60A1 AOS on page 40 of the book. This is prepositioned equipment tank drawn from the Miessau depot by I Troop of the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. This particular photo shows the vehicle after it hit a bridge abutment. As the Executive Officer of the Squadron, I well remember the crew’s colorful excuses and the report of survey that followed. This book will bring similar memories and recollections for those who participated and the modeler who wishes to create a realistic looking Cold War period vehicle.


The REFORGER exercises were designed to prove the United States had the ability to move conventional military forces rapidly from the continental United States to Central Europe. Walter Böhm does an admirable job in providing insights into how this goal was achieved. This is a marvelous book and one that should be on every Cold War modeler’s book shelf. It contains some of the best photos available on the REFORGER exercises and should draw the attention of diorama builders and those wishing to learn more about the Cold War period.
Highs: Great mixture of black and white and colored photos.Outstanding mixture of period vehicles.
Lows: Lack of maps precludes appreciation for the location and distances covered during the exercises.
Verdict: Great book. I would encourage others to buy this to assist their modeling efforts.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-3-936519-06-4
  Suggested Retail: $24.00
  PUBLISHED: Oct 20, 2008
  NATIONALITY: United States

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About DJ Judge (210cav)

Retired Armor Officer challenged by the thrill of World War II Sherman tank modeling.

Copyright ©2021 text by DJ Judge [ 210CAV ]. All rights reserved.


This looks like a very interesting book. I was an MP in Germany and went through 3 REFORGERs in Germany from '79-'82. Although I didn't actually participate in the excercises several armor units were billeted in my Kaserne (Muenchweiler/Rod. near the French border). They may have been advance units waiting to entrain for the East German border. Tents and armored vehicles were everywhere. One of my most vivid memories was the smell of wet canvas and diesel fuel in the cold crisp air. I just remember how sorry I felt for those guys because of how cold and miserable they looked They were sleeping in cold tents and confined to post while we spent or evening downtown in the Gasthaus and slept in warm beds. I remember the Soviet Military Liason Mission vehicles in Germany. I even still have my SMLM (smell 'em) card somewhere. I just glad there's no need for those kind of excercises in Germany now. Jeff
OCT 20, 2008 - 08:00 AM
Jeff-- you might want to pick this very well done book up. It has loads of photos that will stir your memory of the cold, dirty days of REFORGER. Hope you get it and enjoy reading it. DJ
OCT 20, 2008 - 08:28 AM
DAGGONNIT, Colonel you're killin' me here...LOL. Now I got to get this one to see if there's anybody I know in any of the pics in it. My old platoon commander from my days in Wilchicken was in one of the old USAREUR books. My wallet is already screaming from the pain. BTW, what time frame were you with 2/10 Cav? IIRC they were out at Planet Ord with 7th ID back in the early '80's.
OCT 20, 2008 - 08:46 AM
I too was an MP in Germany on the Czech, East German border in Bamberg/Ansbach area from 1980-82. I can remember sleeping in cold tents, patrolling in Jeeps 12 to 16 hours a day and convoy escorts, traffic control points, and all the paper work I had to do after a few M60 tanks went thru houses and anything else that got in their way. I have really been thinking of picking up this book. When I saw this book I instantly went back to those days, what memories
OCT 20, 2008 - 09:15 AM
Good memories, funny how those days didn't seem like fun at the time, but there have been days I actually find myself missing Hohenfels during mud season. Man, to be back in the day when we had the world by the short and curlies, or at least we thought we did... To be that young again and not creak when I walk!
OCT 20, 2008 - 11:06 AM
Doc-- in 1987, they reflagged 5/33 Armor as the 2nd Battalion 10th Cavalry formerly (as you mentioned) of the 7th Infantry Division. I was privileged to assume command during the transition. I would assume with the demise of the 194th Armored Brigade to which 2/10 was assigned at the time that the colors reverted to Fort Carson where the 7th ID is homed based I know it is part of a reserve restructuring effort. DJ
OCT 20, 2008 - 01:17 PM
Fred-- I would urge you to get this book. I looked at those cold, unwashed faces in the photos bundled against the biting winds and felt shivers. DJ PS-- I trust you never had to do an accident report on any of my guys...we had some doozies crashing into buses, crushing VW bugs with an AVLB and putting a gun tube through a bakery window. How did we survive?
OCT 20, 2008 - 01:21 PM

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