Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Out with the Old...


It was cold, it was wet, it was, in a word, miserable. Charlie Company was dug in along a line which had been held by the Germans up until a couple of days ago. Many of the positions had been dug by the enemy, but the Americans had spent a lot of time improving those positions, especially the overhead cover, or the lack thereof. Helped to keep out shell fragments, but it didn't do all that much to keep the rain out, nor did it do a damned thing to keep the cold out.

Captain Alphonse Josephson studied his platoon leaders: Jackson of 1st Platoon, Paddock of 2nd Platoon, Childreth of 3rd Platoon, and Jacobsen of Weapons Platoon. Josephson had his doubts about Childreth, but the other men were solid.

It's not that Childreth was a bad officer, but he was unlucky. His decision to let two of his men wander off into no-man's-land to fill canteens had been rather boneheaded, but for now he had to work with what he had. He wasn't very impressed with Childreth's platoon sergeant either. He was letting his lieutenant make stupid mistakes and getting men killed as well. He wanted to make a change.

"So that's the deal guys, we're here for a while. The rest of the regiment is tied down in Aachen, in fact, division is taking it in the teeth there. They are kicking Kraut ass, but it's coming at a cost. I asked at battalion about the prospects for us being used in Aachen, the major said, and I quote, 'No f**king way.' So we're in the trees for the foreseeable future."

"Sir, any intel on what the Krauts across the line from us are up to?" 1Lt Kent Jackson asked the question, it was something that Josephson had planned on talking about anyway, so might as well talk about it now.

"Yeah, the guys on the other side of the hill, so to speak, are from the 983rd Grenadier Regiment, 275th Infantry Division. They've been battered and rebuilt a couple of times. Seems the rest of their division is to the north, they've moved the 983rd here to give them some combat experience."

"Kinda like us..." 1Lt Paddock chimed in.

"Exactly Nate, but from what we've seen in the way of prisoners so far, they've got some pretty young kids in uniform. As young as 15 according to the S2."

"Damn sir, they're eating their seed corn." 2Lt Herman Jacobsen had grown up on a farm in Iowa, so he tended to use farming analogies.

"Yup, the Krauts are all in at this point. It's that or quit, I haven't seen much 'quit' in those boys over there. They're worn out, ill clothed, poorly supplied, but the bastards have a lot of fight left in them."

The captain continued, "I plan on nothing more complicated than aggressive patrolling over the next few days, give the men some experience and keep the Krauts too busy to attack us. Bastards' philosophy seems to be, 'When in doubt, attack.' Yes, they are good at that. But our job is to grind them down. Eventually our supply situation will improve, theirs will only get worse. We have an Air Force, they don't. Well, I haven't seen many Kraut planes overhead, but I see a lot of ours when the weather is good. Which today," he paused and looked to the foggy skies, "ain't so good."

The men all had a sardonic laugh at that, then the captain dismissed them with the exception of 2Lt Childreth. "A word Morgan."


"I'm giving you a new platoon sergeant..."

"But sir, SSgt DuBois and I..."

"Are a disaster waiting to happen. Quite frankly Morg, I don't think DuBois is doing you any favors, he makes bad decisions and I know you've been covering for him. Do you want to make First Lieutenant someday? Captain? What are your plans when the war is over? Do you plan on staying in the Army?"

"Well, yes sir, I worked very hard for my commission. The Army has been my dream since I was a kid, I..."

"DuBois is going to get you killed Morg, I've seen it before, the man is a sorry NCO. So he's gone, if you like, send him to me and I'll fire his ass..."

"No, no sir. I'll do it. He's been my platoon sergeant since early August, I should be the one to tell him."

"Are you sure you can do that Morg?"

"Yes sir. He's gone, I'll send him back to you for reassignment."

"Negative, straight to battalion, Sergeant Major Hamilton is expecting him."

"In the meantime I'll have one of my squad leaders..."

"Nope, see First Sergeant Saeger before you head back, we've got a new guy, SSgt Bob Poole who's just out of the hospital and needs an assignment. He was hit pretty bad on D-Day but he's back, I asked for him personally. He's a good man, he's been with the division since May of '42, he's an old hand. You need him Morg, trust me."

"Okay sir, if you say so. I'll send DuBois to battalion and when can I expect Poole?"

"He's going back with you. Anything else on your mind lieutenant?"

"No sir."

"Very well, dismissed."

The cold made his bones ache, "I'm getting too old for this shit Mort."

1Sgt Morton Saeger just laughed and shook his head, "Ain't we all Bob, ain't we all?"

"So what's this platoon like? What's this DuBois' problem, Cap'n don't like him?"

"He's sloppy Bob, he's gotten men killed through bad decisions. His platoon is the worst in the company, the men are sloppy, Lieutenant Childreth is an okay officer, a good platoon sergeant could make him a great officer. DuBois will get him killed, probably himself as well. He ain't a bad guy, he's just f**king lazy."

"Got it, is that my new platoon leader?" Poole said, pointing at a young officer coming towards them.

"Yup, that's your new boss. Get him up to speed fast Bob, we don't have much time."

2Lt Childreth walked up to the First Sergeant and nodded, "Mornin' First Sergeant, is this..."

"Lieutenant Childreth, this is SSgt Bob Poole, he ain't much to look at, but he's a good NCO. Take good care of him okay Sir? We go way back, don't we Bob?" 1Sgt Saeger slapped Poole on the back, hard.

"Yes sir," Poole put his hand out, Childreth shook it, "the First Sergeant is older'n dirt. He's been around since Christ was a corporal. So they say..." Poole winked at Saeger when he said that.

"Um, right, okay, let's get going Staff Sergeant. First Sergeant." 2Lt Childreth nodded at Saeger, wondering what to make of all the good old boy antics. The older NCOs scared him at times. As they walked and before he could say a word to his new platoon sergeant, SSgt Poole spoke up...

"So sir, anything special I should know before I meet your platoon? Anything you don't like, stuff you do like? It's your show L.T., I don't want to mess things up or step on any toes."

"Um, no, just do your job I guess. Let me know when I screw up, but..."

"Roger that sir, in private, never in front of the guys. Mama Poole didn't raise no fool."

"Right. Okay. By the way, as of today, it's our platoon." Morgan Childreth already liked this new sergeant. Spoke his mind, didn't fool around. We shall see, he thought, we shall see.

Morgan Childreth fired SSgt Joseph James DuBois as gently as he knew how. As he'd never fired anyone before, he was surprised at how hard that was. SSgt DuBois went to battalion, where they made him a supply sergeant. He was caught falsifying records two weeks later. Though it was a matter of poor bookkeeping, and not attempting to defraud the Army, he was brought up on charges anyway. He was subsequently court-martialed and reduced in rank to Private First Class.

During the Battle of the Bulge, PFC DuBois went missing in action, his body was never found.


  1. Wow the buildup is coming I knew a sergeant like Debois. What a lazy jerk. Even over 40 years later I remember him.

    Imagine on a combat situation there’s more than a few seasoned sergeants that have kept their lieutenants from getting killed

    Actually of the sergeants I knew they came in 2 varieties.

    Real good or real bad. I don’t think I knew any mediocre sergeants. I knew another that would just skate by with the very minimum of whatever he had to do. And then tell us to do his work.

    I was just talking about military slang and how it has always interested me. It generally comes from wars.

    “SOL” is from WW1. The American expeditionary force served its front line soldiers from a cook wagon that would travel up to 10 miles on rutted and cratered roads

    Germans knew their schedule and frequently their artillery fire was deadly

    If a cook Wagon got hit the men who were supposed to be fed in the trenches would say that they were SOL that day.

    I wonder where “Christ was a corporal“ came from?

    Had to of been at least World War II when the Air Force was part of the army as I’ve heard that phrase in the army too.

    Beaucoup obviously came from Vietnam

    Better get to sleep now.

    1. I knew a few mediocre sergeants in my day.

    2. (Don McCollor)...I have also seen "Beaucoup" used in WW1 writing, probably picked up by association with French troops...

    3. Yes, only in WWI they might have pronounced it better. As I recall, GIs in SE Asia pronounced it "boo koo."

    4. am i really 10 posts behind? bad reader, old comments don't get read... :)

      beaucoup came back from europe with the doughboys. it re-surfaced post-vietnam, because, well, vietnam was a french colony. My dad would pronounce it boo koo, which drove me crazy since je parle.


    5. Richard, old comments do indeed get read. Comments on posts older than five days go into moderation automatically, but Blogger informs me via email when one comes in.

      I figured that the doughboys brought that home with them (among other things).

  2. Out in the FMF for the last little while of my time in service, after my special assignment was over. We had a good functioning unit, 'til our our Gunny got promoted, and transferred to I don't know where. We got a shitbag gunny that had been in charge of the brig like forever, and seemed to think he should treat everybody under him like brig rats and conscripts. Incredible to see how quickly one dysfunctional NCO can erode the morale and efficiency of an outfit. Miserable time for everybody.

    1. A bad officer can bring a unit down, but if it has good NCOs it will still function well. Bad sergeants? Bad morale and piss poor performance go hand in hand with bad NCOs.

  3. Had a newly promoted Sgt when some info came in, and I copied down everything the Lt(soon to be Capt) wanted.
    Forwarded info to the Lt's office but it was intercepted by Sgt Newbie, who then asked for all sorts of other stuff.
    When I didn't the answers to those, he told me to write this up in a report.
    So....I reported that I took all the info the Lt wanted, and Sgt then asked for stuff the Lt didn't want and then told me to write this incident up.
    Shortly thereafter, Sgt asked me if I was trying to get him into trouble - maybe he learned something :)

    1. Guys like that never learn.

      Well played, Frank.

    2. Totally off topic, but this trip down memory lane trigger an event during my first(failed) attempt at college...too many fun distractions interfere with studying.
      Anyway, this dewy-eyed freshman straight off the farm unintentionally mentioned a girl going into a room during off hours in the dorm.
      Shortly after that, the entire Nebraska University football team was looking for the guy that snitched out their star running back.

    3. Oh, well - you can look back at the days of callow youth and just shake your head.
      Lucky for me, he had a couple of bad habits that kept regular students from wanting to cooperate with their search.
      And...he went on to a successful pro career, so there's that.

    4. All's well that ends well I suppose...

  4. When I first picked up Warrant Officer I was put into a Majors billet as the S-4 for a Regimental sized headquarters element. I had a Gunnery Sergeant that let me make all the mistakes I could, being a new officer that was a alot, and never stepped up to take on anything unless I asked him directly. Made my first year hell...stressed out head on desk ready to resign. He rotated home and I got a new Gunny. Firestarter this guy was. Wind him up and let him run! So good to have and probably saved my career!!

    A solid NCO can make or break an officer.

  5. Fascinating. Having never served, the dynamics of NCOs and commissioned officers is very interesting. I have not seen it discussed or written about in this fashion before.

    1. Ditto TB. I've never seen this side althogh: I talked to an ensign once that told me his dad was old Navy from WWTwice. Dad told son to learn from the CPO's and basically put this kid on the golden road. He was a good one from what I heard.

    2. Toirdhealbheach Beucail - Something I tried passing on to my kids, all of whom were officers in the Navy.

    3. STxAR - Good advice, learn from those who have "been there, done that."

    4. Since you mentioned Navy, (Yep. I stayed on thread until the ice was broken) Happy Navy Birthday to all current and former sailors.

      I'd mentioned before about ripple effect that a good leader causes.
      I transferred to the DD-714 from Forrestal, and walked into a situation with poor leadership at both the senior enlisted ranks and within the engineering department. It took a year, and that included a new CHENG, a new Machinery and Boiler Division Officer, and a new Chief to turn it around.

      I haven't ever lived in the field. Even at the worst, Navy chow and living conditions were tolerable.
      I cannot really imagine the miserable conditions that you find when living in a hole while waiting for some stranger to try and kill you.

      Another good post.

    5. It is indeed the birthday of the mighty United States Navy.

      Living in the field sucks. DAMHIK.

  6. Gosh, I hate it when you give backstory and names to pawns... Makes it real. Those were normal guys doing the fighting and dying out there. I just know what's coming, and wish it wasn't....

    1. It's why I write, far too often history deals with the bigshots. Without the folks at the pointy end of the stick, those bigshots are meaningless.

  7. History reads like some of the (dot) Indian holy books about the wars between their gods. This god did this, that god did that, those other gods fought for XYZ time, oh, by the way, when they stomped around, millions of men died, eh.

    An understanding of both the great men and the men who made them great is really required to understand history. William the Conqueror wouldn't have been able to conquer without lots of 'little people' excelling at their tasks.

  8. And... did we meet Poole before or is he a new character? I need a scorecard. Or an excel spreadsheet.

  9. "Helped to keep out shell fragments," - if that's not foreshadowing, I don't know what is ...
    Not going to Aachen, but staying in the woods - kinda damned if you do, damned if you don't - or the good news is we're not going to Aachen, the bad news is we're staying here in the forest, but won't know the latter until later

    1. The 26th Regiment took some heavy casualties in the fighting for the city center. Of course, they took heavy casualties in the Hürtgen as well. Damned if you do...

  10. Hey AFSarge;

    You are correct, An NCO can make or break a unit. And sometimes having to transfer in fresh blood in necessary to arrest the rot because the you don't know how far it goes and you need somebody that is from the outside to see the damage and correct the damage and that NCO being from outside can fix it without damaging EGO's and SSG Poole can get the job done without the extra baggage.

    1. He's a vet, he should be fine. 😉

    2. MrGarabaldi, you explained why it's a good idea to move to a new "command" when becoming a front line manager. Makes crystal clear why some places rot so thoroughly.

    3. True in the private sector as well. Sometimes it takes bringing someone from the outside in to find the self inflicted errors.

    4. Toirdhealbheach Beucail - It can be damned difficult for someone on the inside to see the problem.

  11. Holy crap, you disappeared DuBois! Remind me to stay on your good side Sarge!

    Old NCO's are supposed to scare the crap out of young officers. But the ones who really give young officers grey hairs before their time are the relatively young NCO's who are full of urine and vinegar and make things happen. Missions get accomplished but sometimes it looks like a circular firing squad...

    Great post and food for thought. Thanks!

    1. I needed to make room for SSgt Poole. DuBois seemed flaky to me at times, so he had to go. It was him or Childreth, I thought Childreth had potential, so...

  12. For those of you who are not familiar with the posts of the late Carroll “Lex” LeFon here is a post of his describing the value of the chief petty officer in relation to an officer


    1. Not familiar with Lex?!?!

      Say it ain't so people!

  13. DuBois reminds me a little of Cpt Sobel's character in Band of Brothers. He too died a somewhat ignominious death, although that might be a little harsh. I admit I feel a little sad for DuBois- busted all those ranks for a mistake, vice intentional action. Maybe I'm reading that wrong though.

    1. It was a mistake, but he was lazy about certain things. He ran into a commander who didn't tolerate that.

      He wasn't as useful as Sobel, probably a nicer guy though.

    2. Sobol reminded me also have occasionally those bad officers. A petty tyrant.

      That’s not just limited to the military of course. you give some people a little authority over others and their character is quickly revealed

    3. There's probably a difference between the real Sobel and how the actor portrayed him. It was good to see Winters put him in his place in the show though. Blind and dead from malnutrition is a hell of a way to go no matter how much he was an ass.

    4. I looked him up and his end was not pretty. Attempted suicide which just shattered his optic nerves, and then death a few years later.

    5. Tuna - Sobel was one of those guys who is very good at certain things, like training Easy Company, but is ill-suited to anything else. From what I've read the portrayal of Sobel by David Schwimmer wasn't too far off the mark.

    6. William - Sobel's was a very sad end.


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