The 64th Engineer Battalion article prepared for publication in the Stars and Stripes newspaper in 1969.
The 64th Engineer Battalion (Base Topographic), US Army Topographic Command, commanded by LTC George Stukhart Jr., has its headquarters at Livorno, Italy. The battalion performs field surveys and collects data required for the production of medium and large scale maps. The 64th provides technical guidance, training, assistance, and support to the geographic agencies of host nations as required by international agreement. In addition, the battalion performs other missions as directed by the Topographer of the Army, US Army Topographic Command.
The unit's history goes back to 11 January 1940 when it was constituted into the Regular Army as the 64th Engineer Company (Topographic corps). It was activated at Fort Benning, Georgia, on 1 February of that year, and on 1 April 1942 was redesignated as the 64th Topographic Company. On 8 April 1944, the 64th was reorganized and became the 64th Engineer Topographic Battalion. During World War II, the 64th was in the Asiatic Pacific Theater and earned three Meritorious Unit Commendations. It earned another such award for later service in Korea. The unit was activated again after 7 years on 14 June 1961, as the 64th Engineer Battalion (Base Topographic) at Wheelus Air Force Base in Libya, North Africa. Its first assigned project to survey Libya north of the 29th parallel was completed early in 1964.
The Bn HQ moved to the port area in Livorno, Italy near Camp Darby on 15 June 1966 and currently supervises mapping projects in three countries in Africa and the Middle East in a total area well in excess of one million (1,000,000) square miles.
Among the current major categories of projects are field classification, leveling and gravity surveys. Field classification is the identification of topographic and man made features and the gathering of names data to appear on the printed map sheet. Leveling is the process of determining height above sea level to establish map contours, and gravity survey is the measurement of gravitational differences on the earth's surface. This data is used in studies to determine the true size and shape of the earth.
The largest of the three survey projects is in Iran, a country with an area of 628,000 square miles. In accordance with an US-Iranian agreement in 1956, a group of survey and mapping technicians were transported to Iran and known as the Topographic Training Team (TTT). Their mission is to provide equipment and skills necessary to map the country and to train personnel of the Imperial Iranian National Geographic Organization (NGO) in mapping techniques.
Field classification was begun in 1957 and has now reached 85% completion. Much of the remaining area, however, is in very rugged terrain in the Northeast where movement is difficult and extremely cold winters hamper progress. A major effort at present are field surveys which operate out of B base camp in Mashhad, Iran's second largest city, approximately 500 miles to the east of Tehran. The area is currently being surveyed jointly by the Iranians and the Topographic Training Team. A bright spot is the NGO, which entered who1e-heartedly into the work from the beginning, and is now very near self-sufficient. Co-operation has been excellent, with Iranian and U.S. surveyors working side by side, living in the same camps, and in many cases becoming lasting friends.
In January 1963 a joint mapping agreement was entered into by Ethiopia and the United States. The US Air Force was to fly electronically controlled mapping photography, the army personnel were to perform ground surveys, and the Imperial Ethiopian Mapping and Geographic Institute (IEMGI ) was to provide personnel for training, eventually developing their own mapping capability similar to the program in Iran. In the spring of 1963 a smal l party was sent to Ethiopia from Iran for the purpose of establishing a headquarters. Personnel and equipment were to be provided from Libya as that project phased down. This project was designated the Ethiopia-U.S. Mapping Mission.
In mid-1964 the project began field operations on horizontal control, vertical control, and classification. A geodetic level net consisting of approximately 6500 miles of leveling is about 90% complete. The work remaining on the net is primarily in the far north and far west portions of the country. All survey work in Ethiopia is hampered by exceptionally rugged terrain, high altitudes where most of the plateaus average 6-8000 feet above sea level, long rainy seasons in some areas, and the need for security forces i n bandit infested portions of the country. The remaining leveling is in areas that present the worst of all these conditions.
The entire country, approximately 470,000 square miles is being field classified at a scale of 1:250,000 with selected areas being done at 1:50,000. At the present, about 125,000 square miles or approximately 25% of the 1:250,000 scale requirement is complete.
The third project, Liberia, began in 1963 with the arrival of the 72nd Engineer Detachment from Fort Belvoir, Va. Field operations were initiated soon after the unit arrived, and effort was directed to establishing Camp Ramrod, the project's base camp near Monrovia. The original requirement was to establish vertical and horizontal control and to classify the entire country, an area slightly smaller than Pennsylvania, at the scale of 1:250,000 and 1:50,000. Aid and training was to be provided to the country's counterpart agency, the Liberian Cartographic Service (LCS), Bureau of Natural Resources.
Field classification of the country is progressing towards the east and nearing 50% completion. Successful classification is highly dependent on a good aerial photography, however, much of the eastern portion, due to heavy cloud cover and haze created by dust storms in the Sahara Desert, had not been successfully photographed until this year. Through interservice cooperation and the outstanding efforts of Aerial Survey Team No. 2, US Air Force Aerospace Cartographic and Geodetic Service, stationed in Liberia over this winter, most of the remaining areas are now well covered by aerial photography and will enable the 64th to map this area quite rapidly.
Army aviation also plays a key role in all project areas in support of field surveys, field classification, and resupply runs to distant field camps. Over 30 aircraft are assigned including the UH-l and OH-23 helicopters (the work horses for field classification), U8, U6A, U1A fixed wing aircraft, an Aero Commander, a Cessna 185, and even the ubiquitous C-47 used for resupply runs in Ethiopia.
The insignia originally approved for the 64th Engineer Company (Topo) on 13 October 1941 has been authorized for the 64th Engineer Battalion since 19 May 1965. While there is no official motto, the crest is affectionately referred to as "Topo Joe."