Sunday, May 27, 2018

Remembering

Captain Henry T. Waskow, United States Army
Born 24 Sep 1918 DeWitt County, Texas, USA
Killed In Action 14 Dec 1943 (aged 25), Italy
Those of us who served might remember a special officer or sergeant whom we would follow into Hell and back, if he (or she) was leading the way. I've known a few like that.

Ernie Pyle was a sailor in World War I (how ever so brief his service, he volunteered) before gaining undying fame as a combat journalist in World War II. He was admired by the common Marines and soldiers, even loved. His death at the hands of a Japanese sniper on the small island of Ie Shima during the Okinawa campaign stunned the men he was with.

I remember Mr. Pyle for this story, which I borrow in its entirety from here. It's a website where you might wish to spend a little time this Memorial Day weekend. But I digress, from Ernie Pyle...
The Death of Captain Waskow
by Ernie Pyle
AT THE FRONT LINES IN ITALY, January 10, 1944—In this war I have known a lot of officers who were loved and respected by the soldiers under them. But never have I crossed the trail of any man as beloved as Capt. Henry T. Waskow of Belton, Texas.

Capt. Waskow was a company commander in the 36th Division. He had led his company since long before it left the States. He was very young, only in his middle twenties, but he carried in him a sincerity and gentleness that made people want to be guided by him.

“After my own father, he came next,” a sergeant told me.

“He always looked after us,” a soldier said. “He’d go to bat for us every time.”

“I’ve never knowed him to do anything unfair,” another one said.

I was at the foot of the mule trail the night they brought Capt. Waskow’s body down. The moon was nearly full at the time, and you could see far up the trail, and even part way across the valley below. Soldiers made shadows in the moonlight as they walked.

Dead men had been coming down the mountain all evening, lashed onto the backs of mules. They came lying belly-down across the wooden pack-saddles, their heads hanging down on the left side of the mule, their stiffened legs sticking out awkwardly from the other side, bobbing up and down as the mule walked.

The Italian mule-skinners were afraid to walk beside dead men, so Americans had to lead the mules down that night. Even the Americans were reluctant to unlash and lift off the bodies at the bottom, so an officer had to do it himself, and ask others to help.

The first one came early in the morning. They slid him down from the mule and stood him on his feet for a moment, while they got a new grip. In the half light he might have been merely a sick man standing there, leaning on the others. Then they laid him on the ground in the shadow of the low stone wall alongside the road.

I don’t know who that first one was. You feel small in the presence of dead men, and ashamed at being alive, and you don’t ask silly questions.

We left him there beside the road, that first one, and we all went back into the cowshed and sat on water cans or lay on the straw, waiting for the next batch of mules.

Somebody said the dead soldier had been dead for four days, and then nobody said anything more about it. We talked soldier talk for an hour or more. The dead man lay all alone outside in the shadow of the low stone wall.

Then a soldier came into the cowshed and said there were some more bodies outside. We went out into the road. Four mules stood there, in the moonlight, in the road where the trail came down off the mountain. The soldiers who led them stood there waiting. “This one is Captain Waskow,” one of them said quietly.

Two men unlashed his body from the mule and lifted it off and laid it in the shadow beside the low stone wall. Other men took the other bodies off. Finally there were five lying end to end in a long row, alongside the road. You don’t cover up dead men in the combat zone. They just lie there in the shadows until somebody else comes after them.

The unburdened mules moved off to their olive orchard. The men in the road seemed reluctant to leave. They stood around, and gradually one by one I could sense them moving close to Capt. Waskow’s body. Not so much to look, I think, as to say something in finality to him, and to themselves. I stood close by and I could hear.

One soldier came and looked down, and he said out loud, “God damn it.” That’s all he said, and then he walked away. Another one came. He said, “God damn it to hell anyway.” He looked down for a few last moments, and then he turned and left.

Another man came; I think he was an officer. It was hard to tell officers from men in the half light, for all were bearded and grimy dirty. The man looked down into the dead captain’s face, and then he spoke directly to him, as though he were alive. He said: “I’m sorry, old man.”

Then a soldier came and stood beside the officer, and bent over, and he too spoke to his dead captain, not in a whisper but awfully tenderly, and he said:

“I sure am sorry, sir.”

Then the first man squatted down, and he reached down and took the dead hand, and he sat there for a full five minutes, holding the dead hand in his own and looking intently into the dead face, and he never uttered a sound all the time he sat there.

And finally he put the hand down, and then reached up and gently straightened the points of the captain’s shirt collar, and then he sort of rearranged the tattered edges of his uniform around the wound. And then he got up and walked away down the road in the moonlight, all alone.

After that the rest of us went back into the cowshed, leaving the five dead men lying in a line, end to end, in the shadow of the low stone wall. We lay down on the straw in the cowshed, and pretty soon we were all asleep.
Ernest Taylor Pyle
Born 03 Aug 3 1900, Dana, Indiana
Killed In Action 18 Apr 1945 (aged 44), Ie Shima, Japan
I mourn them both, Captain Waskow and Ernie Pyle, and the thousands upon thousands who fell in the cause of freedom. Today, in church, I will recite the names of the ones I hold in my heart. Brave men, gone far too soon. There are not enough tears for the all those who have fallen. I cannot embrace, nor remember them all, but these five I can hold close until Eternity calls me home.

Captain Carroll F. LeFon, Jr.
United States Navy
Lance Corporal Kurt E. Dechen
United States Marine Corps
Major Taj Sareen
United States Marine Corps
Lieutenant Nathan T. Poloski
United States Navy
Private Robert Bain
Royal Scots Fusiliers
(No photo available)

(Source)
For the Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon (4th Stanza)
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

And I do. Every. Single. Day.




6 comments:

  1. Got pretty dusty round here suddenly, Sarge. Great post.

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  2. Remembering......aahh, the dust........ there's so much dust ........you got the right verse there Sarge. The photo in last night's post grabs my heart, thanks for showing that. So many did not have the chance to grow older.....

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  3. The things they Carried….

    They carried P-38 can openers and heat tabs, watches and dog tags, insect repellent, gum, cigarettes, Zippo lighters, salt tablets, compress bandages, ponchos, Kool-Aid, two or three canteens of water, iodine tablets, sterno, LRRP- rations, and C-rations stuffed in socks. They carried standard fatigues, jungle boots, bush hats, flak jackets and steel pots. They carried the M-16 assault rifle. They carried trip flares and Claymore mines, M-60 machine guns, the M-70 grenade launcher, M-14’s, CAR-15’s, Stoners, Swedish K’s, 66mm Laws, shotguns, .45 caliber pistols, silencers, the sound of bullets, rockets, and choppers, and sometimes the sound of silence. They carried C-4 plastic explosives, an assortment of hand grenades, PRC-25 radios, knives and machetes. Some carried napalm, CBU’s and large bombs; some risked their lives to rescue others. Some escaped the fear, but dealt with the death and damage. Some made very hard decisions, and some just tried to survive. They carried malaria, dysentery, ringworm, jungle rot and leaches. They carried the land itself as it hardened on their boots.

    They carried stationery, pencils, and pictures of their loved ones – real and imagined. They carried love for people in the real world and love for one another. And sometimes they disguised that love: “Don’t mean nothin’! “They carried memories. For the most part, they carried themselves with poise and a kind of dignity. Now and then, there were times when panic set in, and people squealed or wanted to, but couldn’t; when they twitched and made moaning sounds and covered their heads and said “Dear God” and hugged the earth and fired their weapons blindly and cringed and begged for the noise to stop and went wild and made stupid promises to themselves and God and their parents, hoping not to die. They carried the traditions of the United States Military, and memories and images of those who served before them. They carried grief, terror, longing and their reputations. They carried the soldier’s greatest fear: the embarrassment of dishonor. They crawled into tunnels, walked point, and advanced under fire, so as not to die of embarrassment. They were afraid of dying, but too afraid to show it. They carried the emotional baggage of men and women who might die at any moment. They carried the weight of the world.

    THEY CARRIED EACH OTHER.

    (Author not certain but believed to be by
    Tim O'Brien from the book The Things They Carried)

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  4. My mother had two pictures of my dad on her dresser. One as a West Point Cadet, another as a captain. She wanted one of me and for almost 30 years I said no. I figured I would not die if there was no widow's picture and so I resisted.
    Interesting picture of Lex. I see and note the color of things.

    For those who believe, there is the miracle beyond. He knew how to write. I wonder if, like me, the admiral used to come down the hall to his office and exclaim about his writings to OPNAV et al. I wrote some truly good ones when I had the bit firmly in my teeth. Living in San Diego I didn't figure the admiral was going to peronally fly from Norfolk solely to kill me.

    there is an author who used to write about South Africa, "Stay with God", "Go with God". Be still and know....

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  5. Yet again, naught but

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

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