As a civilian, Harold Packman knew that the war which had been declared against Germany in 1941 was moving ever closer to his door in Brooklyn. A printer and mapmaker by trade, he volunteered for the Army on January 27, 1943. The 10th of ten boys, he was the second Packman to enter the service.
Basic training for Harold took place at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. When his existing cartography skills became known, Harold was assigned to the 667th Topographic Engineer Company, a unit within the 3rd Army. Topographic engineers made surveys for maps, for construction, or to provide ground control for field artillery. They drew new maps and revised old ones based on aerial photography, surveys, and reconnaissance observations. After gathering such information, they completed their unique services by quickly printing brand new maps using mobile lithographic presses.
The Army relied heavily on the use of such maps throughout World War II, not just to learn the lay of the land, but to direct artillery strikes and to plan strategic troop movements. Harold remembers being amazed at using aerial photos taken by reconnaissance pilots in low flying Piper Cubs and turning them into battlefield maps within mere hours! He also remembers a great sense of privilege at being asked to create maps showing the direction the battle would take….even before the battle began.
Harold was selected to be one of 8 mapmakers working directly under General George S. Patton, Commander of the 3rd Army as it spearheaded the American troops across France and into Nazi Germany. It was a distinct honor to be selected for such specialty work from a company of the 200 mapmakers in the 667th. It was also intimidating, for Gen. Patton was a very demanding military leader. Harold remembers one occasion in early 1945 when another mapmaker brought a newly-created map to the General for his approval. The map showed the positions the group should expect to occupy the next day, assuming continuing movement forward. The General examined the new map closely before angrily ripping it up and exploding: “We were there yesterday!”
Harold’s photographic and mapmaking skills were put to good use throughout the war in Europe. He is very grateful that his efforts contributed to America’s ultimate victory and pleased to have been able to serve the Army in a unique way.
Harold mustered out of the Army in April of 1946, having attained the rank of Sergeant T4. He returned to Brooklyn, and to the mapmaking career he left behind. He enjoyed a 21 year career in mapmaking before beginning another in rehabilitation therapy and massage. Other career accomplishments? Harold has parlayed his education and experiences in massage therapy into becoming a published author, having written Ice Therapy: The Ultimate Cryotherapeutic Alternative in 2006. (Some years earlier, Harold published another book – Don’t Let the White Hair Fool You! – which takes a light hearted look at the geriatric world.)
These days, this energetic, well spoken gentleman lives in the Harbor Place Community in Port St. Lucie, Florida. He serves as the president of the Harbor Place Resident Council, and thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to meet with residents and management on matters of collective interest.