In the spring of 1972, I was in the Army, stationed at an intelligence unit in Heidelberg, Germany.
I had just moved into an apartment on the economy. I was supposed to work late on the evening of May 24th, but at the
last minute, my CO told me to go ahead and leave, as we were caught up on the documents and photos we were
analyzing. As to how a former pot-smoking, anti-war-marching street punk got a Top Secret security clearance, your
guess is as good as mine.
On my way out, I saw Captain Clyde Bonner. He had done three infantry tours in Vietnam and had come out without a
scratch. He liked to rag me about my haircut (or lack thereof) but it was really just a joke between us. He wasn't the type
He was showing his new Jaguar to Ron Woodward, another guy who worked in the building. My bike was leaning in
against the building in front of a German Ford sedan I hadn't seen before. I pushed it between the cars on my way to
leaving. As I rode home, I heard something that sounded like thunder.
Since the Army didn't know I had an apartment, it
took a while for someone to catch up with me with
a message to get back to Campbell Barracks – our base –
right away. Usually I just rode through the front gates.
This time, I was stopped. When I showed by ID, the
MPs asked where I worked. I told them IDHS and
was allowed in. As I was crossing the parade ground,
I saw one of the guys I worked with and asked him
what was going on. He said, "Peck and Woodward and Captain Bonner are dead."
The Ford had been a car bomb. When it went off, the blast killed Bonner and Woodward instantly and with horrible
carnage. It was so powerful that it blew the steel door into the building off the hinges and the impact killed Charlie Peck,
who had been inside getting ready to leave. The bomb also made a foot-deep crater in the courtyard bricks and knocked
down the wall of the office where I would have been sitting had I not gone home early. Since it was secure area, the
enlisted men, myself included, were given the task of cleaning up
the destruction in the days after
The bomb had been set by a group called the Baader-Meinhof
Gang. They were RAF (Red Army Faction) and responsible
for a string of kidnappings and bombings in Germany around
that time. "The Baader-Meinhof Complex," a drama about Ulrike
Meinhof's radicalization, was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2008.
In 2010, I received an email from Clyde Bonner’s son Chuck. He
was seven years old when his father was killed. He has been
ollecting information about the incident and found me by way of
his research. We got to talk on the phone and I shared with him
my memories of his dad before and on that day. He’s a diver on the
Texas gulf. We have stayed in touch since then.
Something that had never occured to me until I started talking to
Chuck was that I could have easily stopped to chat with
Captain Bonner about the new car. But I was in a hurry to get out
of there before my CO changed his mind. To this day, it's strange
to say that I was there at all. I never quite get used to it, even though
the memories linger so clearly.
June 7th, 2013
|My Strange History with the RAF
|Photo of IDHS Building after bombing.