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 The day we laughed at Patton

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Dick Stodghill
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Dick Stodghill

Number of posts : 3795
Registration date : 2008-05-04
Age : 93
Location : Akron, Ohio

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PostSubject: The day we laughed at Patton   The day we laughed at Patton EmptyFri Aug 01, 2008 8:50 am

The day we laughed at Patton I_outg19
This morning my thoughts drifted back to another August 1 sixty-four years ago. Here is an excerpt from the book Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War:
When Patton’s 3rd Army was committed to battle on the first day of August, he somehow got the idea that the 4th Infantry Division was switched from the 1st Army to the 3rd. That would happen months later, and it was Patton who then recommended that the 12th Infantry Regiment be awarded a Presidential Unit Citation, but on August 1 we were not a part of his command.
The day began like so many other days, wandering here and there, backtracking, spending hours in a seemingly aimless search for pockets of Germans. Four hours of sleep for each man had done little to rejuvenate us. Until late morning the sky was gray, a perfect match for our mood.
In mid morning, G Company halted in a field and gathered around Lieutenant Davit so he could read an order from General Patton. No one gave a damn about the first, and erroneous, sentence: “You are now in the 3rd Army.” What difference did it make to us what army we were in?
The next sentence, however, got our attention: “There will be no digging-in in the 3rd Army. The 3rd Army will move too fast for that.”
Patton was a tank commander and tankers could take their foxholes with them. The infantry lived by the maxim “Dig or die.”
There was a short silence, then someone chuckled, someone else laughed, and soon we had all joined in. Tired as we were, I would never have believed it possible. At that time, Bob Hope could have considered his act a success had it resulted in a few weak smiles, but, had we been in a theater, Patton would have had us rolling in the aisles. As for his order, well he knew what he could do with it.
So off we went again and soon the sun came out. I was loaded down with the big radio as we tramped along a dirt road that now and then would take us past a cluster of houses, but for the most part just wended its way through fields and orchards. I stayed at the front of the main body near Captain Moore.
It was around noon when the last man in the squad on the point raised a hand as a signal to stop. A runner double-timed back to tell the captain he was wanted up front. He started off, but in no big hurry. Without being ordered to do so, I fell in behind.
In a whisper the squad leader, John Cwiklinski, told Captain Moore that three Germans were eating lunch in a farmyard on the right. It looked like one was wearing a GI undershirt. After looking over the hedgerow, the captain agreed and sent a runner back with a message saying he wanted B.A.R. men up front. He didn’t specify how many so within two minutes all eight arrived, making nine including the one already there with the point squad.
The farmyard, like so many in Normandy, was a place of tranquil beauty. Sunlight filtering through tall trees created an irregular pattern of bright light and dark shadows, making it difficult to pick out details. The Germans were seated at a sturdy picnic table about twenty feet in front of the house. The youngest, no more than sixteen or seventeen, had removed his tunic. The sleeveless undershirt he was wearing did look much like one of our olive drab shirts. If the trio possessed weapons, and I doubted that they did, they had been left inside the house. These had to be rear echelon men unaccustomed to danger. We were no more than thirty yards away so infantrymen trained to be on the alert would have become aware of us.
The captain said he wanted three B.A.R. men to set up, then fire on his command. Again he failed to be specific so no one knew which three. All of them wanted to take part so for a moment it appeared that they were going to turn on each other. Several were snarling and growling so the captain said all nine could do the job. Captain Moore was not much of a decision maker.
One of the Germans had gone inside the house so they had to await his return. Now there were twenty or more of us peering over the hedgerow. Still the unwary Germans did not sense our presence. When the third man came outside carrying a bottle of wine, the captain waited until he had taken several steps toward the table before issuing the command: “Fire!”
There was a terrific clatter as the nine B.A.R.s and a number of rifles fired by men who decided to join the fun shattered the noontime quiet. It was a bloody massacre. The German on his feet was hurled back against the wall of the farmhouse. Another was lifted from his seat and sent sprawling across the table. The youngest just fell forward, face down in his mess kit.
Everyone ran into the farmyard, some entering the house, others going on to the outbuildings. After failing to find more Germans we assembled at the front of the house. By then everyone had come forward so the captain said we could take a few minutes for lunch before going on. As there was room for only four at the table with the dead Germans, most of us sat with our backs resting against trees or the wall of the house.
One of the newer replacements, a man of eighteen or nineteen I hadn’t noticed earlier, went over to the table for a closer look at the young German. When he returned to the wall where I was seated he said to his squad leader, “Sarge, that isn’t a GI undershirt.”
Cwiklinski was working at opening the small can from his K-Ration box. Without looking up he said, “So what? Eat up before its time to move out.”
Soon after returning to the road we were halted again so Lieutenant Davit could read another message from Patton. This had never happened under Bradley or Hodges in the 1st Army. Someone near me mumbled, “This guy must be going to fight the war with his typewriter.”
This time the order was so ludicrous, so downright unbelievable that even straight-laced, conservative Lieutenant Davit joined the laughter that was both louder and longer. The second message read: “As screaming provides aid and comfort to the enemy, there will be no screaming by the wounded in the 3rd Army.”
The man had to be mad. Imagine telling someone with his body torn apart to be quiet so as not to give the Germans comfort from his suffering. He was wrong, too, in thinking that hearing the cries of an enemy soldier was less stressful than listening to one of your own men screaming in agony. Whatever its source, a scream was a scream.
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Sue
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PostSubject: Re: The day we laughed at Patton   The day we laughed at Patton EmptyFri Aug 01, 2008 4:53 pm

I really don't like war stories, military stories, history stories, etc. etc. etc. HOWEVER! You held my interest. You mesmerized me, again. Thank you for sharing with us!
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zadaconnaway
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PostSubject: Re: The day we laughed at Patton   The day we laughed at Patton EmptyFri Aug 01, 2008 8:23 pm

Dick, I am like Sue to a point. But when it comes to personal experience, I find it fascinating. I am also vastly impressed by the way you manage to inject a little humor into things.
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zadaconnaway
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PostSubject: Re: The day we laughed at Patton   The day we laughed at Patton EmptyFri Aug 01, 2008 8:29 pm

I gave your book to my mate who is a slow reader, but who is thoroughly enjoying the read. When he is finished, I intend to dive into it.
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Abe F. March
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PostSubject: Re: The day we laughed at Patton   The day we laughed at Patton EmptyFri Aug 01, 2008 9:37 pm

sometimes excerpts can give a wrong impression. I read Dick's book in its entirety and think it is one of the best books written about WWII. I think the posting of this segment was intended to point out the Patton episode but I was impacted with the scene of killing defenseless soldiers. Kill or be killed is necessary for survival however an isolated episode can be misleading.
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Don Stephens
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PostSubject: Re: The day we laughed at Patton   The day we laughed at Patton EmptySat Aug 02, 2008 9:52 am

I have to agree, excerpts can give the wrong impression of a novel, at the same time I have to disagree with the statement “defenseless soldiers”, when in a combat situation, I always felt that there were "defenseless civilians", but if the people I was facing were wearing the enemy uniform and were not standing with their hands raised or carrying a white flag, the kill or be killed rule applied.

Back to the thread…I used to have a First Sergeant that loved to quote Patton, but funny thing, he never brought up any of these silly statements in the orders Dick brings to light.

He used the ones like:

"No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.
He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."

"If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn't thinking."

“Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men.”


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rainbow689
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PostSubject: Re: The day we laughed at Patton   The day we laughed at Patton EmptySat Aug 02, 2008 11:38 am

Interesting story Sir Dick and this is in no way a dig at you, but just another sad example of what the species of upright bipeds that infect this planet can and do with monotonous regularity to their fellow upright bipeds, any idea why the 3 eating their last lunch weren't taken prisoner rather than just blasting them to kingdom come? No Sad The day we laughed at Patton 705244
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Dick Stodghill
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PostSubject: Re: The day we laughed at Patton   The day we laughed at Patton EmptySat Aug 02, 2008 1:14 pm

Because it appeared one was wearing a GI undershirt. Wearing enemy clothing or carrying their weapons such as souvenir pistols means execution if captured in any army. In WWII so did Germans carrying saw-tooth bayonets, so no combat soldiers did so.
It turned out the man wasn't wearing a GI undershirt, but at a time of wholesale slaughter the death of a few more men is of little concern to anyone.
Don summed it up in writing of the difference between defenseless civilians and enemy soldiers. Once we were in Germany, civilians were treated well but had to be viewed with caution. That included very young children. A bullet doesn't care who squeezed the trigger.
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rainbow689
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PostSubject: Re: The day we laughed at Patton   The day we laughed at Patton EmptySat Aug 02, 2008 1:48 pm

Dick Stodghill wrote:
Because it appeared one was wearing a GI
undershirt. Wearing enemy clothing or carrying their weapons such as
souvenir pistols means execution if captured in any army. In WWII so
did Germans carrying saw-tooth bayonets, so no combat soldiers did so.
It
turned out the man wasn't wearing a GI undershirt, but at a time of
wholesale slaughter the death of a few more men is of little concern to
anyone.
Don summed it up in writing of the difference between
defenseless civilians and enemy soldiers. Once we were in Germany,
civilians were treated well but had to be viewed with caution. That
included very young children. A bullet doesn't care who squeezed the
trigger.

Indeed the bullet doesn't care! I've, I'm glad, nay relieved to say,
have never been in any military and as I've often said if I was forced
i.e. drafted or whatever I'd have had to go into the entertainment
squad or the cookhouse! It does throw up the spectre of false
perception of which I've often been perceived as anything other than
what I am or might be. Even yesterday someone said I was 'nuts' mainly
due apparently to what I was wearing i.e. loose Asian Indian blue pants
and a multicoloured purple shirt open to the navel, mainly because at
the moment the two lower buttons are all I can manage to button up and
get on, it's also round 103 degrees here. I said, 'Thank you, how kind,
but as I know I'm not 'nuts' ergo I can't be, it's those that think
they're Napolean and don't know they're not, they are really nuts!'

My retort seemed to stump him and I asked him from where did he come to
his perception? He had no answer. One problem with perception is few
people ever check the facts. If one wasn't perceived as wearing a GI
undershirt might the outcome have been different or is it just because
it's perceived they are enemy that that justifies wholesale slaughter?

Again Sir Dick this is not aimed personally at you The day we laughed at Patton 710456
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Dick Stodghill
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PostSubject: Re: The day we laughed at Patton   The day we laughed at Patton EmptySat Aug 02, 2008 3:14 pm

It was only because of the apparent GI shirt.
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zadaconnaway
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PostSubject: Re: The day we laughed at Patton   The day we laughed at Patton EmptySun Aug 03, 2008 8:22 am

In war time it is a case of kill or be killed, and one does not have the time to sit, pass the time of day and ask if the other guy is friendly or not. The poor fellow wearing the shirt gave the appearance of guilt and a decision had to be made on how to handle the situation. At least, that is how I understood it.
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Don Stephens
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PostSubject: Re: The day we laughed at Patton   The day we laughed at Patton EmptySun Aug 03, 2008 1:51 pm

Zada,
Very perceptive and well said.


There are very few people I know that have seen combat who were concerned with the “Big picture”, the stopping of world domination, preventing the spread of communism. For the average grunt the big picture boiled down to two objectives, protecting themselves and the guys next to them. Many put a higher priority on the second…many of those ended up being awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously. Combat isn’t glamorous; it is horrific beyond the imagination.

Rainbow:
An observation from one who has been there to one that has not: The ambush of three suspected enemy soldiers IS NOT WHOLESALE SLAUGHTER! The murder of millions of Jews was wholesale slaughter. The massacre of an entire Montangard village of over 200 men, women and children simply because they had been inoculated by a Special Forces Medic was wholesales slaughter.

I strongly believe every person is entitled to their opinion and I earned four Purple Hearts believing I was defending those same people’s rights to express those opinions…it doesn’t mean I have to agree with them. People offering 20/20 hindsight on situations they can’t possibly fathom, piss me off!

Just one old man's opinion.

Dick,
Sorry didn’t mean to hijack your thread!
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Dick Stodghill
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PostSubject: Re: The day we laughed at Patton   The day we laughed at Patton EmptySun Aug 03, 2008 3:09 pm

Glad you did, Don, although I wouldn't call it hijacking. I was thinking how often it is in combat that you don't even know what the other platoons in your own company are doing or where they are, although it's always nice to know a good outfit is on your left and right. As for the big picture and your reason for being there, it ranks about as important as the price of tea in China and rice in Japan. When two groups of men are doing everything possible to kill each other, nothing else matters and you don't find anyone philosophizing about the meaning of it all.
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zadaconnaway
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PostSubject: Re: The day we laughed at Patton   The day we laughed at Patton EmptySun Aug 03, 2008 9:19 pm

Thank you Don. I know war is horrific for everyone concerned, but most of all those who must fight it. I have known and do know many Viet Nam vets who still suffer for it. There are also some WWII vets in my family of cousins, and the stories may vary in substance, but not in the heartwrenching feelings most came home with. I am very proud of all our vets, regardless or which war they were in. They (You) all deserve more respect than they receive.

And as you remind us, Don, the wholesale slaughter was ongoing genocide by Hitler.
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Abe F. March
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PostSubject: Re: The day we laughed at Patton   The day we laughed at Patton EmptySun Aug 03, 2008 10:06 pm

Dick's book expresses much humanity for the enemy. They were soldiers just like he, following orders. It was one of the things that set his book apart from many others that seemingly took delight in blowing away anyone who wore a different uniform.
For anyone to take pleasure in blowing someone else up, in my opinion, is despicable. Doing one's duty is honorable. To make judgement about an incident without having been there is wrong.
My original comments were based on an incident, taken out of context, that gave an impression other than that portrayed in the book. This is simply my impression. Dick was there, he is the author and only he knows the facts.
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rainbow689
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PostSubject: Re: The day we laughed at Patton   The day we laughed at Patton EmptyMon Aug 04, 2008 6:24 am

Abe F. March wrote:
Dick's book expresses much humanity for the
enemy. They were soldiers just like he, following orders. It was one of
the things that set his book apart from many others that seemingly took
delight in blowing away anyone who wore a different uniform.
For
anyone to take pleasure in blowing someone else up, in my opinion, is
despicable. Doing one's duty is honorable. To make judgement about an
incident without having been there is wrong.
My original comments
were based on an incident, taken out of context, that gave an
impression other than that portrayed in the book. This is simply my
impression. Dick was there, he is the author and only he knows the
facts.

Good point Sir Abe however where is the line between judgement and an
observation? In my comments as I mentioned that my comments were not
aimed at Sir Dick, he was not only a participent in the war, but also more importantly an observer and recorder of the facts
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