Poems by Harold A. Paulson
The Changing of the Socks
It wasn't just the tanks we fought
On those wintry Belgian plains.
We fought the snow, the fog,
The cold, the ice, sleet and rain.
While we battled to regain ground lost,
We fought too, to keep warm.
The conditions that cause trench foot,
Were enough to cause alarm.
We lived in tanks and foxholes,
Walked in snow, and mud, and sleet.
There was no way to wash our socks,
Or to wash and dry our feet.
At night, we'd take our socks off,
Put them under the helmet liner's strap.
Take the pair that we had placed there yesterday,
And put them in our lap.
The pair at our waist, moved to our chest,
The pair at our chest, to our feet.
After three days of that rotation,
They were dry, but not clean or neat.
Did we have body odor -- obnoxious smells?
I tell you friends, we were ripe.
We were slightly less aromatic,
Than the dregs of a corn-cob pipe.
I wrote to a Belgian friend about it,
He wrote, "I know you did reek,
After the American troops had gone,
The Ardennes still smelled for weeks.
Gab While Returning from a Furlough
A man sat down by my side,
And said, "I'm really quite perplexed,
In all your poems that I have read,
You never mentioned sex."
Alas, I said, "I was warrior born,
I am not fair of face.
But I'll tell you stories told to me,
By those who took my place."
One was a non-com, overseas too long,
With a mess sergeant for a pal,
He found some one, who'd make love for food.
He got rations for that gal.
While he sweat and strained through the sex act,
She lay quiet, and at an apple gnawed.
He had finally found a lover,
But her ardor, he couldn't applaud.
As Eve, In the Garden of Eden,
With no carnal desire for sin,
They had no yearning for sex, you see,
And yet, the apple did them both in!
When a girl spoke that old English myth,
"I can't get pregnant, if I love standing up."
Nine months later, she had an infant,
To share her bed, board, and cup.
We had our share of Lotharios,
Who used that old "song and dance."
They threw Engagement rings in the channel,
As we sailed on to France.
There was one corporal, who wore a web belt.
Whenever he went to town.
On his rear, it carried his rain coat,
To protect his clothes from the ground.
Ready for romance in truck, barn, or field,
He'd head in to town with a smile,
Once, enjoying a conquest in England,
(Making out on a hay pile.)
He heard, "Here, here, you can't do that,"
From a farmer whose face held a frown,
"As soon as you finish what you are doing,
I demand that you come down."
After the "Bulge," they took us,
Out of the slush and morass,
And put us on trucks to "Gay Paree"
To enjoy a three-day pass.
No fuel in town, the French had closed
The Louvre and the Folies Bergere.
Many bars and brothels also closed,
Leaving us naught but the thoroughfares.
We walked to the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame,
From a bridge, looked down on the Seine,
The climate changed just a bit,
The snow became freezing rain.
My blood, still unthawed, when we started back,
I had to sit in the rear.
Two officers who outranked me,
Sat in the cab, warm and clear.
As I talked to the GI's around me,
"What did they do? What was it they saw?"
One naïve soul said, "Lieutenant."
I gazed at his eyes filled with awe.
"I had two commodes in my room, Sir,
A most delightful treat,
I used the one for the usual thing,
In the other, I washed my feet."
"It was just the right height for that purpose,
And a stream came up through my toes,"
I knew right away, he'd brought no girl up there,
Or he'd have learned the "bidet's" use from the pros.
Another GI told this story,
He had picked up a girl at a bar.
They had a few drinks together,
The signs showed that he'd go far.
He fed the line, "I need love,
To get rid of the stress from the war."
Her kisses were invitations,
While her body was offering more!
They fondled and petted each other,
Leading him back to her house,
Where they hurried into a bedroom,
There on the bed lay her spouse.
He was romancing his mistress,
Their entrance fazed him not at all,
Grunting a greeting, he moved,
Rolled his lover close to the wall.
No pause in his ministrations occurred,
As he made room for his bride.
She lay, drawing the GI down,
But he could not perform by their side.
"Lieutenant, you wouldn't believe me,
Sexual drive, I have a lot,
But all my urges deserted me,
I wilted at "Manage aux Quatre!"
I'd like to tell a story
Of a young hillbilly lad.
From the hills of West Virginia,
Where conditions were quite bad.
He left there to join the army
And wound up in the 7-0-3.
Where he became a "peep" driver,
Second platoon, Company "C."
He sported a handle bar moustache,
Bright red, and a hand span long,
Blond stubble all around his face,
And a smile that came on strong.
Though he was in his early twenties,
He looked more like fifty-four,
And I wondered how a man that old
Could have made it into war.
His name was Earl R. McCleary,
And much to my surprise,
His youthful zeal and ability
Truly, made him a prize.
No chore too hard, no mission too tough,
Uncomplaining, he would go.
He proved a valuable scrounger,
As the contents of our "peep" would show.
The front seats of our peep came out,
And I kid you not, my friends,
He replaced them with a red leather seat,
From a "shot-up" Mercedes Benz.
Champagne, cognac, eggs and ham,
Just to name a few,
Of the many "liberated" things,
That into our peep flew.
We sped through France and Belgium,
Drove deep into Germany,
Where, one day, Earl came up and said,
"I wish you'd transfer me.
I have a funny feeling, Sir,
Please put me in a destroyer.
I feel I need that steel around me,
Or I'll be a dead warrior."
So I placed him with a TD crew,
And went on with the war,
Into the "Bulge," and out again,
Then came the day that he foresaw.
We were stationed in a forest
Where, in order to save our souls,
The members of each and every crew
Were digging deep foxholes.
Long, deep, and wide, covered with logs
That came from a fallen tree,
On top of that, we placed sandbags,
A fortress -- Apparently.
Then came that fateful "tree burst"
To this day, I don't know why,
One solitary fragment
Could pierce through and kill that guy.
He was one of five in that foxhole,
Out of the steel walls he sought,
And his was the only body,
That any of that shrapnel caught.
Now he lies in eternal slumber,
If there is justice, He's in Heaven
For he served his time in Hell.
The Battle of Hurtgen Forest
The "Big Red One" was a fighting team
In Africa, Sicily, and France.
They had fought and never retreated,
Their thoughts were to always advance.
So, it came as a big surprise to me,
When I was attached to them for a fight,
Whenever a German barrage came in,
They presented a peculiar sight.
Out of every foxhole, that they had dug in the snow,
A hand would come up in the air.
They were willing to give up a hand to go home,
They wanted to be out of there.
No, they didn't let up on their fighting,
They repelled every German attack.
They not only held their positions,
But sent the Wehrmacht reeling back.
Still, their peculiar action puzzled me,
Until a few short years ago,
When I read a book by Charles Wilding,
About their battle in Hurtgen's snow.
The author tells of the decimation,
The annihilation of our infantry's elite,
As division after division were chopped up,
Fed into the grinder, just like sausage meat.
The author, in describing the battle,
Insists that it should have never been fought,
Calls Army Intelligence, "A contradiction in terms."
Rates the leadership a big fat naught.
He condemns the people sitting back in France,
Partying Brass, playing golf or bridge
Those lavishly living in chateaus,
As the GI dead bodies filled up that ridge.
I recommend "The Battle of Hurtgen Forest,"
As a book that we all should read --
After battling in that horror, I knew,
Why they'd give up a hand indeed.
"The Battle of Hurtgen Forest."
Tells a tale that is hard to believe --
A prelude of sorts, leading up to the "Bulge."
It caused the bravest of men to grieve.
So, I'll close, saluting the "Big Red One,"
And those guys with a hand in the sky.
What seemed peculiar to me, at the time,
Makes sense, now that I know why.
Our Final Replacements
The Japs had bombed Pearl Harbor
Americans were irate.
Our hero set out to volunteer,
And seal the Japanese fate.
But, the army wouldn't take him,
They said his feet were flat.
The marines said, "No, your eyes are weak,
And we cannot accept that."
The Coast Guard said, "Thanks,
But please go away,
Physically, you are a 4F,
And we are looking for 1A."
When he took the navy physical,
He was at the end of a hall.
They asked him to read the eye chart
Hung on the farthest wall.
Alas, our hero saw no chart,
I doubt if he saw the wall,
So step by step, the navy
Had him walking up the hall.
He concentrated on the task at hand
To the best that he was able,
Ignoring everything in his path,
He tripped, and fell over a table.
"Don't move and inch," the yeoman cried,
"Just lay there, still as a log,
We're going to get you out of there,
We sent for a seeing eye dog."
The war went on for four more years,
Replacement ranks grew thin,
They changed his 4F to 1A
And the Army drafted him.
It was early in April of '45
"Spearhead" completed its Paderborn drive,
And now, we were heading east again,
When we came to a place that's etched in my brain.
In Sangerhausen, the column stopped,
I looked around, and my jaw dropped,
Human skeletons, in a stockade
Were staring out at our parade.
Deep, sunken eyes, and tooth gapped grins,
Drumstick limbs, and shrunken skins.
One of my men broke the stockade's lock,
And we dug out rations from our stock.
The biscuits, and chocolate -- too hard to chew,
Had to be crumbled or broken in two.
The few precious eggs we had in store
We gave to them -- They ate them raw.
Out came K-rations, and ten in ones,
Whatever we opened, was quickly gone.
We gave, until we could give no more.
Then passed out cigarettes from our store,
Before we could give them a match, or a light,
They swallowed the butts, in one quick bite.
"Is there anyone who speaks English here?"
Our query was answered by a voice from the rear.
An Australian said, "Glad to see you Yanks,
You are even lovelier than your tanks."
He gave us a tour, so we could see
This camp of despair and misery.
Huge open pits of cadavers piled high,
Each more emaciated than the other guy.
The sight and smell made my stomach spin,
I returned to my tank, and crawled back in.
Who could have done something so inhumane?
Their leadership must have been insane.
If there had been any doubt before,
Now we knew, full well, why we fought the war.
Illegitimi Non Carborundum
They tell me, the band sings at Harvard,
Whether playing Princeton, Yale, or Brown,
"Illegitimi Non Carborundum"
Don't let the bastards grind you down.
That well could have been my motto,
As I served with the seven-oh-third,
Where I had to play Don Quixote,
Against a staff I thought was absurd.
They built their own still, in Darmstadt,
And soon had potato schnapps to pour.
A group of non-coms guzzled so much booze,
That they passed out on the floor.
The CO and I decided to bust them for a week,
And give them every dirty job around.
We couldn't assign them as non-coms,
But, as privates, there were no bounds.
It happened that I was transferred,
Sent to the sixth armored to come home,
So, if the CO gave them their stripes back
Is something that remains unknown.
If they were sent home as privates,
They'd have a gripe, I'm sure you'll agree.
If they were sent home as privates,
The "illegitimi" is me.
A young girl -- Therese Famighetti,
Had ordered a plate of spaghetti,
And looked around for the cheese.
At the next table, eating linguini,
Sat Sgt. Salvatore Fetterini,
She asked him to pass the cheese, please.
By now, I am sure you have figured,
A love spark in Salvy was triggered,
As he walked, with the cheese, 'cross the floor.
He rehearsed and polished his "line,"
Of how he'd woo her if he had time,
But, at dawn, he must leave for the war.
Without even finishing her spaghetti,
Therese got up to show she was ready,
She had bought hook, line, sinker, and more.
For hours, the sarge was beguiling,
When he left in the morn, he was smiling,
As he pledged, he'd be hers "evermore."
Off to England, our hero did go,
To fight in the E.T. of O.
Where he soldiered under Ike.
He dated Irish and English belles,
Frauleins and mademoiselles,
He never met a girl he couldn't like.
And while all these girls Salvy dated,
Poor Therese just sat home and waited.
Her love for Salvy never ceased.
Dear Johns came to Anns, Mays, and Bettys,
From their Willies, and Joes, and Freddies,
As the number of war brides increased.
Salvy's letter went something like this,
"Dear Therese, you've been sorely missed,
But I fear I have broken my pledge.
While you stayed home and waited,
The girls over here, I have dated,
And I married a girl from Liege."
Though I know of no casualty list,
That recorded any girl who'd been kissed,
And wound up with a heart that was broken,
Lovers -- not warriors -- in the game,
They were casualties, just the same,
I'd like to offer a belated token.
So, I'm raising my glass in a toast,
To those girls we once loved the most,
And though it's belated, my dears,
"I hope life has treated you well,
What we had, when we had it was swell,
May you life be a joy through the years."
|(Again, not actual, but semi-factual.
Those Dear Johns went both ways.)
The First General Order
(I will walk my post in a military manner)
You might do that, if you were quartered in a manor.
But when the snow's hip deep, or your post's a foxhole damp,
There is no military marching, like you did in camp.
(Keep always on the alert)
I've had two hours sleep in four days, bud.
(And observing everything that takes place)
With incoming artillery, my face is down in the mud.
(Within sight or hearing)
Fog's so thick, I can't see my feet,
Or the night's so dark,
The moon and stars have beat retreat,
And the only sound is artillery roaring by,
Or those God-forsaken "screaming meemies" howling in
So much for "General Orders," that were pounded in
We've no guard formations no inspections,
And we're relieved of one big pain,
There's no officer coming around at night,
With a foolish question or two, like,
"If a submarine came up the street, what do you think you'd
I Have No Souvenirs
I guess every unit had one,
A guy who scanned the ground
And picked up every souvenir
That was out there to be found.
Helmets, mess kits, canteens,
Pistols, swords, and more.
Anything with an insignia
Was added to his store.
I swore, I had no urge to save them,
But, still I must admit,
I put their excess to good use,
By trading food for it.
With every lull in battle,
My jeep driver went to trade
With all of the rear echelons.
Some mighty deals were made.
The Air Force kitchens were a boon,
They had lots of food to spare.
We traded them for souvenirs,
(Meat, fruits, and other dare.)
We dined in regal splendor,
Drank wines, and whiskey, too.
Our tanks became supermarkets.
We were a well-fed crew.
Then, something happened near Liege,
And you will not find it strange,
But my disdain for souvenirs
Underwent a rapid change.
Our roadblock was in northeast Liege,
Lires was the next town, of course,
Combat command sent down the word,
"Reconnoiter Lires in force."
"See what is in the town of Lires,
And send us a report."
With half the crews outposting tanks,
For a recon, I was short.
I rounded up my remaining man,
(My jeep driver, of course)
And he and I were the total
Of our recon in force.
We slowly, cautiously, drove to Lires
And into its town square,
Where we were greeted by an FI group,
Who said, "No Boche were there."
Except, for one, they'd captured.
They had him tied up in a mine.
If I wished, they'd go and get him.
I, of course, said, "Fine."
So, while we waited in the square,
Amid sounds of revelry,
I noticed a Belgian lady,
Who came walking up to me.
She handed me a doll, in a box,
On which she'd worked very hard.
"Merci a tous nos Liberateurs"
was written on the card.
A souvenir -- I had to adjust.
Well, this one I would keep.
I thanked her, in my halting French,
And loaded the prisoner in my jeep.
Back in Liege, I unloaded the Boche,
Then placed the doll in the mail.
I couldn't send it to my Mom,
Or all my lies would fail.
I had told her not to worry,
I was miles away from the war.
So I couldn't be liberating any town
(A lie that I came to deplore.)
I sent it to my fiancée,
We two, would soon be one.
All mine was hers, and all hers mine.
(I was a stupid son-of-a-gun.)
The "Dear John" that she sent to me.
Said, "It's over." -- That was all.
She broke my heart, returned my ring,
But, of course, she kept the doll.
|A Belgian pen pal, Stan C. Bellens, read the above
poem. At the time, he was connected with the military museum
in Liege. He asked me to explain "son-of-a-gun." He
then translated the poem to French, and asked for permission
to display it at the museum. For all I know, it is still displayed
there. I have enclosed his translation.
Je N'ai Pas de Souvenirs
I Have No Souvenirs
Je suppose que chaque unité en a un
Un type qui fouille le sol
Et qui y ramasse des souvenirs
Qui sont lá pour être trouvés
Casques, gamelles, gourdes
Pistolets, Baïonettes, etc...
Tout ce qui a un insigne
Est ajouté au stock
J'ai juré de n'avoir aucun attrait pour eux
Mais, je dois cependand admettre
Que seul leur emploi excuse l'excès
Pour en obtenir de qoi se nourrir
A chaque arrt de lat bataille
Le chauffeur de ma Jeep s'en va traiter
Avec tous les dépôts de l'arrière
C'est ainsi que de gros marchés furent conclus
Les cuisines de l'Air Force étaient une aubaine
Ils avaient trop de nourriture pour eux
Nous avons échangé nos souvenirs
Pour de la viande, des fruits et autres bonnes choses
Nous nous régalions splendidement
Buvant du vin, du whisky aussi
Nos tanks sont devenus des supermarchés
Nous "etions devenus un équipage bien nourri
Alors, quelque chose se passa près de Liège
Et vous ne trouverez pas étrange
Que mon dédain pour les souvenirs
S transforma, si soudainement
Notre barrage était au Nord-Est de Liège
Liers ètait notre prochain objectif
Le Combat Command envoya ce message
"Reconnaissez Liers en force."
Allez voir ce qui se passe à Liers
Et envoyez-nous votre rapport
Avec la moitié des tanks en poste avanceé
Pour une reconnaissance, j'étais un peu court
J'ai rassemblé tous mes hommes
Mon chauffeur furtif aussi, naturellement
Et lui et moi, complétions le tout
De notre force de reconnaissance
Lentement et prudemment roulions vers Liers
Et en arrivant sur la place du village
Nous y fümes acceuillis par un groupe de F.I.
Qui nous dirent "Aucun Boche n'était ici"
Sauf un seul qu'ils avaient capturé
Ils l'avait attaché dans une mine
Si je voulais, ils iraient le cherecher
Aussi, naturellement ai-je dis "Fine."
Ainsi, tandis que nous attendions sur la place
Au milieu des sons de réjouissance
J'ai remarqué une jeune dame belge
Qui venait, marchant vers moi
Elle m'offrit une poupée dans une boite
Sur laquelle, laborieusement
Merçi à tous nos Libérateurs *
Sur une carte était écrit.
Un Souvenir, je devais m'adapter
Bien! Celui-là, je le garderais
Je l'ai remercièe dans mon français hésitant
Et j'ai chargé le prsonnier dans la Jeep.
De retour à Liège, j'ai déposé
Puis placé la poupée pour le courrier
Je ne pouvais l'envoyer à ma mère
Tous mes mensonges auraient eu l'air faux
Je lui avait dis de ne pas se faire de soucis
Que j'ètais loin de la bataille
Aussi, je ne pouvais libèrer aucune ville
Un mensonge, que j'ai commencé à regretter
Je l'ai envoyée à ma fiancée
Avec laquelle bientöt, je ne ferais plus qu'un
J'étais tout pour elle, elle était tout pour moi
I was a Stupid son-of-a-gun.
Le "Chere John" qu'elle m'envoya plus tard
Disait "C'est fini....C'est tout.
Elle a brisé mon coeur, m'a retourné la bague
Mais naturellement, Elle a gardé la poupée.
His First Time at a Reunion
Oh, they sent us all the misfits,
To create the seven-oh-three.
They emptied out the stockades,
All AWOL's went to the TD.
Every goldbrick, yardbird, loafer
Came off Division's files
And as they dumped this jetsam,
Their faces wreathed in smiles.
They treated us like lepers,
Sub-human, so uncouth,
Could not mingle with the Third A.D.
(Pride of America's youth.)
That's why it was surprising,
When I came to Wichita,
To see a long lost comrade,
I last saw in '44.
After the "Where have you been?"
And of course, "What do you do?"
I asked him, "Friend, why have we not,
Seen much more of you?"
"I couldn't come, Lieutenant,
I feared my heart would break."
Were these the words of an outcast?
I did a double-take.
"I am much too sentimental,"
He quietly carried on.
"I'll break at the memorial
For comrades now long gone."
He was giving me a come-on,
Of that, I was assured.
Forty years have passed since Europe,
My heart was inured.
So, we went down by the river,
And we heard the people speak.
I glanced over at this tanker,
There were tears upon his cheek.
And all my fallen comrades,
From times, now so remote,
Came quickly back into my mind,
A lump came in my throat.
No Neanderthal -- Cro-Magnon,
Quite sensitive was he.
This Third Armored Division reject
Had awoken the heart in me.
It had taken this first-timer
To show me that I still care.
So at the memorial in Scottsdale,
You can bet that I'll be there.
||The following poem is not true. It originated
from a joke by the Irish comedian, Hal Roach.
A little town in northern France
Laid plans for a celebration,
On the twenty-fifth anniversary
Of the city's Liberation.
The sent invitations to the GI's
Who in '44 freed the city.
And one man from our division went.
He embarrassed us, what a pity.
The Frenchmen wined and dined him,
With dinners, parades, and speeches.
They extolled him, and his comrades,
Who had fought from Normandy's beaches.
Finally, on the last night -- the climax,
The banquet to commemorate the day!
How they plied him with cognac, armognac,
Calvados, and, of course, Dubonnet.
When finally, the banquet ended,
Our buddy was feeling no pain.
He perked his ears up, at the sound of the band,
And shouted over the band's first refrain,
I'm feeling so great, I feel like dancing.
You've been wonderful," that's what he said.
Had he only shut up, it would have been fine,
But he added, "I'll dance with the lady in red."
Everyone now, was up on their feet,
He heard his would-be partner's reply,
"Mon ami, we can not dance this number.
There are three reasons why.
"First of all, I am not a dancer,
And if that's not enough, let me say,
That this song that you wish to dance to,
Is the French Anthem, The Marseilles.
"And finally, there's the third reason.
As I tell you, you must surely see why,
I can't dance with you, I'm no lady in red,
I'm the Cardinal from Versailles."
What Did You Do in the War, Grandpa?
"Tell me, Grandpa, about the war.
What do you remember the most?"
That stumped me for a little while,
Had it been creamed chipped beef on toast?
Or was it that awful, onerous smell
Of dead, bloated cows in the field?
The seasickness on the USS Shawnee,
A boat ride that still makes me reel.
Was it the bugs and snakes of Louisiana?
The brutal cold, and snow of the Ardenned?
The screaming strafing by Stukas?
The desert heat baking boys into men?
The dead and dying along the roads?
Burned out hulks of trucks and tanks?
Six A.M. and earlier, wake up calls?
They never earned my eternal thanks.
With so many of these bad memories,
Which we must, surely, all recall
It sounds odd that I remember
The GI humor most of all.
For no matter how frightening
Our position might be,
There was always some joker
Sending us spasms of glee.
Our humor was raunchy,
It was gross, it was coarse,
But it revived our spirits
When we thought all was lost.
The cartoons in Yank,
Windy City Kitty, the Sad Sack,
Brought our spirits right back.
But the greatest morale boost,
When our spirits were low --
Life never got as bad for us,
As it did for "Willie and Joe."
The Right the Army Forgot
The Army taught us a lot about "right."
Column right, right oblique, and right flank.
But they didn't tell us about "Right Guard,"
So, at times, we really stank.
The steel helmet, alas, was our bath tub,
And whenever time would permit,
We'd use it to heat up some water
With a rag and soap bathe in it.
This wasn't too bad in the summer,
You could bathe, and dry in the sun,
Or if quartered in some kind of shelter,
You could strip right down to the bun.
But come winter, that cruel winter,
With its cold and snow and sleet,
With only a foxhole to be our abode,
The only thing bathed was our feet.
For a month, the TDs were on roadblocks,
With never a house, shed, or barn.
To give us relief, from that cold biting wind,
We had no chance for a bath, nice and warm.
None of my platoon became "prisoners of war."
The reason for that, there's no doubt,
Had any German called out, "Hande Hoch,"
The arm pit odor would have knocked him out.
I Do Not Like Thee Infantry
I do not like thee, Infantry,
Queen of battles, you may be,
But slogging in mud, is not for me,
So, I do not like you, infantry.
And artillery, you are not my choice,
With your cannonading, booming voice,
That deafens us, and/or worse.
Artillery, you are not my choice.
I do not like thee, either, tanks.
I hate your noisy, smelly ranks.
A sauna in the summer -- cold winter flanks
Armored Corps for me? -- No thanks.
What can I say of engineers?
Building bridges, in swamps up to your ears,
Working 390 days of the year,
I want you not, engineers.
If war again spreads its plight,
I really do not want to fight!
Dear Lord above, I claim the right,
To watch it all on satellite.
Did They Use Us Right?
We were chatting at a reunion,
When someone said to me,
"You know, I was a replacement,
Transferred from infantry.
"I had never trained with TDs.
Of your tactics, I was unaware.
So, I wondered, did they use us right,
When we were over there?"
The only tactics we were taught,
Were sprinkled with Patton's sass,
"One tank holds the enemy by the nose,
While the other kicks his ass!"
We practiced on our maneuvers,
As one section held its position,
While the others drove around them,
And knocked the enemy to perdition.
It worked out well, in practice,
There were no minefields to cross.
Our leaders were all TD men,
Our Battalion Commander, our boss.
When we, finally, went into battle,
Each platoon to a task force,
We were under control of Division men,
Who prized their own troops, of course.
The frequency, on our radios,
Were tuned to the TD ranks,
So we had to convert our radios,
To the frequency of the tanks.
When loaned to other Divisions,
It compounded that misery.
We retuned the altered radios,
To take orders from the infantry.
With little communication, between TDs,
We used a lot of signals by hand.
This was easy to do in the daylight,
But at night, we ran overland.
Each task force commander was different.
To some, we were equals, or more,
To others, we were useless,
They saw no need for us in that war.
Those who used us as a weapon,
Kept a section near the lead platoon.
The others used us to guard their trains,
We might just as well, been on the moon.
A few were overly protective,
Because, our turrets were open on top.
We were ordered out of Stolberg,
To a position in some farmer's crop.
There, the German artillery found us.
Their shells rained down, and so,
I said, "Maybe our turrets are exposed,
But back into Stolberg, we go."
At Hastenrath, it was repeated.
After that mad dash across the plain,
They said our turrets brought snipers joy,
So we had to go back again.
After we got back to the next town,
They had our sector cleared,
They wanted us back to protect a flank,
So back to them we steered.
One commander, (God rest his soul)
Would circle his troops at night,
Then send the TDs further down the road,
To see if we picked up a fight.
He wanted his men to get a rest,
After that long and dusty drive.
My men had traveled the same route,
In the same length of time, no jive!
We had to spend the nights alone,
With nothing but the light of the moon,
While his men got a good night's sleep,
In their own protected cocoon.
Others gave us infantry, or engineers,
To outpost our positions.
Each commander had his own way,
Of handling these conditions.
When we finally got our 90's,
They all wanted us up front.
Attitudes, and usage changed.
(They "smartened up," to be blunt.)
We really had no tactics
No way to outflank the enemy.
The way we fought, throughout the war,
Was, "shoot anything you see."
So, did they use us wisely?
It is not for me to say.
They used us when they needed us.
They did it their own way.
I'll not criticize their actions.
That's not the purpose of this poem.
Whether they used us, or abused us,
I'm glad that I lived to come home.
Be All That You Can Be
Be all that you can be!
That's a phrase that bothers me.
Was I all that I could be,
In the a-a-a-r-r-m-m-e-e.
"We will teach you a new skill."
All I learned was how to kill,
Eat SOS, and other swill,
And do things against my will.
Sleep in foxholes in the rain,
Finish the hikes, with feet of pain,
Peel every "spud" from the state of Maine,
Get up at five, and don't complain.
Wash and scrub, polish and shine,
Never stepping out of line,
Do everything by army design.
(Not the right way -- nor even mine.)
Weekend passes, we could not arrange,
We spent our Sundays on the range
The name of Blackstone, we did change,
We renamed it "Tombstone," that's not strange.
Our independence suffered sorrily,
As we all learned that categorically,
Questions were asked rhetorically,
By martinets, oh so, quarrelly.
The army after the WW II's strife
Returned me to civilian life
Now, I am all that I can be --
If it is okayed by my wife!
A Candle to Light Your Way
"May each hair on your head become a candle
To light your way into Heaven."
That's an Irish toast, that I first heard,
When I was ten or eleven.
It was a delightful bit of "Blarney,"
And for years, it was treated like that,
But now, It's become a cause for concern,
As I've grown old, and bald, and fat.
Now the hairs on my head aren't many,
They were lost by the dozens, each day.
When I'm finally called to my maker,
I'll have little to light up my way.
General Sherman once said, "War is Hell."
True, more then that, It's a waste.
Thousands of young lives sacrificed,
Limbs were lost, that can't be replaced.
Towns, and cathedrals, wiped from the earth,
Ancient artifacts destroyed by the score,
Works of "masters," that survived for years,
But we will see them nevermore.
Tons of vehicles, and armaments,
Left on the fields of war to rust,
Millions of surplus items, dumped into the sea,
Or buried into dust.
We griped, and we groaned about the waste,
Why was is not sold at low cost?
Especially, when we filed tax returns,
We cursed at the money we'd lost.
But of all the unsalvaged items,
That seemed so unimportant then,
There is only one of those wasted items,
For which, I now have a yen.
In each French town, that we liberated,
They took each collaborating Mademoiselle.
Down to the steps of their city halls,
And shaved of their "marcels."
They were shaved and shorn, like sheep for wool.
It's for those tresses, I now despair.
I could be going to Heaven, in a floodlight parade,
If I had just made wigs of their hair.
The Army's Secret Weapon
It was late '41, or early '42,
The newspaper headlines blared,
"The U.S. Army has a secret weapon."
I'll bet Adolf Hitler was scared.
The tank destroyers, the papers added,
Will fulfill the army's need.
They'll seek out the enemy, destroy his tanks,
And dazzle him with speed.
I was a tanker with "Hell on Wheels,"
I went to OCS, I was assigned,
Upon graduation, to the Third A.D.
When put in TD's, I didn't mind.
But out there, on the Mojave sands,
I gasped at what I saw.
A French 75, on a half track,
This was not the way to win the war.
This "Secret Weapon," I quickly saw.
Would not stop the "Krauts we were after.
(Unless, we showed them this secret weapon)
And they all died from laughter.
It had no armor, it had no speed,
Its cross-country's maneuvering stank.
The short 75 could knock out a truck,
But, never a "Tiger" tank.
We moved to Virginia, and were re-equipped.
They gave us the new M10's.
It had a three-inch gun, and a lot more speed,
And could travel through marshes and fens.
With this "Secret Weapon," we went into war,
Against light tanks, it was OK,
But when we fired at "Tigers" and "Panthers,"
We only played "Ricochet."
Ordinance gave us the M36,
Near the end of 1944.
With its long-barreled 90, and "souped up" ammo,
We had the TD to win the war.
But, alas my friends, it was the same old tale,
We still couldn't face them "head on."
If we got in a flank shot, they were done,
Hit their front plate, the shell bounced on.
Forty years later, they perfected the weapon,
Four decades, I guess that's the "norm."
But they ultimately got the ideal TD.
In the "Apaches" in Desert Storm.
Ernie -- Why Didn't You Come?
We met half-a-century ago,
In OCS at Fort Knox.
Ernie Silva, the quiet Hawaiian,
And this loud mouth from the New York blocks.
We hit it off, from the outset,
They say that opposites attract,
We were both assigned to the third A.D.,
To the 703rd in fact.
In the desert, Ernie had a car,
We'd spend our weekends in L.A.,
Or Riverside, or Palm Springs,
We were both young and gay.
From the desert, we went to Pickett
Where the training hours were long,
No weekends off, no reveling,
But still, our bonds grew strong.
Then to the Gap, (near home at last)
I spent my weekends there,
While Ernie went to Philly,
And found his soul-mate there.
I was the best man at his wedding,
I thought, "he wants a touch of class,"
But the real reason why he picked me,
I knew when to stand or kneel, at Mass.
Through England, France, and Germany,
We managed to stay friends.
Once after the war, we met in Philly,
That was about the end.
Some Christmas cards, for a year or two,
Then I heard from him no more,
Until I heard that he was in Florida,
How it made my spirits soar.
I wrote to him, and he wrote back,
There was much I wanted to know.
What happened to him over the years?
How did his family grow?
He said he'd come to a reunion,
We would rehash all that occurred,
But at reunion time, he was a "no-show."
And that was the last I heard.
In and ensuing issue of Roadblock,
They wrote that Ernie had passed on.
Now all the answers to my questions,
Like him, they too, were gone.
I'd have loved to see you once more,
Old friend, and reminisce on old affairs,
It was not to be, (God grant eternal rest)
You'll be always in my prayers.
The Liberation Commemoration
The cities in northern Europe
Are planning commemorations,
For five decades of freedom,
And we received invitations.
Preparing for their trip abroad,
To represent our Division,
The committee pondered, very long,
And came to a decision.
They would place a plaque in every town,
Holding a celebration,
To signify that "We remember"
Their day of Liberation.
Then number of plaques, and the cost of each,
Soon stirred up quite a fuss.
One man decried that the other divisions
Had placed their plaques ahead of us.
Then one man stood up, and proclaimed,
In a voice that was quite loud,
His words impressed me, and I thought,
"Abe Lincoln would be proud."
"The land was hallowed, dedicated,
By those of our comrades who fell,
And now lie under crosses
In France, and Henri-La-Chappelle."
Thus spoke this gallant warrior,
Let his words stay in our minds,
There can be no greater memorial.
Than those we left behind!
It was the Battalion's final reunion.
When the speaker made this call,
"Write down the name of the person,
Who impressed you most of all."
He added, "List just one event
Whose memory you treasure,
Something that either scared you the most,
Or gave, to you, most pleasure."
He then requested that each one,
In twenty-five words or less,
Send their memory to Goldberg,
Before the Roadblock went to press.
Over the years, he had written
Poems of memories shared,
Believing most people were interested
In having their memories shared.
It is quite a chore to edit
A newsletter, such as ours,
With no reporters filing tales of life,
War, or Flanders Field flowers.
So he exhorted each and everyone,
To share memories of the past.
If no one deems it worthwhile,
This poem would be his last.
So, the ball is in your court now,
If Nate doesn't give me a call,
Saying, "The letters are coming in,"
Then this is Au revoir.
God bless you all!
||Before that "last" reunion, it was
asked that I submit a suitable poem for the occasion. The following
is what I submitted ...
Time, Gentlemen, Please
"Time, Gentlemen, please."
Those words still ring in my ears.
The English pub tender's words meant,
"The pub is closed, my dears."
Just like the bugler playing "Taps,"
It signaled "Day is done."
Back to the Nissen hut to sleep,
There would be more days of fun.
"Time, Gentlemen, please,"
Told us the barrels were dry.
It held an invitation,
It didn't mean goodbye.
If you believe in the hereafter,
(That Heaven in the skies)
You believe that we can meet again,
So we never say goodbye.
We'll take our leave saying "adios,
Ta-ta, farewell, adieu."
Our battalion reunion is its last,
But we'll still commune with you.
We've stayed friends for many years,
Across countries, oceans, and seas,
And friends we'll stay forever,
But now, it is "Time, gentlemen, please."
What? A Private Again?
Orville P. Moody left Pittsburgh
To go and fight in the war.
He wound up driving a tank destroyer,
With a rating of T/4.
He loved his jokes, enjoyed his pranks,
And reveled in hilarity,
Until in a quonset hut in England
He almost paid for his jocularity.
A quonset hut has a door at each end,
Each with its own blackout blind.
(An "L" shaped baffle, inside the door)
So that outside, the light wouldn't shine.
On a Saturday morning inspection,
As I entered through the rear door,
Moody was entering at the other end,
And I heard the "Attention" he roared.
The men all leaped to attention,
Then came Moody, sauntering down the aisle,
"At ease men, I was a private myself,"
He said with a smirk and a smile.
I stepped out from the baffle, saying,
"I'm the boss here, to that, you add Amen,
They'll stay at attention, 'til I say at ease,
Or you'll be a private again.
The Bridge Game
It was quiet in the CP,
The tour had left for town,
Someone suggested that we play bridge,
And the four of us sat down.
My wife and I had been traveling,
And for reasons I can't explain,
Two cards in our deck were missing.
We subbed "jokers," went on with the game.
On one joker, we wrote CLUB KING,
And wrote EIGHT OF HEARTS on the other.
The humor started on the very first hand
When Roberts said, "Oh brother!
You left the jokers in the deck!
That's not how bridge is played!"
Even after a lengthy explanation,
He was, seemingly, quite dismayed.
In his first time as declarer,
He took a three trick set,
Complained when his joker-king lost to an ace.
He hasn't figured it out yet.
The bewilderment was obvious,
For again, in the second hand
He let a girl's joker-eight win a trick
While he held honors in his hand.
Our laughter, at his confusion,
Had tears running down our cheeks.
Maja's mascara started to run,
Her face had two black streaks.
Down by three, down by two,
Poor Jim, his play was troubled.
To top it off, everyone roared,
When he went down for three tricks -- doubled.
Stites called him to meet the sister
Of a man, killed in his platoon.
He walked away, mumbling, "No jokers allowed,
You must have learned bridge on the moon!"
May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You
"May the Good Lord bless and keep you,"
The words came from Father Ken.
They were the reunions finale,
His blessings on us women and man.
His once vibrant voice now quavered,
It was hard to reach every note,
And as he strived to reach them,
A lump came up in my throat.
In the lobby of the Hilton,
As we talked, he said to me,
"Hap, pray that I reach my next birthday,
It would be a blessing to me."
And now, as he sang, I remembered,
His role in my formative years.
He was my confessor, my friend, and my counsel,
Leading me through this valley of tears.
"Most compassionate Virgin Mary,"
The words of the Memorare, I pray,
You've never let my prayers go unanswered,
Take care of Father Lynch today.
Let him live to see his next birthday,
Keep him well, 'till he's a hundred and nine,
And then, when God calls him to Heaven,
May the last voice he hears, be mine!
"May the Good Lord bless and keep you,"
He was coming to the close.
"'Til we meet again" twice repeated,
And then everyone arose.
A standing ovation of affection and love,
To show him how much we care.
Father Ken, when you are called to Heaven,
I pray that we all will meet there.
Come in to the Parlor
The apex of Irish hospitality,
In spite of what you think,
Is, "Come in to the parlor,"
Not, "What will you have to drink?"
They unlatch the doors, raise the curtains,
Remove dust covers, only for the chosen.
(The visiting priest, proposing swain,
Or the corpse, now dead and frozen.)
The parlor's a sanctuary, an altar,
A room built for a throne.
To invite a guest into the parlor
Is the greatest compliment shown.
In my reunion commentary,
I asked all of you to try hard,
To be amenable to what Schutt asks,
To assist, to serve, to be a part.
If this association is to survive,
Though we be old, and halt, and lame,
We all must provide a helping hand
And each play a part in the game.
So, when Schutt invites you on his team,
I want to hear you holler,
Not, "not in my backyard, Oh no,"
Please say, "Come into my parlor."
Remember our first reunion?
We'd stay up and refight the war,
Recalling all our past battles.
The humor, the valor, the gore.
We went to bed in the wee hours,
Stayed up late to swap our lies.
Exaggerated all our efforts,
We were heroes -- that's no surprise.
We just had another reunion,
Our last in this century.
The changes in conversational topics
Were some what easy to see.
We now speak of our last operation,
Leaning on canes, discussing our ills.
Gripe at the cost of medical care,
The outlandish price of pills.
While we still remember comrades
Who died to bring us peace,
We add on those lately fallen.
Each year, those numbers increase.
But it isn't all melancholy,
Camaraderie still runs high,
We'll come back for other reunions,
"Til we rejoin our troops in the sky!
The Last Hurrah
The clarion call has sounded,
Inviting us from near and far.
The survivors of the 703rd,
For on final last hurrah.
To the veterans of the TDs,
Who once marched strong and proud,
But now are aged, slow, and bent,
Whose sight has begun to cloud.
The call goes out to join us,
In our official "One last fling."
We will rehash all those happy times,
As well as the sad remembering.
"Do you remember?" the questions start,
The road that recon made --
For whenever a TD went through Mere,
Cobblestones had to be relaid."
How about the guy from "A" Company,
Who died digging a kitchen pit?
His name is on the tip of my tongue,
But I can't remember it.
The revolving door of officers
That passed through Battalion's ranks
From Cincinnatti's huge Lou Capelle,
To the tiny Lt. Banks.
In "A" Company, before the ETO,
Led by Smythe, and the above named Lou,
We had officers named O'Connell, Ruff,
Howard, Chism, and Wissing were a few.
McIntyre, Henderson, and myself,
(I'm sure there were many more.)
But Henderson was the only one left
In "A" at the end of the war.
The same applied to "B" and "C."
It wasn't officers, alone.
The turnovers came in enlisted men,
From the misfits, to kids fresh from home.
So, now at our last time together,
Come out, and reminisce with the guys.
But kindly, dear friend, remember,
We're exaggerating, not telling lies.
When the Blue Stars Turn to Gold
The mother tearfully, said, "Goodbye,"
As she sent her son off to fight.
In her window, she hung a blue star,
Stitched on a field of white.
The neighbors had sent their "greeting."
They "chose" him to go to war.
He went into the army, to train and march,
As he never marched before.
He finished his training, and went overseas,
No longer was he hers to hold.
Then that awful telegram came to the house,
The blue star was turned to gold.
His comrades still meet for reunions,
And recall what they lived through.
They remember those who didn't return
With a silent prayer or two.
I ask, that in future reunions,
As the bells for the departed are tolled,
Please add an "Ave" for the wives and mothers,
Whose blue stars turned to gold.
Thanks, Miss, for that Lift
The old bones are aching,
We no longer stride,
The backs are bending,
Arthritis is at our side,
"These are the nineties, Pop,"
Your kids put you down.
"We do thing differently,
You should get out and around."
And when the grandchildren come by,
With a boom box to their ear,
They'll soon be unable to hear.
Even the president gives a display
Of how little morals mean --
Running "Bed and breakfast" at the White House,
Running around with unbuttoned jeans.
You head out for the reunion,
And the wife says, through her tears,
Can't you ever forget that war?
It has been over for fifty years."
You have to wonder, if this old world,
Is really passing you by.
They you renew old times with your buddies,
And a sparkle comes back in your eye.
While at the Michigan reunion,
A young lady left us a note.
"Thank all you Vets, who kept us free,"
Is part of what she wrote.
She added, "the country owes you,
For putting your lives on the line."
That girl lifted my spirits,
There are people with ideals like mine.
Lt. Edward J. McIntyre
No martinet, no Simon Legree,
No crass, crude, shouting bore.
He did his job very quietly,
There was no need to roar.
He enjoyed the banter of Woolner,
The antics of capricious St. John,
The teasing of Sgt. Miller,
Through it all his smile stayed on.
No swearing, or recrimination
Were ever a part of his life.
His strongest epithet, "Dang it,"
Seemed to cut like a knife.
"Steady Eddie," the quiet man,
Prepared his troops for the war.
How incongruous, that this man of peace
Should be selected for this chore.
He went to battle, as we all know,
In the fighting he lost an eye.
He did not bemoan this terrible fate,
He remained a lovable guy.
Now, decades later, this earthly saint,
Slowed by age, and a heart attack,
Has left us for his heavenly reward.
For Christmas, God called him back!
(Sleep well, dear friend.)
Press One for --
Have you tried to call a corporation?
You don't talk to people, it's all automation.
Without a hello, you get his refrain,
"Press number one if you wish to complain."
It's a voice, not a person talking to you,
To place an order, "Press number two."
Try to imagine what would be in store,
If they controlled our tanks during the war.
"I have a target," you tell a voice so strange.
"Press one," says the voice, "If it's in one mile
Press two if the distance is one mile more,
Press three for three miles, press four for four."
(By now the target has spotted us)
Their turret is turning without all this fuss --
"For armor piercing," says the voice on the line,
"Press eight, and for HE press nine.
"With a rotary dial," the voice will state,
"Someone will answer, if you'll just wait."
Our gun is now loaded, we start to traverse,
A pink glow's coming at us, I let out a curse.
While I punched up numbers, the enemy struck,
You guessed it, my friends, I was a dead duck.
So, corporations please listen, I'm not saying much,
But you'll keep more customers, with a personal touch.
||Finally, if I am to be remembered, let it be
like this message from the Jacaranda.
The jacarandas bloomed,
In the city of St. Pete.
Now, their dying blossoms
Are purple carpets on our streets.
It's a message that they leave us
Even though their life is gone,
They leave a beautiful memory,
For us to carry on.
I pray that I'm like the Jacaranda,
That when I leave my friends behind,
I'll have left them pleasant memories
That will always come to mind.
Some funny story, or a joke,
That they hear after I'm dead,
Which will cause them to recall and say,
"That's what Hap would have said."
The Army Can Opener
Once again, I'm frustrated,
Upset, teed off, and vexed.
I bought a brand new can opener,
And it has me perplexed.
Sitting on the appliance shelf,
It really looked quite nifty.
I couldn't resist the sale price,
It was only thirteen-fifty.
But when I got the damn thing home,
And tried to open a can,
It cut and skipped, sputtered and dripped,
Did nothing according to plan.
Do you remember the can opener
That came with the rations box?
Two metal pieces, with a hinge,
Open cans? It could open locks.
It measured one eighth, by an inch, by an inch.
So small, yet really handy,
And when you had to open a can,
It really worked quite dandy.
Since the war, we put men on the moon,
Traveled faster than sound,
Designed television and Internet,
But there's no engineer around.
Who improved on the GI can opener.
I wish some one would begin,
For I have yet to see an improvement
On that one inch piece of tin.
The Mentor and the War
I went to the Ohio reunion,
Where I heard some people say,
"The children aren't learning history,
They are not taught right today!"
Then they told us how they volunteered
To tell what the Division had done,
Of our battles and our sacrifices,
To insure that the war was won.
And as I sat and listened to them,
This thought came up to me,
"I can teach about the war,
A mentor, I will be."
So, with my wife, we volunteered
To fill those teaching needs,
We submitted applications, were accepted,
To the program, "St. Pete reads."
Upon reporting to our school,
We were informed they needed but one.
My wife helped third graders to read,
I was left with no one.
They asked if I could help a class
Of youngsters starting first grade.
They had trouble with their numbers,
And progress had to be made.
They sat me down on a tiny chair,
I'd help kids subtract and add.
The learning tools were minimal,
Though cubes to count on weren't bad.
But after a while, they were boring.
The system needed something more.
I thought of a game my children played,
With a deck of cards -- called "War."
Two players each turn up a card,
With the highest card being the winner.
I added a variation, they had to subtract
The loser from the winner.
When I go to the reunion this year,
And folks ask me "what life has in store,"
I'll tell them that I am a "Mentor"
Teaching first graders about the war.
I Coulda Been a Contender
Television has fed us a steady diet
Of movies concerning the "War."
The 60th anniversary of "D-Day,"
Pearl Harbor, Korea, and more.
As I watched those actors in green berets,
Led by a guy called "Duke,"
Whose main line was "Let's move 'em out,"
It almost made me puke.
Those guys would work eight hours a day,
Then go home to bed with their wife.
While the GI's slept in foxholes
And had no respite from strife.
I could have spoken the same lines,
Had a nickname like "Prince" or "Earl,"
And ended each day with a starlet,
Some cocktails and a bedroom whirl.
I could have paced the deck of a carrier,
Flown a plane through overcast skies,
Done some magical feats of daring,
That you wouldn't believe your eyes.
I could have portrayed Patton,
A marine on Guadalcanal or Wake,
Then watched my name go up in lights,
And many a bow, I would take.
I could have portrayed anyone,
But, alas, my friends I was shafted...
I coulda been a great war hero,
If only I hadn't been drafted.
Has the "Statute of limits" run out?
Am I free of military rule?
If in telling this tale, I trapped myself,
I really would be a fool.
To understand just how it occurred,
You must know how TD's were deployed.
Stuck out on "Roadblocks," away from "Command,"
Looking for tanks to be destroyed.
Sometimes they gave us some infantry,
Once in a while, we'd get engineers.
But on most of the roadblocks, we'd be alone,
And the unknown was what we feared.
"OOh ay la Boche?" we'd ask the French.
"La boche partee.gain avec."
Usually meant we were in for a fight,
The Boche attacked with a full deck.
"Combien Boche?" we'd ask the French.
"Beaucoup," That answer just wasn't right.
When they warned us of the German Hordes,
We slept peacefully through the night.
Some FFI approached my platoon,
"We want to kill La Boche," they said.
Here were men to outpost our roadblocks,
And translators, were the thoughts in my head.
I wasted no time accepting their offer.
One English speaking man per TD.
While in France they were invaluable
getting true information for me.
We finally were halted in Germany.
Gasoline and supplies were low.
They sent us back to change tank treads
That would grip the ice and snow.
Just before we reached the ordnance spot,
I saw the Colonel along the roadside.
Standing tall in the turret, I saluted,
Then turned, and signalled with pride.
I pointed at the Colonel and saluted.
They signalled that they understand.
The FFI man standing in the turret,
Mirrored my salute with his left hand.
The Colonel never noticed the error.
He returned the salute snappily,
But I knew I must soon get rid of the French,
Or he would get rid of me
Reluctantly, I bid them adieu,
Got them on a supply truck heading to France.
They would have some stories to tell.
I escaped court martial by the seat of my pants.
At the reunion, I spoke,
I told many a joke,
I used up my whole repertoire.
One man came to me,
"Would I speak in Tennessee?"
I told him "It's really too far."
Another fine chap
Did your grandparents wage such a feud?"
I said, "They had but one fight,
Started on their wedding night,
And never a peace ensued."
For their fiftieth year,
Grandpa said "Tell me dear,
I will get any present you mention."
She said, "The one thing I'd treasure,
That would give me great pleasure,
My dear, is the widow's pension."
War & Computers - Both are Hell
A few days before Christmas
My oldest son sent to me,
A present I thought I wanted,
A computer... a Dell PC.
I looked forward with anticipation
To contacting neighbors and kin,
Swapping tales with the guys of the 703rd
And exaggerations with 3rd armored men.
I removed the typewriter from my desk,
And uncrated the boxes on the floor,
But, the desk provided too little room,
I would need a few feet more.
Then a kindly neighbor told me
She had a table she didn't use.
If I wanted it, I could have it.
So, how could I refuse?
Then, on the second day, I assembled
Computer, printer, and screen,
But they didn't provide a printer cable,
So I had to dig deep in my jeans.
Radio Shack took me for seventy bucks,
But I finally was able to grin,
For years I assembled toys for my kids.
So, now, at last, I was in.
But then on the third day.
I sat down, with pain on my face,
I had almost gotten a hernia,
Trying to put the screen on its base.
I turned on the power and got a blank screen.
I called my son for advice.
He told me, "something is not plugged in."
I said, I checked it twice.
But sure enough, I found it,
A plug caught under the screen.
I was aching, mad, frustrated,
My Christmas spirit was "mean."
At last it worked. No problem.
I thought I was doing just fine,
Until a computer literate asked me,
If Verizon upgraded my line?
So I called and got an upgrade
For twenty bucks they'd sent to me,
A gizmo for when I was using the computer,
That would keep my phone line free.
I feverishly worked to get on line,
By now, it was Christmas Eve,
And I thought I might send out greetings.
What a fool I was to believe.
Christmas came, and Christmas went,
I thought my brain would bust
Though I'd read "PC for Dummies,"
All I had was more things to dust.
Then, a neighbor's son, on a visit,
Said "Hap, let me take a look"
He spent most of Monday morning
Hitting keys that were not in the book.
He explained all the things in the windows,
Then he said, I was on my own,
The computer's connected, go use it.
I was left to go it alone.
I tried to dial up a bridge game,
Or play a hand of solitaire.
All I got was advertisements
To buy games that were not there.
I tried to dial up some music,
And I got frustrated again.
The only things on the menu,
Were hip-hop or Eminem.
My E-mails were mounting daily.
There were twelve in less than a week
But when I clicked in, I got windows
But none with the things that I seek.
My sister returned from vacation.
She said use the left clicker twice.
Then there was the window with e-mail.
My feeling was turning to nice.
I emptied out the mail box,
Even sent out a message or two.
I thought I had mastered my PC.
That shows how little I knew.
I still can not log on to 3AD.com,
Which was my primary chore.
Getting the hang of this computer, I fear,
Will last longer than the War.
I have not reached the twelfth day of Christmas,
Dear friends, I just lasted one week.
Now I'm tired, frustrated, frantic.
Late at night, I wake up to shriek.
So you'll have to excuse my mistakes here,
Those errors you find in this prose.
Since they put the straitjacket on me,
I am forced to type with my nose.
We Need a New Memorial
I just returned from our reunion,
In Washington, D.C.
It's a city full of memorials,
To honor folks like you and me.
Tribute is paid to the Air Force,
The Seabees and the Marines.
Vets from the war in Korea,
Vietnam and other scenes.
We honor the women who went to war,
And those who stayed behind,
And the National cemetery at Arlington,
Is a reminder for all mankind.
Please don't think we have enough now,
I'd like to add two more,
To the paraplegics, the blind, the lame,
All those invalids from the war.
I'd place one on the White House lawn,
And one on Capitol Hill,
A gruesome reminder to politicos
Of those men still paying the bill.
It would have a wheelchair and crutches,
A cane for those who are blind,
A hospital bed from a burn unit
And orthopedics of every kind.
I'd place one so that the PRESIDENT,
When he arose each morn,
Would get a reminder from it,
Of the load these men have borne.
And the one up at the Capitol,
As an inscription would have this plea,
"The next time you declare war,
Enlist yourselves, but don't send me."
Good Conduct Ribbon
As I approach the big nine - oh,
I fear I haven't long to go.
I survived the depression, a couple of wars,
Had days of hunger, and feasts galore.
I had a wonderful wife, and raised three boys,
Experienced sorrows and also joys.
My life was full, but I must insist,
And yet there's something that I missed.
The Lieutenant said, "A model soldier you must be."
That struck a funny chord with me.
"A model," I replied while smirking,
"Is a small imitation of the real thing."
The rest of my outfit made quite a sight,
The bars on their chests gleamed red and white.
The "Good Conduct ribbon" shining there,
Alas, my friends, my chest was bare.
I was a great soldier, I'm not fibbin',
But I never got a Good Conduct ribbon.
I missed out, friends, and it makes me sad,
To think the army thought I was bad.
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poems in this section: © Harold A. Paulson. Publication
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