SOLDIER’S MEDAL CITATION
One day the command asked for those who would volunteer for Officer’s candidate school. It wasn’t for me. Smitty volunteered and was shipped out to somewhere near Paris for vigorous training. By so doing his leadership position was open. Smitty was my squad leader. I don’t know if he recommended me to Lieutenant Wyatt but Wyatt picked me to take Smitty’s place. I was stunned that Wyatt picked me. I was just a buck ass private. Why would he ask me? Maybe he recalled my willingness to duty. This might sound like a braggart. We talked it over for quite a while. It was extra responsibility. Maybe Wyatt knew and should have known about my rescuing Butler. How about the other extra duty stuff back in Colmar. I was very hesitant to agree. This one time I had power of refusal I guess. I finally agreed under his gentle pressure and cajoling. I went from Buck ass private to three stripes–a buck sergeant- just like that. Usually it is a stripe at a time.
I sewed on my sergeant’s stripes. My closest buddies thought they ‘had it made’ now. They’d have me under their thumb! Nick Garritano asked, “Bing are you gonna be a good sergeant or one of them chicken shit ones?” My answer to him was short and sweet. “I’m gonna hand it down like it comes to me”. I hoped to do just that, but I’ll tell it up front, you had to lean on the most capable guys. Nick was a very capable guy.
I wrote earlier about being on river crossing training. It was premature. This is the time when we were crossing the swollen stream when I tossed in the rope to Nick to ‘hold the boat’ as it floated down stream. Nick stood there tightening his rein on the boat but it wouldn’t stop. We laughed at his expense. He was bitching at me saying “yer always pickin’ on me”!
Nick is dead now. Forgive me Nick wherever you are .It was all in fun. (I told him that).
The time spent around NANCY France was really appreciated by us battle weary troops. We took advantage of the situation. The officers allowed us to go to town. The big town of NANCY. It showed no signs of the war. It was unscathed even by a few shells. No signs at all just as Rome showed no signs of war inside. Nearly anything though of interest to lonely GIs were off limits. Now and then you’d see a lineup of GIs. You could guess there was some sort of ‘business’ going on there. A place to ignore. There were nice places to eat.
On one “pass” I went with GARRIT CONLON and JAMES ANDERSON. Garrit was an Irish catholic from JOISEY (Jersey) with deep convictions of the faith. We weren’t the closest of buddies. He and Sudell ‘hit it off’ most of the time. I have a snapshot of Garrit and me standing beside a French car–a teeny car that resembled my Dad’s 1923 STAR car.
Nancy France was a memorable time. We were allowed to have a party in one of the taverns on the outskirts near us. We went in dressed in our best ODs. McLean drove us in on the weapons carrier. We were allowed to have all the beer you could afford. There were MPS on the outside though and there were MPs guarding the brothel upstairs. Down in the pub there were a fair amount of French floozies who capitalized on the GIs
Sgt. (nameless) was a tall gangly southern guy. He was married. He was ‘swooning’ over a French girl who was also married but her husband was on the front down in Colmar somewhere. She was ‘loyal’ to her husband though but she ‘helped’ Sgt. (nameless) out in his time of lust by walking him outside. She applied a technique which satisfied them both, he reported later, which qualified for “loyal”. To a congressional committee, he might have said, “I did not have sex with that woman”. Same thing.
It was the Officer’s turn to have a blast in the same Pub. They laid on my shoulders the most unfavorable duty! Since I had made Sergeant I had to be in charge of the MPs on the brothel upstairs. That was a very bad night! I was never called so many dirty names as during that duty. It was the only time I ever had to wear an MP band. MP’s were not held in the highest esteem. I was among those who disliked them. I had to wear an MP band! You’d be surprised at the power of lust! I was glad when that night was over. Imagine telling an officer “No!”
We went through more intensive training. We were introduced to larger invasion craft. Great big outboard motors on bigger boats which held more men, perhaps a platoon. I hated the training as always, but I know it was being offered and forced upon us for our own survival and ultimately to attain a Victory over the enemy. A plain person is of no use until he has been trained.