Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Siege of Wilson Hall


Nestled in a valley in the deep green hills of Vermont lies Norwich University. It is here, in the dark, cold winter of 1971 - 1972 that our story begins...

(Hint: play the music while you read. It helps set the mood.)

A band of intrepid warriors was in their barracks that cold, snowy Saturday. Shining shoes, studying their arcane texts, wondering just how much fun the upperclassmen were having in the Montpelier metropolitan area. (Such as it is.)

Shining, studying, wondering and...

...pondering.

For pondering is what young warriors will do when they are suddenly out from under the thumb of military discipline. Do they trust us? Is that why we have been left alone for a weekend? Is this a test? Perhaps a trap? If we get out of hand, will the upperclassmen suddenly materialize to harry us back into the cowed role of Norwich freshmen? Known collectively and dismissively as "Rooks".

We did not know. We did not care. For we were being left alone. For perhaps the first time since arriving at the nation's oldest private military school. Don't question it. Savor it. Revel in it. Who knew when this down time might come again?


But that was my own F Company. Civilized warriors we were. Students of war and philosophy. Content to learn our trade there in the quiet, snowy hills of Vermont. Not all companies in the regiment were as civilized. No, not at all.

Some companies were beneath our notice in those days, for we were callow youths, not wise to the ways of the world. We tended to be somewhat judgemental of our fellows. Even those who wore the same uniform, for they were under other officers, they lived in other barracks. We were measured against each other. We competed against each other for regimental honors and special privileges. Such was our world.

For instance, there was Band Company. The tootlers and tweeters of musical instruments. They were segregated in their own area. They lived in the basement of another company's barracks. Kept away from the cadets who drilled with rifle and bayonet, they lurked in the dark haunts of their nether world and practised "band things". Things we others did not care to know. We sensed the reason for the old French military saying:



La guerre doit être terminée, voici la bande ...

Then there were A through D companies, dwelling on the other side of the Quad. Given our lowly station in the Corps of Cadets, A through D companies may as well have been quartered on the dark side of the moon. We did not know them. They did not know us. Even though D Company were in our battalion, they were strangers, other-side-of-the-quadders. With them we did not associate.

G, H and I Companies were all in a third battalion and lived down wind from us. Though they lived on our side of the Quad, we did not associate with them. We viewed them as being foreign and strange.


And then there was E Company, Easy Company. The company where most of the jocks were clustered. Uncivilized brutes they were. We naturally assumed that their upperclassmen were kept locked away with their slovenly underlings by the regimental staff. Preferably behind thick iron doors locked with massive chains.

No, they were not. They were in a barracks just like ours. Goodyear Hall was their lair. At the foot of the Quad it was. Near our own Wilson Hall, but separated by a road, which we considered to be something of a Demilitarized Zone, a DMZ if you will. We stayed on our side, they stayed on their side.

Problem was, at morning formation we would fall in in front of their barracks, for some reason. That's what we did. Every morning. We would insult them. They would insult us. Of course they couldn't understand most of our insults. We in F Company tended to use words of more than one syllable.

One could say, we didn't like each other. No, not at all.


So, to get back to this epic tale, there we were snug in our barracks, watching the snow fall, contemplating the finer things in life. 'Twas then we received the first alarm.

Cadet One: "Do you see something over by Goodyear?"

Cadet Two: "Nope. It's probably just the snow...  Wait, I think...   Holy Crap!"

Cadet One: "What is it, oh Holy Mother of....   Run, tell the others. I'll bar the door and try to hold them here!"

With that, battle was joined.

Before I describe the fighting, you first have to appreciate the tactical situation. Here's an overhead view of the battlefield.

North is to the Top
In the photo below (taken years after the battle mind you), you can see Wilson Hall on the left and on the right is the lair of the beasts Goodyear Hall. The DMZ can be seen winding between the two barracks. If you look just above the sign in the foreground, you can just make out the main entrance to Wilson. The all important main entrance on which the outcome of the battle hinged.

Looking to the North
Here we can see the backside of Wilson. As can be seen, from a tactical standpoint, the terrain presents a daunting aspect to a potential attacker. That hill is steep and in the winter nearly impassable. (Note that the stairs to the left were added well after the battle. The things they do to accommodate tourists. Sigh...)

Looking to the East
E Company's plan hinged on their diversionary attack to the rear of Wilson Hall being able to draw off enough F Company defenders so that their main attack could overwhelm the defenders at the main entrance. Once inside Wilson, E Company's more bestial instincts would serve them well in room to room fighting. We knew at once that it was imperative to hold them "at the gates".

E Company's Plan of Attack

Main Entrance to Alumni Hall

Depicted above is the main entrance to Alumni Hall, the building immediately to the north of Wilson Hall. This is similar to the old entrance to Wilson which has been rebuilt. The older entrance was largely destroyed in the heavy fighting that day. Particularly take note of those windows above the doors, they played a large role in the fighting.

E Company Hoard

As described earlier, two F Company troopers had noticed something going on inside Goodyear Hall. It was E Company, issuing from their dank warren, bellowing their primal rage at all that was goodness and light.


It was then that someone noticed...

Anonymous Cadet: "Oh My Dear Lord. Their upperclassmen are with them. There's, there's too many of them...   WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!"


F Company Stands Alone and Outnumbered!

Another Anonymous Cadet: "Crap! They're coming around the back way too! Sonofabitch we're in the crapper!"

It was at that point that Sean the Mighty took command. Turning to Your Humble Scribe he commanded, "Roomie, hold'em here at the front door while we drive those skulkers out back away. Shouldn't take long. I know it's a diversion but we have to crush it. Keep'em away from the back door!"

As 
Sean the Mighty dashed off with the bulk of our warriors, we prepared to sell ourselves dearly at the main entrance. The E Company Hoard then hit the locked main doors. Being primitives they simply assumed that the doors would open when they pushed. They were baffled when the doors would not open. So they began to push.

Quickly assessing the situation, I turned to the troopers behind me.

"Get all the trash cans you can find and head to the showers. Johnnie, you go to the showers and get all the showers turned on. FULL HOT. NOW GO! GO! GO!"

Still the E Company ne'er-do-wells were heaving at the doors, trying to break through by main force. I could hear the struggle to our rear as 
Sean the Mighty and his band hit the diversionary attack full on.

"Sarge! We've got snow balls!"

Turning my head, I see that Jimmie from Fitchburg had used his head. He and his roomie, Kevin from Gloucester had stripped the blankets off their beds and gone outside through a little used and forgotten side portal. Where they used to bring the coal in to heat the barracks in the way back.

"Beautiful! Well done Jimmie! Take five men, go up to the upstairs windows and start blasting those pukes at the from doors! Kevin, you and Bill get more snow! MOVE, MOVE, MOVE PEOPLE!"

At that point, the pressure on the doors had ceased. The minions of E Company had fallen back to regroup. We had blunted their initial assault. It was then that I heard a ruckus behind me, coming up the stairs from the rear entrance. My blood ran cold for a moment.

"Ah Sarge. Ah crap, they've busted through 
Sean the Mighty!!!"

As we turned, I heard, "Sarge, they're coming to hit the front again! AND THERE'S MORE THAN THEY HAD BEFORE!! WE ARE SCREWED!!"

'Twas then that 
Sean the Mighty came into view with his band, their numbers were fewer and they looked terrible.

Sean the Mighty:
 "They roughed us up pretty bad down there. But we drove them off. They won't be back. I saw some of them crying and breaking away from the Hoard. Probably sneaking back to their barracks. The SISSIES!!!"

Sean the Mighty
 quickly assessed the situation, left his bravos at the front door, took me and a couple of others and we headed to the showers. (I'd told him my plan.) When we got there Johnnie had about 8 trash cans, all filled to the brim with steaming hot water.

Johnnie: "Let's go steam those ba$tards!" And with a cheer we were off.

We arrived at the windows and were met with a flurry of snowballs from the Quad. Though a primitive race, E Company learned quickly and had posted men to fire at our guys in the windows to assist their comrades trying to break down the door.

We got organized and set.


Sean the Mighty:
 "Ready with the snowballs? When I yell 'Fire', you guys jump up and give their skirmishers a volley. Sarge, after the first volley, do your thing!"

A quick look around, multiple nods and 
Sean the Mighty bellowed "FIRE!!!"

Our guys creamed their skirmishers, who had gotten cocky and had even shortened the range. As they staggered back, I bellowed "BRING THE HEAT BOYS!"

With that, eight trash cans of steaming hot water cascaded onto the enemy at the gates. They were staggered. Screams and whimpers were heard. They began to fall back. Then 
Sean the Mighty bellowed "HIT 'EM AGAIN BOYS!!!" And that was all it took.

E Company Repulsed!

E Company began to stream back to their barracks. Here and there some stalwart upperclassmen tried to rally them, but our guys had issued forth from the front entrance and were launching the pursuit. Those few stalwarts were overwhelmed with snowball fire and the E Company retreat was in full flow.

Soundly Defeated, the E Company Hoard Returns to its Lair

The fight was over. We had whipped them.

As we turned to survey the mess that had been made, it was ugly, snow and water everywhere. The curtains on the upstairs windows had been ripped down and trampled. The front doors were actually damaged. They would no longer close properly.

Just then our company commander returned from his evening about the town.

F Company CO: "WHAT IN THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE!!!"

He's standing in the entrance, surveying the carnage.


Sean the Mighty turned to me and said, "You get the mops, I'll get the buckets."

I turned to the commander and said, "We got this Sir. We just kicked E Company's butts in a snowball fight."


F Company CO:
 "Seriously?" (With a gleam in his eye. Like I mentioned the two companies were very competitive.)

Your Humble Scribe: "Yes Sir. We clobbered them."


F Company CO:
 "Nice. Now get this sh!t cleaned up." But he said it with a smile. He was whistling as he took the stairs two at a time.

And that was the Siege and Battle of Wilson Hall. A true story. I know, because I was there. I may have embellished a detail here and there, but for the most part, that's what happened.

It's my blog, I'll tell the story my way.

Carry on...

10 comments:

  1. So fox company is the Band of Brothers not easy well now that changes things.I always thought easy was the best I have been corrected.Was there a nuts in there.

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    Replies
    1. There are nuts in every company. Every squadron. Every ship. I think it's a regulation.

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  2. "It's my blog, I'll tell the story my way."

    Or, as my Father used to say, "Never let the truth interfere with a good story!"

    ReplyDelete
  3. LOL, that there are... THAT there are... :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. And to think my Ol' Man actually threatened me with military school. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wait until I tell the story of the regimental trip to New London.

      Delete
  5. What a story. Positively chilling...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bwaaaaaa haaaaaaa haaaaaaaa!

      (Your comment deserved better than a simple "heh".)

      Delete

Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)