You’re in the Army now

Jul 15th
Posted by shambo  as History
Military genius

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Let me say this about that.

Ever since I was in military school, I have been fascinated by stories of life in the armed forces.¬† It takes a special kind of person to deal with all the physical demands of the training and the psychological stress¬† of potentially ……….well, getting shot.¬†

After graduating from military school, I spent the summer with the Army in Fort Benning, Georgia.¬†¬†In the summertime, Ft. Benning is the hottest place on the planet. I’m¬†talking Africa hot.¬† And dry.¬† So dry, the¬†fish in the local ponds¬†are…¬†¬†¬† ¬†only allowed to swim every other day.¬† At dusk comes the real misery of living on¬†one of the¬†Army’s largest¬†bases – the mosquitoes.¬† There are mosquitoes in Ft. Benning the size of humming birds.¬† You could always tell the new guys in the barracks as¬†they kept fly swatters next to their bunks.¬† The guys¬†who had been there for a while had tennis racquets.

For low ranking “pukes” like me,¬†I quickly learned the first rule of military life.¬† If it moves – salute it.¬† If it doesn’t move – pick it up.¬† If you can’t pick it up – paint it.

My time at Ft. Benning did not last much more than three months as I got the chance to go to college and enroll in reserve officer training.  Intensive study of military history was required in this program, and we spent hours studying the strategies and tactics of many of the great battles in history.  Two of these battles have stuck with me, for lo these many years, because they illustrate the thought process of military genius during the stress of battle.

In December of 1944, a small detachment of U.S. soldiers became separated from their main body during the Battle of the Bulge.¬† The battle was a last ditch offensive¬†by the Nazi army to divide the Allied troops in the dense Ardenne Forest region of Belgium.¬† A Captain had sent his Lieutenant out on a reconnaissance mission to try to locate the German forces.¬† As the Captain was pouring over maps in his headquarters, the young Lieutenant burst in and screamed:¬† “Captain, there is enemy on our right flank and enemy on our left flank.¬† Worse, there is enemy forward of our position and enemy to our rear.¬† Captain, we’re completely surrounded!!”¬†¬† The Captain, never looking up from his maps replied:¬† “By god, they won’t get away this time!!”

About six years later, the U.S. was engaged in the early days of the Korean War.¬† Col. “Chesty” Puller, perhaps the most famous U.S. Marine in history, was in command of a group of Marines along the Yellow River which seperated North Korea from China.¬† The Chinese had decided to enter the war on the side of North Korea and sent hordes of their soldiers across the Yellow River against 230 of Col. Puller’s men.¬† Puller, desperately trying to assess the number of Chinese crossing the river, used his field telephone to radio the forward position.¬† A¬†South Korean officer, barely able to speak English, answered Pullers call:¬† “How many Chinese are crossing the river?” demanded Puller of the South Koren officer.¬† The only thing the panicked ¬†officer could manage in English was:¬† ” Many – many – many – many!”

“Put an American officer on the phone!”¬† demanded Puller.¬† A young American Marine Lieutenant got on the phone and the Colonel asked the same question.¬† The American answered:¬† “Colonel, there’s a whole piss-pot full.”¬† Col. Puller turned to his aide and said:¬† “Thank god we’ve got somebody up there that can count!”

And, that’s all I have to say about that.

Shambo

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