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Rev. Walter Stitt
Co E, 33rd Armored Regiment, 3AD, WWII
Published in Spearhead Newspaper, Special Annual Edition, 1975


You'd never imagine a war could be so confusing! I never knew where I was. Perhaps that's not too unusual for a corporal, especially a tank gunner who spends most of his combat time confined to activities buttoned-up inside. But it didn't get better when I was outside.

Coming up the beach at "Omaha" it was pretty simple to tell -- we were here, they were there. When we came to the hedgerows it all changed. It was like playing checkers blindfolded when everybody had the next move. When we stopped fighting at night the first thing you did was try and see through the rows on either side to see if you were bedding down next to Adolph's Finest. We didn't look straight ahead. We just assumed who was there.

After the ''Breakthrough'' at St. Lo and "Closing the Gap" at Falaise, we began that wild-eyed ride across France. You wouldn't believe that part! One night I was riding with the "B-trains" when we came to a German roadblock. Some confused officer (you'll detect a certain bias here) had us pull off into a convenient field and bivouac. It was close to daylight when we heard tanks. Man, that can wake you up fast! Thank God (you'll notice a certain bias here too) they were ours, coming deployed across a field ... from behind us! I had to choke down every bit of my morning K-ration. Then we heard more noises. This time it was three German vehicles coming toward us down the road that our tanks had just paralleled. We managed to shoot up all three and capture a few prisoners. Then we promptly moved back the way we had come -- with the confused officer leading the way!

About 30 kilometers east of Paris we stopped and were dismounted, sitting in the shade, when a buddy said, "Did you just see a German soldier run across the road down there?!" I wasn't going to say anything, but since he saw it too, I knew it wasn't my active imagination again. We ran down the road into the woods -- cooks, K.P.s, mail clerks, and tankless tankers. Eventually we killed one German and captured another. I think it was a K-ration lunch I couldn't eat that day.

When we came to Mons, Belgium, it looked like the confusion might finally be over. They were in town, and we were all around it. However, that night, the ones we hadn't captured during the day came up to surrender from three directions! You can still sleep cramped up in a tank with a nervous stomach, but it takes a little doing.

Our crew missed a few days around Huy, Belgium. We had to replace a motor. We caught up in time, though, to be among the first few tanks into Germany. That day we kept moving until we came to a road junction. Some officer (you'll detect my bias again) had us pull off into another convenient field. It runs in my mind that this is not recommended where the enemy has artillery in range. We were out stretching our legs when we heard it coming. I got under the tank. In spite of the noise I could hear my tank commander yelling, "Get inside, we're moving out!" I think I said something like, "You keep moving. I'll keep crawling."

Later that day we took a little German town. The Germans weren't happy to part with it. They were also dug in and waiting for us. We got out of the line of direct fire by getting behind a house on the flank. Some movement in the woods on the hill in front of us prompted us to call to command. We were reassured that they were friendly troops from one of our supporting divisions. I ran up the tank's telescope about the same time my tank commander spotted them in his binoculars. We made a second call back to Battalion to request "that support troops stop wearing German uniforms" or words to that effect. Oh, acid indigestion! We gave them back their town and claimed it again later.

My final exposure to combat was during the Bulge. A second wound in January sent me all the way back to England. However, when I left, things were still in their usual overwhelming state of confusion.

At one of our annual reunions my wife listened to all the "How-we-won-the-war" saga's and remarked to Colonel W.B. Lovelady, who commanded the 2d Battalion, 33d Armored Regiment during the war, "After hearing all those stories, I wonder how we won?"

The colonel's answer was, "We overwhelmed them." Now isn't that just like a colonel. He got his answer all disoriented. He forgot about the part about how we finally conquered confusion and then overwelmed them.

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