He was simply the
U.S. Army's best tank-crew and tank-platoon commander of WWII.
That's a very lofty claim, but agreed upon by leading military
historians and armor experts, and one where no serious challenger
for Pool's title has ever been brought forward.
Texas born and raised, Lafayette G. "Lafe" Pool
(1919-1990), even today, is to U.S. tankers what Richard Bong
and David McCampbell are to the USAF and US Navy - their "Top
Gun," when considering all wars. He served with the 3rd
Platoon, "I" Company, 32nd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored
Division from 1941 to 1944. During a brief 83 days in combat
in France, Belgium and Germany, Pool and his tank crew were credited
with destroying 258 enemy vehicles, including tanks, self-propelled
guns, and armored cars. He and his crew killed over 1,000 enemy
soldiers and took over 250 prisoners.
His was the point tank in 21 full-scale engagements, and he
survived many harrowing close calls with death. Fighting from
three different Sherman tanks, Pool and his crew knocked out
no less than 12 German tanks, most of which were superior to
the Shermans in terms of armor and firepower.
Pool was twice recommended for the Congressional Medal of
Honor, but an "infantry" mentality Army Recommendation
Board decided that, since tanks were crew-served weapons, he
did not deserve the Medal. But Pool, of course, was awarded other
major Army medals, including the Distinguished Service Cross,
the Legion of Merit, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart. He
also received the Belgian Fourragère and the French Legion
In his last battle, on September 19, 1944, near Stolberg,
Germany, Pool was blown from the turret of his tank from a double-hit
by German shells. Severely wounded, but fully conscious, he was
rushed to a medical unit, but would eventually lose a leg. He
was angry about having to leave the war "way too soon, "
he later said. He told a Stars & Stripes reporter,
"I was just getting started. This isn't fair." Given
a prosthesis, he returned to active duty in 1948 and served until
1960, retiring as a Chief Warrant Officer 2.
Lafayette Pool died at his home in Killeen, Texas, on June
1, 1990, at the age of 71 and is buried at the military cemetery
on Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He left a wife, three sons, and three
daughters. Pool's oldest son, 1st Lt. Jerry L. Pool, Army Special
Forces Green Beret, was reported missing in Cambodia in March,
1970, and was declared dead in 1978.