"Tank Hero of World War II, Minus A Leg,
Returns to Duty With 3rd Armored"
By Marion Porter
[Primary newspaper for Ft. Knox,
September 25, 1949
Five years ago to the day he was "knocked out" of
the Third Armored Division, Sgt. Lafayette G. Pool, 30, wearing
his battle decorations, his battle scars, and a wooden leg, returned
to the Third Armored Division.
There was sound and fury when he was knocked out of his tank
by a direct hit from an enemy gun, September 19, 1944, near Stolberg,
Germany. And there was pomp and circumstance recently when the
6-foot-2 Texan was welcomed home by the Third's honor guard at
Fort Knox and a handclasp from Maj. Gen. Roderick R. Allen, commanding
officer. (Pool's re-enlistment is part of an Army program to
utilize wounded combat veterans in exceptional instances.)
"They shouldn't 'a' gone to all that trouble, but it
was mighty nice," said Sergeant Pool, who was THE outstanding
tank commander of World War II. Official records show that as
the point of the spearhead he led 21 full-scale engagements.
He is credited with 1,000 dead Germans, 250 prisoners and 250
enemy vehicles. Twelve of the vehicles destroyed were tanks.
Four tanks had been shot out from under Sergeant Pool. Asked
to account for the amazing record made while spearheading attacks
from Isigny, France, to Stolberg before he was wounded, he said:
"Well, I prayed an awful lot and my wife at home was praying
too."He recalled the amazement of the doctor who promised
to discharge him "as soon as you walk down to my office
on that leg." Pool did walk down to the office just four
days after being issued his wooden leg. What the doctor didn't
know was that Pool had been practicing on a buddy's wooden leg.
The man next to him in the hospital had two artificial legs.
Taking surreptitious walks. Pool used one of the borrowed legs
while his buddy used the other and a crutch.
After his discharge. Pool opened a filling station and garage
at his home in Sinton, Texas. He didn't like it, nor did he like
several other businesses he started. He enlisted in the Army
and was sent into the Transportation Corps, but finally managed,
with the intervention of General Allen, to "come home"
to the Third Armored Division where he will be an instructor
in automotive mechanics.
"But I'd like to get back into tanks," he said wistfully.
He has three sons, aged 5, 3, and 1, all destined to be tankers.
Sergeant Pool wears the Belgian and French Fourragère,
the Distinguished Service Cross, Legion of Merit, Silver Star,
and Purple Heart -- as well as 17 bits of shrapnel in his neck,
and the artificial leg.
"It's all right," he said, giving the leg a resounding
smack. "Creaks a little today. I went fishing and overturned
the boat and got it wet. Just needs a little oiling."
No member of his crew was injured. He had the same crew all
through, the crew he trained as recruits at Camp Polk, La.
"They prayed good, too," grinned Pool, "but
they could cuss even better. I'd say, 'Boys, come on, we're leading
this one.' And they'd say, 'Why, you blankety blank so-and-so
of a so-and-so, you're going to get us all killed.' "
Pool always rode in his tank with the turret open and the
upper part of his body out of the tank.
"I like to see where I'm going and who's shooting at
me," he explained. "Kinda gave me claustrophobia to
be all closed in. If I had been down in the tank like I should
have, I would have been killed sure nuff."
(Incidentally, Pool's twin brother was in the Navy and in
every naval battle in the Far East as well as the Pearl Harbor
bombing and came through unscratched.)
Injured in the neck and leg, Pool spent 22 months in hospitals
before he was discharged. A Golden Gloves champ and winner of
41 out of 41 boxing matches in the Army, he described his 42d
fight, "the fight for my life - the toughest."