Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Best Laid Plans...

US Army Signal Corps Photo

"Jesus Sarge, how much longer we gotta march around the f**king Belgian countryside? We're motorized, right? So what's with all the marching?" Pvt. Cecil Brown had been complaining for the last mile. The other guys in the squad were getting tired of listening to him complain.

Cpl. Melvin Katz stepped up behind Brown, grabbed him by the collar of his field jacket and pulled him off to the side of the road.

"Jesus, Corp what the..."

Katz, "Cat" to the long time members of the platoon, stepped close to the young private and got right into his face. "Listen Brown, we're all tired of listening to you whine. We're in the f**king infantry, infantry marches. One more f**king word out of you and I'll have you carry the MG and a couple boxes of .30 cal ammo as well. I'll give you something to bitch about."

Brown turned white as a sheet, Cpl. Katz was normally a pretty easy going fellow, Brown, new to the platoon, had never seen Katz angry. As he jogged to get back into position with his squad mates, he had to admit, he was a little scared of the corporal with the odd accent.

Once back with his squad, Pvt. Brown noticed that Pvt. Chris McWhorter was glaring at him. "Hey Brownie, you don't want to piss the corporal off, you piss him off, you piss Sergeant Wilson off, then you know what happens next?"

"No Mac, what?"

"Sarge and the Corporal piss all over us. The rest of the platoon goes to chow, we'll still be slogging along these back roads. So suck it up, be a man, and shut the f**k up!"

In truth, most of the platoon was beginning to be sick of these conditioning marches. They had enjoyed the field maneuvers last week, but now the company CO had the men out marching from what seemed like dusk to dawn. As it was nearly winter those two times weren't all that far apart, but it still made for a very long day.

The 1st Battalion of the 26th Infantry had recently been pulled out of the Hürtgen Forest after long hard fighting. Many of the men were new recruits or were veterans recently returned to duty from the hospital after having been wounded earlier in the campaign. A series of field exercises organized by the battalion commander had gotten the men used to working together but the battalion commander, Major Alphonse Josephson, had noticed that many of the men were out of shape. So now they marched, at least 20 miles every day for the past few days.

Though some of the men were complaining, the marches were going better, the men were shaping up, so Major Josephson let his company commanders know that the men could have the next day off, no drills, no marching. Though part of the day would be spent cleaning their gear and uniforms, they would have most of the day off.

S/Sgt Stephen Hernandez paused outside the small house that the 2nd Platoon had been allocated for their command post. The weather was appreciably colder than it had been the day before. "Well, it's December isn't it, and I ain't in California any more am I?" he muttered to himself. Just then Sgt. Woodrow Sherman, the platoon guide and acting platoon clerk, came out of the building.

"Hey Top, the L.T. was looking for you earlier."

"Yeah, I was down at the battalion aid station, the docs say I'm good to go for a full return to duty, Just in time for a day off I hear."

"Yup, Cap'n Palminteri has been marching our asses off all day, every day, but he took mercy on us and said 'Tomorrow, thou shalt rest.' So yes, you're back just in time for that."

 "Great. L.T. in?"

"Yup, he's in there."

"Thanks Woody."

Hernandez entered the small house, the front room was, or had been, the family sitting room for the Belgian family who had lived there. According to the locals, they hadn't been seen in over a year. Hernandez had learned that the family was Jewish, from what he had been hearing, it was quite likely that the Germans had taken them away.

He moved to the kitchen area, where 1st Lt. Nathan Paddock was using the kitchen table as a desk, He could have moved the table into the front room, but the kitchen had a fireplace and Sherman had built a nice fire in it. The room was toasty, almost too warm, Hernandez thought.

"Afternoon Sir."

"Hey Top, grab a chair, we've got some planning to do!"


"Regiment wants to put on Christmas parties for the kids in the area. Some of these poor young'uns haven't had a decent Christmas since 1938, and with that bastard Hitler making noises just across the border, it probably was kinda somber back then as well."

Hernandez nodded, "Ya know Sir, I think the men, well, most of 'em anyway, would really like that. How's this going to work? I note you said Christmas parties, that is, more than one."

"Yup, regiment says first battalion will cover the area to the northeast of Aubel, regiment will handle the party in the town of Aubel itself. C Company will throw the party here in Hombourg. Ya know, get a Christmas tree, decorate it, the cooks will put on a special meal, gifts for the kids, that kind of thing, should be fun." 1st Lt. Paddock stopped, sighed, then looked out the window.

"Might help to keep the men's minds off the war for a few days, I know I could use it." Paddock said in a melancholy tone.

S/Sgt Hernandez had a feeling that something was bothering his lieutenant, rather than beat around the bush, he came right out with it, "Okay L.T., I know you pretty well, something's bothering you. What is it? You know it won't go beyond this room."

"Ah, shit, I guess I gotta tell someone. Annette, the girl I was dating since Christmas of last year..." Hernandez noticed that Paddock's eyes were glistening, as if his lieutenant wanted to cry.

"What about her Sir, isn't she an Army nurse out in the Pacific?"

"Yeah man... Top, she's dead. Killed in a Jap air raid on her field hospital. The f**kers deliberately bombed a clearly marked hospital area." Paddock sat up, ran his sleeve over his face. "As soon as we finish the Krauts, I wanna go kill Japs."

"Damn, were you and her serious L.T.?"

"Kind of, we talked about it, she is, was, a really sweet kid. But we both figured that it would be smart to wait until after the war. Now as if that matters any more." A wave of bitterness washed over Paddock's face, then he recovered somewhat.

"At any rate, the kids need these parties, man, I need a party. See kids being happy, singing carols, I, I... Damn it!"

Hernandez went around to the lieutenant's side of the table and put his hand on Paddock's shoulder, "L.T., I'm taking you into Aubel tonight, I'm going to get you plastered. Okay?"

"All right, I suppose. You just want to drive my jeep, dontcha?" Paddock was recovering his composure somewhat, but Hernandez knew it would take time.

"Well, there is that. So when does regiment want these parties to happen?"

"Next week, let me see," Paddock was checking the government issue calendar he'd tacked to the wall behind him, "next Saturday, less than a week from today, the 16th."

"Sounds good, we'll get right on that. The 16th of December, party time! As to the other thing, how about 1900?"

"All right Top, I'll go into town and have a drink or two, but I'm not getting plastered, okay?"

"Whatever you say L.T.!"

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  1. Damn Sarge...least it wasn't a Dear John, I guess. It's a wonder LT woulda had time to date - maybe a NYC girl when he was at USMA? Yet another wrinkle and good way to note the sacrifices of the nurses (and the brutality of the Japanese).
    Speaking of nurses, maybe LT will meet the NC Captain in Aubel.
    Nice timing for the parties, I observed the date by walking part of the Bastogne perimeter with friends one year - they did it last year too
    Boat Guy

    1. That's one of those dates which is burned into my brain.

      I didn't figure Paddock for a guy who would date someone who would write a Dear John letter. So it had to be a nurse, besides which, as you point out, not enough attention has been paid to the nurses who have served.

  2. There is ALWAYS someone who complains, sure as they suck air. L.T. has a week to bounce back for the sake of his men, Top ought to be able to find some wine somewhere eh? Hit 52 above yesterday, 22 above average (wipes sweat off brow).

    1. If a G.I. isn't complaining, something must be horribly wrong!

  3. Replies
    1. I’ve got a feeling the party will be postponed. I think that was such a shock when they invaded.

      Like the others I was assuming that the lieutenant was going to get a dear John letter.

      Can you imagine what that would do to you out in the field?

      Or worse a letter from your wife wanting a divorce

      As for the nurse reminded me of some good friends my parents had for many years.

      Dusty was in the second wave of D day and wounded. He ended up marrying the army nurse Doris who took care of him in England.

      They happily lived together until death parted them.

      As to the battle of the bulge one thing I always remember from history is that they were throwing rifles to cooks and sending them out there

    2. I think the party will be interrupted

  4. Hey AFSarge;

    I saw the date and "something niggled my brain" about that date, LOL. I felt bad about the LT, but the Japanese didn't respect the Geneva convention, going into aid stations and bayoneting wounded men and such, plus the Bataan Death March and others it explained the unusual savagery of the Pacific war that the Americans had toward the Japanese, no quarters given, only place that was worse was the Russian Front with the Germans and the Soviets. Another awesome Post.

    1. OTOH the Army and Navy Nurses not evacuated when PI fell were interned and they all made it home. Great books out there about them - albeit few.
      Boat Guy

    2. BG - Too true about there being not enough books about the heroism of those nurses.

    3. If anyone is looking for something to listen to about the Japanese and nurses,

      is a good, if Australian, download. Actually the whole series 'Australians under Nippon' is excellent: my wife and I burned the whole series to CD, for long car journies.


    4. That looks like a good series!

  5. was gonna comment about the likelihood of parties not happening, but as usual others beat me to it.
    Another great look into the everyday happenings of the GI's - Can't wait until the 23rd and the 26th!

    Also, this was an interesting read regarding the role of air power in the upcoming battle -

  6. I know it's still the '40s, but I hope the "Cat" has no problem helping everyone "celebrate the birthday of a 'nice, Jewish boy'".

  7. The Japanese did things like that. Sadly. Targeting medics, hospitals, churches, schools, and anything else we considered as 'non-targets.' One unit would 'follow' the 'civilized rules of war' while another right next to them would not. Hard to feel humanity towards a side that acts that way, at least to us. I am sure they felt the same way about us.

    Two different worlds.

    And now we've been fighting conflicts with people who put units and materials into schools, churches, hospitals because they 'know' we won't bomb said locations.

    Different worlds.

    Poor kids. The world starts going right and then the Intergalactic Cat knocks it off the table, again... That darned Hitler!

    And another Forest, hearing of the great feasting it's brother had, awakens, hungry, sensing in the winds a great harvesting coming. Slow to awaken, Lady Winter's icy grips already being felt, the Forest knows...

    1. Pretty profound way of looking at it Beans my old chum. Well said.

  8. Dec. 16th: My Uncle Jim and Father-in-law Joe remembered it well. They didn't really believe the "Home By Christmas" rumors but hope was totally dashed with the first German artillery barrage. When asked by his son "Do you want to go see the movie Battle of the Bulge?" Uncle Jim said "No thanks. Saw the play. Didn't like it." WWII was the first of his 3 wars.
    Joe got his first P.H. in the Hürtgen Forest. Second during the Bulge. Got back in time to cross the bridge at Remagen and liberate Buchenwald.
    Never got to get them together but in comparing notes I took after talks with both they couldn't have been more than 200 yards apart at Remagen.

    1. It is good and proper that we should remember them and men like them. Much honor to their names.

      Thanks for sharing that, Stretch.

  9. 16th? Uh-oh... I get the feeling some uninvited guests are going to show up on this party...

  10. Well, that was an unexpected twist Sarge. Well done.

    1. It seemed like a good thing to add to Paddock's story. Not for Paddock of course, but you know what I mean. Gives him more depth I think.

    2. It does. I assume this plays out later.


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