Assignment to Toul Rosieres Air Base in 1955 - The Experiences of Richard and Helen Burton
Getting to France
Chapter 1

It was a cold, snowy mid-winter day in early January of 1955 when I received word that I was being assigned to a base in France that I had never heard of, Toul Rosieres Air Base. The holidays had just passed, and we had spent a few days with our families in Fulton and Oswego, New York. We had only been in our base housing apartment - a WWII Navy barracks divided into four apartments - at Sampson AFB on Seneca Lake near Geneva, New York for a couple of months. I had recently made SSgt and I was working in the Base Communications Center. Our only child, Cynthia, had been born there in the Base Hospital nine months earlier. Now we had to face an overseas assignment and decisions had to be made quickly.

We quickly learned one very good thing about Toul Rosieres. It could be an accompanied tour of duty; families could join the military member as soon as he found housing. There was no base housing, and we were told that everyone had to live on the French economy. I had spent 23 months at Rhein Main Air Base in Germany without Helen when we were first married, and we did not want to be separated again. We quickly decided that I would find housing as soon as I got to France, and that Helen and Cynthia would join me as soon as possible. This was a leap into the unknown for Helen since she had never been further from home than we were then at Sampson which is only 60 miles from Fulton. There was also the fear of living in a foreign country, but overriding all that was her desire to keep our family together.

I notified the Air Force that I wanted the three year accompanied tour instead of the 18 month unaccompanied that many people took. We made arrangements for our few pieces of furniture to be shipped and Helen got her passport. To my dismay, I learned that the finance company would not allow me to take my almost new, 1953 Ford overseas since I still owed about nine more payments. We were young and resilient, so setbacks like that didn't discourage us.

In early February, we left Sampson AFB and went up to Fulton to get Helen and Cynthia settled in with her mother to wait until they could join me in France. We were there together for about ten days, then I left for Camp Kilmer, New Jersey to await shipment overseas. Our separation had begun, and it was hard on both of us. She really didn't want to live with her parents again, and I certainly didn't relish going back to living in a barracks.

In a few days, I was boarding a troop ship in Brooklyn. I had come back from Germany in 1952 on a troop ship and knew it wasn't going to be fun. It took us about eight or nine days to cross the cold, stormy North Atlantic. We were stacked in canvas bunks like sardines about three decks down in the hold of the ship. It was a rough passage, and I was seasick more than once. Finally, we reached Bremerhaven, Germany and we were put on a train to Frankfurt. Once in Frankfurt, those of us going to France were put on another train, and in a few hours an Air Force bus from Toul Rosieres met us at the station in Nancy. It was near the end of February, and I was finally at my new base.

No sooner did I report in than I learned that I might not get to stay there. A new dilemma. The 465th Troop Carrier Wing, which had only been there about a year, was moving to Evreux Air Base west of Paris. Most of the people at Toul Rosieres were going to go. Somehow, I convinced the Base Communications Officer, Captain George Zitzler, to keep me there at Toul in the newly formed 7430th Air Base Squadron. I was living in the new, open bay barracks and working in the Teletype Section of Base Communications.

Barracks at TRAB circa 1955
Barracks
Barracks at TRAB circa 1955
Barracks
Barracks at TRAB circa 1955
Barracks
(Photos by John Oliver)

Helen was writing almost every day, and the message was that she was lonely and unhappy without me.

I felt the same. About the second week I was there, I learned that a SSgt who was leaving for the States had a small trailer for sale. He wanted $800.00 for it. I quickly agreed to buy it, and wrote to Helen for the money. The car was sitting there in her mother's driveway covered with snow, so she got her brother to help her sell it. Within a couple of weeks, the car was sold and the profit she made after paying off the loan was just enough to pay for the trailer. All of this took several weeks, but by mid April I owned the trailer, which was in a trailer park in Liverdun, and had started the paper work to get Helen and Cynthia sent over to France.


1953 Ford parked in her mother's driveway before it was sold. Feb 55

Helen and Cynthia outside in the cold, Upstate New York weather. Mar 55

Helen and Cynthia in her mother's living room. Mar 55

Cynthia and Helen in their Easter bonnets. Apr 55

Cynthia in her playpen outside. Apr 55

Everyone had treated Helen and Cynthia just fine, but she wasn't happy living with relatives. Cynthia had started to walk, and the weather had begun to warm enough for her to be outside in a playpen part of the day. Helen had enjoyed a traditional Polish Easter dinner with her mother, and by late April everyone was helping her get ready to leave. Finally she got her orders to report to Fort Hamilton in New York City. She took the New York Central from Syracuse to New York, and managed to get lost in Grand Central Station, but a porter straightened her out, and she got to Fort Hamilton. She stayed there for a few days with other women waiting to go to Europe, then she was put on an Air Force Military Air Transport Service Constellation - four propeller engines - for Orly Field, Paris.

I was notified that she would be arriving at Orly Field. A friend, A1C Jimmy Gooch, who worked with me in the Teletype Room, offered to drive me to Orly to pick her up; so that day in mid May we left early in the morning. We were there on time and her plane landed shortly after noon. After all the hugs and kisses, we piled into the back of his Opel to ride back to Toul. His wife, Bobbie, and little girl, Christina, were in front with him, so we all quickly became friends. We were all in France, and our lives together at Toul Rosieres had begun.

End of Chapter One

Chapter Two - Liverdun


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