Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Eager Lieutenant

(Source)

Cpt. Tony Palminteri was drinking hot coffee from his canteen cup, he had had to put his gloves on as the coffee was really hot. They'd set up the C Company CP in a school house, it was one of the few untouched buildings in the town. He was watching his platoon commanders file in as he drank his coffee. He needed it badly, he was damned near asleep on his feet.

The last man in was 1st Lt. Stephen Hernandez, who had brought S/Sgt Brad Woodstock with him, the commander of C Company's attached tank platoon. When everyone had found a place he offered the men coffee. While they helped themselves to the steaming hot brew, he glanced at the other door into the room, wondering where his new executive officer was.

1st Lt. John Bosquet had arrived two days ago, fresh from serving on staff duty in London. He'd been in the Army for two years and had spent the entire war to date on various staffs. He was a graduate of the Citadel and seemed to be very well connected in South Carolina politics. But in talking to the guy, Palminteri had been surprised that Bosquet had been trying to secure a combat assignment since his commissioning. It seemed that it wasn't him who was avoiding combat so much as powerful relatives with connections in Washington D.C. who had kept him away from danger. He seemed eager, which made Palminteri slightly nervous.

The last thing the men would tolerate at this stage of the war was a glory hound, some guy wanting to get into the action and maybe win a medal or two before the war ended, getting men killed in the process, Palminteri's men. He had thought about having a chat with the First Sergeant about the man, but he didn't want to get his NCOs involved with what was essentially his problem, so he'd lectured Bosquet the night before.

"You won't be going into the field, lieutenant, your job is here at the CP. Administration is your job, not combat. Are we clear on that?" He'd asked with a stern look.

"But Sir, the war is almost over, most of my classmates have seen action and..."

"Lieutenant, let me make this clear, administration, not combat. If you can't understand that, we'll cut orders for you back to England. Do you understand?"

"But Sir..."

"Yes or no lieutenant, I can't make it any simpler than that."

"All right, I understand Sir."

"Good."

Now his platoon leaders all had their coffee and were waiting for him to speak. Bosquet was still absent.

"Top!"

1st Sgt. Mort Saeger poked his head into the room, "Sir?"

"Find out where my exec has got to and tell him to get his ass in here, ASAP."

"Uh, Sir, the lieutenant took a jeep, one of the messengers, and two Basic Duty privates from 1st Platoon and headed out about an hour ago. He said not to bother you, he just wanted to have a look around. I thought you knew." Saeger was obviously embarrassed that the Captain didn't know this.

"He did what?" 1st Lt. Nathaniel Gonzales was on his feet in an instant. "Cap'n, did you authorize this?" He was angry and made no effort to hide it.

"No, Nathaniel, I didn't." Turning to his First Sergeant, he said, "Mort, get a patrol together, one jeep and a halftrack, send a squad from..." He was interrupted almost immediately.

"With your permission, Sir, I got this." Gonzales was furious. He'd lost two men the other day, one dead on the spot, the other on his way home with only one arm, now this new guy takes two of his men...

"Go Nathaniel, Mort brief the lieutenant on everything you know."

"Yes Sir."


Two miles away, 1st Lt. Bosquet was studying his map as he sat in the jeep with the driver, Pvt. Jack Magruder, a green kid from Nebraska. The two men from 1st Platoon, Pfc. Robin Bradley and Pvt. Sydney Patton, stood some distance away from the jeep. Both men were furious.

"I tell ya Syd, this f**ker has no clue. I'll betcha Lieutenant Gonzales doesn't know about this." Bradley was sure that this new Company Exec had told them a bullshit story. Their own lieutenant would be livid when he found out about it.

Patton looked towards the jeep, "The little bastard said it was L.T.'s idea for us to take him out on a familiarization ride. Now the little f**k is lost."

"Yeah, what's worse is, I think we're in Kraut territory."


Hauptscharführer Ulrich Schneider couldn't believe his good fortune at having found fuel for the halftrack. Now they were clattering down the road trying to catch up with the rest of their unit, the XII SS Corps. Oddly enough, a Waffen SS headquarters commanding primarily Army units.

"Hey, Ulrich, isn't that an American scout car up ahead?" Rottenführer Horst Bassewitz said as he got up behind the MG 42 mounted on the roof of the 251.

"Ja, it is, I wonder who's lost, them or us?"

"Well, let's ask them." Bassewitz said with a grin as he chambered a round in the gun and tucked himself in behind it, laying the sights on the vehicle itself. He figured he'd have plenty of time to shoot the two men standing off to the side.


"Lieutenant, we gotta roll, that's a Kraut halftrack!" Magruder was green, but he had paid attention in the classes they'd been given regarding enemy vehicles and how to recognize them.

"Hold your horses Private, I don't know where we are just yet, I need to..."

The first burst from Bassewitz's machine gun slammed Bosquet forward and on to the hood of the jeep. Bosquet was confused, the pain hadn't hit him yet. What the Hell was happening, he wondered. Time seemed to have stopped.

Magruder revved the jeep, slammed it into gear and drove off the road towards where the two men from 1st Platoon were standing. Both dove in as he floored the accelerator, jostling Bradley and Patton as the two men were trying grab a handhold and return fire with their Garands. One really bad bump then sent the badly wounded lieutenant off the hood and over the side of the jeep.

"Shit! Hey kid, the lieutenant fell out!" Patton yelled.

"You wanna rescue him Syd? Be my guest, Magruder, keep driving, get us the Hell out of here!" Pfc. Bradley wasn't going to die while trying to save some dumbass, green lieutenant.


The halftrack rolled to a stop next to the wounded American. The man was obviously in a lot of pain and was struggling to breathe. His chest was a mess, Schneider wondered how the man was still alive at all, one of the MG rounds had gone straight through, probably destroying the man's right lung.

One of the men from the squad yelled at Bassewitz, "Is that how they teach you idiots from Bavaria how to shoot? You hit one man out of four, you didn't even scratch the Ami car I'll bet."

The other SS men were now laughing at Bassewitz, who stayed on the machine gun as Schneider jumped over the side to see if the Ami was worth saving. Tough little son of a bitch, he wasn't going easy. But go he would, his wounds were bad enough that he had maybe seconds to live.

Schneider drew his Walther and racked the slide back, checking that the safety was off, he walked over to the dying man.

"Hey, Ami, what you do here, this Germany, not America. Wrong country, arschloch.¹" Then he pointed the pistol at the man's head and pulled the trigger. The struggling American immediately went still.

"Let's go boys! The beer is on me tonight!"

As the men cheered, Schneider mounted the 251 and it proceeded to head north, they'd need to find cover soon, it was nearly two hours past sunrise and the clouds were starting to clear. What a morning, the SS man thought, found fuel, got to kill an invader. A good start to the day!


The jeep had circled back after making sure the Krauts were gone. As the sun was now up and the clouds were gone, they figured the Krauts wouldn't linger in the area and risk attack from the air. Magruder braked near Bosquet's body. He had one look and immediately vomited.

"Jesus kid, ain't never seen a dead guy before?" Bradley had, not many, but he had been in the Ardennes and had seen enough.

"Nah, never seen such a..." Magruder vomited again.

"Geez Rob, looks like those Kraut bastards shot him in the head." Patton couldn't believe his eyes, he'd heard that some Krauts didn't take prisoners, but this? It made him sick, but not as sick as Magruder.

Bradley lifted the body by the shoulders, "Come on fellas, help me load him in the back of the jeep. The Skipper is going to be pissed."

"Not as mad as the kid's family." Magruder said as he helped Bradley and Patton ease the lieutenant's body into the back, they then covered him with a poncho.

"Let's go kid, do you know the way back?" Bradley asked as he climbed into the front passenger seat.

Before Magruder could answer, Patton began to whine, "So, I get to ride with the dead guy?"

"Yeah, Magruder's the driver, I'm a Private First Class. You're a low life buck private Syd, so yeah, you ride with the dead guy. Shut up and get in." Bradley had a stripe, the other two didn't. "RHIP boys!"

Magruder looked puzzled.

"Rank Has It's Privileges. Now drive rookie, head thataway!" Bradley pointed down the road  to the south. Damn lieutenant would still be alive if he could read a map, Bradley thought, oh well, better him than Mama Bradley's boy.


The SS men who had killed 1st Lt. John Winfield Bosquet, late of Charleston, South Carolina, outlived him by approximately an hour. They had been caught on the road by a section of American P-47s who were on road patrol, looking for precisely what they had found, Kraut vehicles in the open.

War is Hell.



¹ Roughly "asshole."

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.

86 comments:

  1. As soon as I saw the title for this segment, I thought "Uh-oh". It turned out better than I feared - the idiot didn't take anyone with him.
    Frank

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    1. Eager beaver, didn't get anyone killed other than himself. It happened.

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  2. I remember reading in a book about the armament of the P-47. A one second burst from the eight fifties applied the same amount of force, as a pickup hitting a brick wall, at twenty miles an hour. The Sdkfz 250 probably took most of a second's worth from each of the P-47s. There probably wasn't much left.

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    1. A pickup truck slamming into a brick wall at 20 mph won't really have that much of an effect on an armored vehicle, which the 251 was. As it was open topped though, doesn't matter the damage to the vehicle itself, the men inside are going to take some serious hits.

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    2. But those foot pounds are far more concentrated in fifty caliber fire.

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    3. Each round has a separate impact point, also depends on how the weapons are set up, converging fire and at what range. If each round hits the same spot (within a certain plus or minus) then yeah, you can mess up an armored vehicle. The effectiveness of air attacks using machine gun fire on armored vehicles has been inflated in some accounts. Bombs and rockets were the real killers. Machine guns are good against soft vehicles. I've seen gun camera footage of P-51s and P-47s shooting up a train, the locomotive particularly, and they did damage the locomotive. The .50 is a good weapon, but it's not really effective against armored vehicles.

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    4. Against lightly to mediumly armored vehicles, the .50 could punch through the top armor over the engine. Against a heavy vehicle? Not so much. But the .50 could, especially concentrated in 8 guns with a 1,000 foot aiming point, really thrash the exterior and even potentially knock the tracks out.

      With the extra added benefit of making it pure hell to any standing around the aiming point.

      As to locomotives, steamers are more designed to keep things in, like heat and steam, than keep things out. So, yeah, lots of really nice locomotives shot to ever-living-heck with an occasional boiler explosion.

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  3. Or 251, it changed in the story. Not that it would have changed the outcome.

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    1. Fixed that. 251 is a bit bigger, but yeah, the outcome would have been the same, dead SS men.

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  4. no thing more dangerous than junior officer with map , compass and infallible sense of direction....

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    1. For the most part, experienced NCOs are there to try keeping Lts out of ditches and snakepits, at least until they learn which way is up.
      On very rare occasions you get a surprise - like Lt. Richard Winters.
      Frank

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    2. I read a bit about Lt. Winters. While other guys were out punishing their liver and sampling the women, he was alone, studying. He took his job seriously, and worked to be the best at it. THAT is a man you can look up to. A man you can follow. He didn't luck into it, he WORKED to be the best.

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    3. Yes, he worked. But when you get an LT assigned to you, at first you don't know if the assignment came from the Practical Joke Department, or the Fairy Godmother Department :)
      Frank

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    4. Frank - Sometimes it's like leading a horse to water. It's the rare lieutenant who won't listen, the second time.

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    5. STxAR - The world is a lesser place without men like Dick Winters.

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    6. Frank - Yes, lieutenants are a mixed bag. Same goes for ensigns in the Navy.

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    7. In my years of serving on Navy ships, it was the rare thing to have an Ensign that wanted to learn. The worst thing the Navy ever did was take these young "men and women" straight from college ROTC programs and send them to operational ships without any sort of Basic OCS school, thinking ROTC prepared them. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
      I actually had one threaten me, a CWO2/3, stating very mater of factly that they outranked me and they did not have to pay attention to what I said. Well, before my dander got totally worked up, the old LDO 1st Lt of the ship stepped up and ripped from stem to stern, top of the mast to the bottom of the hull. When he was finished, the young Ensign walked up and stated they were very sorry for disrespecting my rank and knowledge and that they were ready to learn. An amazing transformation.

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    8. CoffeeMan,
      OCS wasn't much better prep in my experience, neither was SWOS once I ran out of excuses and had to finally attend. As the Gun Boss on a destroyer, I learned from being in the spaces with my guys and hitting the TM's. The only formal training the Navy have me was two days of "Gunnery Admin" and two (three?) of magazine sprinklers.
      Now I was saddled with an E-7 as opposed to a GMGC who was retired-on-active-duty who tried to snow me, but couldn't because of some prior knowledge and experience I had. My whitehats were quite good and together we got the job done. The "Chief" stayed on the beach in Olongapo.

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    9. Coffee Man - Very true. My first lesson to my kids when they started NROTC was, "Listen to your enlisted guys, they know what they're doing. Your job as an ensign is to shut up and learn. Your troops will love you for that." All three listened, all three did well. But they did serve with other ensigns who either didn't want to learn or thought they knew it all already. An ensign threatening a Warrant? Damn, I would have paid good money to see that!

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    10. Anonymous - Thinking you know it all coming out of OCS or NROTC is insane. A lot of kids in ROTC (the Academy too) do their summer cruises where they're supposed to learn something. Most of 'em don't even pay attention.

      Learn from your sailors, hit the TMs, that's the only way to really learn. Being saddled with an E-7, yeah, that sucks when you really want a Chief. BTDT.

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    11. The only time I saw that guy move with purpose was when the brow went over in Subic. If you wanted to be the second guy off the ship, you grabbed his belt and hung on tight. He was supposedly a good guy when he was a white hat.
      Boat Guy

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  5. When you go looking for trouble it will find you. Remember That '70s Show, Red Forman........."Dumbass". As for the SS, jabos to vehicles like moths to a light.

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    1. Yes, the new Lt was definitely acting like a 1800's French pulp-serial novel writer. You know, a Dumas...

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  6. I wonder what the political fallout would be? I wonder if Palminteri gets a reprimand, or a demotion, or worse?
    Do the guys with him get punished? One casualty, the LT, and no scratches on any of the rest? That's a bit odd...

    At this stage of the war, who can tell? It's still dangerous, but there is a feeling that it'll end soon. Those confusing realities make for error, which gets people killed... And all the green apples coming into the ranks.... man....

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    1. I've read of staff wienies sitting out most of the war until almost the very end, then they charge in looking for that "combat experience" check-in-the-box for their records. Happened a lot more in Vietnam from what I understand, but that nonsense has been going on probably since the Egyptians chased the Israelites to the Red Sea. (Yup, probably a recently arrived staff puke who led the Egyptians into the parted waters!)

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    2. And handled very well in Clint Eastwood's "Heartbreak Ridge." Curiously, the occifer in question was a graduate of the Citadel also...

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    3. Um, ah, sure, I knew that...

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  7. When Lt. Bosquet said, "All right, I understand Sir." I furrowed my brow because there is a world of difference between what he said, and the words, "I will follow my orders."

    As Anonymous (Frank) said, he didn't cost anyone else their lives.

    Much has been written about the care and nurturing of junior officers.

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  8. I am reminded of a land navigation exercise while in Warrant Officer Basic at Qunatico. Was running my plots and came acorss a couple of female WO's looking at their map and looking across a body of water. I stood there for a moment and asked them if they needed some help. They pointed across the river and said they need to get over there to reach their next point. I looked at hteir map and realized they had no idea of where they were. I had them point to where they thought they were. They pointed to a spot that was by and intermittent stream. Well, the river in front of them was the Potomac River! I took their map and showed them where they were. They venhemately disagreed, I shrugged and went about my way.
    I was in charge of remedial Land Navigation classes on Saturdays.....I saw both of them there. I then asked then how was their swim across the river! Yep, just as you might expect...they did not see the humor in my remark!!!!

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    1. Sad that such a simple task of reading a map and noticing the difference between a crick and a bleeping river is pert near a lost art.

      Seen the same thing on the waterways when I was a kid. Sumdoood in a big expensive boat who can't read a flipping chart and understand you must stay between the red and green markers is now stranded in 2' water when his BEB draws 4'. Idjits.

      Then again, one of the fun things my wife and I used to do before upcoming vacations was to sit down with the appropriate maps and plan our assault upon the area we were going to. And, sadly, if we did this in public we would get people looking at us like we were casting spells or something.

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  9. I kind of thought this was where things were going too when I read the title. The civilian equivalent of this is fresh college graduates with little practical experience and lots of theories. Thankfully death is not the outcome, just wasted resources and wasted efforts - and maybe job losses.

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    1. I've seen the civilian equivalent all too often.

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    2. Ah, yes, the cluelessness and stupidity of the freshly minted MBA who's now 'in charge' of what used to be a very productive unit until he/she came in and 'improved' said unit just like in his/her classes...

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    3. Not a fan of your garden variety MBA, seen too many of them eff up a perfectly good product. They also seem to like to argue with the customer.

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  10. During CPO initiation (c. 1989) it was stressed that one of the primary duties of a Chief was to train Junior Officers. Being a Gunner's Mate and closer in age to their Grandfathers than to their parents I actually had a female Lt. Commander who was the detachment commander apologize to me for losing control of her bladder while running the PT course less than 2 months after giving birth to twins. Old Guns

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    1. I'm willing to bet you were an awesome Chief.

      (Disclaimer - Old Guns and I go way back, before I even had a blog!)

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  11. The title terrified me too. Glad that none of the Joes were hit, came out better than I feared.
    One of my Dad's many wise-witicisms is " More dangerous than a Second Lieutenant with a map and compass"; a phase he survived by being smart and listening to his NCO's. His time in the ranks before OCS also served him well.
    Boat Guy

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    1. "Listening to his NCOs..."

      Smart man your Dad.

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    2. Smartest guy I've ever known, though there were times I was too dumb to realize that.
      Boat Guy

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    3. There's a reason 'Mustangs' are often hated by their officer contemporaries and superiors and, conversely, often loved by their men.

      Having a body of knowledge before becoming and officer is, I think, a good thing.

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    4. Many of the best officers and a few of the worst I've known were Mustangs. A bad Mustang is really bad.
      BG

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    5. Beans - One of the reasons I bailed from OTS is they kept telling me to "stop thinking like a sergeant," to which I replied, "you mean, stop thinking."

      That was not a popular opinion.

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  12. Re Capt Palmintieri getting splashback; he's probably savvy enough to point out that having to charge the Lt with disobedience and unauthorized use of a vehicle wouldn't reflect well upon the Lt.
    Boat Guy

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    1. I can virtually guarantee that the Army is more focused on finishing the war than with investigating the demise of some favorite son of a big shot back home.

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    2. Depending on political connections. Even then, in '45, who your family knew had power. And one highly-connected jerk could ruin the career of a good man, if the good man's chain of command doesn't do a good enough job of shielding him.

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    3. Very true.

      (It's been the same since those Egyptians I mentioned above...)

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  13. At this stage of the war, you have to wonder if they guy in charge of that German unit was originally a shoe clerk in charge of other shoe clerks, before being moved to the front.
    Driving a vehicle around during the daytime - about as clueless as that Lt.
    Frank

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  14. Only one quibble. A slight one. Minor. Mostly due to my warped mind. But to me it wasn't readily apparent who the new Exec belonged to until way into the discussion. My mind kept assigning the new exec to the Captain, not to the Lt. Dunno if it's just me being dense, but I read it 4 times...

    Other than that, yeah, don't be a glory hound. Seen it fighting in the SCA, some jerk will screw up unit cohesion to go act 'all the hero' and get him and possibly the unit thrashed. Conversely, my favorite target was always some glory hound who was too stupid to grasp the concept of the shield or spear wall. Especially teaching physics to the idiot who thinks he's Jackie Chan in armor who tries to jump the shield wall or charge through (my favorite shield wall 'sword' was a bat of rattan shaved down to 1 1/4" cross section, with the 'blade' a solid 3", that hit like a ton of bricks. Lift up and just let it fall and WHAM! Put a little English into the downswing and KerBLAM!)

    Good story. Thank you for not killing off any of our usual folks. And especially for drilling the 251 and crew that acted suchly. Though shooting the LT in the head probably was a mercy at that point.

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    1. The new (now late) lieutenant was the executive officer of C Company, he belonged to the captain. (Platoons don't have XOs.) He grabbed two of the lieutenant's Basic Duty privates (each platoon had five of those) to accompany him. So the Captain owned him but the lieutenant owned the two guys who weren't driving the jeep. It is a bit confusing, innit?

      The book should have an appendix with the TO&E of C Company so we can better track the players. I sometimes forget that you readers don't have access to my spreadsheet where I track all that stuff. Perhaps a page on the blog with that might work...

      Probably was a "mercy" killing, but it was still a war crime. So I wanted those guys to experience the attention that only a well-equipped ground attack aircraft, like the P-47, could provide.

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    2. Could have been worse than being attacked by a P-47. One of the B-25s uparmed with a nose-full of .50s, and side-fuselage pods of .50s, and the two on top... One of those planes could almost cut a Jap destroyer in half.

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    3. B-25G and B-25H, they also had a 75 mm cannon, developed especially for anti-shipping purposes. If they were used in the ETO it would have been in the Med.

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    4. The cannon didn't really prove out; the massed .50's and skip bombing were brutal. Don't think the B-25 strafers were used outside the Pacific.
      Boat Guy

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    5. (Don McCollor)..Some B25s also had cannon in Burma. One Brit was doing recon on a glider landing zone in a B25 under cover of a raid on on a railway station. They missed some rail cars and heard the pilot say they would use the cannon. He noted that it was one thing to be briefed that the plane was armed with a 75. Quite another thing to be in the air, and these madmen were planning to actually fire it. He had seen how hard a 75 kicks on the ground...

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  15. Usually they got others killed....

    When I just got to Germany, I was proud of my ability to speak if not fluent, understandable, German. And I was in the Army, a Pfc - I could legally cuss!

    Never will forget the following moment in time. I was in our little PX, said the word "arschloch", and this little old German lady who worked there flashed at me saying "DON'T YOU EVER TALK LIKE THAT AROUND ME AGAIN!"

    And I didn't...

    Funny how some of those little slices in time stay with you...

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    1. Heh. I was demonstrating my little knowledge of sign-language when the deaf mail-courier for the Sheriff's Office walked in. I mostly only know bad words. Really bad words...

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    2. William - Most GIs with any language ability will pick up the bad words first. Could have been worse, you could have said "arschgesicht."

      DAMHIK...

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    3. Same in Boy Scouts. We had a kid transfer to our troop from Germany.... His dad went to Reese AFB, but I'm sure the BSA transfer was more legit.... And we learned a lot of colorful German. Those words stick better than the rest.... Fallen human nature or some such...

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  16. Just re-read and noticed Pfc "Patton" and Pvt "Bradley". Who's next? Cpl "Collins" and Sgt "Patch"?
    Sorry to be A wise-ass...
    Boat Guy

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    1. Completely unintentional, heh.

      I'm not sure if Pvt. Collins and Pvt. Patch made it to the ETO. Again, heh.

      Perhaps a Cpl. Bonaparte and a Captain Wellesley?

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  17. There's a perfectly good reason so many boot lueys got fragged by their own men in 'nam. It ultimately saved lives.

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    1. Kids who were commissioned but not bright enough to listen to their NCOs.

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  18. The only Ensign I ever had regular, daily contact with was an LDO, who prolly could've taught the Division Officer and the Department Head a thing or two. But he listened, mostly, asked pertinent questions and let us do our jobs. We had some midshipmen aboard once, who'd been presented with a printed list of things to complete before their cruise was finished. We were told, on no uncertain terms, not to interfere with that. The Middies were still screwed with a little but it was innocent stuff, like removing the slo-blow fuse from a radar repeater, or salt in the sugar shaker.

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    1. I don't think they even give them a list anymore...

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  19. Though went over there the first thing other GIs wanted me to teach some was how to say “I love you“ in German.

    For all of those meaningful relationships in the G.I. bars

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    1. Heh, had the same experience in Korea.

      One of my fellow sergeants thought it funny to teach the rookies, "I have gonorrhea."

      The ladies were not as amused, nor were the rookies when they learned what they had really said.

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    2. That would be funny! Especially when they say it with feeling!

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  20. The LT is told the enemy is right down the road and he tells them to hold their horses? He not only has a dangerous problem with following orders, he has a completely unbelievable death wish and a fatal case of stupidity.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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