He came to us at Combat Command "A" as a replacement
just after we broke through the Siegfried Line of the German
Border in the fall of 1944. The Signal Company Wire Chief, Technical
Sergeant Tom McFarland, who had been awarded the Silver Star,
drove the Indian up in his jeep and turned him over to our wire
crew chief, Sergeant Earlie J. Jones. Private Walter Hogan was
now a member of our Communication Section wire team as a disciplinary
measure. The last stop before transfer to the 41st Infantry Regiment.
When a soldier could not get along in the rear echelon, for whatever
reason, the kind hearted officers in the rear would send the
fuck-ups to the Combat Commands for attitude adjustment. It worked,
almost all the time.
Private Hogan was not a general run of the mill screw-up,
just that he made a major error of judgment in dealing with his
former wire crew chief, Sergeant Kyle Howell. Hogan was a hard
worker and not a shirker by any means. Followed orders to the
"T" and never mouthed off, kept to himself, didn't
complain or bitch and would speak only when spoken to. In many
ways, the ideal soldier in combat. His only known fear was that
of officers - all ranks. For whatever reason, Hogan would go
out of his way to avoid speaking to officers and never explained
why. Apparently, he didn't trust their power over him, and rightfully
so. Look what happened to him over that damned C ration cocoa.
I have to back up here; Hogan had been assigned to another
wire crew and never had a single problem until one day he discovered
that his wire crew chief had been opening the cases of C rations
and throwing away the cans of cocoa that no one cared for - except
Hogan. He thought it was the best thing we had available to drink.
He and the Sarge got into a heated argument and Hogan decked
him after knocking the hell out of each other, as the Sarge was
no pushover in handling men or his fists. Clearly the winner
of that fight, Hogan had to go, but, rather than court-martialling
Hogan for "striking" an NCO, the Powers That Be decided
to transfer him to our crew as a form of punishment. Hell, he'd
fit like a glove!
Hogan was in his early twenties and standing 6 feet 2 inches
and weiging close to 195 pounds, rock solid without an ounce
of visible fat on his muscled body. His upper torso development
was spread on his broad shoulders and tapered to his small waist
like a light-heavy-weight fighter's build. The power of his arms
was noticeable through his baggy GI wool shirt. In spite of his
exceptional physical condition, he was a peaceful man, unless
provoked - then watch out for the fireworks that followed!
I watched one day when someone other than our crew addressed
him as "Chief" in a smart-ass tone of voice. I saw
Hogan's eyes become squints as he told the GI he didn't appreciate
his reference to his Okeechobee, Florida Indian heritage in that
manner. The guy, sensing Hogan's anger, instantly backed off
with the comment, "no offense - sorry," and Hogan waved
his hand to forget it. But the point was well taken by all present.
Normally, Hogan was a happy-go-lucky guy with that perpetual
Mona Lisa smile that hid whatever he was thinking. Given the
toughest assignment, he never complained. Might shrug his shoulders
and cock his head to one side as though weighing what had to
be done, but then got on with it without a word. I suspected
he was not too well educated, but would go off by himself and
write a letter home now and then. When the mail was brought up
to us on occasion he would receive a letter, but never shared
the contents - good, bad or otherwise - with us, as we did with
each other. We shared what few packages we received from home,
but I don't recall Hogan ever receiving a package.
In the Bulge, the extreme cold took its toll on everyone,
but more so with Hogan. I don't know if his blood was thinner
than ours, but he often had the chills and shivered if standing
still very long. He was the perpetual movement guy burning calories
for inner warmth. I remember the nuns from a roadside convent,
scurrying among our vehicles on the road when we stopped, with
their tea kettles of boiling water to give us. Hogan could consume
two canteen cups as fast as they could pour the scalding water.
The rest of us looked for stashed packets of instant coffee to
add to the water in our cups, but not Hogan - he couldn't wait
that long to warm the insides!
Came the spring and we waited to bridge the Rhine River and
continue the attack. The area we stopped overnight was the home
of several major wineries and our GIs immediately discovered
the witches brew - massive barrels and barrels of the joy juice.
Our five-gallon water cans were quickly emptied and refilled
with the nectar of the gods. It was happy hour all day long.
The brass looked the other way and ignored the drunks who didn't
have enough sense to stay out of sight.
Up until then, I had never seen Hogan take a drink of alcohol.
That day he made up for lost time and became a drunken Indian
without using common sense. Late that night he pounded on the
trailer door containing the CCA Commander, Brigadier General
John H. "Peewee" Collier. Fatal mistake. Most generals
dislike piss calls being made by inebriated soldiers of Indian
heritage in the middle of the night, regardless how well intended.
Collier was no exception. He had Hogan placed under arrest and
the next day, rather than have Walter Hogan dispatched to the
41st Infantry, he told Captain Bifano to have Hogan assigned
to the kitchen truck as a KP for one week for punishment. Hogan
ducked the proverbial bullet that time!
Hogan had learned his lesson and knew that he escaped from
being sent to the infantry and behaved himself thereafter. I
never again witnessed him take a drink of any kind. Even at Wolfenbuttel
at the war's end when there was an abundance of local beer and
schnapps available. We went to Berlin together in July as a part
of the Berlin Honor Guards at the Potsdam Ceremony and then later
in August, when we withdrew to Bad Orb, I began my journey home.
That was when we parted company. Years later I wrote to him in
St. Petersburg, Florida at his last known address. But my letter
was returned "Addressee Unknown." I hope he is still
enjoying his cup of cocoa wherever he is today.
Publication or reproduction, in part or whole,
is prohibited without written permission from the author, Don
R. Marsh. All rights remain the sole property of The Marsh Family