Paulson Index      Poem Set #2

Poems by Harold A. Paulson
SET #1

You're in the Army Now
Sick, Lame, and Lazy
I Told You - Take Two Pitches
Gory George
Hand to Hand Combat
A Toikey is a Boid
Louisiana Maneuvers
Army Chow
Christmas Furlough
My Lack of Respect - I Inherited It
The Treasures in the Mojave Sand
Fate and the Little Guy
The Gap
The Day We Got Respect
The USS Shawnee
The Ship that Stopped in the Convoy
A Mess of a Mess
The Night the USO Came to Mere
Maggie's Drawers
The Three Day Pass
Big Lou
The Sounds of War
Sgt. Willie G. Price
The Thundering Dawn
Stoic? Maybe -- Silent?
The Altar of God
The Roods Along the Road
So, We Weren't Infantry Men
The Town that Almost Missed the War
Ice Cream, Anyone?
Line of Flankers, Left
Over the Quota
No Prince Am I
Was it "Forever Amber?"
The Roadblock to End All Roadblocks

On the way to Mont Le Ban

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You're in the Army Now

It was early in the year of '41,
The draft had only just begun.
Bewildered, stunned, with a little fear,
What would they be doing in this training year?

Into the army, the rookies came
To lose their inhibitions, and sense of shame.
They first were ordered to remove their clothes,
Then sent to the doctors in dozens of rows.

To be poked and probed, and given shots,
Psychoanalyzed, and who knows what's.
This was before, "Don't ask; Don't tell."
"Do you like boys?" could be the exit bell.

"Short-arm inspection," I said, "If you don't mind,
Mom told me if I do that I would wind up blind."
But the doctors were adamant in their stand,
At last, I found a place to put my hands.

A problem? Do not laugh or mock it.
I'd been nude for hours, no pants, no pocket.
My hands had shifted to cover my parts,
My front, my back, my head, my heart.

My attempt at modesty was like a game,
And the other guys were doing the same.
Then a sergeant shouted, with all his might,
"Line up alphabetically, according to height."

Amid the laughter, confusion did rein,
But they finally marched us to the train.
Four hours, and three "short-arms," no need to get nervous,
We reached the camp. We were "In the Service."

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Sick, Lame, and Lazy

Sick call in the Army
Was an experience to miss.
When we fell out for "Reveille,"
First Sergeant would say this,

"All you sick, lame, and lazy,
Sign up for sick call, now,
The Medics better find something wrong,
Or you'll be real sick, I vow."

It matter not what ailed you,
The treatment was the same,
You soaked your hurt in Epsom salts,
Or swallowed a dose of the same.

My first experience on sick call
Came when I was just a recruit.
The induction center was tent city,
Where I was in snow from head to foot.

The latrine in a tent on a windswept plain
Was a change from civilian ways.
Not just my body, but my bowels froze up,
And didn't move for days.

So I tried my luck on sick call,
All I wanted was a laxative,
The doctor looked at me, down his nose,
And said, "Here's the advice I give.

"Keep eating your three meals a day
(And in this you can put your trust)
If you eat enough, Soldier boy,
You'll defecate or bust."

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I Told You - Take Two Pitches

Drafted in February of '41,
I finished "basics" in early spring,
Just in time for the baseball tryouts.
I decided to give it a fling.

They hadn't yet drafted major leaguers,
But there were minor leaguers galore.
The team I made at Benning,
Had two amateurs, and no more.

Lou Bush, our captain and manager
Had played for the "Memphis Chicks."
He drilled us like a major league team,
Not like a group from the "sticks."

Our first game was a night game
Underneath Gowdy Field's dim lights.
Every fly ball was an adventure
When they soared thirty feet in their flight.

It was a little better in the infield,
Where an "at bat" left you aghast,
The opposing pitcher had played for Erie,
A fireballer, six foot plus - Prendergast.

Coach Bush said, "Hap, you are leading off,
Take the first pitch or two,
Then come back to the bench and tell us,
Just what it is that he threw."

I settled into the batter's box,
With the confidence of youth,
And Prendergast fired in - a strike.
I never saw it; that's the truth.

On the very next pitch he threw me,
I had my head out over the platter,
And I saw - Not really a baseball.
It was the size of a pill to this batter.

I stuck out my bat and bunted,
Then I ran like Hell to first base.
The coach said, "I told you to take two,
I never said bunt. Your 'at bat' was a waste."

"Well, what has he got?" he finally asked,
I said "Coach, you would not believe,
I did not see the muzzle flash,
But he has a cannon up his sleeve."

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Gory George

When the Second Armored was newly formed,
General Patton gave us that speech.
You've seen it (abridged) in his movie.
He had a lesson to teach.

We must learn to be tough, because,
Before our task is through,
We'd scrape out our friends from the bogey wheels,
Blood, guts, bones, and sinew.

Phoenix City, the "Sodom" of our times,
Was "Off limits" to Benning's personnel.
He lifted that restriction, we were allowed
In "Ma Beechies" and Blueberry Hill.

Their prostitutes would welcome our tankers.
What reasoning made this right?
Quoting Patton, "A man who won't fornicate,
Sure as Hell won't fight."

On inspection day, we would clean our tanks,
And stand inspection in the tank port,
Seventeen tanks, aligned street to street,
And not an inch our of line, or you're caught.

The Gory George (not Blood and Guts)
Would ride his horse down each street.
Tank H-11, there's rust on your clevis pin
He had spotted it at two hundred feet.

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Hand to Hand Combat

I often think back to when Patton imported
A wrestler named "Man Mountain Dean."
Brought in to teach us hand-to-hand combat,
He was not very long on the scene.

Our regiment was fully assembled,
"Round a platform, about six feet high.
Standing atop it was Man Mountain Dean,
So huge, that he blocked out the sky.

He showed us how to get "leverage,"
To unbalance and upset the foe.
To prove his point, he chose "Shorty" Engel,
Our smallest, he was just five feet Oh...

"Of course," he said, "This runt can't throw me,
But he'll unbalance me, so don't despair."
Then, when he threw a punch at "Shorty,"
He was lifted, and thrown through the air.

Off the platform, down to the ground,
He landed with an earth-rumbling crack.
It took eight men to load him into the ambulance,
And, of course, he never came back.

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A Toikey is a Boid

I just saw a rerun of "Guys and Dolls,"
And I was quite amused by the talk
(The toity-toid and toid syntax)
That was said to come from New York.

With the exception of one word "bottle."
Our elocution and diction are fine.
I never called a shirt, a "shoit,"
Except for one lone time.

It was early in the year 1941,
When Uncle Sam said, "I want you."
I was sent to soldier under non-coms,
Whose belt size matched their "IQ."

Our mail calls lasted for hours
We laughed ourselves out of our wits,
As those non-coms tried to say "Baciagaloupe"
"Tuczynski," or "Wojculiewicz."

One noticed that my mail came from Brooklyn,
He approached me and said, "Hey Y'all,
How do they say turkey, where you live?"
Sneering sarcasm showed through his drawl.

Did this clown consider me a buffoon?
I admit, I was perplexed.
The guy challenging me to a game of wits
Signed the payroll with an "X."

I decided that since he was putting me on,
I'd do something that was quite absurd.
So I put this question to him,
"Do you mean the country, or the 'boid?'"

He laughed a bit, and slapped his thighs,
And requested that I name the bird.
When I told him we called it a "Toikey,"
He roared at what he'd heard.

He left to round up some Southern pals,
And repeated the question when they returned.
I told them the toikey was a boid,
And added, "Dat, wuz what I wuz loined."

Whenever he asked me how I felt,
I would tell him that I wuz "hoitin,"
That I was nothing but a yardbird
Was the one thing of which he was certain.

I would have loved to have seen his face,
Filled with an unbelieving distress,
When first he heard that this "yardboid,"
Had been selected for OCS.

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Louisiana Maneuvers

The last time I saw Patton,
Was in November, 1941.
It was in the swamps of Louisiana,
Where maneuvers had just begun.

Let me set the picture for you.
The bridges were "off limits" to tanks,
So when we got to a river or stream,
We had to drive down and up muddy banks.

Through creeks infested with creatures
Like snakes, and God knows what more.
So we'd "gun" our tanks through those rivers,
In a drive for the other shore.

In my tank, we had a Lieutenant
Who loved to party and play.
He had been to town the night before,
And joined us at break of day.

With no time for changing his clothing,
He pulled coveralls over his "Pinks."
He looked not like a fighting soldier,
But more like a golfer on the links.

Alas, while crossing a vile smelling stream,
The tank in front of us stuck.
I climbed out and unhooked the cable,
Knowing full well, I was out of luck.

Then up from the rear came a staff car
On its fender, a flag with one star
"Gory George" pulled up along side us,
And shouted to me from his car,

"Who is in charge of this unit?"
I pointed to the turret, and said,
"Lieutenant ---------- is platoon commander."
The Lieutenant sheepishly raised his head.

"Lieutenant," said General Patton,
"Get your ass down into that stream.
You have to lead by example,
If you want to stay on my team."

So, into the quagmire the Lieutenant went,
Into the churned up mire and muck.
It wasn't his day, I can tell you,
For the clevis pin was stuck.

He sweated and strained for minutes,
Before he finally hooked up that tank.
Then we pulled it out of that slimy creek,
Back onto our dry bank.

Then as we prepared to take off again,
To catch up to our side,
Our gunner said, " Lieutenant, you stink,
Please, Sir ride outside."

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Army Chow

The Tennessee maneuvers
Were our indoctrination,
To the field rations of the army.
No cause for celebration.

The "C" rations were really old.
From the Spanish-American War?
The biscuits could only be broken
By a hammer or a saw.

In the Louisiana maneuvers,
Again, we were undone,
The "C" rations were newer,
They were left from World War One.

No supermarkets in the field,
Nor corner grocery store.
If we didn't change our diet soon,
We'd be too weak to fight a war.

Tarantulas, scorpions and
Snakes were all around.
No health stores, nor diet supplements
Were anywhere to be found.

The Lord must have heard us bitching.
He said, "All right, you G.I.'s,
Get ready for a luau."
He sent a boar of some good size.

You know when troops are in the field
They must dispose of their waste.
We dug a latrine at one end of our site.
At the other, we dug a sump into place.

A huge pit measuring six by six by six
Into which our slops were spilled
And as the days passed into weeks,
The sump was gradually filled.

One morning, as we lined up for mess,
We heard an awful grunting row.
Into that pit, a boar had fallen,
And was eating our thrown away chow.

Two days before we broke up camp,
The boar was killed and gutted.
Then roasted slowly over a fire,
Where the drippings flamed and sputtered.

The company enjoyed the roast pork feast.
Except, of course, for the two
Who had to climb down into the pit,
And lift the boar into view.

So, even today, when I hear, "Luau,"
It is no cause for glee,
For of those two who went chest deep in slop,
One of them was me!

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Christmas Furlough

It was early December, '41,
Tennessee maneuvers were over and done.
Our one-year of service would soon be up,
So we went to the PX to raise a cup.

Christmas was coming, our furloughs, too,
Our world seemed rosy, our skies pure blue.
But while we laughed, and drank our beer,
Word came of Pearl Harbor; the world turned drear.

The panic set in. Screwball orders came down
To protect all the bridges for miles around.
Twelve inch culvert pipes rated a tank,
We all pulled guard duty, regardless of rank.

Miles around in Georgia, by order of staff,
We posted our guards from a "Deuce and a half."
Two men in a tank, four hours on, eight off.
We'd repel those invaders, dear friends, do not scoff.

Though ready to serve our country and Lord,
We had nothing to fight with - no ammo aboard.
This lasted for weeks, until finally one day,
Some sensible soul took that duty away.

Christmas had passed, and furloughs came through,
The number excused were exceedingly few.
I know not how they chose us, just who stayed or went,
But my "Christmas furlough" came during Lent.

When I got home, what a sight I did see.
There in the parlor stood a huge Christmas tree.
It was dry, parched, not a pine needle on it,
Yet there were ornaments and lights, and an angel upon it.

There 'neath the tree was a new Lionel
I said to Mom - "Gee, Ma, this is swell.
My mom looked at me and said, "It's brittle and sere
But it would be there for you, if it stayed up all year."
My Lack of Respect - I Inherited It

It was in September of '42,
I was finishing OCS.
On the eve of graduation
There was anguish and distress.

For thirteen weeks, through summer heat,
We'd studied, sweated, and groaned,
And on that final Friday night,
A few among us moaned.

It was "Washout" night, and every ear,
Listened for the PA's summons.
Each man called down to the orderly room
Knew his commission wasn't coming.

They'd hear their names with aching heart,
Then bid us all farewell.
The wait was just like purgatory,
The summons was pure Hell.

So, when I heard them call my name,
I stumbled down the stairs,
Proceeded to the orderly room,
And saw the Commanding General there.

"Cadet Paulson," he said, "I envy you,
You're getting a two hour pass.
Your parents are waiting in a car outside,
Your mother's a special 'class.'"

I couldn't imagine how Pop got time,
(In '42 they had no vacations.)
Still I rushed outside, and there they were.
They had come for my graduation.

Well, we had our visit, drank a few beers,
And I went back to check-in.
The company commander was waiting for me,
His face encased in a grin.

"You're the first cadet that ever got a pass,
And I have to tell you how you got it.
It seems your parents were driving around,
When this elderly soldier they spotted."

"Soldier boy, oh soldier boy, please help.
Our son graduates tomorrow.
We've been looking, but can't find him,
Much to our great sorrow."

So the "Soldier" climbed in, to show them the way,
They talked and laughed a lot.
The "Soldier Boy" who led them here,
Was Commanding General Scott.

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My Lack of Respect ­ I Inherited It

It was in September of '42,
I was finishing OCS.
On the eve of graduation
There was anguish and distress.

For thirteen weeks, through summer heat,
We'd studied, sweated, and groaned,
And on that final Friday night,
A few among us moaned.

It was "Washout" night, and every ear,
Listened for the PA's summons.
Each man called down to the orderly room
Knew his commission wasn't coming.

They'd hear their names with aching heart,
Then bid us all farewell.
The wait was just like purgatory,
The summons was pure Hell.

So, when I heard them call my name,
I stumbled down the stairs,
Proceeded to the orderly room,
And saw the Commanding General there.

"Cadet Paulson," he said, "I envy you,
You're getting a two hour pass.
Your parents are waiting in a car outside,
Your mother's a special 'class.'"

I couldn't imagine how Pop got time,
(In '42 they had no vacations.)
Still I rushed outside, and there they were.
They had come for my graduation.

Well, we had our visit, drank a few beers,
And I went back to check-in.
The company commander was waiting for me,
His face encased in a grin.

"You're the first cadet that ever got a pass,
And I have to tell you how you got it.
It seems your parents were driving around,
When this elderly soldier they spotted."

"Soldier boy, oh soldier boy, please help.
Our son graduates tomorrow.
We've been looking, but can't find him,
Much to our great sorrow."

So the "Soldier" climbed in, to show them the way,
They talked and laughed a lot.
The "Soldier Boy" who led them here,
Was Commanding General Scott.

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The Treasures in the Mojave Sand

Sardines, tomatoes, Vienna sausages,
And grapefruit juice each day.
No variety came in the foods
That were issued us each day.

We fought the heat, the bugs, the snakes
And the Mojave sand.
We could survive these discomforts,
It was the food we couldn't stand.

The only surcease from our woes
Came with the weekend pass.
We'd go to town, hit the delis,
And picnic on the grass.

But after weeks of the same old grub,
We swore we'd had enough,
So pits were dug in the desert sand,
And then we buried the stuff.

Now, half-a-century later,
I write limericks of what might have been.
Here's a couple for you to read,
I hope they bring a grin.

There was a prospector named Hoad,
Who thought he'd hit a mother lode,
Geiger counters wildly clicking,
But what set them ticking,
Were the sardine cans by the road.

A geologist whose name was McGee,
In the year, Two thousand and three,
Uncovered all those fish bones,
And said in scholarly tones,
"This desert was once a huge sea."

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Fate and the Little Guy

Each Saturday morning, we'd scrub, and we'd scour,
Polished and blitz clothed, with all of our power,
Dusted and mopped 'til we ran out of gas.
If we failed the inspection, There'd be no weekend pass.

When the company's officers came through for inspection,
The slightest infraction meant the pass's rejection.
There into our barracks, the reviewers would stride,
We knew we were ready, our chests filled with pride.

They'd start down the aisle, our spirits would pale,
For the last in the group, was the white-gloved shave tail.
He was tall, he was gangly, DeSades reincarnation,
To find just one infraction would cause him elation.

With one arm extended, he'd reach toward the sky,
And rub his glove on the rafter, way up there so high,
When standing inspection, all eyes should look straight ahead,
But as that gloved hand came down, we watched it instead.

And we silently prayed, "Dear Lord, let it be white,
If there's even one blemish, I'll have no date tonight."
Then that overgrown despot, at his gloves would now peer,
If still white -- no expression -- with one spot, he would sneer,

He'd glance round the room, his face filled with scorn,
"You'll get this place clean, or wish you hadn't been born."
After OCS, it was my turn. I practiced that sneer,
The glance filled with scorn, the gibes and the jeer.

I was ready, eager, anxious too.
Up toward the rafters my gloved hand flew.
But to reach the rafters, just wasn't my fate.
I could reach if I were six-two, but I was just five foot eight.

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The Gap

In Indiantown Gap, we were up on a hill,
The Division on the valley's floor.
Between us we had the Post's movie theater,
And an Army Transportation Corps.

One single road lead up to our aerie,
So any night that we went to a show
We went through Transportation area.
There was no other way to go.

It wasn't too bad walking down the hill,
But coming back was quite hard.
For every night as we puffed and we climbed,
We were stopped on the road by a guard.

He'd have us come up, one man at a time,
"Advance and be recognized."
We'd have to wait in snow, cold, and rain.
Soon retaliation was devised.

Some wit, somewhere, wrote a parody,
To ta-rah-rah-boom-de-ay,
And soon our guys were singing it,
As they walked along the way.

"If you're halt or lame or blind,
And a job you can not find,
Join the Transportation Corps.
Help the WAC's to win the war."

This did not ease the situation,
Soon tempers would surely explode,
The guards became more aggressive,
There were longer delays on the road.

Some TD men kidnapped a sentinel,
Their ransom was easy to meet.
The Transportation Corps soon acquiesced;
Moved the guard post back fifty feet.

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The Day We Got Respect

We are not created equal.
(If the truth is to be had.)
The TD's were formed from misfits.
Even our cadres were bad.

When the Division formed our unit,
They kept us away from camp
The walk from the TD barracks
To the Third's was a long, long tramp.

They sent us to Camp Hood, Texas,
And when we were out of sight,
They packed up and left for the desert,
Leaving behind this blight.

We followed them to a place called Rice,
In Cal-eye-forn-eye-ay.
Where we were reattached to the Division,
Much to the third's dismay.

We crossed the country to Virginia,
In Camp Pickett, we had to live close.
Division men had to rub elbows
With the troops they despised the most.

They got away from us on weekends,
Our "Sabbath" suffered a change,
While Division men enjoyed weekends off,
We spent our time on the range.

Wednesday was our "weekend."
To spend in backwater Blackstone
With no one in town but our rowdies,
Division men were left alone.

At Indiantown Gap, they did it again
Separation came once more to the fore.
Division settled on the valley's plain
Then came the Transportation Corps.

Then high on the hill were the TDs
Division had their buffer zone.
They trained their troops by themselves,
And we were left alone.

Then came the big demonstration
Where we could exercise our might.
It was an outdoor exhibition
Of the tools which with we fight.

Down in the ravine was the enemy,
(Some trucks, an old tank or two)
Tethered like sacrificial lambs,
All in Division's view.

I don't remember who fired first,
'Twas probably artillery,
Then tanks, with their direct fire
There wasn't much damage to see.

Then closing out the performance,
Almost like an afterthought,
They let the TD's open fire.
Oh, what damage they did wrought,

Apocalypse Now, Armageddon!
Dear Lord, how the pieces flew.
They smashed the trucks, upended tanks,
Like a demolition crew.

It was just a matter of seconds,
And we gasped at what they had done.
They spent less time firing on that range,
Than they spent to clean their guns.

The Division saw the destruction
More than their finest could match.
They gazed in awe and took a new view
Of the men with the TD patch.

We were no longer "rank" outsiders,
For Division to scorn and reject
Heads held high, we marched back to camp,
At last, we had earned their respect.

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The USS Shawnee

We left New York in '43
The name of our transport: USS Shawnee
A flat-bottomed boat, the size of a ferry,
It wasn't designed to make our crossing merry.

Each swell caused a roll,
Each wave caused a shock,
We were getting quite sick,
While at the dock.

Out of the Harbor, into the sea,
And we started to rock and roll.
We looked around at this unwieldy scow,
And swore we would not reach our goal.

Out on the deck, along the rail,
Laid a dozen or more GI's.
Through their moans, we heard them say,
"Throw me over, I want to die."

Down in the hold, two decks below,
The bunks were piled eight high.
With everyone barfing on the guys below,
The bottom bunk was a sty.

Each night at sunset, the garbage was dumped.
It required six men on KP.
In order to get six healthy men,
We assigned a whole company.

Most men were gloomy, sad, and morose.
There was a feeling of general despair.
We needed some kind of shot-in-the-arm,
Something to clear the air.

It came from Arquills ("A" Company's cook)
Though we didn't know it was him.
He managed to get on the ship's P.A.,
And announced with vigor and vim,

"Armed Forced Network brings to you
The Kentucky Derby, Live."
And then he described the horses and track,
The jockeys, and all of that jive.

He quoted the odds on every horse,
Gave their past performances, too.
Their names were familiar, except for one,
And that should have been our clue.

He said one jockey's name was Warrick,
A jockey none of us knew that day,
But we had a soldier named Warrick,
A sergeant in Company "A."

Our Warrick had a prominent nose,
(Not as large as an elephant's)
But its size was truly enormous,
A lot like Jimmy Durante's.

The personnel started to come to life,
Both Merchant Marines and our guys.
Bets were placed, race pools started,
At a speed you can't visualize.

By the time the announcer cried, "They're Off."
The men were all up around,
And as Arquilla called the race,
Their murmurs became roaring sounds.

Around both turns, he called their names,
Named each and every horse.
Down the backstretch, the final drive,
His voice was growing hoarse.

And now they fought down the homestretch,
Three horses across the track,
They were sailing along, neck and neck,
There was no holding back.

They sped across the finish line,
The race a virtual tie --
We would have to wait for the photos
From the camera in the sky.

He kept us waiting for the results,
Then he announced it was close,
And the camera showed, first across the line,
Was Sgt. Warrick's nose.

We knew Matt Arquilla had duped us all
But our attitudes turned merry,
We'd lick the seasickness, lick the boat,
And then, by God, lick Jerry.

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The Ship that Stopped in the Convoy

A child may fear each noise he hears,
Those things that go bump in the night.
When a roaring breeze whistles through the trees,
In his bed, he'll lay half dead from fright.

When you take a trip on a transport ship,
You're oppressed by unending sounds.
As each wave scrapes a side, the noise deep down inside.
Is a kin to the baying of hounds.

You cast off with a shrug. The engines constant chug,
To all sounds you grow quickly inured.
It is the sudden silence, when you are expecting violence,
That causes terrors that cannot be cured.

One September day, our Division sailed away,
In a convoy, amid scores of boats.
We were deathly afraid of a "U boat" pack raid,
A lump stayed in our throats.

For a couple of nights, everything went all right,
Except for those who were "mal de mer,"
The weather was good, we had lots of food,
We seemingly had not a care,

Then in the middle of night, I awoke with a fright,
And I couldn't tell just why I should.
My heart started to pound, for I heard not a sound,
And the silence I knew was not good.

Feeling distressed, I hurriedly dressed,
And quickly ran up to the deck,
Where I strained my eyes, peering through night darkened skies,
And saw no lights, not even a speck.

I stayed by that rail, 'til dawn started to pale,
To my horror not a ship was in sight.
All those hundreds of ships, had sailed on with their trips,
As we laid disabled that night.

How I wanted to pray to St. Christopher that day,
But -- Saint for travelers did not fit the bill.
And there really just ain't any kind of a saint,
Who is Patron of those standing still.

The sailors worked hard all day, to get us underway.
They finished some time after two.
All the while, at the rails, seeking periscope trails,
Was every GI and the crew.

Once during the day, a Liberator flew our way.
I prayed that he might stay awhile.
He just wigwagged hello, then off he did go.
Sub-watching for us stayed in style.

We sailed alone into night, but at dawning's first light,
We couldn't conceal all our joy.
All around, we could see, the U.S. Navy,
And the ships that made up our convoy.

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A Mess of a Mess

I must truly confess, that when it came to a mess,
Ours was the messiest of all.
We had men who could bake, but when it came to a steak
We never saw any at all.

The mess Sgt. we trusted, had to be busted,
There was nothing else we could do.
We thought a new guy, would have a steak fry,
We wound up with "Arquilla's stew."

The Colonel, one night, exercising his right,
Checked our kitchen and almost did vomit.
For the first time in years, we had fresh eggs, my dears,
The Sgt. was making them omelets.

The Colonel roared, "You are busted, you can't cut the mustard."
So Arquilla became our new chief.
We wanted steaks, and not stew, but he fed us ragout,
There truly was no relief.

Kotarski's cakes, once so grand, now tasted quite bland,
He blamed it all on Arquilla.
"I can't make tasty pudding, cakes, custards, or nothing,
'Cause Matt drunk up all the vanilla."

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The Night the USO Came to Mere

Listen Spearheaders, and you will hear,
Of the night that the USO came to Mere.
It was late in November in '43,
That they put on a show for the 703.

Col. Yeomans, God rest his soul,
Was our commander, in total control.
Brusquely, he told us, as was his way,
He'd scheduled a road march for Thanksgiving Day.

The troops, they all muttered, the officers swore,
But he was adamant, we were preparing for war.
From all through the camp came cries of dismay.
This was not how we wanted to spend Thanksgiving Day.

The S-2 was told to lay out the route.
Unfortunately, Math was not his long suit.
One kilometer to the half-mile (not even close)
So a fifty-kilo hike was what he then chose.

Well, we started that hike in the early A.M.,
O'er hillsides and moors, through both town and glen.
We all knew by noontime that something was wrong,
We were still far from camp, the route was too long.

Each step became torture, and we all tried our best,
Each slight hillside grade looked like Mt. Everest.
It was late afternoon, when the camp came in sight.
We'd have turkey for supper, and the show was that night.

We marched into camp, bedraggled and dirty,
The twenty-five miles had stretched well over thirty.
Into the quonsets, and onto the sacks,
We slept with our field bags still strapped to our backs.

A few hardy souls had strength left to eat,
The rest of the troops were all dead on their feet.
And when it came time, for the USO show,
There were very few who managed to go.

Two Land Army girls, a WAAF, and a Wren.
The audience total still wasn't ten.
The MC came out, and took in the view.
He said that "I'm happy to see both of you."

That's all I recall, I remember no more.
I just laid back my head, and started to snore.
I guess a report went to the USO,
For they never again scheduled Mere for a show.

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Maggie's Drawers

The firing range had its targets
On boards that were raised up and down.
The men in the pits, that handled them,
Marked carefully the path of each round.

They patch the hole and raise the board,
And then indicate on the target
Just where the bullet had entered,
Using a bull's eye on a stick to mark it.

But if the shot proved errant,
You were notified, of course,
By a red flag waving in the breeze --
The infamous "Maggie's Drawers."

In England, for anti-aircraft firing.
The battalion went to Land's end to train.
The target was a large towed "sock,"
Towed by a British plane.

Back at camp, one soldier marveled,
"Lieutenant, how can they do that?
Who opens up the parachute
Behind the plane we were shooting at?

"I know we missed the plane all day,
But if one of us had scored,
Who'd have been alive up there,
To pull the chute's ripcord?"

Flabbergasted, I told him,
The target was not the plane.
The target was the sock behind it.
Those pilots must do some prayin' --

I could picture the pilot muttering,
As he downed his "pint" in some bar,
"Lord, let them keep on missing me,
I'll wave Maggie's drawers, slips, and bras."

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Did you read it in the papers?
The thought, my friends, is chilling.
Americans are dying
From amalgam in our fillings!

It reminded me of army life,
And our dentist, Captain Fly,
Who ruled a house of agony,
Please let me tell you why.

The dental office in the field,
Was crude, there is no doubt.
Rather than get a filling,
You'd want your tooth pulled out.

With fear and trepidation,
We'd climb in the dentist's seat,
And Doc would x-ray, probe, and scrape,
From you mouth down to your feet.

"It's just a little filling,
You won't need Novocain.
You can trust me when I tell you,
There won't be any pain."

Whenever Doc Fly told me that,
I would shake, and quiver.
My eyes would tear, my skin would sweat,
My whole body would shiver.

A Medic would then pedal a bike,
And through pulleys, belts, and gears,
He'd start the drill a-spinning,
With a sound I learned to fear.

The faster that he pedaled,
The faster went the drill,
The faster that the hole was bored,
For old Doc Fly to fill.

Would my pedaler be a triathlete?
I surely was a dreamer.
I always wound up with a guy,
Half dead from emphysema.

So, I'd be hours in the chair,
The hole just barely bored.
The fillings then, were so minute,
I now am reaping the reward.

The little amalgam in my mouth,
As you can plainly see,
Has let me live past four score-six*
Without it killing me.

* Updated. Originally "three score - ten" when the poem was first written.

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The Three Day Pass

I had a three-day pass to London,
And I left the Salisbury Plain,
For a three or four hour journey,
On that itty-bitty train.

When we pulled into the station,
We could not see our way.
London was shrouded in a fog,
Thick as pea soup and colored gray.

The taxi ran on charcoal.
Its smoke and fire added to the fog.
Its blackout lights were useless,
For penetrating that smog.

We crept along very slowly,
Not even a snail or turtle's pace.
But we reached the hotel safely,
And I checked into the place.

My room was on the top floor.
With the fog, there was no view.
I settled for dinner in the hotel,
And then had a "pint" or two.

Disconsolately, I went to bed.
My first day wasted, I was vexed.
I hadn't seen a single sight,
What problem would be next?

I know I hadn't slept for long,
When I was wakened by a siren's roar.
(In an air raid, do not use the elevator)
I was on the twentieth floor.

I took a pillow and a blanket,
And crawled underneath my bed.
(Like maybe a mattress could stop a bomb)
That was really using my head.

Off in the distance, I could hear the bombs.
They seemed quite far away.
I felt quite safe, and started to doze,
But there soon was Hell to pay.

Up on the roof, right over my head,
An ack-ack gun let loose.
The bedroom shook, the noise increased,
I felt like one "gone goose."

My heart beat fast, my hair turned gray,
My insides bound up tight.
It was my initiation into war,
Even today, I can still feel that fright.

Day 2 of Pass

I was up and dressed before the dawn,
I had barely slept all night.
I sought a church, to offer up thanks,
For deliverance from my plight.

There in the church, was a Canadian Wren.
And when the Mass was o'er,
The two of us smiled, introduced ourselves,
While going out the door.

We started out with breakfast,
And then we took in the sights,
Cathedrals, castles, bridges, Big Ben,
The Zoo, park, and Piccadilly's lights.

We ate, we drank, we walked, we danced,
Day became night -- and then
The sirens blared their air-raid warning.
We were under attack again.

"Let's stay outside, and watch the 'Do.'
Let's not go down in the Tube."
The Wren's attitude was adventurous,
I answered like a boob.

"In my country, a "dew" is gentle rain.
It isn't shrapnel, nor bombs from the sky.
I came over here to fight a war,
And not to needlessly die.

"You can stay up, but I'm going down.
It's a problem, aye, there's a rub.
As soon as the "All clear" signal sounds,
I'll meet you back at the Pub."

Down I went, into the tube,
I heard bombings far and near,
Until finally, after an hour or two,
They sounded the "All clear."

Back to the Pub, I made my way.
There was no Wren in sight.
So, I made my way back to the hotel,
And slept alone, again, that night.

(Pretty lengthy, isn't it?)

We still must go to Day 3

I was up and dressed quite early,
I went to the church again,
Offering up my prayers of thanks,
While hoping to again see that Wren.

But, alas, she wasn't there that day.
I didn't let it get me down.
I set out to make the most of it,
My last day on the town.

I went shopping for some souvenirs,
Stopped in for an ale on the way,
I couldn't find a hot cooked lunch,
So I settled for seeing a play.

The plot was convoluted,
Their accents left me forlorn.
I stayed there through the first act,
But by the second act, I was gone.

I tried, in vain, to buy a meal,
But the hour was only three,
Time for watercress sandwiches,
And a pot of milky tea.

I trudged to the station for the train
And there staring down at me,
Was a sign, with an accusing finger.
It said, "Was this trip necessary?"

It may not have been, when I left Mere,
But this, I sadly vow,
The trip back to Mere was necessary,
I craved American chow.

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Big Lou

Gather 'round children, I've a story to tell,
Of a hard drinking Captain named Lou Capelle.
He was tall and broad, that son-of-a-gun.
Men his size came only six to a ton.

He'd open a bottle, and put it to his lip,
Slug down half its contents, that was his "sip."
Then a little club soda, which he spit out real quick,
Grimacing, he shouted, "That stuff makes you sick."

A roué, debaucher, Bacchanalian was he,
But he never got sick, 'til we put out to sea.
Crossing the channel on a big LST,
Too nervous (or scared) there was no sleep for me.

To the card game in the mess hall, up, I did go.
The ship's cook sold us sandwiches, and a big pot of "Joe."
Big Lou wolfed them down, and said, "These are great.
What kind of jelly are you using there, mate?"

They're made of tomatoes, the mess boy replied.
Quick as a flash, Big Lou hastened outside.
All he'd eaten for weeks, he barfed over the rail.
He threw everything up, right down to his toe nail.

Tomatoes in jelly? Why not a fruit?
Big Lou just moaned and upchucked his boot.
And when he was done, his upchucking complete,
The water level of the channel had risen two feet.

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The Sounds of War

I though that there could never be
A sound as bad as "Reveille."
That the bugler blasted at us every morn.
It was loud and blary,
And at times a little scary,
And I often wished the bugler wasn't born.

But it rates not one iota
In the fearful noisy quota,
Of the other sounds we heard throughout the War.
Noisy cannons spitting fire,
And artillery left no desire
For my eardrums to take abuse much more.

How I cursed at those "palookas"
Who came down in shrieking "Stukas,"
"Screaming Meemies" left my ears with no surcease.
In the Bulge, the British strafed us,
'Cross the Rhine, the one that saved us,
Was a "cub" pilot -- May he have eternal peace.

I hope it causes no distress,
If, for now, I must digress,
To tell you how my side arms come to play,
On a revolver, I did train,
I shot "Expert," without strain,
Then the Army went and took that gun away.

The .45 that they assigned me,
I could have left behind me,
For in truth, and friends, this really is no yarn,
I couldn't hit a wall,
If I were standing in a stall,
Shooting from the inside of a barn.

So when I went into battle,
I felt naked as the cattle,
That lay bloated on the Battlefields of France.
It might seem a little trifle,
But I had to find a rifle,
So I could give myself a fighting chance.

When I found a carbine,
It was in the nick of time.
For our task force was moving out within the hour.
We drove forward through the night,
Our objective came in sight,
And for gun positions, I began to scour.

As I rounded one hedgerow,
There were three "Krauts" in a row,
I aimed at them, and shouted, "Hande hoch."
Well two just dropped their guns,
And reached skyward toward the sun
But the third one was a really stubborn bloke.

He turned on his heels, and fled,
I aimed my carbine at his head,
Then I heard the sound that really made me sick.
I had no chambered round,
Instead of a firing sound,
All that the four of us heard was "click."

The two "Krauts" still standing 'round,
Dove for their weapons on the ground.
But before they reached them, I dropped mine too.
I pulled the pistol from my hip,
And let one round really "rip."
And both "Krauts" knew then that they were through.

So -- back to the sounds of war,
Let the cannons belch and roar,
"Screaming Meemies," friend, may cut you to the quick.
Diving planes can do their part,
But their noise won't stop my heart,
Like that awesome, fearful, senses stopping, "Click."

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Sgt. Willie G. Price

A story in the "Roadblock" just jogged my memory.
It told of a German tank knocked out, by Price, Sgt., Willie G.
I couldn't recall the incident, but I remembered the man.
He came from Twyla, Kentucky (find that on the map if you can).

It was shortly before the breakthrough, that the Colonel reassigned me.
I took command of the second platoon, Co. "C," 703.
I had barely reported in, when the order came to "roll."
I knew not the names of any of the men, who were under my control.

We were attached to "Task force Lovelady." And we drove south during the night,
Reaching the objective just before the morning light.
The Colonel's troops occupied the hill, but we were a half mile down.
He'd assigned us to set up a roadblock, at the crossroads leading to town.

I reconnoitered the area, selecting sites to place each destroyer,
That's when I first met Price -- my sergeant, he sounded more like a clubhouse lawyer.
I walked each commander to his assigned site, they moved their TDs into place,
That is, except Sergeant Willie G., he put his nose in my face.

"Lieutenant," he said, "Let's get this straight. I'm responsible for my crew,
So, when my destroyer takes a position, I'll pick the site, not you.
You just have to tell me what you want covered, set up my field of fire.
I'll pick the spot where I can do it best, you'll get what you require."

I told him I agreed with him, and I said I'd not do it again.
But, thereafter, when I picked his site, I'd call him and explain,
"I want your destroyer to cover this field." I'd do this from the place I'd picked.
He'd reply, "This is a good spot for that," so I had the problem licked.

He took on every task willingly, volunteered for every patrol.
He wanted to come home a hero, often risking life and soul.
But medals seemed hard to come by, so, I tell you, Willie G.,
It's not what's on your chest, but what's inside, you are always a hero to me.

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The Thundering Dawn

The dawn did not come up like thunder,
That's just an old belief.
The nights were long, dark, and lonely,
Then dawn sneaked in like a thief.

You took your turn at guard at night,
Two hours listening, watching, praying.
The night was filled with unending sounds,
That started my hair on its graying.

Then when your shift was over,
Back to your foxhole you crept,
And climbed into your bedroll,
But you never truly, slept.

Your body yearned for sleep and rest,
While your mind said, "Stay alert."
Your prayed to your God to protect you,
As you lay in your castle of dirt.

One night, just before the breakthrough,
Despite all the war noises around,
After climbing into my bedroll,
I fell into a sleep, quite sound.

When I awakened to my bladder's call,
There was a tint of graying sky,
Then little fingers of pink appeared,
A pleasure to my eye.

Dawn was creeping in silently,
The long, dark night was through.
By that first light, I looked and gasped,
At the first person who came into view.

The guard at my tank had his gas mask on,
"The alarm sounded hours ago,
Why aren't you wearing your gas mask, Sir?"
I truthfully didn't know.

I had slept right through the klaxon's sound,
(Thank God, it was a false alarm.)
Yet, a thundering dawn might have awakened me,
And protected me from harm!

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We finally made the breakthrough,
And our tanks moved to Mortain.
Out of the miserable hedgerows,
On to the wide French plain.

First Army stopped to hold the flank,
While Patton's troops moved through.
While we waited to go again,
The USO sent a crew.

Edward G. Robinson was the star,
That we were supposed to see.
But before the show got started,
We heard this from the M.C.

Third Armored men -- back to your units,
The Germans have counter-attacked.
So we went back to our destroyers,
While the USO got packed.

The Colonel told us to roadblock
The road that came from the east.
The only covered locations
Took us a mile away, at least.

The day proved uneventful.
But at night the bombers came.
As they pattern-bombed along the road,
We felt each bomb had our name.

It started to the east of us,
We heard them drawing near.
Kerboom, kerboom, each one closer.
I can tell you, we knew fear.

We flattened out in our foxholes,
Saying every prayer that came to mind.
Then, suddenly they had passed us,
The bombs were falling behind.

We didn't get much sleep that night,
Expecting their tanks to come.
But dawn came up, we saw no Krauts,
Though we surely expected some.

Then, later in the morning,
We spotted a truck on the road.
Our gunners started "tracking,"
At the outposts it was "lock and load."

When the truck reached our position
It had red crosses on its side.
We had them pull it off the road,
Then we saw the girls inside.

"What on earth are you doing here?"
They replied they had lost their way.
They were supposed to be with the USO,
That was cancelled yesterday.

I hid their truck in an old barn,
Until I was sure it was safe to proceed.
I sent a patrol back to Mortain,
To be sure it was safe, indeed.

They fed us doughnuts and coffee,
While we awaited the patrol's return,
And asked if we'd like a movie,
Since we had time to burn.

They set the screen up in the barn,
"Going my way" was what we saw.
I had to smile, while thinking,
"What a way to fight a war!"

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Stoic? Maybe -- Silent? Yes

There weren't any extroverts
Among the officers of Company "A."
The gadabouts and wild ones
Were quickly sent away.

Ruff was lost in an accident,
O'Connell was shipped out,
Junior Cooper was soon dispatched,
And I was transferred out.

Lou Capelle, that jolly giant,
With his slogan, "Let her rip,"
Was banished to headquarters,
To button up his lip.

While solid, steady McIntyre,
And reticent Henderson (Ray),
Captain Cole and Wissing
Were the ones who got to stay.

They were a stolid, silent group,
Of that you need no proof,
But the quietest was Wissing,
So reserved, he seemed aloof.

If shyness was a virtue,
Then Jack would be a saint.
He never seemed to raise his voice,
Not even in complaint.

Oh, how he tried to "Father" me
My exuberance to rein.
He described me as "Too youthful,"
He'd repeat the same refrain.

"An officer you'll never be,
You cannot toe the line,
But if a platoon Sgt. you should be,
I'd pray that you were mine."

He married while in service,
And when he took his wife,
It must have been the first time
That excitement touched his life.

He plodded on, quite stoically,
No highlight to his day,
Then Fate allowed him a moment
To shine -- It came about this way.

The English, preparing a parade,
Asked the U.S. to join in.
The army scheduled a competition,
And the finest troops would win.

A three day trip to London,
Participate in the parade,
And to each unit commander,
A special treat was made.

A dinner with Prince Philip
In the Palace -- Buckingham.
The finest U.S. TD unit
In the test, was mine, by damn!

Then some pinhead on staff decided,
We can't send Hap, he's a disgrace.
I was transferred to headquarters,
And Wissing took my place.

He was wined, and dined, and feted,
In a truly regal style.
He returned, aglow, from London,
His face wreathed in a smile.

It was a golden moment,
To be recalled the rest of his days.
But foreshortened were those memories --
He was captured and killed at Falaise.

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The Altar of God

Et introibo ad Altre Dei.
(I will ascend to the altar of God.)
The altar in war was the hood of a jeep,
Parked in someone's field or yard.

Spread over the hood, was a white altar cloth,
Covered with missal, paten, and chalice.
The altar to us, was just as holy,
As the ones in the Vatican Palace.

Kneeling in mud, we gave the reply,
"Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutum meum"
(To God who gives joy to my youth.)
Dear God, please end this mayhem.

Spread all around were trucks and tanks,
With recognition panels glowing,
So that American pilots could see us,
And then, just keep on going.

But one sad day, our pilots,
Flew in a sortie, so brief,
They bombed and strafed our altar
And caused a world of grief.

"Why on earth did they do that?"
The chaplain cried, "Don't they think?"
"Father," I said, "it's not their fault,
Today's recognition panel is pink!"

Writer Note... The above did not really happen. It is a figment of my imagination. We were strafed by friendly (?) airplanes, even when we were displaying the proper panels

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The Roods Along the Road

Dear Mom and Dad and all,
As you already know,
My battalion had landed in France,
I'm permitted now, to say so.

The destruction here is vast,
The roads are strewn with wrecks.
Bloated dead cattle lie in the fields,
Smelling so bad, we really are vexed.

We battle from hedgerow to hedgerow.
No blitzkrieg -- no lightning war.
When you penetrate one hedgerow,
There's another one in store.

Telephone wires are laid on the ground,
Or tucked in the branch of a tree,
Everything's covered with mud and dust,
A true picture of misery.

But all along the road are statues,
Each with a protective hood.
Inside is a crucifix scene,
Showing Christ impaled on His rood.

That was in a letter I sent home,
Now permit me to digress
To tell you of Jimmy Clawson,
One of Lamar, Missouri's best.

Jimmy was tall, over six feet,
So when we had to refuel our tanks,
Jimmy stood there and did it alone,
While we "normal sizes" scaled its flanks.

One man on the "deck" to get the can,
That another man passed up to him.
Jimmy stood there and did it alone,
While he laughed, his face one big grin.

He who laughs last, laughs the best,
And in time, we had our chance,
Jimmy was standing on a cesspool cover
Of the foulest cesspool in France.

The weight of the gas, and Jimmy
Was more than the cover could bear,
Poor Jimmy fell in the cesspool,
While the can flew up in the air.

Excuse the pun, but when he came up,
He smelled "orfal" that is true,
And as he stripped off his clothing,
With each piece, we said, "pee-ew."

We all raced for our cameras
As Jimmy scrubbed off all that "stuff."
The cameras clicked, and posterity
Had a record of Jim in the "buff."

Alas, when I sent those pictures home,
Mom's eyesight was growing dim.
"Hal sent us pictures of the crucifixion,
Get the magnifier, so I can see him."

By that you can see, I connected up
Both sides of the story.
Poor Mom, she saw no crucifix.
But Jimmy, in magnified glory.

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So, We Weren't Infantry Men

While driving through France, our column was split,
A German tank on our left flank had scored with two hits.
The lead tanks kept rolling, but those in the rear,
Pulled off in a field, awaiting new orders to hear.
No patrols were sent for an hour or more,
To locate the enemy, and even the score.

"If I had Bazookas," I said to my men,
"I'd go hunt them myself, so we can start up again."
"I've got a bazooka," said a man in a truck,
"And plenty of ammo, so, I guess you're in luck."
With two of my non-coms, Price and Ayala,
We went into the woods, in search of that fella.

"Stay ten yards apart," I warned my two men.
They'd split up for a while, then get together again,
We came to a clearing, about 40 yards wide,
I told them to cover me, 'til I was on the other side.
Zigzagging and dodging, I raced into the trees,
I turned to call them up. They were right there with me.

I lectured on covering fire, both faces looked blank,
Hell, they weren't infantry, they were trained in a tank.
Once again, we went forward, right through the woods,
We reached the next clearing, I said, "Listen good,
While I run across, you stay here, give me cover,
When I feel it's safe, then you can come over."

While I was sprinting across, I heard a noise from ahead.
The tank was withdrawing, and all my hopes fled,
So, I rejoined my duo, heading for our lines.
We strolled back together with naught on our minds.
As we neared our position, someone called out to me,
"Keep ten yards apart, like the real infantry!"

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The Town that Almost Missed the War

It was a balmy summer evening,
It was a quiet Belgian town.
Our task force pulled off into fields,
Preparing to bed down.

Down the road, came a Belgian Priest,
Looking for our commander.
He asked us not to shoot up his town.
We answered him with candor,

If no Boche were there,
Or i9f none came in the night,
We'd be gone in the morning,
Without any fight.

His "Garden of Eden" stayed intact,
Until about ten o'clock.
When a German column came through town,
And things began to rock.

When their lead element was ordered to halt,
They foolishly tried to flee.
The fire fight started with rifles,
Spreading to mortars and artillery.

There mortars belched, our cannons roared,
The battle started to swell,
And that Belgian "Garden of Eden,"
Was quickly turned into Hell.

When their mortars finally ceased,
And artillery had ended,
We sent in troops to probe the town,
And found it unattended.
With the coming of the dawn,
Under a "White flag's" cover,
The priest came walking down the road,
To say the fight was over.

The Boche had fled on another road,
We sent a task force out,
Two destroyers and a Jeep
Followed the trail of their rout.

When we caught up, they surrendered meekly,
They numbered about three score.
That Belgian town could have gone unscathed,
If they'd surrendered the night before.

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Ice Cream, Anyone?

Freddie Hunt's tale was amusing,
When he told about Bangs disease.
I, too, went for ice cream in Liege,
How he stirred up memories.

We'd never heard of Bangs Disease,
So, we really must surmise,
Either the cows weren't turberculin tested,
Or the milk wasn't pasteurized.

We were sitting around in Germany,
When the talk turned to Liege and its "glace."
Bugganer and I convinced Captain Gosch,
That it was a short trip to that place.

So early next morning, Mac, Buggy, and I
Went into Liege in my jeep.
Seeking enough ice cream for supper,
A promise we found hard to keep.

"Off limit" signs were all about,
Where to get ice cream was anyone's guess.
When, fortunately, we stumbled upon
A huge U.S. Air Force mess.

We traded some "Heinie" souvenirs
The mess Sgt. told us where to find "Glace."
He warned of the MP swarm in town.
We would surely be caught in that place.

He provided a place to clean up,
And gave us polish for our shoes.
We soon acquired the "rear echelon" look,
With everything, but "Dress Blues."

Off to the confectioner, the three of us sped,
And quickly, we struck a deal.
The large order would take three hours,
So, we'd have to cool our heels.

Where to hide 'til the ice cream was made?
I thought of the "Purloined Letter."
If there was something you wanted to hide,
The more obvious it was, the better.

We proceeded down to the town's big square,
A park that was ringed on all sides,
By headquarters of Corps, Air Force and Army,
They had all the buildings occupied.

MP's at each corner directed traffic,
That was where we chose to hide.
We saw a small bar in the middle of this,
We walked into it, got barely inside,

There was a combo in the rear of the bar.
The band played the "Star-Spangled Banner."
We snapped to attention, gave a right hand salute,
In a true military manner.

Why we weren't caught then, I'll never know,
But as soon as the anthem was O'er,
We rushed to the rear of that Belgian bar,
And looked for a quick exit door.

The Belgians came back to our table,
In what seemed an unending line,
To just shake our hands, or pat our backs,
And each brought a glass of wine.

"Parlez Anglais?" we would ask each one.
At last, one said he could.
We asked if he'd show us a way out the back,
He grinned and said he would.

We chatted awhile, with the patrons,
But the wine was now taking its toll.
We had to get out, get some fresh air.
I told our new friend, "Let us roll."

He winked, and smiled, and said "follow me,"
And out the back door we did go.
We reeled and tottered, as we followed our friend
To the door of an ancient chateau.

He took us inside, and to my surprise,
It was a house of sexual pleasure.
Buggy grinned, and said to me, "Just what did you ask?
As an interpreter, you're a treasure."

It's only fairy tales that have happy endings,
Before we could fall from Grace,
The luck of the Irishman quickly ran out.
The MP's raided the place.

The Provost Marshal, a six foot major, I'd say,
Had hardly opened his trap,
When Buggy hollered, "Don't take any s--t,
Hit the rear echeloner, Hap."

I sobered enough to explain why we came,
And why we were forced to stay in the town,
I saw the major relent, he told an MP
To escort us all out of town.

"Not without ice cream," I quickly replied,
"I'll take no ifs ands or buts."
The MP took us to the ice cream store,
And watched us "black market" butts.

He didn't arrest us for that,
So you see, wonders don't ever cease.
They wanted us out of town so badly,
They never warned us of "Bang's disease."

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Line of Flankers, Left

I had seen the scene a thousand times
On Saturday afternoons,
In the grade "B" Westerns the movies showed,
Right after the cartoons.

The cavalry spread across the plains,
In "Line of flankers" charging,
Straight at the Indian's positions,
With no evasions or dodging.

But now, in November of forty-four,
It was me out on that path.
A tank destroyer instead of a horse,
Carried my charge on Hastenrath.

To my right, in the line of flankers,
Were the tanks of the thirty-three,
On my left, the tank destroyers,
"C" Company, seven-oh-three.

With Colonel Mills commanding us,
Toward our objective we sped.
Out across those open fields,
Hoping no mines would leave us dead.

Our number two destroyer
Took a hit on the gun shields top.
It welded the shield to the turret,
But the tank didn't have to stop.

Our number three destroyer
Had seen the enemy blast,
And fired a return round,
Before we went roaring past.

We reached the town in a hurry,
Our security section alit,
And started to clear out the houses,
To prevent a "panzerfaust" hit.

Then over the radio, we heard Colonel Mills,
"Calling Amber Charlie two.
With your open turrets you're vulnerable,
So I'm giving this order to you,

Take your destroyers out of here,
Go back to Sherpenseel.
I'll call you when I think it is safe."
So we sped back across the field.

We evacuated our wounded,
And awaited the colonel's call.
It must have been a day or two,
'Til we heard from them at all.

We want the TD's on the town's north end
Cover the road coming in
Once more we charged across the field,
To Hastenrath again.

We set up our positions there,
Covering the northern hills,
Then set out to locate
The headquarters of Colonel Mills.

Once there, we found that fickle fate
Had had one capricious whim.
Colonel Mills shielded us from snipers,
But, one of them killed him.

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Over the Quota

We left the third A.D. at Hastenrath
And headed south over icy paths.
Through fog and snow, there was no sun,
To Butgenbach, to join the "Big red one."

Our task force -- one platoon of TD,
Added to one battalion of infantry.
To cover our front, we were too few,
Colonel Daniels knew what he had to do.

Off to our front were marshes and fen,
The Krauts had no way of crossing them.
So he ordered us forward to attack,
To drive the German forces back.

In four short hours, we had our line,
Exactly to the colonel's design.
A marsh on the left, then one TD,
With a squad or two of infantry.

Another marsh, or quarry, or fen,
Then the same troop alignment, once again.
Marshes, then troops, then marshes once more,
We were spread over three miles, or was it four?

We had for support, in our rear quarter,
Some artillery and heavy mortar.
Late in the night, the counter attack came.
The "screaming meemies" made the houses flame.

Then the noise of their armor moving into the fray,
And this thinly held line had to bar their way.
In each TD, we had just two men
The rest of the crews were outposting them.

Charlie 23 was manned by Frank Glod,
Clinton Reid, and a prayer to God.
They heard the tanks approach through the night,
When a spark from a tank penetrated their sight.

Reid fired toward that faint, dim spark
And a brilliant light came through the dark.
That first round scored, a tank was hit,
And from its flames, the night was lit.

Armored carriers, trucks, and tanks,
All fully armed, heading for our ranks,
Reid kept on firing, AP and HE
Roared through the night at our enemy.

Then just as the battle turned our way,
Fate's fickle finger came into play,
While loading, Frank Glod had a slip,
The gun recoiled and shattered his hip.

With no one to load, the gunner, Reid,
Had to scramble to load, then back to his seat.
He'd search the terrain for an enemy tank,
Only to discover he had been outflanked.

The Germans had, in hasty flight,
Raced toward the unit on our right.
They pierced the line and reached the town,
Where a reserve TD unit knocked two tanks down.

The attack was broken; they raced away,
And now, fortune again turned our way.
Reid, in his scanning, saw a tank, quite clear,
And blew it up, with a shot to its rear.

With the battle over, I recommended that he,
Should get a medal for bravery.
The papers I processed and sent ahead.
The reply I got nearly stopped me dead.

You're under British control, as per accord,
You can't recommend an American award.
So, I rewrote the papers, why should I barter?
I asked that they make him "Knight of the Garter."

The wheels ground slowly, and after some days,
We were no longer governed by British ways.
We were back under U.S. Army control.
I submitted another request for that poor soul.

It was my sacred duty to return to the pen,
And write up his recommendation again.
Legion of Merit, DSC, Silver Star?
Please tell me what medal to pin on my star.

Then finally, after week, after week,
I received an answer, it left me too dumb to speak.
They awarded a Bronze Star, the lowest of all,
To this man who made dozens of enemies fall.

The reason they gave, I can't accept one iota,
Our platoon was already "over our quota."
Of all the heart breaks, this one was the worst.
In the countdown of medals, this one was our first.

"Purple Hearts," yes, we had received many,
But Bronze Star or Silver, there just wasn't any.
So I sent back to headquarters, a short bitter poem,
"Since I'm over my quota, please send me home!"

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No Prince Am I

I'm sure you heard the story
Of the Princess and the pea.
To prove her royal lineage,
They arranged this test you see.

A pea placed under six mattresses,
Only a prince or princess would feel,
If either one complained of the lump,
It would prove their claim was real.

On our roadblocks, in most cases,
We were alone, exposed, and cold.
The frozen ground made it impossible
To dig an adequate fox hole.

Only once, in the Battle of the Bulge,
Were we warm, complacent, and smug.
We were on outpost at a farm house,
No foxholes to be dug.

The farmer and his daughter stayed,
(Dirty mind -- it's not that sort of a tale.)
They were Nazis, or at least Deutschophiles,
Who thought Hitler could not fail.

They shared the farmhouse with us,
In daytime it was all right,
The major inconvenience to us,
Came when we went to bed at night.

The Nebelwerfers and artillery
Forced us into the cellar to sleep.
The entire basement floor was covered
With potatoes, ten or twelve deep.

I always considered myself a "Prince,"
But, alas, I failed the "Pea" test.
The bumps in the bed never bothered me,
Warm and dry, my sleep was the best.

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Was it "Forever Amber?"

I can't recall the name of the book,
(Old age is setting in.)
I know it wasn't the Bible,
This book was all about sin.

Was it "Forever Amber?"
It seems that it could be,
Or was it all about the loves
Of Lady Chatterley?

For the purpose of this saga,
The book's name is not vital.
Just think about what kind it was,
And make up your own title.

The book appeared in August,
While we were still in France.
In the midst of the war, the time to read
Was strictly happenstance.

The owner, a TD driver,
Would read a chapter or two,
Then tear them out, and pass them on
To the next man in the queue.

And he, in turn, when he had read,
Passed it down the line,
So that by late December,
The readers totaled nine.

With chapters spread through all the tanks,
In dozens of little pieces,
We couldn't wait to get our hands
On the next chapter of this thesis.

Then came that foggy, overcast day,
We were stopped deep in the woods,
Visibility -- under a hundred yards,
Our position wasn't good.

The column hugged the right of the road,
With nothing on our flank,
I made a decision to protect the left,
And started to move our tank.

The first TD started across the road,
And then to our dismay,
We heard the only cannon shot
That the Germans fired that day.

That solitary cannon shell
Hit our tank, set it afire.
And we bailed out, to get away
Right then was our greatest desire.

Most of the crew escaped, unharmed,
Except for one poor lad,
While crawling out the front hatch,
He was burnt real bad.

The skin peeled from that GI's hand,
And rolled back to his wrist.
Veins, skin, and tendons stood out raw,
He couldn't make a fist.

"Doc" Pepper gave him his first aid,
With no real help from me.
I took one look and vomited,
Left my lunch behind a tree.

Then, I started to check the rest of the crew,
And much to my surprise,
One man was climbing back into the tank,
I couldn't believe my eyes.

A moment later, his head appeared,
He leaped back to the ground,
Raced across that open road
In monstrous leaps and bounds.

"Couldn't you see we all were out?
There was no need in returning.
What dumb heroic gesture
Sent you into a tank that was burning?"

Then sheepishly, not looking up,
He held up for me to see,
The final chapters of the book,
And then he said to me,

"I'm sorry I upset you,
There were no heroics intended,
But as you see, I had to know,
Just how this damn book ended."

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The Roadblock to End All Roadblocks

As we rumbled down the road to Vaux,
With three destroyers operational,
We set up a roadblock at a crossroads,
Our site good -- not sensational.

Attached was a unit of engineers,
As our outposts for the night,
They mined the roads, we placed our tanks,
We thought we did it right.

We had two functional destroyers,
But the third one's turret had been hit.
The gun shield welded to the turret,
We couldn't elevate or depress a bit.

To get the gun level to the ground,
We had to cut down a tree,
Then roll the tank's tracks up on it,
'Til the gun was level, you see.

The engineers were mining the road,
While we pulled the log in place.
A Boche half-track pulled up -- turned around,
And back down the road did race.

Our gun couldn't elevate of course,
The gunner climbed up to the machine gun.
He managed to get a few rounds off,
Then the half-track -- it was gone.

The engineers mounted their half-track,
Started to chase Jerry down the road.
They hadn't traveled very far,
When we heard a mine explode.

The Boche had driven through the mine field twice.
They did it coming and going,
Naught happened to them, but our brave engineers,
Had sent that mine field blowing.

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On the way to Mont Le Ban

The article in the Roadblock,
"Some times it is how you look at it."
Gave me some names I had tried to recall,
Pieces in the puzzle fit.

We were on our way to Mont Le Ban,
Attached to "Task Force Kane."
It wasn't mountain country,
But it was a hilly terrain.

The colonel ordered us to take a hill,
To provide cover for his flanks,
While he took his troops down through a ravine,
Led by a company of tanks.

Up on a hill, about a mile away,
A Panther tank appeared,
Ka-boom, he fired, a flash of flame,
Our lead tank was speared.

We answered his fire
With our new 90 mm. guns.
We watched our tracers ricochet,
Bouncing up to the sun.

Four of our destroyers
Engaged in that fight.
Undaunted, that Panther gunner
Traversed his gun right.

His second round then knocked out
A tank at the column's end.
Those tanks, in their position,
Were sitting ducks, my friend.

I ordered my gunner, No AP
Use He and smoke.
Radioed to the colonel,
"Sir, this is no joke,

I'll blind him with smoke,
Get your tanks out of there,
And tell your observer
To call in for AIR."

To get out of the smoke,
The Panther changed his position,
When he reappeared, again,
We used smoke to cover the mission.

Each time that he moved
To a point we could see,
Our platoons guns all hit him,
With smoke, AP, and HE.

Meanwhile, in the valley,
Colonel Kane and his crew,
Charged toward Mont Le Ban,
Like Santa's coursers, they flew.

In just a few minutes,
The whole valley was clear,
I told my platoon,
"Let's get the Hell out of here."

As we backed off the hill,
That damn Kraut tank reappeared,
He fired another round at us,
I can say it was weird.

Looking through my binoculars,
A pink glow, I did see,
It was the 88 shell
That the Kraut, fired directly at me.

With no time to duck,
I prayed hard instead,
And watched the radio antenna
Get torn off by my head.

In a Stars and Stripes issue,
Or it might have been in Yank,
General Patton had an article
Extolling the excellence of our tanks.

"They are the best in the world,"
How I wished I could answer.
I would feel much safer,
If they were built like a Panther.

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Paulson Index      Poem Set #2 

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