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OOZLEFINCH History

 
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Click here for an update to this history through 1963

 

Pamphlet from July 1, 1957 Ceremony
At Ft. Bliss when it was re-designated  U.S. Army Air Defense Center
and Major General Sam C. Russell assumed command
and became Chief Oozlefinching II

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On 6 July 1956, the Oozlefinch, legendary featherless bird of the Coast Artillery Corps, awakened from his sleep of several years, tucked a Nike in the crook of his nude left leg, and, traveling by ways known only to himself, arrived at Fort Bliss, Texas, the home of the Antiaircraft and Guided Missile Center - there to become the guardian of all missile men.

Since, as it is well known, the Oozlefinch always flies backwards to keep dust, trivia and other inconsequentia out of his eyes, the Nike is always positioned at the correct attitude.

The birth and beginnings of this fabulous bird were humble, almost inconsequen­tial and extremely vague.   But, in true Horatio Alger fashion, this ancient, ageless bit of improbability has risen to a position of high honor.   The Oozlefinch has focused his benevolent gaze over the men of the guided missiles.   He is at once the confidant of generals, the protector of Very Important Persons, and above all, the guardian, patron and monstrous mentor of modern missile men.

The first recorded history of the Oozlefinch came through the somewhat rambling mumblings of a Captain H. M. Merriam of Fort Monroe, Va.   Presumably a raconteur of no mean talents; the captain must be given the credit for discovering the bird about 1905.   He apparently was the only man who had seen the creature, and he was loathe to describe appearance, habits, or habitat.   One physical characteristic he did empha­size, however: the great bird's eyes.   These eyes, as vividly described by the captain, remain today as the outstanding physical mark of the Oozlefinch.

These eyes are large, all-seeing, unshaded by eyelids or eyebrows and rather seriously blood-shot.   Just why the eyes are so prominent, and red, no one seems sure.   But being all-seeing, the bird can gather more information in a shorter period of time than mere mortals who have conventional sight.   Because his eyes are unshaded by eyelids or eyebrows, the bird is forced to move tail foremost to protect his powers of observation, but also, he can turn them 180 degrees to gaze inwardly when he desires the maximum value from self-contemplation.

In the chronological history of the Oozlefinch, the wife of Colonel E. R. Tilton, also of Fort Monroe, follows Captain Merriam.   Sometime before Christmas of 1905 or '06, while shopping in Hampton, Virginia, Mrs. Tilton came across a model of a bird which appeared to duplicate Captain Merriam's description of the Oozlefinch.   A purchase was made for an amount unrecorded.   Colonel Tilton transported the bird to the Fort Monroe Officers' Club, and there it was accorded a perch behind the bar, where it remained for many, many years while gradually assuming its powers of guardianship.

It appears that several unprincipled individuals attempted to remove the bird from his perch, and it was necessary finally to provide him with a glass cage for safekeeping.

Early in 1908, new construction was initiated at Fort Monroe for the Coast Artillery School.  The constant shake, rattle and roll of the dice and dice box in the bar disturbed the Oozlefinch; as a matter of fact, this noise disturbed the bar itself, and a separate room was provided for those individuals addicted to such gambling.  The Oozlefinch insisted on joining these festivities and moved - glass cage and all - to the mantle shelf of an adjacent room in the Casemate Club.  This room become famous as the "Oozlefinch Room," and the sessions of the Artillery Board were held there every afternoon until long after retreat, winter and summer.  The Oozlefinch never missed a meeting, and with his all-seeing eyes, took in all of the work of the Board, becoming so deeply interested in its proceedings that he practically became a member.

This room became known eventually as the "Gridiron Room" and the Oozlefinch become a member of the "Gridiron Club" (an organization, no doubt addicted to drink­ing and gambling, but mostly to "roasting" nonmembers).

Time passed; individuals came end went; the Oozlefinch spent much time in deep professional thought, particularly as World War I approached.  Most of this time he was under the constant care of Keeney Chapman, the Club Steward who spent over forty years in this position.

During World War l, three regiments of Coast Artillery (the 42d, 43d, end 52d) formed the 30th Artillery Railway Brigade in France.  Just as the eagles of Napoleon crossed the length and breadth of Europe, so the spirit of the Oozlefinch proceeded to France with the Railway Artillery.  He, himself, remained at Fort Monroe, but he kept both eyes focused on the proceedings "over there."

It was sometime during this period that those who remained at Fort Monroe thought it desirable to initiate a crest or coat-of-arms for the Gridiron Club.  The design created quite a sensation among the noninitiated, and the secrets of its compo­sition were never divulged to outsiders.  However, it is believed that the heraldic story ran something like this:

The body of the shield "parti per fess, divetailed" indicates the general woodenness, not of the Artillery Board and the other members of the "Gridiron Club" but of the passing throng who paid not their toll cheerfully in passing through the Sanctum to the bar.  "Gules end Sable:" The color of the shield is red and black - red for the Artillery, and black in mourning for those who lost at dice by throwing the lowest spots.  `In honor, a deuce spot of dice, lozenged, proper:" The honor point of the shield was given to the lowest marked dice, as it was the one which most frequently appeared to some members, the law of probabilities to the contrary notwithstanding.  "In nombril a gridiron sable:" the lower half of the shield given over to the memory of those who did not belong to the "Gridiron Club" but who were constantly roasted by it.

The supporters, "two Oozlefinches, regardant, proper," were a natural selec­tion, "regardant" meaning looking, or better, all-seeing, with the great eyes that this bird has to protect while in flight in the manner described.

The crest "a terrapin, passant dexter proper," was selected owing to the great number of these animals, cooked to perfection by Keeney Chapman and served with great pomp to the members of the Artillery Board on occasions of state.  This was always accompanied by libations of "red top," red top being a now obsolete drink made in the Champagne Country of France and once imported to the United States, in times gone by that now seem almost prehistoric.

The wavy bar, over which the terrapin is passing, represents the adjacent waters of the Chesapeake, the natural habitat of this animal.

Considerable thought was given to the selection of a motto, and finally after considerable search among Latin scholars, the decision was reached to utilize "Quid ad sceleratorum curamus." It appears there was some difficulty in finding a Latin word for "hell" and the one selected, translates literally as "place of the damned," which was apparently as near as the ancient Romans ever came to the word desired.  Freely translated, therefore, the motto reads, "What in hell do we care!"

During World War II, antiaircraft artillerymen fighting oversees remembered the existence of the Oozlefinch and many of them took his likeness along as their sacred guardian.  His spirit led those men who fought in both the European and Pacific Theaters to greater successes.

In 1946 the Oozlefinch finally became restless at Fort Monroe, and as all his friends began to depart to be replaced by individuals of various branches, he decided to move to Fort Scott, California, where the Seacoast Artillery Branch of the Artillery School and the School of Mines were activated.  When these schools were closed, about 1948, the Oozlefinch retired to some unknown cloister where he turned his eyes inward and engaged in deep meditation over the events of the times and need for mod­ernization of the Artillery.

After eight years in this secluded retirement, the Oozlefinch was contacted by his old friend Major General Robert J. Wood, commanding general of the U.S. Army Antiaircraft Artillery and Guided Missile Center, who persuaded the bird that the time had come for him to return to active duty.  Cognizant of the amazing activities of the descendants of those whom he had known so well, and conscious of the need for taking under his care the problems of modern-day gunnery, the new guardian of the missilemen flapped his featherless way to the Fabulous Southwest, where the high, dry and some­what dusty climate admirably suited his penchant for flying backwards.

Here at the Air Defense Center, he appointed General Wood as "Chief Oozle­finchling I" authorizing the general to speak for him during his many absences to the missile ranges.  The glorious bird also insisted on becoming a member of every class and every activity; on taking part in every festivity; and on assuming protection of students, instructors, trainees, combat units, and in fact, all personnel of the garrison.  He charged himself, in addition, with particular care for Very Important Visitors to the Air Defense Center and specifically, not only to protect such visitors from the long­winded, technical briefings and orientations to which they are subjected, but to accord them suitable recognition as "Oozlefinchlings" for their punishment.

To reward both these visitors and others, the amazing bird created the Ancient and Honorable Order of the Oozlefinch, directed its incorporation under the laws of the State of Texas, and from time to time approved the awarding of "degrees" to those deemed worthy of this honor.  Among the degrees are: Master, First Class, Gunner, Apprentice, 24-Hour Expert Oozlefinchling, and Charitable Oozlefinchling.

These degrees, carrying various qualifications as prerequisites for award, all require that the recipient be physically present at the Air Defense Center for induction.  The Oozlefinch has also authorized still another degree, the coveted "Oozlefinchling, Old Timer." This degree is bestowed upon persons who qualify by virtue of their association with the bird long before he took over his present job of protecting the men who man the missiles, as well as their dedication and faithfulness to the spirit of the Oozlefinch.  This degree can be awarded to persons who are prohibited by age, space, or other ills, from journeying in person to the shrine of the Oozle at the U.S. Army Air Defense Center.

One of the first Old Timer degrees was awarded to Capt Ellis C. Baker, who retired shortly after World War I after service with the 42d Railway Artillery Regiment.  It was a letter from Captain Baker to General Wood, promptly relayed to the Oozlefinch, of course, recalling the captain's association with the awkward angel of the artillerymen during World War I, which prompted the establishment of the "Old Timer" degree.

Captain Baker's old unit, the 42d Railway Artillery Regiment, is the parent unit of the 42d Field Artillery Group, now in Europe, which is one of two field artillery organizations which trace lineage to the Oozlefinch.  The other unit laying claim to the bird is the 64th Field Artillery Battalion (Lancers)' in Hawaii, which traces its history to the 3d Battalion of the 43d Coast Artillery Regiment (RR).  When first informed of these units' claims, the Oozlefinch issued only an outraged "Quid ad sceleratorum curamus," and flopped - tail foremost - to a remote missile firing range to sulk and brood.  Later, however, he disclosed that the birds claimed by these two units are progeny of his still in oversea service.  The sage old bird, in a burst of magnanimity, bestowed on each of the units the degree of "Oozlefinchling, Old Timer," and returned to his many duties at the AAA&GM Center.

On 1 July 1957, the U.S. Army AAA&GM Center was redesignated the U.S. Army Air Defense Center.  Simultaneously Major General Sam C. Russell assumed command of the Center and became Chief Oozlefinchling II

 

   
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